(first posted 2/23/2017) Spanning a lifetime of over half-a-century, the Chrysler New Yorker’s story played out in many shapes and forms. Offering everything from inline-8s and V8s to V6s and even turbo I4s over the years, the New Yorker saw life in both rear- and front-wheel drive, sedan, hardtop, coupe, and convertible body styles, and went from a very large car to a rather small one, as evidenced by this 1986.
Quantitatively, this particular twelfth generation New Yorker holds the record as the smallest New Yorker, while qualitatively speaking, it’s very likely the least remarkable-looking New Yorker of all time. Of course, much of this is owed to the fact that the twelfth generation (1983-1988) New Yorker is a K-car. More specifically, this New Yorker rode on the Chrysler E-body, the first of many extended K-car platforms.
Riding on a 3-inch longer wheelbase of 103.3 inches, and having a nine-inch longer overall length than the standard K-cars, this New Yorker measured in at only 187.2 inches, some 45 inches shorter than the ninth generation New Yorker of less than a decade before. For comparison purposes, the “compact” 2017 Dodge Dart sedan measures 183.9 inches in total length and the “midsize” Chrysler 200 measures 192.3 inches.
At a time when the flagships of every GM and Ford division were still rear-wheel drive, available with V8 power, and were at least two feet longer in length, deescalating the Chrysler brand’s most prestigious nameplate to a front-wheel drive, four-cylinder only car that was smaller than GM’s midsize FWD A-bodies was a questionable move. While Chrysler did retain the rear-wheel drive, V8-powered M-body, even that car was still smaller than competitors from GM and Ford.
Adding insult to injury, much to probably even Chrysler’s surprise, the M-body (which was in fact briefly the eleventh generation New Yorker for 1982 only, becoming the New Yorker Fifth Avenue for 1983, and less confusingly, just Fifth Avenue thereafter) enjoyed a resurgence in popularity mid-decade, outselling our featured E-body New Yorker by a vast amount. Its profits were also considerably larger, considering all its tooling and development costs had been paid for.
While the E-body New Yorker proved reasonably popular, its sales were still generally less than 50% the volume of the older, less technologically advanced M-body Fifth Avenue. I should also add that it is the K-based “Y-body” 1990-1993 Chrysler Imperial which tends to get the bulk of criticism as an overwrought, over gussied-up K-car masquerading as a flagship luxury sedan. While this may be well-justified, in actuality, is what Chrysler did seven years earlier with this New Yorker any better?
Using the same body shell as Chrysler E-Class, Dodge 600, and Plymouth Caravelle,
Chrysler Lee Iacocca applied all the textbook tackiness clichés of the Brougham era to the basic six-windowed stretched K-car to justify its prestige and price. Chrome waterfall grille… check. Fiberglass capped “formal” roofline… check. Oversized Landau quarter-roof covering the rear quarter windows… check. Fake front fender louvers… check. Opera lights… check. Wire wheels… check.
Inside, designers did their best to mimic the interiors of larger New Yorkers that immediately preceded the E-body, while upping the ante with a few more baroque touches. As it so happens, E-body New Yorker interiors were initially a bit more restrained and progressive, and therefore a tad more tasteful, as evidenced by this promotional photo featuring the available Mark Cross Edition leather interior package, supplied by the namesake leather retailer.
Unfortunately, things would regress for the car’s second model year, presumably because Lido stuck his nose a bit further into interior design input, demanding more candy on the gingerbread house. Seats, whether standard velour or available leather reverted back to the button-tufted floating loose-pillow design. Likewise, leather was no longer supplied by the Mark Cross company (despite its continued availability on the LeBaron), but once again of the “soft Corinthian” variety.
Interior door handles were changed from a standard strap to woodtone and chrome
“Lavaliere” casket door pulls. On the positive, faux woodgrain trim was at least changed from contrasting cheaper-looking patterns to the still very fake-looking faux burl walnut appliqué. Chrysler also unleashed its latest electronics for 1984, in the form of a fully-digital gauge cluster with the infamous, harass yo ass Electronic Voice Alert.
As stated, at its heart, the 1983-1988 E-body New Yorker was little more than a gussied-up stretched K-car. George Neil recently summed Detroit’s approach to luxury during this period quite blatantly honest, as “lots of low-cost sound-deadening materials and plenty of fake wood trim”. And truthfully, a lot of sparkles applied to a much lower-cost car, then sold at significantly higher prices was Detroit’s approach to luxury cars at the time. Little in the way of different engines, suspensions, or mechanical refinements whatsoever came into play.
Using the same beam axle with trailing arm rear and independent iso-strut front suspension, three-speed TorqueFlite automatic, and initially, the ubiquitous 2.2-liter “K” inline-4, the E-body New Yorker provided no advantages in ride quality or driving experience over the basic Reliant/Aries. The engine lineup was shuffled around a bit, with the previously optional Mitsubishi-sourced 2.6L G54B becoming the standard engine for 1984 and 1985, and the Chrysler 2.5L K taking over for 1986-1987.
The turbocharged version of the 2.2L K was available from 1984-on, adding about 40% greater horsepower and a tad more torque. The turbo also brought with it the very out-of-place hood vents, apparently for Mopar drivers who missed their Barracudas and Chargers. The turbo was the sole engine offered in the 1988 E-body New Yorker, which was now officially called “New Yorker Turbo”, to avoid confusion with the new C-body New Yorker and the M-body Fifth Avenue, which was still referred to as “New Yorker Fifth Avenue” in some promotional literature — I know, confusing.
