(first posted 10/14/2011) There was a sad and dark time in the 1980s when the world was shrinking, and the big American sedan was forced to shrink with it. The conventional wisdom was that the only way the traditional sedan would survive would be to reduce to 60 percent of its former self, but in a way that left the proportions of the traditional car largely intact. DeVilles, Park Avenues and Ninety Eights held their breath, tightened their belts and switched their drive wheels, but lived to cater to their graying customers another day (or decade).
But pity the poor New Yorker. By 1983, it was a glorified K car with a mere four cylinders. This was the first four cylinder Chrysler since the 1920s. Oh, the indignity of it all. True, there was the Turbo version, but make no mistake: the car was a bitter pill for the traditional Chrysler buyer to swallow. Many, in fact, refused to swallow it at all, opting instead for the educated Volare that became the Fifth Avenue. How the mighty had fallen. No golden lions were to be found anywhere around a Chrysler dealer.
By 1985, Chrysler was out of crisis mode and was planning for the future. Lee Iacocca was still running the show, and knew that his strategy to bet the farm on small front drive cars had been unavoidable, but limited his options. Fuel prices were receding, and the few V8 rear drive sedans that the industry had kept from scrapping were selling in ever larger numbers. He undoubtedly knew that the Fifth Avenue was a flawed solution, and a new Chrysler flagship was necessary. The C body was to return.
But not the C body of yore – the one with torsion bars and leaf springs and fender mounted turn signals. That car was gone forever. This would be a modern C body that would make concessions to the realities of the New Chrysler Corporation. The greatest of these would be the car’s width, because the new C body would essentially be a stretched K body.
A modern flagship would have to be front drive, but six cylinders would now be providing the power. The car would be luxuriously trimmed and would feature the cues familiar to lovers of the big New Yorkers of old, both inside and out. The car would be competitive in every way with the front drive Ninety Eight and Park Avenue. Only narrower.
Mechanically, the car was pretty much a Chrysler minivan. When the redesigned New Yorker hit the market as a 1988 model, it was equipped with the Mitsubishi 3.0 V6 coupled to a three speed automatic with a lockup torque converter. The following year, the car got the four speed Ultradrive transmission. The 1989 model saddled with both the Mitsu engine and the first year Ultradrive is probably not the version to own today. By 1990, the new Chrysler-built 3.3 V6 would replace the Mitsu unit (and its ever-present blue cloud). But the Ultradrive (now known only as the A604) remained.
The Ultradrive counts as the first full-on fiasco of the New Chrysler Corporation. From the company that brought us the legendary Torqueflite, this was a real letdown. It is true that there were some severe manufacturing issues, but sources on Allpar indicate that much of the problem came from using the wrong fluid. The unit was designed for a new fluid (ATF+4). However, dealers, mechanics and owners had been pouring Dextron into Mopar automatics since the ’50s, and the need for the new fluid was not universally understood.
Why the early dipsticks and owners manuals in the cars themselves advocated Dextron in a pinch (when it was actually wholly unsuitable) is a really good question. It appears that the ghosts of the old Chrysler Corporation had not been completely exorcised from the premises.
By the time this ’91 model came along, Chrysler was turning out a pretty decent large-ish sedan. But the car was never really competitive with the GM offerings. Chrysler faced some of the same constraints that Studebaker had faced a generation earlier – the need to make a small car and a large car share the same basic structure. The Studebaker Land Cruiser was a long car on a genuine big-car wheelbase (CC here), but showed its family resemblance to the compact Champion in its unusually narrow width. This New Yorker had the same problem. The new C body shared the basic underpinnings with the K body, a constraint that the big front drive Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Cadillacs did not face. The GM cars were substantially wider, and thus roomier on the inside and better proportioned on the outside.
But still, the Chrysler faithful finally had a passable modern luxury car. In its second year (1989), Chrysler sold over one hundred thousand of them, in addition to another twenty six thousand Fifth Avenues (in that car’s final year). Through the end of this version’s run in 1993, Chrysler would steadily sell at least fifty thousand every year. The dropoff may have been due to the new fwd Fifth Avenue that hit the showrooms in 1991 to replace the ancient rwd version. The new Fifth Avenue was a slightly stretched and plushified fwd New Yorker. The same basic car, but longer (and with an optional 3.8 V6).
This car also shows what a conservative place Chrysler had become by the early 1990s under Iacocca. This car screamed “playing it safe” from every perspective. The excitement would have to wait for the Bob Lutz-led product renaissance that got rolling towards the end of this car’s run.
Ever since Lincoln offered a Bill Blass Mark V in a navy and white color scheme with a fake convertible roof, this look became a perennial among the more – ahem – traditional cars. I will confess that I have a certain affection for the look, and have seen several Town Cars, box Mercuries, Cadillacs and other big sedans with this sort of nautical scheme (most commonly a white car with navy blue interior and fabric roof). To me, the look improves the fwd New Yorker.
