Vintage MT Road Test: 1964 Chrysler New Yorker Salon – Less Is More, But More Expensive Than An Imperial

In 1963 Chrysler did something very unusual, and rather forward-looking. It created a new top trim version of the Chrysler New Yorker that came loaded with every possible option — including air conditioning — and a higher quality interior as standard equipment. Given that the Chrysler brand was down a notch from the true luxury brands including the Imperial which didn’t come standard with many of these features, the New Yorker Salon, more expensive than an Imperial Crown, was a highly unusual and bold exercise.

Given that only 2,214 Salons were ever built in 1963 and 1964, we can conclude that it was a failed experiment. But that’s not to say it wasn’t a rather compelling car, as Motor Trend discovered.

The only choices in buying a New Yorker Salon were the color and upholstery fabric. Technically, there were two options: an adjustable steering wheel and a limited slip differential. The benefit over an Imperial (or Cadillac and Lincoln) were a relatively more compact car, with 7″ less wheelbase, 10″ less length and 700 lbs less weight compared to the Imperial (as well as a lower price when comparably equipped). This all enhanced the Salon’s dynamic qualities considerably, with essentially no real meaningful tradeoff. It was a foreshadowing of downsized luxury cars to come; something of a Seville, in other words, even if it wasn’t quite as compact as that.

The Salon was deemed “extremely pleasant to drive…that rare combination of pillow soft riding qualities and good handling.” Pumping up the tires to 28 psi made handling only better, making it both a freeway cruiser as well as a back roads bomber (in the context of the times for a big car).

not original wheels and wheel covers

Given that it had the Imperial’s big 340 hp 413 cubic inch V8, acceleration was reasonably quick, resulting in a 0-60 time of 9.7 and a 1/4 mile ET of 17.8 @ 83 mph. Still not as fast as the very quick ’64 Cadillac, or the ‘64 Buick Riviera and Electra. Actually that 0-60 time is not all that impressive, but MT back then was not likely to say so. It was certainly fast enough for the expected jobs at hand. It did have a low (numerical) 2.76:1 rear axle ratio, which would have a bit if a dulling effect on acceleration but contributed to more serene and efficient cruising.

Predictably, Chrysler’s Torqueflite automatic came in for the usual praise: smooth, quick shifts, and a very useful intermediate range.

It appeared that Chrysler had softened the suspension from previously tested ones. That was a concern at first, but although perhaps not quite as crisp and capable as in the past, handling was still better than average. “Here’s one full size sedan we felt at home in on a winding road.” Of course “Steady highway cruising is the Salon’s forte.” It felt very secure at 100 mph or better, and at its top speed of 115 the engine wasn’t near its redline.  Fuel consumption was 11.3 mpg of premium over the 1500 mile test.

The Salon came standard with AutoPilot (no, not quite like Tesla’s), Chrysler’s cruise control. Along with the very comfortable interior and air conditioning, it made long distance trips exceptionally comfortable. Of course, the standards of the time were very different; wafting along in an air-conditioned comfortable fast sedan with the cruise control on was still a big deal still in 1964.

The Chrysler’s big drum brakes were also up to the task and standards of the times, or more like exceeded them.

The Salon’s interior (the car in this image looks to have non-original upholstery) came in for lots of praise too.

The Salon’s upholstery were “Beautiful Jacquard fabrics” trimmed in leather.

And a deep-grain vinyl roof was standard, to make sure the world knew this wasn’t just any old Chrysler.

MT closes with a prediction that many buyers will like the option of buying a fully-equipped luxury car that costs some $1000 less than a comparably-equipped Cadillac, Lincoln or Imperial. It made sense to MT, but then car reviewers tend to have more a sophisticated appreciation than the market at large. Undoubtedly a Chrysler with a starting price higher than an Imperial’s didn’t go over well with luxury car buyers at the time. The brand prestige factor just wasn’t there, given how popular Chrysler Newports were.

Related CC reading:

Curbside Classic: 1964 Chrysler 300 K – Smile When You Say K Car

Curbside Classic: 1964 Chrysler Newport – Chrysler’s Great Downsizing, Chapter 2.

Vintage MT Road Test: 1964 Cadillac Sedan DeVille – The Fastest And Best Classic Cadillac