Anyone mildly familiar with the 1980s melodramatic primetime soap opera, Dynasty, will know that Alexis Carrington was a force to be reckoned with. Strong, confident, dignified and larger than life, yet brash, manipulative, elitist and self-interested, the character of Alexis Carrington was not unlike that of Chrysler’s CEO during the 1980s, Lee “Lido” Iacocca. In one way or another, both would ultimately try to claw his or her way back into the control of organizations they had been ousted from, though in the case of Alexis, “clawing” could be quite literally-speaking in addition to figuratively.
While largely credited with saving Chrysler from the brink of extinction in 1979 and fostering the automaker’s impressive comeback in the early 1980s, Lee Iacocca was a man of great ego, and he would go to great lengths to get what he wanted done his way. As the ensuing years would prove, what Lee Iacocca wanted did not always align with what was in the best interest of the corporation he chaired. The 1988 C-body Chrysler New Yorker and Dodge Dynasty were clear evidence of that, among many other examples. It’s only unusual that the name “Dynasty” was chosen for the more budget-friendly Dodge.
Just what dynasty was this car supposed to represent anyway? That of the K-car? Or of Lee Iacocca himself? If it was any attempt at capitalizing on the popularity of the TV series, Chrysler was really stretching it. I mean, Dynasty, with its elegant sets, flamboyant fashions, and over-the-top plots was dramatic and glamorous. As for the car, well… it was the exact opposite of that.
Released in late-1987, four years after the trendsetting Audi 5000, and two years after both the groundbreaking Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable duo and the debonair third-generation Honda Accord, Chrysler’s 1988 C-bodies seemed exceedingly stodgy and retrograde in comparison.
Indeed while Alexis rocked her pointed shoulder-padded suits, the Dynasty wore its pointed corner sheetmetal. And not that few probably cared, but a Plymouth version was never offered, only adding insult to injury that the brand was being starved out.
In a period where the trending theme in new automobiles was aerodynamic, expressive, and individualistic, the Chrysler C-bodies defiantly bucked this trend with extremely boxy styling, derivative of cars from the late-1970s and early-1980s. To the untrained eye, the Dynasty did actually look like a step backwards compared to the E-body 600 that it replaced, and the H-body Lancer that it was positioned above.
Of course, a closer look would reveal that indeed designers did take into account aerodynamics, with contemporary improvements such as composite headlamps and “aircraft-style” wrap-over doors. But alas, coefficient of drag was still an unimpressive 0.41 (compared to the Taurus’s 0.32 and Sable’s 0.29), and the Dynasty was saddled with Malaise-era adornments such a stand-up radiator grille, near 90-degree angle “formal” roofline, slab-sided doors and fenders, and available wire wheel covers and vinyl roof — styling elements no doubt Lee Iacocca had some say in.
The interior was no different, continuing on the theme of the upright rectangular dash common with preceding K-cars, with many sharp angles and plenty of fake wood trim. Covering the Iacocca years in an early chapter of The Critical Path: Inventing an Automobile and Reinventing a Corporation, Brock Yates actually highlights one of Lido’s outbursts pertaining to his displeasure with the mock-ups for the C-body Dynasty/New Yorker. Initially, a cleaner, more modern interior layout in the style of the Ford Taurus’ was planned for the C-bodies but upon seeing the proposals, in a fit of rage, Lee Iacocca tossed it out in favor of his more traditional styled-interiors.
On the plus side, as least interior material quality was a notch higher than previous K-cars/extended-Ks, but as Jason Shafer can attest to, having extensively driven roughly 25 different examples of the Dynasty when they were part of his company fleet in the mid-1990s, build quality was a hit or miss, much like many Chrysler products of the era.
As far as mechanical improvements over earlier Ks/EEKs, the Dynasty did have a few minor advancements. While its suspension, consisting of front iso-strut/rear trailing-arm beam axle was similar to that in the E-bodies, the C-bodies gained new nodular iron casting lower control arms and struts with grooved cylinders for better ride control. Four-wheel disc antilock brakes were also a new option.
Initially powering the Dynasty was either the 2.5-liter inline-4 that was found in many other K-based cars, while a Mitsubishi-sourced 3.0-liter V6 was available, the later somewhat of a hypocritical testament, considering Iacocca’s outspoken opposition to Japanese automakers’ involvement in the U.S. market. Chrysler’s own 3.3-liter became available in 1990.