This car belongs to a co-worker, and I have actually driven it. It has somewhere around 140 thousand miles (the odometer quit at about 125 thousand) and has been owned by someone in her extended family for its whole life. If you have ever driven a Chrysler minivan, the experience is very familiar. The 3.3 V6 is plenty of engine for this car (it weighs about 1500 pounds less than a ’90s Chrysler minivan) and provides plenty of the good old fashioned American torque that a Chrysler buyer would expect.
Another observation: Chrysler spared no expense in the quality of leather supplied for the upholstery. At twenty years of age, the driver’s seat looks virtually new, despite it being several years since the car has seen the inside of a garage. And I will report that it is quite comfortable. In truth, I kind of like the little thing. And it is little. Parked next to any recent minivan (or even a last generation Accord), this car’s K body roots are apparent. Luxury has gone large again.
Sadly, the little New Yorker needs to find a new home. It has been getting a mite temperamental in its old age, sometimes starting, sometimes not. An old car with formerly modern electronics systems is not so inexpensive to own if one does not twist his own wrenches. So, New York New York has been replaced (with my old ’99 Town & Country with a fresh transmission, of all things, but that is another story). But driving a minivan just won’t be the same for the owner. The T&C does not have that luxurious navy blue leather, and there is certainly no jaunty looking fake convertible top. So, if you want something to drive while you wear your yachting cap and white loafers (feeling like either Thurston Howell III or your grandfather) I know where you can get just the thing.
My dad was a big fan of full size Chryslers until the big downsizing wave. He switched to Lincolns in the mid-1980s. I rented one of these New Yorkers to get back from college. I was promised a Town Car or Sedan DeVille from the rental agency, but when I went to pick it up, they gave me a New Yorker. My dad told me they did a bait and switch on me.
Speaking of the nautical scheme, see my daily driver in the photo.
Does that daily driver have the 4.9 or the 4.6 Northstar? BTW personal bonus points for the 4.9 in the new body style. I’m always facinated by a mishmash of old and new – ie: old engine in new body.
Bonus- It’s a 4.9. From what I’ve read, I’m lucky; those early Northstars are very expensive to repair. Car still has under 100,000 miles on it.
I love your car. Maybe it is just me, but that navy blue fabric roof improves almost any old-style sedan it has ever been put on. Actually, your DeVille is one of the newer ones to receive the treatment. It was a fairly popular look in the midwest for a time.
There was a 90-91 Grand Marquis in this style that was driven by an old guy in my neighborhood a few years ago – I really wanted that car.
I love that generation Cadillac – and the fabric roof actually suits the car well!
This is traditional American Luxury for a new era done wrong. I understand the need to make as much hay as possible while the sunshines but to me these have always been an abomination.
For FWD American “CAFE friendly” luxury done right see the 1992-2005 LeSabre, Park Avenue, 88, and Ninety-eight. If I was a Chrysler fan and in the right income bracket at the end of the 80s I would have bought a RWD M-body Fifth Avenue and held on to it until the first RWD hemi 300 was built.
These cars were widely reviled when new, but IME driving one now reveals a fairly appealing, trim little sedan with a very pleasant interior. The drivetrain is crude, but the later V6es had a bit of grunt and were fairly durable when cared for properly.
@geigs: Nice car — to me that was the last big, stylish Caddy. They never looked right after they opened up the rear wheel openings… Probably didn’t help the way they opened them up — looked like it was done with tin snips at the end of the assembly line.
Right, and you could always opt for an Imperial for a little more show. And thanks for the call out. I agree with you. 1997 was the first year of the wheel openings.
Your thoughts echo mine on this. I wanted to like these back then, but just couldn’t get there. But the couple of brief times I drove this one, I kind of liked it.
I should have given a bigger shout-out to the Chrysler 3.3 V6, which is almost slant 6-like in terms of durability. This was the first new engine fully developed under Iacocca’s reign, and may be one of the best of its time. The one in my old 99 T&C would be ready for a quart of oil at about 3000 miles even at 209K on the odo. I am told that these will routinely run to 300K with even minimal maintenance. The GM 3.8 eventually got there too, but after some teething issues. I believe that the 3.3 was quite stout right out of the box.
The 3.3 is indeed stout. When I worked at Chrysler, I only saw one failure, that caused from going 80,000 km without even a single oil change. Amazing that it lasted that long. We saw loads of them because Mopar had put them in so many products, especially the Caravan. The rest of the car, however….