Although continued downsizing and rampant badge-engineering was the name of the game among the Big Three in the 1980s, Chrysler took a different, somewhat more drastic route than its larger, fuller-pocketed rivals. So while the debasement of the most prestigious and former flagship nameplate of the Chrysler division (as Imperial was still its own marque) by slapping it on a badge-engineered car of truly compact dimensions very well might be seen as blasphemy to some…
…It worked for Chrysler, at least in the short-term. As it so happens, all the corsets, makeup, hairspray, and rhinestones (after all, it was the ’80s) was enough to make E-body New Yorker a relative sales success, somehow recapturing the aura of larger New Yorkers from the past.
Notwithstanding its late-1983 introduction and early-1988 discontinuation, the higher-gross New Yorker was the best-selling E-body, surpassing the less-costly Dodge 600 (when excluding the K-body 600 coupe/convertible), Plymouth Caravelle, and short-lived Chrysler E-body by a substantial amount. In total, the E-body New Yorker sold to the tune of 283,216 units, and most significantly, its average annual volume was higher than most New Yorkers and Chrysler-branded products of the past decade.
Although the E-body New Yorker turned out to be a surprising mid-1980s “hit” for Chrysler, and nonetheless, an interesting effort, in the end, it remains one, if not THE least remarkable New Yorker, and is a car largely forgotten today.
Related Reading (Chrysler E-body):
How times change! But it’s like the midget Cadillacs of that era – they just look so weird and hard to take seriously as a prestige car. The length comparison with the Focus is particularly telling. Guess you hadda be there to understand…..
On the other hand, the Ford Focus is now enormous compared to the cars that nominally preceded it. Strange that a car over 15′ 7″ long is the descendant of the old Escort, just over 13′ 3″ long in 1968.
The new Focus is 178.1, not 187″. The hatch 171.1. 3-4 inches over the the lengths of the 2000 Focus.
Minus the incorrect length a little over 14 feet.
A 63-66 Valiant measures about the same size as this New Yorker.
Yes there has been size creep over 50 years.
That’s better, thanks DweezilAZ.
Never having seen one of these (or any K-car, here in Australia) I was trying to imagine one of these the size of a Focus (which I know well) – can you imagine the mental wheelspin I was getting? That explains my comment.
If it’s early Valiant size, that’s not so bad. I can imagine that. Still awkward from some angles, too much overhang/too little wheelbase, way over-decorated for my taste and a bit narrow-gutted, but better than if it was Focus-sized.
LOL. Same here. I know the Focus in the EU is considered family sized.
I was actually surprised the New Yorker was that long !! Not much shorter than a GM A Body.
BTW: really enjoying the cars and Australian scenery I am seeing on Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Old Pete.
Look at that beautiful 5th picture of the 5th Avenue. Always thought it was an ugly car when on the road. With a odd and tacky rear end, and dated front end.
However, I will say that for say 1983 this car would have been a real competitor and the execution would have felt great. The flaw was Chrysler kept this car around until 1989. Which by then the car looked like an abomination on the road, next two sleek Buick Park Avenue’s, the All new 1989 Cadillac De’Ville, even the humble Dodge Dynasty blew the 5th Avenue out of the water.
But the pic above (5th pic), looks darn good and majestic for the time period.
Agreed. And I owned one identical to the one pictured, but later as “Dave Ramsey” inspired step away from auto debt. I was amazed how often I’d get stopped by people with great memories of their parents/grandparents 5th Avenue. And it was actually a reliable, comfortable car (mine was a one-owner, 47,000 mile car in 2010).
I confess that the ride quality was so butter smooth, the V8 was mighty, and the dash board circles although horrible design overall for the dash was pretty somewhat classy. It grew on me after while, not enough to buy one but appreciate certain things about it.
Chrysler should have tweaked the interior and exterior for this car say in 1985. that way it could have fought better against it’s rivals. Adding an updated radio, fuel injection, and upgraded climate control unit was simply not enough changes.
Yes the 5th Avenue does look good in that pic, for its time, and much better-proportioned than the New Yorker. I kept alternating back and forth between looking at this and the New Yorker, and wound up wondering who on earth would buy a New Yorker. From reading Brendan’s article, it seems many buyers asked themselves the same question.
Talking about weird looking. Here is the executive limoiusine
It’s interesting… You seem rather critical of this New Yorker although you have a fondness for the Imperial. I wonder why you find the Imperial to be more alluring? Its larger (albeit no wider) dimensions and more powerful, class-acceptable V6 make it a more competitive option on paper. But it’s less interesting and less endearing to me… More a poor copy of a FWD Electra, whereas the New Yorker is quirky with its turbo four-banger and smaller dimensions.
I find these less insulting than the Cimarron even if they are both tarted-up compacts with the same base four-cylinder engines as their cheaper counterparts. For one, the New Yorker wasn’t being targeted at BMWs. Secondly, Chrysler had somewhat of a novel concept here if you think of it less as a downsized New Yorker and more as a plush compact. All the luxury of a Fifth Avenue but with more modern mechanicals and a more manageable size. That being said, a laggy turbo four and a three-speed slushbox isn’t an ideal powertrain for a premium sedan.
Even with the dorky vinyl roof, I love the way these look. I’m sure there was a less offensive wheel option (I loathe wires), too. The interior is great, even the tackier button-tufted leather. I saw a Town & Country convertible at a recent classic car show and I found the interior looked great up close, but then the domestics had some decent interior designs at the time (eg 1983 Continental). That satin metal trim seemed to be popular for a hot minute in the 1980s, and then disappeared for around twenty years only to return again (and now it’s gone again, replaced with smudgey piano black).
I dunno man. The Imperial just doesn’t seem as interesting as these. Not to mention, it was only a lightly redesigned version of this, being peddled almost a decade later.
