Saturday, August 6, 2016

From the 1978 brochure: "Very personal, very formal, the very picture of style"

Ah yes, the wonderful state of Oregon shares the automotive fountain of youth that California is so famous for. For the most part weather goes from sunny to drizzling to rain and back to sun. For this reason it's not uncommon to find museum perfect cars that aren't really collectible or desirable but just happen to remain in great condition by default. Here is one of those finds:
This is a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba in Spinnaker White. This is the next-to-last gasp for bloated, bejeweled personal luxury. Even though this is a Mopar product is shares several of the malaise-era styling cues with its competitors. We see the stacked square headlights for the first time on the '78 Cordoba but they'd already been on the Monte Carlo since '76. The vinyl landau half-roof with small fixed opera windows had been bandied about from the end of the previous decade. The formal grill with its stand up hood ornament is missing from this ride, but it had one at birth.
Adding the stacked square headlights (which from here on will be referred to as SSH) was a controversial move within Chrysler. Sure it was a popular styling cue but some of the design team pointed out that it made the car look heavier than previous years even though the bodies were identical. Really anything Chrysler did at this point was a hale Mary as the company was circling the drain financially. Lee Iaccoca was hired by Chrysler while today's feature car was still sitting in a dealership to save the company from ruin. Indeed Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection in December of 1979 and would've faded away had it not been for a government bailout in tandem with the introduction of the K-Car.
Here we see the silhouette of many rides from the era. The Dodge Magnum, Charger, and Plymouth Fury of this year all essentially used the same body as the Cordoba in '78. In addition completely unrelated rides such as the Monte Carlo, Grand Prix, and Cutlass looked so close that you would be forgiven for mixing them up.
That long hood contains a somewhat neutered 400 "Lean Burn" V8 good for 190 horsepower and a top speed of 119mph. On the highway you could coax 20 mpg but in the city it rated a dismal 13.
Those massive rectangular taillights are so close to the ones on the Pontiac Grand Prix that I'm surprised they weren't called out on it. That rear quarter panel is sporting a classic whiskey dent where you almost made it around that post but followed through even after you heard some crumpling.
The safety compliant bumpers hang off this beast like chromed park benches but at least they give the illusion of integration due to the overall bloat.
In '79 they had an option package for the Cordoba that renamed it the 300. Much remained the same but the grill was replaced with one that sported a huge crosshairs target as opposed to the standard mesh. Given the history of Chrysler at that moment it now seems that the car was sitting in the crosshairs itself, ready to be executed by Iaccoca and so many K-Cars.
Sweet sweet luxury! Tiny opera windows, vinyl landau roof, gently illuminated opera lights on that fat padded band that's obviously there to hold all that luxury together. I would like to take a moment to give a shout-out to that smart pinstripe in its travels around the window opening. Also, look how trashy that plushness is peeking out through the opera window. SO PLUSH.
Cordoba broke out every personal luxury cliche in the book, right down to nonsensical gold medallions on the flank. Everything about this car says Too Much Chest Hair on Display.
The long hood short deck trend was in its most extreme throughout the 1970s. The Cordoba has a few things going for it despite its scale; those large wheel openings, especially in the rear help keep it from seeming too overweight. Also, the slight curve on the main windows as well as the rounded body line that wraps around from the bottom of the side windows under the windshield save it from the total angular severity that the '80s would bring.
The little item above each headlight pod is a fiber optic lens connected to the turn signals so you can see when a bulb needs to be replaced.
This is the look of something resigned to its fate. By the time the '79 models hit the showrooms the era of the large personal luxury car was over. The entire industry was in agreement. The last huge Cadillac Eldorado rolled out of Detroit in '78. The mighty Lincoln Continental Mark IV would also be reduced drastically after the 1979 model year. This creamy white slab may have been among the hundreds that languished on dealership lots long after the next year had arrived just begging for an owner. These days if you're into period piece excess you can pick one up pretty cheap. The mechanicals are pretty basic and parts are widely available, so you could do worse for a weekend cruiser.

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