By the time this New Yorker came around, most of the K Car bugs had been worked out. The drivetrains were not too bad except for the A604. It is not just a fluid issue with the A604. There was not enough friction material in the clutch packs which led to premature failure, especially on the 1-2 planetary. Any owner would be lucky to get 140,000 km from an A604, and with AWD this would be much less. Also the Ultradrive suffered terrible quality control and some were better than others. It was the electrics that make this cars hard to own at this stage. When I was at Chrysler, we had one customer who just loved this car but there was always an electrical issue dogging him. He spent a lot of money trying to keep it on the road in drivable condition.
The 3.3 in our ’92 Caravan was indeed utterly reliable. We finally got a “keeper” transmission – on the fourth go-around! Unbelievable. And we never put the wrong fluid in them, didn’t have any of them long enough to need to put fluid in them!
The Chrysler dealer I worked at got the A604 delivered by the five ton truck load. The techs made good money on them; it was a six hour job but with practice they could do it in three.
I inherited my grandmother’s ’89. Quick enough, smooth ride, comfortable, and I almost always got 30-33 mpg on the highway cruising at 70-80 across the West Texas High Plains. Great car when it’s seen for what it was, not for what it wasn’t designed to be.
Oh, this makes me miss my old Dynasty. Would have been a great car to pass on to a teen driver someday.
Good stuff, here. That interior holds up against anything GM threw at us back then. Especially the handsome leather.
The Chrysler 3.3 in a mini van I had years ago gave the little fridge on wheels surprising zip.
Nice car. I always liked these, especially the Fifth Avenue version. A friend of my Dad’s got a ’91 Fifth Avenue in about 1998. It had hit a deer (on the driver’s side doors, of all places) and since he worked in the body shop at the local Dodge dealer, he fixed it himself, drove it for a while, then sold it. It was white with burgundy leather and the lacy spoke alloys. It was a very sharp car.
Finally! The long-awaited CC of the official blue-haired ladies car (safety-goggle sunglasses and disabled parking permit hangtag sold separately).
My Stepdad has one of these still (a 1991 with the 3.3) and I don’t know if there’s anything I like about it.It floats, and can’t stay on a straight path. it has the gawd awful “brougham” seats in cloth (that have held up remarkably well though). Maybe the 3.8L of this generation of engine is better but to me it seems more sleepy and lifeless than even a Vulcan V6. There’s a moderate amount of torque through a good part of the rev band, but no useful peaks, really. It’s a good dull OHV V6, but if I were to pick a better dull OHV V6, I’d point to a 3800 or the Vulcan first.
I’d choose a Spirit/Acclaim/LeBaron over these because at least they have a slim chance of having a decent handling suspension. Sad that the 3.3 wasn’t offered (couldn’t fit?) in those. Or outfitting a 3.3/Torqueflite in your favorite K-Car? I wonder if that drivetrain would fit in a ’86 Town & Country Convertible.
The same 3.3 V6, turned lengthwise in the LH Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde and Eagle Vision, felt much gutsier than the same year Ford Taurus with the 3L Vulcan. But the stopwatch showed that the Chryslers were only a little quicker. The difference was in his the throttle position sensor was electrically contoured to make tip-in more abrupt. The Chryslers FELT faster but the last 1/3 of gas pedal travel didn’t do much because there wasn’t anything left to do.
This must be an old Chrysler trick – the ’66 Dodge Polara my family had when I was growing up had a gas pedal calibrated so I barely had to tap on it to get 75% throttle, or at least it felt that way.
It was a Japanese trick, too; they were doing it with their throttle position sensors before Chrysler did it on the LH cars. It was why their little four-cylinders felt peppier than many a 1980s American V6 but ran out of torque up high.
Say what you will, but we owned K-cars and their offspring for almost 20 years and weren’t disappointed. Our Plymouth salesman let me drive a new Imperial back in 1991. A very nice ride. Trouble is, I liked the bathtub Roadmaster, too, but as I’ve said several times, anything more than just-above-basic-transportation was simply out of the budget, plus those were our young family years (80s-early ’90’s) and guess where all our energy and money went!
But…I’m still cheap, but have moved up to my Impala, so I’m making progress!
Sorry, every time I notice a vinyl or fabric roof with door seams in it, I just go nuts.
When vinyl started showing up on ’60s cars, it was on two-door hardtops shaped like convertible tops, like this Impala. Some even had creases where the ribs would be that looked sharp in steel as well. That Continental top looks fine. (Below its belt line is another matter.)
But a four-door sedan, with door seams cutting through the “top”? The chrome-tipped “seam” makes it even more egregious. Is there fabric on that B-pillar? I saw a Caddy once with half the fuel door cutting through the “top”. Must be the engineer in me, it’s such a jarring conflict of form and function, my teeth hurt. Sorry, and thanks for the chance to vent.
I feel your pain!
Glad to see someone else hates seeing so-called “designers” using fake materials to simulate something that is impossible to create in reality, at least from an engineering standpoint. And I’m not even an engineer.