At the time of its launch, all Dynasty models were equipped with the proven yet elderly TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic, while Chrysler’s all-new Ultradrive electronically-controlled 4-speed automatic became available with the V6 in 1989. Rushed into production before all the glitches had been worked out, Ultradrive, proved to be the achilles heal of many a Dynasty.
Lasting for nine seasons, Dynasty was considerably drawn out by the end, with seemingly every possible outrageous plot explored from the series premise. This is not unlike the humble K-car, which was stretched, stitched, and stuffed into nearly every product within the lineups of Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth, from subcompact economy hatchbacks to full-size luxury sedans to sports cars. The Dodge Dynasty would last six seasons, the the Dynasty of the K-car would ultimately last for 16 seasons.
It should be said that the original K-cars were not horrible cars for what they were, but with every extended K that followed, it became harder and harder to justify the continued basis of it for more substantial vehicles, especially when Chrysler was operating at a profit. Unfortunately, under Lido’s direction, those profits were not necessarily being put into the development of new vehicles, but rather diversification of Chrysler’s investments.
This diversification including partnerships with Maserati for the overly-ambitious and ultimately unsuccessful TC by Maserati, the purchases of Gulfstream Aerospace, Lamborghini, and American Motors, and the buyback of Chrysler stock — diversification which as whole yielded more long-term gain than loss, ultimately diverted billions of dollars away from vehicle product development, Chrysler’s core business.
With aging lineups of K-based vehicles, Chrysler’s market share and profits plummeted, landing the automaker in the red for the first time in nearly a decade, to the tune of some $800 million. In an age when the midsize car market more competitive than ever and advancement was the name of the game, it’s reprehensible that Chrysler put forth such a staid and mediocre product in the Dodge Dynasty — especially considering Chrysler had acquired a similar-sized, yet far more competitive vehicle in the AMC purchase. Unfortunately, the “stepchild” Eagle Premier/Dodge Monaco was a car that Chrysler had little interest in selling, though thankfully it did eventually lead to a more impressive midsize Chrysler.
If there was one truly redeeming quality of the Dynasty, it is that with the right transmission, it usually got you there without any hiccups. Granted it didn’t get you there with much haste, style, or refinement, but it usually got you there, and for many miles and years to come — something verified firsthand by Jason Shafer. And thankfully, Chrysler’s replacements for the C-bodies, the LH cars, while more commonly inflicted with a greater amount of reliability issues, at least showed that Chrysler could climb out of the pool, dry itself off, and be ready for another epic cat fight.
Photos by Paul Niedermeyer
1990 Chrysler New Yorker Salon – Jason Shafer
The Cars Of My Father, Pt 2 – Jason Shafer
1990-1993 Chrysler Imperial – Paul Niedermeyer
1990-1993 Chrysler Imperial – William Stopford
Do my eyes deceive me, or does that last ad photo show a Dynasty with a slightly rounded nose ? Mostly around the headlights.
I always thought that these cars looked like a 4 door (Mercury) Cougar. And yes, I realize that the Cougar was RWD and the Dynasty was FWD.
Now that you point it out, I do see some similarities between the vertical rear windshield, thick C-pillars, and shape of the hood to the 1983-1986 Cougar.
These were always comfortable cars to drive – at least for me with my height and build. Of the ones I’ve driven (which was 25 or so in the motor pool at work Brendan mentioned along with the one my parents bought) the best ones had the 3.3 liter. Thankfully I’ve got no experience with a four-cylinder Dynasty.
The name “Dynasty” irked me from the first time I heard it. Of all the names in the world, they chose one used on a soap opera. Really, they missed out on a great advertising opportunity; if they wanted to go the soap route, call it the “Dallas” then have the ad campaign with a woman named Debbie and talk about how Debbie Does Dallas. Anyway…
The Dynasty belonging to my parents was as reliable as anything ever built. 135,000 miles with nothing more than a sensor that went south in 1995 after I had driven it as far NW as Vancouver, BC. It averaged 27 mpg on that trip and I know for a fact that car would hit 120 mph although the dashboard starting bouncing at 110.
A weird C-body nugget of trivia that has stuck with me – those horrific white wall tires actually had two bands of white. It seems Chrysler contracted with whatever manufacturer to have something exclusive for these. Money would have been better spent finding a wider tire. Cornering was never the best talent of these.
Brendan, you gave the Dynasty a fair shake. Good job.