Don’t take my criticisms of this car for being for trying to give the Imperial a free pass; it’s just that everyone always seems to shower the Imperial with hatred, while many of those negative qualities Chrysler first applied to this New Yorker, a car that doesn’t seem to garner as much negativity.
By no means do I loathe this New Yorker. It’s just interesting how drastically the nameplate was reduced in such short time. You do raise some interesting points about how in many ways, it was a preview of luxury cars to come. If only it was better in practice than in theory at the time.
That’s a good comparison between the two. The FWD Imperial (like just about every Imperial) didn’t sell well. But the similar New Yorker was at least a modest success. In fact, it’s almost identical to the last ‘real’ 4-door RWD 1975 Imperial situation which was a sales dud but, suddenly, when it was renamed New Yorker Brougham for 1976, it sold much better.
It seems like every time Chrysler called a car Imperial, it was doomed to failure. But when the New Yorker nameplate was applied to virtually the same car, it was just the opposite.
^^^ This. 1957 was Imperial’s best year. Sixty years ago. Yet the desire to bring the name back [as if that would return some prestige to Chrysler] keeps circulating.
There was a DCX show car some years back called Imperial that looked like a bloated PT Cruiser.
Any value the name had died with the fuselage Imperials.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the 57-73s but a sales magnet they weren’t.
Would you rather… THIS ?
It’s odd how Chrysler could never break into the big-league (and highly profitable) domestic luxury market dominated by Cadillac and Lincoln with the Imperial. I guess while the GM and Ford products were able to develop a caché with certain models in their storied histories, it simply eluded the Imperial. Driving an Imperial, while impressive, just didn’t make the same statement that the driver had made it. That, and Chrysler never had the resources to compete on the same level as the two other, much bigger corporations.
Or maybe it was the idea that the Imperial aspired to a more European-oriented, driver’s car. The only problem with that was that if someone truly wanted that sort of experience, they’d buy the real thing, i.e., a Mercedes, and skip the Imperial entirely. The Imperial always was more of a Packard-type car with an old-world, baroque kind of appeal, and that market wasn’t nearly as large as those looking for the most modern, latest domestic luxury car.
I think having to be sold by dealers that did most of their business selling Plymouths hurt Imperial’s chances.
Rudiger: well said. The name itself is wonderful. My first awareness of cars were the 50 Studebaker 2 door with the wrap around rear window my parents owned, Granny’s 50 Pontiac, then 60 Ambassador wagon and the 57 or 58 Imperial her second husband owned.
The thing was impressive. The rear fold down armrest was so big I thought it was a special seat for little kids.
I always sensed they were for flashier people, real estate agents and successful car dealers and such. They were somehow different from Cadillacs and Lincolns. I never could figure out the 58-60 Lincolns though.
Chrysler’s attempt was admirable. The ads in the National Geographic were filled with the appropriate language and imagery that painted a picture of exclusivity and quality. The cars had a presence the rest of the Chrysler lines couldn’t achieve, even while attractive themselves.
I think that was all lost after 66.
How is there not a ChryCo DS series?
There is. I literally posted another entry in it this Tuesday:
Why this car isn’t called out as a Deadly sin just re-enforces how overused it is on GM entries.
Joe, the GM DS series was specifically created to document the almost continuous decline in GM’s market share. And in order to qualify, the DS car has to be one that either directly affected that decline in market share, or did not do anything materially to stem it.
I’ve just never started a Chrysler DS series. One of the reasons for that is that Chrysler bounced up and down for decades, before its final fall. FWIW, this car, although it very much has its deadly aspects in my eyes, was actually part of Chrysler’s comeback success in the 80s, after their near-brush with bankruptcy. And then Chrysler only went on to greater success, although it did dip a bit quite a bit around 90-91.
One could document the cars of Chrysler that led to its multiple down periods, but they did not really have a long-term influence on their final death.
The GM DS cars, on the other hand, arguably each directly contributed to GM’s passenger car market share erosion in an almost linear fashion. They enjoyed a few up years due directly to the booming SIV/truck market, but their passenger car market share was in an almost constant state of decline, starting in 1980.
Does that clear it up for you, since you keep harping about the GM DS series? It might help you to read my post on the purpose and nature of the GM DS series:
I was never impressed with these tarted up K Cars. It was more difficult for us who remember the real New Yorker.
When those K-car based New Yorkers appeared all I could think was how sad and ridiculous, how far Chrysler had fallen.
1956 and 1965 – great years to be a New Yorker.
1983-1988 – the nadir of New Yorker. They should have called it what it was, pure New Jersey, Iacocca Edition.
Based upon high fuel prices of the time, increasing CAFE each year, and Chrysler’s financial condition, developing this car did make sense at the time.
Perspective is everything when trying to make sense of these New Yorkers. The threat of European gas prices in the U.S. was a real concern, so Chrysler (and everyone else) had to satisfy the market while gas was cheap and be prepared for if it wasn’t. Being that they just clawed their way back from the brink of bankruptcy it made a lot of sense to add some water to the K car soup.
I’d hardly call it ‘least remarkable’, that 86 NY is among the ugliest cars ever built.
The cheap and nasty fake wire wheel hubcaps just say it all really for these Chrysler Cimmarons.
I Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate wire wheel covers.
when my grandmother retired in 1991. She purchased a brand new 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. She was ok with it being stock, and the Ciera did look modern and sleek for what was out in 1991.
However, my old fashion grand father who was obsessed with the gaudy tacky trim look. Some how he could not mentally let go of the Liberace’ appearance that was popular in the 60’s & 70’s cars. So he paid extra $$ to fit the Ciera with a silly cloth carriage top (ragtop). That had an oldsmobile emblem on it, he ordered white wall tires, and those dam wire wheel covers. And a loud color side accent pin strip runnign across the body. It all looked as bad as it sounds!