Reminds me of a pet peeve, and one that’s the modern-day equivalent of faux cabriolet roofs on cars: Faux stone-covered dormers, perched on the roof of a house that could never support them if they were actually made of real stone.
Ooh, that is an architectural crime.
Never give away that the stone is fake!
That looks more like stucco that’s been painted to look like stone.
I’m definitely not the target market for this car. That said, I would have liked them a lot more if I had never driven a Dynasty. I had gotten a Dynasty as a dealer loaner car, the damned thing died on I-79 just north of Pittsburgh, left us stranded there for hours until a State Policeman came by and called a tow truck for us. There’s a reason why I referred to those cars as Die-Nastys. This car looked too much like a tarted up Dynasty, I could never warm up to it.
It looked like a Dynasty when it was released, and what’s really sad, the LH cars that came after just blew these things out of the water, no matter their charms. I’m glad to hear they have some redeeming qualities…
Stylistically you’re right about the LHs, but they brought a whole new set of bugs that, in my experience, had been worked out on the K-creatures by the early ’90s.
I don’t know much about these, but I recall reading that another weak point of the FWD Chrysler transmissions, in the minivan at least, was the torque converter lock-up. More specifically, the computer modulated the solenoid that provided fluid pressure to lock-up the converter clutch, so that engagement of the clutch would not be sudden and jarring. Well, they didn’t provide enough pressure to prevent the clutch from slipping when it was fully engaged. This would burn-out the lockup and cause lots of heat build-up in the ATF. Apparently, you can’t just bypass the system and tie the solenoid to +12V either because it will overheat and burn out.
I read about someone’s exploits on their website to bypass this system. They found another signal output from the transmission control computer that was a squarewave at higher duty cycle, and was guaranteed to be active any time the computer would also wish to engage the converter lockup. He made a circuit that detected any pulsing on the converter lockup line and activated a relay which fed the higher duty-cycle signal to the lockup solenoid instead. Apparently it was successful.
IDK, OHV engine, hidden headlights, down-sized exterior, button-tufted seats, a digital dashboard, great visibility, and tons of interior room.
I can dig it, sounds like a good representative of the times.
If I ever find a good condition 3.8L Imperial from this era, the Diplomat is getting a For Sale sign in the windshield.
I still feel the diplomat handles slightly better. I don’t think rwd explains all that. I have a base 78 volare without rear sway bars and it really handles horribly for the shaking rear end. But I drove a diplomat SE and it feels so much better ( put together rather than loose )
Imperial, and New Yorker fifth avenue has the problem for extreme under steering. It could be the intent they want it to handle like a big car, but I think over stretching the platform makes it worse. I never have any spin in snow though, it just doesn’t turn.
Its horrible to look at the clown car proportions certainly dont say luxury while it may be ok inside having to see it to get in would make me puke. Lido really did live by the Banham motto are you really sure he didnt just reskin the awful Mitsubishi Magna because all the mechanicl ailments are identical.
i worked in the rental car industry during this cars heyday. I remember the first year Dynasty had a 4 cylinder engine. back in the day, Chrysler leasing gave a “complimentary” fully loaded car for every 50 or so cars leased. Needless to say the boss and the owners had a New Yorker, 5th Avenue or finally an Imperial based on this platform. I always joked back then that the bosses Imperial needed bull horns on the front. As mid-management, I got to drive a Lebaron turbo, had a 2 door and then a 4 door. Later on I got the bosses hand me down Cherokee Laredo. He hated it. God I miss those days in the car rental industry.
Like Laurence I would have gone for one of the AA bodies as well. They had a little less of the “play it safe” attitude in the same basic package.
One of the owners at a plumbing company I worked at had a Dynasty of this vintage. It took a beating and at over 200k it was finally sidelined by a catastrophic rear suspension failure. He was pulling up to the shop one day and the right rear spring broke through the tower in the trunk..
Having just googled it I can see where this K car originated, Mitsubishi sawed a Tredia in half down the middle widened it mounted an Astron 2.6 crossways mailed it to Aussie as the new Magna it was a modern aerodynamicly efficient car well recieved but the trans was crap the manuals are ok but the autos could not do 80k kms and the blocks liked to crack the later model was also built as a Hyundai Sonata had a V6 that likes to blow headgaskets crack heads and exhaust manifolds burn valves and eat trannys The stretched wheelbase was not used by Mitsi.
Lido picked this up changed the glasshouse and glued on a Chrysler badge and anything else he could get away with. Without the Aussie spec suspension these cars would have a nice soft isolating ride Japanese Brougham style yeah I can see why they were popular the basics were well thought out just not baked quite long enough.
Are you trying to say this is a re-badged Australian market Mitsubishi? I can never tell…
I’m confused too. Who exactly is he dumping on? Chrysler or Mitsubishi?