The Dodge Dallas could also have used Steve Dallas from the Bloom County comic in the ad campaign.
Jason, I’m quite certain that a young actress named Bambi Woods would have been happy to take that role
When I saw the title of this article I knew it was going to be good and Brendan, you didn’t disappoint.
My brother and I discovered Dynasty on cable TV many years ago… I think I came in around season 5 and stuck with it despite the ludicrous plotline involving a woman kidnapping and impersonating Krystle. That season was more tedious than guilty pleasure, but the plotlines got better thereafter and the final season was actually great thanks to the incomparable Stephanie Beacham. I keep meaning to watch seasons 1-4 but haven’t gotten around to it.
I don’t think Dodge will ever reboot the Dynasty… Cars like this are so anathema to the image they’ve spent the better part of 25 years crafting. However, the TV show has gotten rebooted on The CW and it’s actually pretty damn good. Still very sudsy and very much a guilty pleasure but I’m enjoying it. Season finale next week… I wonder if it’ll be a cliffhanger, for old time’s sake?
I agree with everything you had to say about Lee Iacocca. If he’d left the helm sooner, his reputation would be less tarnished. That being said, I think people probably remember him more for saving Chrysler than starving it. And the subsequent DaimlerChrysler debacle tends to be fresher in people’s minds.
“If you can find a better CEO, hire him!”
According to Bobby and Pam Ewing, it was all a dream anyways… /s
Also, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had a car called the Willard that was a deadringer for the Dynasty. One of the rarer cars in the game and handled abysmally. Interestingly, the Willard was rear-wheel-drive like most of the cars tend to be in GTA games, probably because RWD cars tend to be more fun-to-drive in video games.
For the next generation of GTA games, Willard became a brand name for various Buick and Mercury-esque cars. There was an unnamed Willard sedan called just Willard in GTA IV, but it was no longer a Dynasty or RWD and instead resembled various ’80s GM sedans.
I remember it oversteered like crazy and wasn’t very fast, but if I recall right it was one of those useful cars that could take a lot of damage before blowing up, so I always grabbed one when fleeing cops. It was weird how directly cribbed some cars like the Willard would be in those games, when most others were more deliberately anynomous.
There were quite a few FWD cars in GTA though, there just wasn’t very much rhyme or reason to it, the Stinger (Ferrari Daytona) in Vice City was inexplicably FWD for example, and oddly enough cabs were always FWD and cop cars were always RWD, despite sharing the same skins as each other. FWD shined in one very useful aspect in all the PS2 era GTAs, they were the only cars that could do Rockford turns.
I owned a Dynasty for about a year. It had the “smokin” 3.0 V6 that needed to have the heads reworked for valve guide wear. Good car, very comfortable, except for the gauges on the dash. They always looked like they were designed by a 2-year-old. Something a little more symmetrical would have gone a long way to say “quality”.
I know an earlier CC post on 8/2/13 covered the one-year-only 1990 Chrysler New Yorker Salon which was a slightly modified Dynasty – the only differences being badging and a vertical-bar grille. Chrysler Canada and Chrysler Mexico didn’t even bother with the pretense of a different name. Their version was called the Chrysler Dynasty. Badge engineering at its finest.
I believe it was always called the Chrysler Dynasty in Canada, which was followed by the Chrysler Intrepid.
In Canada, Plymouths were sold though both Dodge and Chrysler dealers (unlike in the U.S., where Chrysler and Plymouth shared a dealer network, but Dodge stood alone), and there was a long-standing tradition of each network having equivalent cars to sell.
From the 1970s onward, as Chrysler began to starve out Plymouth, models would sometimes be introduced that came in a Dodge version but not in an equivalent Plymouth version (as was the case with the Dynasty). This created a problem in Canada; Dodge-Plymouth dealers would have a version of that car to sell, but Chrysler-Plymouth dealers wouldn’t. In the late ’80s and ’90s, Chrysler Canada adopted the solution of badging those cars as Chryslers, so that both networks could sell them.
I´d rather take a Dodge Pamela.
Nice write up, Brendan. This CC is especially apt as today marks the 20th anniversary of Daimler Chrysler. And you can see why Chrysler thought a corporate tie up was necessary. It was products like this that led them down the merger path.
Thanks for bringing that anniversary up! It wouldn’t have crossed my mind otherwise, but I remember when it occurred. My grandfather actually was the one who told me, explaining to me what it all meant and that in fact “Daimler” was essentially “Mercedes”.