In his (then) 60’s year old mind, the Ciera was just too bland and he had to spice up the look up for my grandmother and him-by adding on un-original trim pieces etc. Luckily we were able to talk him out of trying to get a gold package trim. Which was a very popular package in the 80’s (especially on Cadillac’s)
I guess newly flushed with retirement savings and money, grandpa thought he would roll around like a pimp or something. Think of it as Sanford & Son meets an Oldsmobile sale men. I learned then that a dealership will do whatever you want to a car-as long as you have the money to pay for it.
Great story Mr. Hartfield! Funny you mention the gold package – my Dad bought a brand new 1990 Coupe deVille Spring Edition right out of the showroom, yet he had one stipulation before he took delivery – remove the dreaded gold emblems! The dealer obliged without hesitation. Dad drove that car until he passed in 1993, and Mom continued to drive it until 1998 when she decided to trade it in for a new BMW 528 that she still drives to this day!
As far as the New Yorker “E-body” is concerned, I knew several people that owned these and loved them. The neighbor across from my house growing up had a blue one and drove it for years until it started giving him a lot of trouble. He said it was a great car up until around 100k when everything started to break, and the engine started to burn oil. (Mitsubishi engine I am assuming!)
Oddly, these have never come across to me as overly tacky, although having known these cars when they were new might be a factor in that assessment. It was simply another new car using styling gimmicks that were considered traditional at that time.
In the big scheme of things Chrysler did a good job, as the old saying goes, of making a silk purse out of a sows ear. Development of these allowed them to sell better than a quarter-million additional cars. That’s no small feat for a company on its death bed just a few years earlier. They took known elements and applied them to a premium compact – and it worked. Most people I remember driving these when new were well north of 50 and likely weren’t inclined to try something different, other than seeking better fuel economy. So these worked well in that regard. Yet, like you observed, more people opted for the M-body as it was viewed as being a bigger car, interior dimensions be damned.
And those seats? I want to find one of those button tufted things and make it into an office chair. They were that comfortable.
Those seats! Yes. I could totally imagine a desk chair refashioned out of one of them being super-comfortable. And stylish.
If a person had the unfortunate situation of being temporarily homeless for a brief period. Sleeping in a car with seats like this would be excellent.
Recline the seats all the way back, with a blanket and one should sleep very well. The seats look like Lazy Boy chairs.
I tend to agree with this. Chrysler did pretty well with the resources they had available. And I too love those comfy seats.
Chrysler should go down as the brand that made lemonade from lemons (Literally and figuratively). I give them credit for that.
Chrysler got every single ounce of usage and profit from the K-Car, and made Billions in profit from this mundane magic trick. Pretty impressed actually. Sure non of the K-cars will become collectors items or desired for their quality and driving dynamics. However, for what they were intended to do-all the K-cars were a monster success in that regard. Lets give this American car brand their props!
The turbo wasn’t there to appeal to those wanting a Road Runner, but was there to try to complete with the V6s that the competition was selling.
The turbo in these cars was like superchargers in earlier Studebakers – a way to make an engine too small for its segment more competitive (kind of).
To buyers in this car’s demographic, a 4 banger was poison once fuel prices began to retreat around 1983 or so. Those buyers remembered that ever since the 30s only cheap cars had fours and that “real” cars had at least a six. The turbo at least gave the 4 some power and had a bit of a “high tech” vibe that got the job done for a modest number of buyers. Still, compare this car’s sales to those of the Electra and 98.
The turbo wasn’t there to appeal to those wanting a Road Runner,
He didn’t say that it did; he said The turbo also brought with it the very out-of-place hood vents, apparently for Mopar drivers who missed their Barracudas and Chargers.
And it was obviously said tongue-in-cheek. Let’s face it, the vents looked pretty ridiculous on this car. Well, at least I thought so.
Point taken, I read that paragraph too quickly.
I always thought the idea of a turbo was funny on these, but understood why it was there.
You are correct, I always thought if they axed the side vents. Gave the 5th Avenue composite Euro style headlights, blended the tail lights better with the car, and used allot less chrome pieces in favor of a cleaner mono-colored trim.
the 5th Avenue may have still looked odd, but much more cleaner presentation and newer feel to it. As is Chrysler updates to the 5th Avenue mostly consisted of tiny tweaks here and there. An updated climate control unit, radio, fuel injection eventually, updated steering wheel. This was not enough changes for a car that lasted as long as the 5th Avenue did on the market.
You park a sleek aerodynamic 1987 Buick Park Avenue/Electra 225 next to the 5th Avenue and it becomes more of a shame. The 1986 Ford Taurus next to a 5th Avenue down right made the 5th Avenue look like a dinosaur!
The Mbody Fifth Avenue never received fuel injection; the steering wheel
was changed due to incorporation of an air bag, placing it toward the front end of air bag inclusion as standard equipment
IIRC, The “M” bodies were the first (first domestic?) car to have a driver’s side airbag as standard equipment in 1989.
Ohh really I did not know that. I assumed all cars by say 88-89 had fuel injection. I mean you was still making “Choke” carburators by the end of the 80’s weird.
Even the Dinosaur Lincoln Town Car & Cadillac Brougham received electronic fuel injection.
The hood vents on turbocharged cars are there to give you early notice of when the head gasket needs replacement.
I hated the k car new yorker. It’s like they didn’t even try to fool you.
I’m on the “like” side of the continuum on these. As someone else has mentioned in the comments, these much more convincingly distilled Chrysler’s own type of luxury into a smaller, more “80’s-tech” package than Cadillac had done with the Cimarron.