I didn’t think the K-car had anything to do with the Tredia, but what do I know…
In this case, his rant is both indecipherable yet obviously incorrect. 🙂
The Magna was a Mitsubishi design, both were boxy in the 80s style but there was no connection to the K-Car.
“The C body was to return.”
Ouch, JP, don’t tease us like that! 🙂
I rented one of these for a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles via the famous California Highway 1. I can tell you it’s totally the wrong car for such a trip. My friend got seasick from all the pitching and wallowing…
I think this is a prime example of cars created by accountants (or cynics). All the luxury ‘features’ of the days are ticked, but there’s nothing really substantial beneath. Landau roof? Check. Comfy sofa-like leather bench seat? Check. Chrome? Check. Fake wood vertical dash with column shifter? Check. Soft and quiet ride? Check. And for the piece of the resistance: a hidden headlights. Ooooh, the luxury car buyers won’t be able to resist those! But the whole thing is about as soulless as can be. Beauty is indeed skin deep with this thing. Surprising that this car was as successful as it is in its day. I guess Iacocca really knows what American consumer wants.
In Iacocca’s defense, he had just pulled Chrysler out of a death spiral and was being conservative. It was his belief that only GM had the resources to put competitive products all up and down the market (hindsight shows that he and everyone else vastly overrated GM’s abilities) and that the smaller companies had to wisely pick and choose where they would make a stand.
In 1985 or 86 when development was starting on this car, the reasonable assumption was that fuel prices would soon resume their upward march, and Lee was unwilling to place a big bet on a new platform for big cars – it was an unacceptable risk to a company that could not afford to lose the investment if the car did not sell. The only existing platform available to base a new car off of was the K body, so that is what they used. There was only so much you could do to take a K and make it a luxury car, and I think that Chrysler did an amazing job considering what it had to work with.
Within a few years, Chrysler was in better shape and big cars were a safer bet. These factors (and Bob Lutz and Francois Castaing) brought the LH cars, which were quite competitive. But durability-wise, I think that the fwd New Yorker/Fifth Avenue/Imperial were much better cars than their successors. If only the LHs had been as good (long term) as this version of the C car, history would be different. Although, isn’t that the whole tragi-comedy of post WWII Chrysler? The good ones are unappealing and the appealing ones are no good.
I think I’m stuck in the spam filter!
This was the car my late grandma got after her and my grandpa’s fiasco with the late 80s FWD 98 Regency. She got a New Yorker Salon with a Cabriolet roof. It was comfortable and I did notice that it wasn’t much wider than my 89 Plymouth Sundance. She stopped driving it after her stroke. My uncle pretty much took over the car. I was allowed to drive it to take her to the market or to visit her equally aging and ill sisters. She never complained about my driving; we were both fast, impatient drivers, and I’d get her wherever she needed to go. It was comfortable, but not as luxurious as the car pictured here – the seats were covered in a cashmere-like cloth and it only had an AM-FM stereo. The roof got a couple of permanent stains in it; my uncle bought some shit that allegedly was designed to clean the cloth-like cabriolet roof. Someone took his money. The tranny went out on it twice and there was always something wrong with the suspension – it made clunking noises that the mechanics could not figure out. Somehow my uncle got the title from her and used the New Yorker to pay for his Dodge Intrepid. He is a pretty underhanded SOB, always was. Greedy as hell. My grandma passed in 99; she and her four surviving sisters all died within months of each other.
Yet another car with “Iacocca Face”
The more “luxury car” articles I read here; the more I am pleased that I Finally Found a last generation Lincoln Town Car to preserve and enjoy.
Nice, blue TCs are pretty uncommon.
My favorite is the ice blue metallic. Those are really rare, but someone at the city bus maintenance facility had a new one in 2008-09. I’d see it in the employee lot every morning on the way to work.
I inherited my grandparents’ 1989 model. It was a very comfortable highway cruiser at a time when I was driving 33,000/year. 30+ mpg was easily attained. Oddly, ours was a hit-and-run magnet. Four times, and once it was even sitting in our driveway.
We owned a 1989 New Yorker for a year. It was given to us. It gave us 25k miles, and then the transmission remembered that it was a Chrysler.
I loved that car…. until I purchased a 1995 LeSabre. It was a great car, but the Buick is lightyears ahead.
I got a 93 New Yorker fifth avenue and the fuel line rusted out. Typical end for a $700 car. The role of winter car was taken by a ’95 LeSabre, with cold air out. The handling is so much better.
When my wife and I were new car shopping in 1991 for a family type car the choices for us came down to either a new Taurus, or a new Dynasty.
The Dynasty ,was less money, but I just couldn’t get past the narrowness of it vs the Taurus.
It made the Taurus seem almost Lincoln luxury like in comparison.
Though I most always bought Mopar, the Taurus was what we ended up buying.
