Curbside Classic: 1985 Chrysler New Yorker – ReinKarnation

Let’s hold our nose and consider the decline and fall of the Chrysler New Yorker. Twenty years earlier, that name typified the grace, comfort, style and performance that New Yorkers had been know for since the first one ran off the lines in 1939. The ’55-’56s (CC here) are modern classics. But the energy crisis and the decline of the big car brought on a prolonged slide that should have ended with its natural death in 1982. But God Iaccoca would have none of that: the New Yorker would be reinKarnated!

Add three inches to that infinitely malleable K-car platform, slap on a healthy dollop of all the usual faux-luxury car trappings of the time, and presto: a mini-me New Yorker. A blessing bestowed upon the faithful, at least those with short memories. In case you’re one of those, here’s what it looked like in its prime.

But don’t think just because you were getting a four-cylinder Reliant K-car with a couple of hundred dollars worth of plasticky body add-ons bought in bulk  from J C Whitney and a turbo conversion with all the subtlety and refinement of a home-brew job, that the new New Yorker was going to be a bargain. Inflation adjusted, both of these cars cost about the same: about $30k in today’s dollars. Is that deflation, inflation, or stagflation?

Chrysler hadn’t yet invented a V6 engine, so slapping a turbo on the 2.2 liter four was the only game in the big apple’s attempt to invoke luxury car performance. That is, if you were willing to shell out the extra bucks for it, because Lee had no compunction about the New Yorker having a 101 hp four as the standard engine. Your investment in turbo lag worthy of a stubborn mule yielded a magnificent 146 hp, once it spooled up.

The little turbo four might have been some fun in the Omni GLH with a stick, but in the New Yorker teamed up with a three-speed automatic it was about as sporty as when the same combination was put to work powering a long-wheelbase Grand Caravan. Lagflation.

But once ensconced in that luxurious interior of soft Corinthian leather, all was well with the world; until you turned the key, that is. The instant response and torque of a healthy 413 V8 was now just a distant memory. Press on that go pedal, and eventually something happened, after a (turbo)fashion. But it was all worth it, to save gas. Ironically, gas prices were already plummeting by the time the New Yorker hit the streets in 1983.  But there was always the Fifth Avenue, a former Dodge Aspen also given the full Iacocca treatment. Its 318 V8 had less horsepower (140) but some vestige of low-end torque.

Some of the finer examples of what your $15k bought you in 1985: wire wheel covers worthy of the Pep Boys , fake fender vents and a turbo badge. We’ll have to go to the next picture to show you the hood vents, the true mark of a refined luxury car.

There they are! The package is complete. Your New Yorker awaits you, sir! Sir; come back!!