My general impression of these when they were new were that they really were upscale, in a mom-and-dad-in-their-forties in their nice suburb kind of way. It seemed obvious they were K-based, but the little extra stretch and higher rear deck did wonders for their proportions. They never quite seemed like losermobiles to me, but then again, I was a Michigan (Big-3 territory) kid growing up in the 80’s when they were new.
Enjoyable piece, Brendan.
I do have to give it to the 80’s, compared to today luxury cars. In the 70’s & 80’s Americans cars sure knew how to raise the bat and make the driver feel like he/she was in a Liberace’ style British parlor room. I loved it all the over stuffed seats, overdone wood grain trim (To a degree). And power everything.
I felt like even today entry level models of any brand can be loaded with tons of luxury items that it’s hard to distinguish luxury cars from sports cars. In the 80’s you clearly new when you were in a compact entry level budget car (Say 1985 Cavalier), a Mid sized conservative family car (1986 Chevrolet Celebrity), Mid level tier luxury car (1986 Chrysler New Yorker), a upper crust luxury car (1989 Buick Park Avenue Ulta), a full size premium flagship luxury car (1990 Lincoln Town Car), then you have a real sports car (1987 Chevrolet Camaro Iroc Z). I liked this formula it worked well.
Today you can get a 2017 compact Chevrolet Cruz that can be ordered with luxury items and technology featurs that rival Cadillac, a sporty zippy engine and suspention that performs like a old school BMW M3. The lines have been blurred to the point where every new car is sporty, luxurious, has dynamic driving capabilities.
It’s no fun now 🙁
Same here. I hate that everything has to get sport sports package sporterized. Sports cars are great for those who want them. I, however, want nothing to do with Nurburgringer handling or carbon fiber or paddle shifters!
I want some float in my boat with generous helpings of chrome and wood and button tufted leather or velour.
Same here Dominic. And in a small size. This Chrysler would have been perfect.
No wires, though
So true, I recall driving my brother’s 1984 Buick Park Avenue Limited. I loved looking over the long hood and looking at the stand up emblem, as well as the hood indicator light small hubs on either side. you know where you did the turn signal and at the end of the hood you saw a small green micro light that blinked with the other turn light. the butter smooth cloud like ride quality, the sofa seats etc.
I literally felt like I was driving a land yacht vessel, turning a corner and using the stand up hood ornament as a guide made you feel special. Every car now (even Mercedes) integrates the emblem in the grill (Blah) that’s boring and so passe’
Well, here I go again with the irrational ’80’s Mopar love, which even I have a hard time understanding. Yes, it’s nostalgia, but in a more practical sense I really do think these were a case of “Right car, Right time”.
The numbers, while not overwhelming, do speak for themselves up to a point. In leafy Northern NJ these were plentiful, and were not driven “ironically”, but were frequently owned by folks we’d think from today’s perspective would have scoffed at them.
I drove and rode in many of these at the time, and yes, they were sluggish, underpowered, and had overly soft and rather sloppy handling by today’s standards. But compared to a contemporary 1983 Cadillac or Lincoln with their anemic V8’s and archaic suspension layouts, these were competitive from a ride and handling standpoint, and they were “modern” by some assessments, meaning that they seemed to be predictive of where the American luxury car was headed at the time.
I’d even venture to say that by the time the downsized FWD Cadillacs hit the scene these were probably a less cynical, more practical alternative. Having ridden in quite a few of both these and the first wave of FWD DeVilles when new I’d have chosen this car over the Caddy despite the engine displacement. And in truth (although I haven’t researched the hard numbers) I’d venture that the turbo version of this car performed admirably against the DeVille of its time.
I wasn’t shocked,or disappointed by these N.Y.ers as some were/are. Given the fact that Chrysler was able to survive at all, and no one at the time these were developed expected the RWD full sized luxury car market to last as long as it did (Certainly not at Chrysler, look at the R body sales..) The M body sales were likely a surprise.
These to me (at the time) were a logical step. (and..It worked.).
Of course I could see that they were K cars, But then I saw the 1985 DeVille as a gussied up Celebrity, Itself a remodeld Citation.. and that concept DID shock/offend me, LOL.
Put me in the “dislike” brigade on these. While I agree with Jason’s point that Chrysler should be commended for doing a lot with a little in order to target older traditional buyers, this New Yorker seemed so dated and clichéd the minute it arrived. That roof, the gingerbread–yech! This car may have sold, but it was the “wrong” kind of sales–out-of-style from day one, with the worst kind of “faux” luxury for buyers who were toward the end of their car buying years. The “New” Chrysler brand seemed just as out-of-touch as the “Old” bankrupt Chrysler, only the cars were smaller. Whether you love or loathe the K-Cars, they were honest in the best Valiant/Dart tradition. The minivans were brilliant. But the Chrysler brand during this period was really lost, and this car was “Exhibit A.”
Exactly. If Chrysler really wanted to make the New Yorker a modern “forward thinking” car with a turbo-4 and a lot of tech features, they should have called the LeBaron GTS the “New Yorker”. Despite the GTS’s even more miserable success, it was a car that embodied and embraced the “smaller, more efficient” theme better while not trying to apply outdated styling techniques to “trick” buyers into noticing. While the LeBaron GTS had its weaknesses, it’s a shame it didn’t sell better and gain more notoriety.