These things were just screaming deals used when I came back to Canada a decade ago and I kind of kick myself for not buying one. In 2004, there were still lots of these things, and the cheaper Dodge Dynasty, on the market for peanuts. Many were the last kick at the can for the Greatest Generation and because of this very low km examples were no hard to find. The later years were good, as Chrysler had most of the A604 crap worked out and the 3.3 was unkillable. The cars drove not half-badly, too. They could have made a very nice, cheap beater.
American cars don’t age well in our climate for some reason, perhaps it is the incessant dampness. Right around a decade, all kinds of gremlins, usually electric, will start up. This is the reason these cars disappeared so quickly in these parts. Even my wife’s 2006 Taurus is having electrical problems now, it is on to Craigslist it is going……
Craigslist??? Kijiji is the way to go in Canukistan….are you in the maritimes? I just moved from Southern Ontario to NFLD….it never stops raining 🙂
Here in South West Florida, the rains and heavy night condensation take their toll. You’ll find a surprisingly clean car that reeks of mildew accompanied with weird electrical issues, poor running, dead displays, frozen power accessories, and rotted speakers.
Garaging will mitigate this, but in my neighborhood, most park in the driveway. The garage usually is packed with a hoard.
Looks like the kind of car I used to make out of tissue boxes when I was a kid!
This whole family, from Dynasty to Imperial, were perfect for elderly drivers. The easy size, soft ride, large displays, comfy seating.
Now, I’m trying to steer my elderly parents into a Soul- great engrees, visabilty, seats, large gauges, can be loaded- heated seats always mandatory, plenty of active safety systems and nice ride. Funny, a car intend for youngsters can be perfect for elders, like the Scion xB. The Lexus RX they want I think is a tad large, less visibility, and especially hard to back up. I would prefer they spend the difference on high end cruises, like the Windjammer Line. They won’t accept a back up camera. They rarely go far on the interstates, either. Its just not needed.
Funny, I find them relying on me for big decisions more and more, and I’m happy to help- and even overprotective sometimes.
These are a great example of just how cheap Chrysler was and just how poor their engineering and testing was. The bulk of the sheet metal was different for this car so why not spend a couple of dollars to make a longer axle shaft and other bits to make it as wide as the cars they were trying to compete against. Ford spent the money for the axle shaft and Windshield to make the Tempaz wider than an Escort and they weren’t even trying to sell it as an upscale car.
The Ultra Drive transmission is a great example of not spending money on engineering and testing. It wasn’t the use of Dexron that made they fail every 60K like clock work it was that they saved a few pennies by using extremely thin friction materials. Of course some of that might have been driven by trying to get the package short enough to fit in the narrow width. Then despite the fact that the engineers, if they had half a clue, should know what it would do to the life they only tested to see if the majority of them would last through the short warranty period. Ditto for using the POS Mitsubishi engine that started pumping out a smoke screen at 60K.
A thoroughly rubbish car. It seems Chrysler made the thing until 1993. Chrysler wonders why they steadily lost customers in the 1990’s. Who the hell wanted one of these especially in 1991 when you could get a larger more substantial Buick Park Avenue which was more roomy and got good gas mileage. In 1992 you could get a redesigned Lesabre and a supercharged Park Avenue Ultra and both were much better cars. Why on earth would somebody want to pony up big bucks for a gussied up Dynasty?
That’s exactly what I did, replacing my ’93 New Yorker with a ’95 LeSabre. But for K cars, the price can’t be beaten, and the seats are slightly better. So comfortable that I don’t find it available in any other cars.
This is a contender for “Most Depressing Car of the ’90s”, IMO.
I actually have a strange affection for the original K-New Yorker. I dunno why, exactly… I think it’s like seeing a dog wearing a funny hat or something, “awww, he thinks he’s people!” but by this point it was more like “holy shit, enough already!” No dog wants to balance a hat on his pooch head for this long. If the original was a cute pup in a bowler, this was a blind pug 2 weeks from being euthanized with a top hat stapled to it’s ears. That’s just mean and tasteless.
A funny thing happened to Lee Iacocca after he got Chrysler on an even keel after the first few desperate years – he turned into Lynn Townsend. The biggest difference was that Iacocca would keep his opera window, brougham-tastic attitude from his LTD/Mark III years at Ford, and this car was a not very good example. He finally hit the wall with the enormous expenditure on the loser TC by Maserati a few years later and it was pretty much all downhill from there, leaving Lutz to come up with the next good stuff from Chrysler.
It’s worth noting that although the K-car was success, a lot of Iacocca’s ability to keep Chrysler afloat can be attributed to his slash-and-burn cutting and selling of many of Chrysler’s more lucrative resources, one of which was those that had to do with military contracts (like the tank division).
It’s said that one of Iacocca’s final big decisions at Chrysler was insisting that the Neon would have round headlights. In retrospect, it was a good idea, but then, that car would have other, non-stylistic issues (stuff like non-power rear windows and a cheap head gasket).