I was driving a K car (Dodge Aries) at the time of the merger. My friends jokingly said that I was now driving a Mercedes product!
I remember these as being some of the slowest cars on the road at the speeds they were actually driven at. Their buyer pool seemed to consist entirely of elderly Mopar faithful who’d driven nothing else since K.T.Keller was a kid, and rental fleets (“Did you remember to ask whether the Holiday Inn was on the right or on the left?”)
I almost T-boned one once, a white New Yorker. As in, if I had been driving a more powerful car with a less vague shift linkage than the ’81 Omni I had, I would’ve. It was on a rural two-lane headed out of a small town. The driver went from 22 in a 25, to 15 in a 35, to a crawl just at the 50 sign (the transitional 35 zone wasn’t more than a few hundred feet) edging further and further to the right the whole way until he was half in the gravel alongside the road. Just as I was downshifting to pass, he swung in front of me and made a left turn. No signal at any point.
And you know that the trim level “LE” on the Dynasty actually stood for “Linda Evans”. ?
I’m amazed that the Dynasty sold as well as it did. To me, its closest styling companion was GM’s awful ’86 Seville, introduced less than 2 years before the Dynasty and as big of a failure as the automotive world has ever seen.
That a Chrysler product with a strong resemblance to a GM embarrassment, and with a nauseatingly annoying name, was able to sell in decent numbers and last for 8 years is nothing short of amazing.
The only people I knew who bought a new Dynasty were the parents of a friend of mine — they downsized after retirement and replaced two cars with a 1990 Dynasty. They were definitely not car enthusiasts, and as far as I know they liked the Dynasty, and I remember riding in that car several times and thought it was rather comfortable for around-down driving. A good car for newly-retired folks. But I suspect that they Dynasty’s relative success may have lulled Chrysler more into complacency.
I don’t know if it was intentional, but it sure seems like ole Lido was aiming the Dynasty/New Yorker at the same retired geezer demographic that would be cross-shopping the Mercury Grand Marquis and Buick Century. Maybe it was because Iacocca was of the same age group. That’s probably where the sales came from that allowed the aged Mopar heap to stay in the game for as long as it did, just like the Mercury and Buick products. And I have little doubt most of the buyers were actually fans of the dopey Dynasty television soap opera, as well.
For the rest of the car buying public, though, the Dynasty was quite lame. Iacocca might have saved Chrysler, but then he damn near ran it back into the ground, too, by sticking with all the modified K-car platforms while embarking on some rather foolhardy endeavors. The original K-car served its purpose well, including spawning the game-changing minivan. But rather than moving on to bigger and better products, well, the basic K-car mechanicals kept on being used well beyond their sell-by date.
Put photos of the Dynasty next to a Volvo 740. Front, rear, and side view.. there is influence.
The Dynasty looks better and mostly well sorted. It’s not a beauty queen, and it’s very dated, but the fat C pillars and the blacked out b pillars make the dynasty more visually interesting, giving it a faux hardtop shaped greenhouse, while the Seville looks like the dystopian transportation pod GM envisioned.
Formal rooflines only work with thick C pillars, look at the 79-85 GM E body’s, but in the mid 80s GM only utilized it to have headroom and a large trunk for the shorter footprint, which necessitated thin pillars. That’s a glaring detail I feel got lost in the transition from Bill Mitchell to Irv Rybicki’s styling.
Good write up- thanks again. From the lens of the car biz, back in the day, Dynasties and New Yorkers were a big profit center for dealers at the time. Reason- they were Rental Fleet favorites, and Mopar ran them through auction like heck wouldn’t have it @ steeply discounted prices. Advertise them at a “10 to choose from” at some attractive price, and they’d disappear every weekend.
It took some creative thinking to stay profitable as a Chrysler/Plymouth/Jeep dealer back then.
I commented yesterday about the Intrepid and the fact that I was a Manager in the Car Rental industry. I have driven 1000’s of miles in Dynasty’s and New Yorker’s of this era.
Hands down my favorite was a black cherry Dynasty. I LOVE any car that has a vertical back window. To this day i can still smell the new car odor that these cars had. Like the Intrepid, these were brand new cars that we kept for only 6 months. All of the negative issues that show up later (ultradrive, etc.) were never an issue. In this day of cars that all look alike, I wish this styling would make a comeback.
Dynasty?! More like Dysentery.
Dodge’s Dynasty came out when the TV show was going into its 2nd to last season, 1987-88.