Brendan, here’s a one-family first hand perspective on why the GTS wouldn’t quite work as a New Yorker through the lens of the time period:
My grandparents (who, as mentioned many times were Chrysler diehards) bought a new ’83 New Yorker, complete with the first year Mark Cross package, the optional Mitsubishi 2.6 and all the trimmings. They were in their 50’s at the time, were probably prime target customers for this car, and were quite leased with its comfort and convenience features, its level of luxury, ride quality, sound deadening, etc. They were not looking for handling capabilities, “do it all” versatility or “up-to-the-minute” styling, they wanted an old school luxury car in a modern package, and this car fit the bill.
Flash forward to 1987, when the 3-4 year new car cycle came around, and they were back in the market. The New Yorker had not changed much besides some minor trim details. The Turbo New Yorker was the only model available in ’87 and it was basically the same package they were trading out of. They wouldn’t make a retrograde choice and buy a V8, rear-wheel drive Fifth Avenue because they’d had every iteration of 8 cylinder rear drive Chrysler and at that time it was viewed as “old fashioned”. So a fully loaded LeBaron GTS Turbo was the car of choice. It only lasted until ’89 when it was traded for a new ’89 New Yorker in full regalia, included button tufted leather seating, rear air leveling suspension, automatic trunk pull-down, vinyl landau roof and wire wheel covers.
The short story: My grandmother hated the GTS. It was a beautiful car, with all the trimmings and features you or I would probably have loved at the time (In fact I was heartbroken that I couldn’t buy that car for the trade-in value, but I was in college at the time). The GTS had Eagle GT tires that were noisy on the road. It had a stiff suspension that was jarring to the sensibilities of middle aged folk of the time. It had stiff seating surfaces with tighter bolstering than was considered comfortable to them, and it had a lack of “bling” or “gingerbread” that just didn’t say “luxury car” to them.
Th bottom line is that the LeBaron GTS just wasn’t what a New Yorker customer would have accepted as a New Yorker. This is in part why I say that the 83-87 New Yor”K”er was in may ways the right car at the right time. It was “modern”, it was “technological”, it made sense from the perspective of the time during which it was marketed, but it was still an American Luxury Car in the “new definition of the genre”. And for a lot of consumers these bridge-gapping pseudo traditional econo-lux cruisers were exactly what the Dr ordered.
It’s an interesting Product Planning conundrum: how do you keep older, more conservative customers without wrecking your overall brand image by seeming too old-fashioned and out-of-style?
Like Brendan, I wish Chrysler had done better with the LeBaron GTS–but arguably the Chrysler H-Body should have been a different car that split the difference between the old-school FWD New Yorker and the too-edgy GTS. Let me explain: Dodge, with their performance imagery, should have exclusively offered the H-Body hatchback, with turbo, as the Lancer, with all the sport sedan trappings–pretty much what they did, in fact. Chrysler Division, on the other hand, should have stretched the H-Body wheelbase by a few inches, offered a conventional trunk instead of a hatch (but keeping the more modern sloping rear window, though maybe not putting a window in the C-pillar for a more “expensive” look–but no vinyl tops anywhere…). This “stretched” Chrysler H-Body could have offered a softer standard suspension, perhaps with a sportier set-up optional. Plenty of sound deadening to impart a more luxurious feel. Since the Turbo-4 was all Chrysler had at the time, that would have been the engine, but de-emphasizing the “Turbo” part and just focusing on the performance/economy balance. Same rich looking leather interior as the production GTS had–it was luxurious, but seemed contemporary since it lacked the button-tufted look. Maybe a strip or two of wood trim (preferably real), but not too much. I think that this sort of car, with a more contemporary interpretation of luxury in a trimmer package would have appealed to the 50+ crowd, but potentially also attracted the 40-somethings, which would have been a crucial difference. Such a car could have carried off the New Yorker name and seemed modern and upscale to older, long-time Chrysler buyers while simultaneously seeming reasonably stylish and relevant to younger customers considering premium imports.
Agreed. If Chrysler was going to operate three brands, giving every brand a slight variation of the same car didn’t always make a lot sense. Chrysler lost some opportunity to see some of its nameplates score higher on the sales charts thanks to two or three cars sharing the same market space. I suppose the dealers were not exactly helpful with this issue as well.
The LeBaron GTS was also badly named. LeBaron was rather hopelessly associated with vinyl skull capped cars, and the GTS had to lose a lot of points with younger buyers due to the name. Branding the GTS “300” would have been a better pick, but of course Dodge had the one odd foray into number based names with the 600 at the time.
For as much as Chrysler managed to accomplish with limited resources at the time, their marketing and product managers were prone to some poor decisions.
But these seats are too perfect. I like the more messy button tuffed over stuffed pillow seats of the 80’s land yachts. The seats that looked like lazy boy chairs.
The seats in the picture are comfy, neat, and premium looking for sure. But there is a bit of sterile, bland, flat feeling to them as well. It’s a matter of personal choice I guess.
I worked at a Chrysler dealer back then and these cars were thought to be very progressive, no one had any ideal gas prices would be were they are today. Us employees thought folks that bought the 5th Aves were stuck in the past. By the way, hood louvers on turbo Chrysler products back then were functional allowing hot air to escape–back then turbos had a rep for cooking the oil.
Interesting perspectives. Having worked at a Dodge dealer in the late 1980s, K-permutations I remember with fondness. Sure there were bad parts to things.. Mitsu 2.6 in the early ones, squeaky sway bar bushings, overuse of wire wheel covers (not so much on the Dodge side, more on the Chrysler side), etc. For the times, and as a company serious about leading the charge to CAFE and downsizing, Chrysler was actually ahead of the game for a while. As for the Y-Imperial.. that was probably the worst example of, well, not for me anyway. I still wouldn’t mind finding a decent NYTurbo or Lancer Shelby.