I was looking at one in parking lot at work the other day, headlights stuck open, no hubcaps and a sagging rear suspension, a sad sight.
I never owned a K car or one of its many derivatives but drove quite a few as rentals – to me, they all drove and rode the same – which was pretty lousy. My recollection was they were too narrow, rode rough, and felt rather cheap and insubstantial.
Quite the opposite of the 99 LHS I purchased new and was very fond of – roomy, very substantial feeling, and with great presence…….
My folks inherited a 1991 New Yorker in 1993 when my stepmother’s father passed away. It was a former Avis rental car in metallic burgundy with a matching velour interior and zero options (AM/FM w/o cassette, etc.). My father hadn’t owned a domestic car since the 60s and I was a college kid raised on classic (read: aged) European cars. Suffice it to say, we both looked at this awkwardly shaped thing in the driveway with bewilderment and skepticism.
Oh man… what a great car it turned out to be. It was the perfect spare car for road trips, driving when home on breaks from school, commuting in heavy traffic, etc. The thing was supremely comfortable. The interior never aged, not even the velour. Compared to the Volvo 240 that was quietly ushered out the door within a couple of months after this thing arrived, it was a rocket ship. It would have been nice if it didn’t look like the box it came in, but at least we looked like we’d splurged at the rental counter. I only saw it a couple of times a year, but judging from the mileage it racked up, I suspect that my dad was driving it to work almost every day instead of his ’67 BMW.
Over 10 years and 130k miles, the car was issue free other than puking its tranny at 69k miles. At least it had the good manners to do it during the warranty. The 3.3 was beginning to lose a head gasket at the end, but I have my doubts about whether the old man ever had the coolant changed. At best it got regular oil changes. The New Yorker still looked like new when it left — the paint and interior held up perfectly.
All told: fantastic car for what it was.
I find it hilariously ironic that a New Yorker owner’s grandchildren might have mocked his car, yet ended up with the same 3.8L V6 in their Wranglers and “German” rebadged Caravans two decades later.
Oh, and remember the Pacifica? Same engine and transmission as this New Yorker, apparently!
* Edit: I mean the Fifth Avenue edition of this car.
Let’s face it, most folks are more concerned about the image their car projects from the outside than what’s under the hood. If anyone mocks this car, it’s in its looks and the image it projects, not what’s under the hood.
Plus, the minivans and Wranglers had specific abilities that a K-Car New Yorker couldn’t exactly fulfill.
I don’t think the drivetrain is what they would have been mocking. These things felt about 8-10 years out of date from the moment of their introduction. It was a rational answer to the 1981 Fox body Granada in style, fit, and finish. They genuinely seemed amazing when they were introduced in all the wrong ways imaginable. And as indicated above, I’m a fan.
While you guys are paging Bill Blass, I’ll page Dr. Kevorkian.
I’m trying to brainstorm- what car had the last power headlight covers? This may be it…can’t think of anything else, and I would have forgotten about these if asked that question.
I remember these cars, and they weren’t considered full sized cars, but nice KCars. After a decade of them, the KCar was to this New Yorker what the Volare was to the Fifth Avenue – dependable small car with lots of plush.
Look at that front overhang! There could have been an auxiliary trunk between the front bumper and the radiator on these. The wheelbase looks hilarious on such a long car.
No one really thought Chrysler would keep making these if they could have made a bigger car, but the fact that the action for Chrysler was their minivans and little else, at least gave the market a feeling that Chrysler would survive. The 1980 decade was a tough time to see any kind of future for Chrysler, so by 1991, and with the minivan success at their backs, Chrysler looked more stable.
Instead of comparing this to the Studebaker, perhaps we should see this car as an example of a 1958 Packard that did keep the brand alive. I guess sometimes that happened!
The modern cars that reminded me of 1957-58 Packards were those lame attempts to turn Subaru Imprezas and Chevy Trailblazers into Saabs. Nothing says “circling the drain” like having to rebadge cars made by (what had previously been) other companies that are less prestigious and obviously built to a lower price point. Like the ’58 Packard, the Trollblazer and Saabaru were decent cars but so obviously not what they were pretending to be.
Other than the transmission, the styling really let this car down. 10 years out of date on the day Job One rolled off the line. There was a definite sense from it that Lee was losing his touch; he believed deeply that there was a reactionary market away from the “jellybean” cars exemplified by the first Taurus.
There was, but GM had the right idea of catering to it by keeping old models in production alongside their intended replacements rather than betting the farm on an expensive full line of new models with the boxy sheer-cut styling and varying levels of that had been with us through the whole Malaise Era and looked dated to an ever-increasing number of buyers.