Lido had said that these were aimed at the ‘retiree guys in Florida’. But, seemed like the Chrysler versions were more common.
I read an article years ago where Chrysler product planners in the 80s referred to the company’s core customers as PODS – Poor Old Dumb Shits. Low-education, lower income older people with broughamy tastes, impressed with Iacocca’s loudmouth braggart shtick.
Although I didn’t care for the styling, I mostly liked this car. I rented one in my early 20s for a Disney World trip with some friends and found the car roomy, comfortable, and possessing of good ergonomics. The interior materials even on the base model (two types of burgundy velour fabric on ours) were of high quality – you could really squeeze the dashboard and soft-touch materials were everywhere; it and the New Yorker had the best interior of any K variant. The vertical rear window was good for keeping said window clean, increasing the size of the trunk opening, and allowing for easy ingress/egress through the rectangular rear doors (try that in modern chop-top sedans). And despite the K-car roots, there was some forward-thinking engineering in these. They were available with four wheel disc ABS from the get-go in 1988, two years before they were available on the Taurus and even longer before most Accords would offer them, and had an airbag before most of its competitors as well. As for the exterior styling, why isn’t the Volvo 740 treated with the same derision? It’s at least as boxy as the Dynasty.
While I can’t speak to the Volvo, there were two things that played against the Dynasty.
First, the name. There were an abundance of other names that would have worked better without tapping into that one.
Second is the Ultradrive. While not all were trash, the cast was set early on.
In the big scheme of things, these fulfilled a purpose. The one my parents had would smoke the front tires at will. It was a fun car in a twisted sort of way.
I knew a few folks who had them back in the day. For getting from Point A to Point B, they were good cars. In fact, in the TV series Hunter, Dee Dee McCall trades in her Dodge Daytona for a gold 1990 Dodge Dynasty in Season 6.
………….While its four-wheel independent suspension consisting of front iso-strut/rear trailing-arm…………
Uh no. The rear was decidedly UN-independent, with a beam axle like any other K-based product, or for that matter any utility trailer.
You’ll be happy to know that the text is fixed now.
What happens when writing with your thoughts all over the place and wine 🙂
In my book there were two positive aspects of the Dynasty: 1) the (fake) full-width taillight bar; and, 2) the fairly complete gauge cluster (though a bit awkward in layout).
Most of the later K variants offered, at least optionally, a truly full set of gauges, all the ones seen here plus a tachometer. A few years later oil pressure gauges and voltmeters disappeared en masse.
One reason I preferred the New Yorker over the Dynasty was the bumper-height trunk opening in the NYer; the Dynasty opening stopped above that full-width taillight.
My feeling is that Iacocca was aiming at the New Yorker market with this K-variant, as Chrysler’s “high end.” Think, “M-bodt replacement.” The Dynasty came along “for the ride” and in doing so, turned out to be Chrysler’s biggest seller for a year or three, no doubt helped by fleet sales.
To drive, it was no Taurus. It understeered heavily (was this caused by its being a longitudinal stretch on the Aries/Reliant?) and with the four-cylinder was bog slow. The V6 at least gave it decent power. It was also narrow for a midsize, again due to its being a stretched K-car. Good room for four, though not for more.
XR7Matt says it oversteered. Maybe it was neutral?
The front tires squealed a lot in hard corners. The rears just followed along quiestly.
Besides, he did say, “I always grabbed one when fleeing cops.” So maybe it was tongue-in-cheek!
Chrysler did consider a Dynasty police package with the 3.8L V6, and built a test car for trials with a Michigan police agency but dropped the idea.
You guys must have missed the part where Matt and I were talking about a similarly styled car in a video game… 😉
Speaking Chrysler’s diversification, didn’t they own Dollar Rent-a-Car for a while, too? Was that another purchase made during this period? I know for a while Dollar’s rental fleet consisted exclusively of Chrysler products.
Ma Mopar also owned Dollar/Thrifty Car Rental for a while, from 1989 to about ’97. Now, Dollar and Thrifty are part of Hertz.
GM owned part of Avis from 1989-??, and Ford owned of Hertz 1987-2005. So that was why Big 3 dominated rental fleets in late 80s, 90s.
Speaking of Hertz. For years they advertised as “#1′ car rental. Now, Enterprise is the largest, and they own Alamo National.
And Avis and Budget merged. Hardly any fully independant rental car firms at airports these days.