Yah they were not all perfect, K-bodies wore out front wheel bearings until they were redesigned (secret warranty covered them) but the 2.6 Mitsu was the worst. Canadian models could run on leaded gas but every week we re-ringed a K-car variant (the RWD captive imports were exempt from this problem). The timing and balance chains were noisy at startup and I remember no supplier would touch rebuilding the carb.
I got to drive everything Ma Mopar made between 1985 and 87–my favorites were the LeBaron GTS, Daytona C/S and GLH turbo–and my wife bought an 86 Charger and drove it for about 8 troublefree years.
In one sense you can think of the K-based New Yorkers as a return to sanity compared to the bloated barges that had signaled luxury since the late 1950’s. Here was a large car by world standards, able to carry six passengers, get decent mileage and still manage to keep up with the lead footed drivers on the Interstate. It could, of course, be faulted on engineering grounds as a premium automobile. It was not a particularly sophisticated product in design or execution.
But we are talking modern mass production here and the designers had to cater to American tastes. So in place of the ‘bigger is better’ mantra built into American expectations, they added every known “luxury” cliche in order to sell as many as possible to the rapidly expanding middle classes then materializing on the American scene.
All in all not a bad solution. The error was to stick with the New Yorker name.
Interesting article & chart too. The chart is fascinating; I never realized how much the geriatric M-body outsold the New Yorker. When the sales of both tanked in ’89, my guess is that many prospective buyers of the M-body and K-car New Yorker opted instead for the C-body New Yorker or even the Dodge Dynasty, both of which were more in keeping with the times, but still in a traditional manner.
Living in the big domestic car friendly Midwest in 1983, these E-body New Yorkers were very hard to understand as prestige cars when parking lots were still full of very nice 1974-1978 vintage C body New Yorkers. These cars just didn’t seem worthy of the name, lacked any gravitas, and even brougham friendly me could not get remotely excited about the gingerbread on these.
The more basic, but poorly named, Chrysler E-Class was actually an attractive car without all the crap on it. I drove an E-Class a few times, and it was a pretty nice ride with good fuel economy for the times. Sort of a miniature ’65 six window Newport – a name that probably should have been attached to the car!
Agreed – I found the E Class much more appealing. Particularly since I was driving the real thing (a 77 New Yorker Brougham) in 1984-85 when these were in showrooms.
These were always looked upon as the K-car gone too far in our car enthusiasts eyes and a perfect candidate for Deadly Sin status for several reasons. The largest sin was devaluing a once proud name on what was little more than a stretched economy K-car with no growth in width and not enough interior room for much more than 4 adults. Even the trunk was economy car sized. The second sin was the power trains. These never came with smooth quiet V6 engines or even modern 4 speed overdrive transmissions. Yes the very same throbby slow 2.2 that the lesser cars got was employed initially as the base engine but thankfully at least with throttle body injection. The disastrous Mitsubishi 2.6 with a crappy and expensive carburetor was the so called power option that somehow combined 4 cylinder power with V6 gas mileage. At least it was smoother than the 2.2 with the balance shaft and all. The rude obnoxious turbo 2.2 was the top offering and became std fare for this car’s swan song in 1988. It gave this little car decent pep but as Consumer Guide often put it “was out of character for a so called luxury offering”.
GM’s downsized C-body cars are so often derided as being terrible and shrunken versions of there former selves. Well this car was far worse IMO and looked just like someone took an old boxy New Yorker and cut it down to less than 3/4’s of it’s former self. The GM C-bodies at least had decent interior space utilization with a lot of the rear seat leg room preserved and much less exterior glitz having steel normal roof lines instead of the stilly overstuffed over padded closed in rear vinyl treatment as these K- car new Yorkers had. Yes there was the Fleetwood but it looked better than this New Yorker. The 98 and Park Ave also had quicker smoother V6 engines and Cadillac still had a smoother still V8 even it it was the HT4100 which were more becoming of a luxury car at the time.
If I were Chrysler during this time I would have stuck with the older M-body RWD new Yorker 5th Ave as the flagship and instead just had the E-class as the more luxury focused FWD 4 cylinder offering instead of heavily tarnishing the New Yorker name.
Unfortunately, these cars that came out in 1983 were planned during the dark days of 1980-81 when 1) there were few resources available and 2) gas prices were sky high.
These things would probably have sold really well in 1980-81 when fuel prices skyrocketed and everyone was afraid of more gas lines. A really efficient, really plush luxurious car would have had the market to itself. Unfortunately, the world had changed completely by 1984-85, when the old rear drive stuff was selling very well and buyers were less ready for the size and performance tradeoffs that these demanded.
So many forget or were not around during the gas crisis of ’79-81. There was near panic with car buyers demanding smaller cars. So, the K based NY’er came about.
Easy to say “deadly sin” now, but Chrysler went near belly up trying to sell ‘beautiful big cars’ when gas prices were sky rocketing. The K cars ‘saved’ Mopar and are not “DS’s”.
Who knew that gas wouldn’t go to $5 a gallon in 1985 money?
Correct. The K-cars cannot really be considered Deadly Sins even if they were flawed out of the gate and had very iffy quality control which was a hallmark of the time. The sin is putting the New Yorker name on a K-car and not even trying to disguise the fact with unique exterior proportions, drivetrains or even size. Sticking overstuffed sofa seats and heavily padded vinyl tops on a K-car with a few more inches of wheelbase, 4 cylinder only power plants and old 3 speed transaxles was not a good solution. They even looked a bit dated when they came out especially with what Ford was doing with the new T-Bird and Audi the 5000. Even the Fairmont based LTD/Marquis were a better effort than these with V6 engines, 4 speed transmissions, different and more aero rooflines and upgraded interiors that lost much of the glitz. Even the exteriors were devoid of vinyl and scads of chrome unless you checked off the option sheet.