My greatest generation grandfather had one of these as his last car. After my incredibly, painfully frugal grandmother passed away (freeze milk when it’s on sale! Make a turkey shaped meatloaf for thanksgiving! Don’t buy a car with wire wheel covers, they’re too had to clean!) He immediately traded in the ice blue reliant for an ice blue new yorker fifth Avenue.
Yah. The chassis was pretty much like my 86 aries convertible with all the flex and parts moving out of sync, and the uncoordinated feel the k cars had, BUT. . . he was ekstatik over his kut rate kadillak. The interior was extremely plush with great quality materials, better than in my 91 brougham, which has impressive materials. Leather power seats! Electronic displays! Power everything! He got it up to 90 between. Columbus ga and Atlanta! This was a dream come true for a farm boy who lived through the depression when people made tomato soup out of ketchup packets and had nothing to eat but sweet potatoes (actual stories my grandparents told) and he fought in Europe in the freezing weather and Alaska.
These cars went out the door fully loaded with all the comfort and convenience features he couldn’t imagine at a significant discount to the better gm products. A loaded park Avenue was touching 30k while this went out the door for around 20 with typical Chrysler discounts and was plushier. It wasn’t aimed at the integra or legend, but I cannot think of a car which hit its unfairly neglected target market more perfectly. The people who bought these things had an opportunity to experience luxury they never thought they would be able to afford thanks to Lee’s kut rate engineering. Lee really gave his kustomers exactly what they wanted, and then some.
My uncle who lived in the Montreal suburbs was a died-in-the-wool Mopar guy (or maybe he just liked that the Chrysler/Plymouth dealer was the closest to home. He had one of those elegant semicircular driveways in front of his stately house, the kind you see on the covers of 1970s luxury car brochures. The oldest car of his I remember well was a gorgeous 1976 New Yorker Brougham, midnight blue inside and out, loaded with presence just like the surroundings. That got traded in for a 1979 R body NYer, By the time that was to be replace the New Yorker had become a K car which definitely wouldn’t look right in that post front yard, so he bought a circa 1984 Fifth Avenue. Several people assumed his new car was the usual New Yorker (which the M body would have been a year earlier), but he always corrected them – “it’s not a New Yorker, it’s a Fifth Avenue” (I wanted to correct him and say “it’s not a New Yorker, it’s a Volare” but knew better). Anyway that got replaced by a 1988 C body New Yorker Landau, which went to his daughter when he bought the stretched 1993 NY Fifth Avenue. The last one was his favorite since the 76 and 79 cars, ultra-plush, quiet, and loaded with leg and headroom. The narrow width compared to the ’76 land yacht was an advantage. He rarely went out with anyone but his wife, and maybe another couple in back; the middle seats were rarely used. There’s still plenty of width for two people, the the narrow stance made it much easier to get in or out of a parked car than it would have been in a 70s land yacht or even a 90s GM/Ford big car. Narrow width was a problem in the 1950s when the center seating position was more frequently used in sedans and coupes, an era before crossovers, passenger vans, and roadworthy SUVs. I don’t think it was a major issue for most buyers in the 88-93 period these were sold.
Being a dyed in the wool Mopar landyacht guy myself, I found these cars disappointing when new and more so when I saw the EEK New Yorker parked next to one of its early 70’s ancestors. It was like the 70’s car was a starship and the EEK New Yorker a shuttlecraft. A friend had a Dynasty which my made my ’79 St. Regis seem positively sexy by comparison. The friend’s Dynasty had the 3.0 which she loved and except for a radiator replacement and repairing that weird plastic strip that functioned as part of the window regulator it was a fairly reliable car until the day one of the exhaust valve guides dropped and the blue smoke began. She got rid of it after hearing how much it was going to cost to fix it. At the time, in addition to my St. Regis I was also driving a 1989 LeBaron Coupe. The LeBaron had a 2.5 four cylinder, four wheel disc brakes and front and rear sway bars. I thought the LeBaron was more fun to drive than the Dynasty but I felt like the 3.0 would probably easily out run my four cylinder, but I didn’t care.
When I was shopping for my LeBaron Coupe in 1997, a Chrysler salesman was trying to steer me towards a New Yorker like the featured car instead of the LeBaron I asked to see. I said to him that while I know they’re pretty much the same car, I want a sportier more modern wrapper on my K car. He tried to sell me a LeBaron convertible which I did not want because I really wanted the hardtop. An older co worker friend who as with me on that shopping trip was really interested in the New Yorker and he was more the target audience for it than I was but he and the salesman could not agree on a price for the New Yorker. Three months later, I found exactly the LeBaron I was looking for and drove it for the next fourteen years.
The EEK New Yorkers still sometimes turn up where I live and almost all of them have a re-entered the atmosphere one time too many patina to them and their padded vinyl roofs in some kind of horrible shape but the interiors except for the headliner still in decent shape. And they’re still being driven.
I didn’t see my comment post the first time, if this one turns out to be a duplicate please remove it. Thanks.