Great piece, Brendan – I’m laughing every time I read the title, with the connection between the TV character (with her square shoulder pads) and this car. I don’t think I’ll ever look at the Dynasty the same way, ever again.
I was aghast at the Dynasty’s styling when I got a hold of the ’88 new car buyers guide. It looked like something someone had drawn with a ruler. I like that they sold so well, though, as I tend to always root for the underdog.
@WildaBeast, they owned Dollar and Thrifty Car Rental during this era
We rented a Dynasty once long ago. I don’t remember if it had the infamous Ultradrive transmission. The car struck me as adequately comfortable and utterly unremarkable. My main recollection, on the drive back to Tucson from Prescott, was sitting in the back seat, feeling not communicative at all as I was recovering from a 24-hour bug that had hit me the night before. The car just seemed like a fairly comfortable, blah box.
I wasn’t much of a TV watcher then, though obviously I was aware of Dallas and Dynasty. I don’t think that I ever associated the name with the show – I just assumed the Dynasty name was a follow-on to the Diplomat; alliterative, and vaguely upmarket. I can’t imagine that the name had much effect on sales, one way or another.
Every bit as exciting as the show.
My ex-father-in-law owned 2 (a 1990 with the 3.0 and a 1992 with the 3.3). He was squarely in the demographic that bought the Dynasty (older, owned at least 2 Plymouth Furies in the past…). I liked the 1992 with the 3.3. If you wanted a car to be invisible to the police, or wanted a guaranteed pole-position parking space at Denny’s, this was THE car to have. The 3.3 had enough horsepower to make it entertaining, and the Ultradrive (if you didn’t kill it by filling it with Dexron or mud-puddle water) wasn’t too bad.
I definitely didn’t have any complaints about interior (decent room, actual real gauges, and the upholstery was grippy enough so you wouldn’t slide all the way across the seat when taking a corner at extra-legal speeds).
With a little bit of parts-bin engineering (thanks to various other K-based derivatives), someone could make an off-the-wall ‘driver’ out of a Dynasty. Ditch the hubcaps, find some decent tires (replacing the old guy cheapskate “they were cheap and had whitewalls’ rim protectors), and peel off some of the trim, you’d have something that looks reasonably sleeper-esque.
A well-used Dynasty was the perfect choice for the family car (I think they also had a first-gen minivan) in Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006).
Didn’t House drive one of these as well? I didn’t get to watch much past the first couple of episodes (TV ADD kind of does that to me.) But aside from him being a motorcycle rider, I think I saw somewhere that House’s car was a Dodge Dynasty. Which makes sense, despite whatever problems it might have, it always seems to do its job well. Not to mention it fits House’s stubbornness and refusal to change in the face of an ever changing world.
I owned a Dynasty that my brother had as a company car. When it was to be turned in we bought it and gave it to my mom. When mom gave up driving, she gave it to me. I drove it for a couple years until the transmission went, then junked it. It was definitely an appliance, not fun to drive, but it was comfortable and reliable until the tranny went.
Due to it’s generic look, two slightly altered Dodge Dynastys are featured in the first crash scene between James Spader & Holly Hunt’s characters in David Cronenberg’s 1996 film “Crash” – couldn’t pick a better 90’s car to smash up!
Is it just me, or are the Dynasty’s doors the same as the Lancer’s? Isn’t most of the dash the same as well?
(I mean, of course they’re all K-Car-based, but Iacocca was especially clever with cost-cutting when it came to things like the M-Body’s fake roofline.)
I am late to arrive but wanted to add two additional cents. These (and the New Yorkers even more) always struck me as Chrysler’s way of trying to find the success of the GM C and H body cars like the Park Avenue/98 and LeSabre/88. GM sold a lot of those cars in the 80s and Chrysler had been completely absent from that market for much of the decade.
The problem was that the K platform was significantly narrower than GM’s C and H cars so even after they got a decent V6 in the 3.3 and a modern 4 speed OD automatic, the Mopars were not really in the same league. Still, I knew at least one guy who traded an 86-ish C body FWD Electra on a Fifth Avenue version around 1992-93 and seemed happy with it. FWIW, he was in that car’s demographic as a middle management guy approaching retirement.
Wow, the CC platform was off-line for a bit this evening, and I wrote near the same comment blindly. And, yes, you peg the buyer demo very well.
Since it is written, and approaches six cylinder Mopars in the ’80s slightly differently, here it is….