I was around for both energy crisis. Chrysler could have handled this better.
The M-body 5th Ave with a 4 speed overdrive transmission and throttle body injection made right could easily have added mileage and smoother better drive-ability to these right up until 1989. I’m not buying that they needed to create this smaller downsized FWD car solely due to the 79-80 energy crisis and had to use the New Yorker nameplate. As I said in the other post they should have stuck with the E-class name and offered most of the lux items at options and left the real new Yorker as the premium entry. Note that the 1982 M-body New Yorker 5th Ave enjoyed a big uptick in sales compared to the lame duck LeBaron a year before. The profits of the K-car series and brisker sales of the M-body 5th Ave should have been enough to invest a few bucks into the drive train especially considering that it was produced a year longer than the E-body New Yorker. That is certainly what I would have done to keep the New Yorker name from being reduced to this overly small K-car stretch.
Going back to the early 80’s, the experts were all predicting inevitable high gas prices in the future. The car companies believed the experts and prepared accordingly. That’s why legacy names like Chrysler New Yorker and Lincoln Continental were moved onto smaller more fuel efficient cars that they thought represented the future. The big cars were supposed to all be dead and gone by the mid 80’s, so not much was invested in them. The thought was that when the Fifth Avenue and Town Car went out of production, the New Yorker and Continental would be ready to take over. Trouble was that gas stayed cheap and the big cars didn’t go away as planned.
The 2017 Focus sedan is 178.7″ long, not 187. It’s only 4″ longer than the 2000. The hatch is 171.1
Not even close to the same size as the 86 New Yorker and certainly not gigantic against former Focus iterations.
We owned an ’87 New Yorker E-body for a number of years.
While not exciting or memorable, it served its purpose. It was still running and drivable when sold.
Five words: “A door is a jar.”
Chrysler, of course, thought it was four words. The talking car also repeatedly gave false warnings about low washer fluid, because it sloshed forward under braking and the sensor was at the rear of the tank.
Had a rental of this car in the mid-80s for a Toronto-Detroit holiday. Just appalling, even for an era of terrible US cars, especially because I had driven mom’s 1970 New Yorker in its prime.
With a few tweaks to the 2.2 turbo and pry off the ‘turbo’ badges, you’d have Grandpa’s plaid-pants ‘sleeper’…..
It’s easy to poke fun at this car, but I see it as the work of a not-very-wealthy car company having to make the best of what they had, much as AMC and Studebaker had done decades earlier. I’m sure Chrysler would have loved to drop a V6, independent rear suspension, and nicer fittings into the New Yorker, but the money wasn’t there to do an almost-all-new car like the Taurus or the ’85 GM FWD C bodies. For those of you thinking Chrysler had the wrong approach with the Brougham-y trappings, recall that at the same time they were also selling a Dodge 600 ES based on the very same stretched K body – er, E body – as the New Yorker but with a much more ’80s European look to it. Really, the 600 ES wasn’t any more convincing as a pseudo-Benz than the NYer was as a pseudo-Caddy; the K car just wasn’t cut out to be anything more than cheap basic tranportation. The Aires and Reliant weren’t designed knowing they’d have to serve as the basis for everything from luxury cars to minivans to sporty hatchbacks to limosines.
Since the New Yorker outsold the 600ES, Chrysler was right to pile on the gingerbread. Appealing to import buyers who would NEVER buy a Chrysler at all no matter what they built would be the bigger mistake at the time.
I remember these cars. My mom had the Fifth Avenue, and a friend’s mom had the New Yorker Turbo(which later blew the engine, like most K-Car Turbos of the era). They looked nearly identical, but I know the 318 V-8 in the Fifth Avenue was a lot more fun. Mom used to apply mink oil to the leather interior, and then deliberately whip around corners at the highest possible speeds she could, sliding both me and my sister around the back seat like some kind of amusement park ride. It was a blast, when you are 7-8 years old.
I really hated the vinyl roof treatments on these. Kind of like “You’re paying for a whole vinyl roof but only getting one third!” I was OK with the wire hubcaps, except they usually had some kind of lock, making them a real pain to remove.
I remember the ‘voice’ warning systems. Nissan Maximas had this sweet female voice, with a hint of Japanese accent. But Chrysler used an irritating gruff male voice. By the way, I got to experience that gruff voice in a Canadian-market Chrysler – It spoke in French!
Happy Motoring, Mark
“…very fake-looking faux burl walnut appliqué.”
Hellllllo….that petro-chemical wood is supposed to mimic crotch walnut not burl.
“…the infamous, harass yo ass Electronic Voice Alert.”
That tickled my funny bone. I’ve been sittting here pondering which would be worse: a non-specific buzz, beep, or bong alerting me to a generalised ‘situation’ (“Your belt isn’t on! You’re in reverse! A butterfly just went past my camera! Your fly is undone!”), or a synthesized electronic voice telling everybody in the car exactly what (it ‘thinks’) is wrong.
Malaise style, but maybe without the malaise engineering? I’ll pass on the car, thanks. It’s SO not me. Iacocca was definitely past his use-by date here.
This design called a New Yorker was regrettable. It could have taken any number of other names, but aimed to hit a home run. I’m afraid it was a foul ball.
Give credit where credit is due!!
The E-class New Yorker proved that small and luxury were not mutually exclusive with a nice little profit margin on each unit. Ford demonstrated this via the Granada/Monarch (another Lido invention). Also, each E-class gave CAFE credits allowing the M-class to continue for as long as it did with ZERO improvement in engine, transmission, suspension or quality.
Sometimes, the pawns are sacrificed so that the fat, happy generals can brag about hollow victories…….