During the ‘80s, Chrysler tended to position its cars as punching a size class or two above their actual weight. While the Dynasty, New Yorker and Imperial were narrow mid-size cars, they were typically sold as practical alternatives to GM’s “full-size” H and C bodies. Chrysler seriously miscalculated what that meant to competing in the mid-size segment, what with its Potato cars (Ford Taurus / Sable) as Iacocca is purported to have referred to them.
Compared to the Chrysler E body that this “C” body replaced, it certainly did a more credible job of playing company flagship. At least it finally sported the first 6-cylinder engine in a Mopar passenger car since the demise of the Slant Six after 1983 in cars. Astonishing to think Chrysler fought the fight without a single 6-cylinder car from 1984 through 1987.
I don’t think it coincidence that these cars brought the C body designation back to Chrysler’s volume selling large cars. The hard-creased styling even harkens back to the successful and generally respected 1965 Chrysler C bodies. Ford, under Iacocca, also put more starch in its cars in 1965, a year where Iacocca could seem to do no wrong. Unfortunately, nostalgia for three box styling was a bit premature with boxy old school RWD drive cars still coming from all the Big Three.
My father-in-law had a Dynasty, and I had a little wheel time in it. With the V-6 it was perfectly comfortable and quiet in going about its intended mission to play a modern full-size car. Unfortunately for Chrysler, it took until the next generation of their large FWD cars to get the modern part right.
My late FIL 1.0 survived navigating a B24 in the Pacific and for some reason had a life-long affinity for all things Dodge. Guess he was a PODS too, as we inherited his DieNasty.
That car ATE transmissions, the first one at 6 months, the second halfway from MA to FL, the third on the way home, and then a stretch of luck for a while.
By the time we got it, the headliner was a foot liner, a head gasket blew with the kids in it on the way home from a Yankees game, and we couldn’t donate it fast enough to Kars4Squids.
Late to the party, but figured I’d add my background with what I called the “Die-Nasty” as a child.
I grew up in in the suburbs outside of Detroit, where my maternal grandfather was a longtime Chrysler engineer. As a result, I grew up in what you could call a “Chrysler Family”. As soon as she had her 2nd child in 1990, my Mom traded in her ’84 or ’85 Daytona for a brand new Voyager and has driven nothing but Chrysler minivans since. My Dad’s tastes were a bit different, but still took advantage of their Chrysler family discount.
By late 1992/early 1993, our family now had 3 kids, and my Dad (in his mid-late 30’s) was looking to replace his 1986 Lebaron GTS (non turbo 2.5l/Auto) for something new. I don’t remember the exact reasoning, but my Dad was after the AA-body Lebaron (Spirit and Acclaim based). His parents had recently bought a 3.0 Acclaim to be their only car, so that might have had something to do with it. Upon visiting dealerships, he found that the Dodge dealers were steeply discounting the Dynasty, then in it’s final model year. While he was probably at least 15 years younger than it’s target demographic, he couldn’t pass up the deal after test driving a Dynasty. Especially considering it was much cheaper than the Lebaron he was looking for, and still cheaper than the smaller and less powerful Spirit.
He got a pretty well loaded (3.3L, power windows, etc.) 1993 in Black Cherry with the porno red interior for what he swears was ridiculously cheap. We always joked about it’s styling and name, but my Dad is always adamant to point out that it was a great car. Fit the family of 5 with room to spare if needed, he’ll tell you all day that with the 3.3 it was faster than you’d think, and had no mechanical failures for the 5.5 years he drove it. He eventually caved to the SUV craze and traded it in on another last model year fire sale for a 1998 Grand Cherokee lease.
The problems he had with the Dynasty were:
-The bland OEM wheel covers, which consisted of a pentastar logo surrounded by half egg shaped openings around the edges were stolen at least twice while he owned it. Once in our own driveway, and once in a Circuit City parking lot.
-Those “opera lights” located on the interior of the C pillars were not designed/engineered with children in mind… In any rare instance where my toddler/elementary aged siblings and/or I weren’t transported in my Mom’s minivan, we couldn’t help but constantly fiddle around with those lights. Like map lights, they worked whether the car was on or off, so if left on overnight, they would drain the Dynasty’s battery and my Dad would be frantically scrambling to jumper the car before he left for work…
IMO, it’s styling, underpinnings and the fact that it’s replacement was light years ahead, really unfairly tarnish it’s reputation.