Saturday, December 24, 2016

What's the opposite of a Christmas miracle?

Take a good look at this slab of iron weighing down all of America. This is the purple torpedo that sank the Chrysler ship. The fact that they built what is basically a car from the 1950s for the cusp of the '70s and '80s decades makes it fitting that this car has its eyes closed. This is 3,800 lbs of sadness.
This is a 1981 Chrysler New Yorker in what might be Ginger red. This was the wrong car at the wrong time and despite all my seemingly over the top superlatives it really did bring mighty Chrysler to its knees. The custom plate is awesome though!
It was the 1970s and the gas crisis was still fresh in everyones mind. Quirky little Japanese cars were selling better than ever with their owners boasting of 35 miles per gallon from engines that ran so clean they didn't need catalytic converters. Ford downsized across the board, and so did GM. Chrysler did a little bit but still trotted out an old-school huge American dinosaur that they bragged was "traditional sized". The public shrugged and looked the other way.
Under that long hood resides a 318 V8 good for 130 horsepower. If you had the time you could supposedly coax this barge up to 100mph. Driving like that would probably hurt your 17mpg factory rating however. A review from the era found that with the air conditioning on they only got 12.8mpg. It went on to say that the air conditioning of their new test car stopped working during the review, as did the brake lights. In addition the digital clock went out and a map light turned on every time the brake pedal was pressed! Build quality was horrific with Chrysler actually planning on something like 1,700 defects per 100 cars sold. Chrysler, what!?
The tact here was lazy luxury steeped in patriotism. The 1981 was the third and final year of this generation New Yorker and only 6,548 were built. The following year there was a redesign which sold over 50,000 units. 
To see this utterly forgotten automotive footnote is mint condition 2 days before Christmas in Brooklyn is amazing. There can't be many left as there were few to begin with. The New Yorker had 2 siblings this year; the Newport and St. Regis. The lowest end of the spectrum was the Newport with its exposed headlights. The St. Regis had one of the weirdest details ever put on a car: translucent headlight covers that opened when you turned them on. This meant that when the lights were off they were behind milky glass but still visible. Why, Chrysler? What were you maniacs thinking?
Alright here is the next evolution of the malaise-era opera window: a vinyl roof so powerful that it ignores the fact that the door is there and creeps over it like moss. Chrysler claimed that these cars were "pillared hardtops" which makes as much sense as dry water. This car has extra pillars as opposed to none so how is this a hardtop? Obviously there were no adults at Chrysler in the late '70s or some of these basic questions might've been asked. Then again we've all known someone who keeps on a deliberate path of doom somehow unable to see it. From now on we'll call those people the R Bodies.
From this angle it looks like any old car on the city streets. With its '70s dimensions it's almost stately.
Get a little closer and the strangeness continues. I love full width taillights. Some Mopars of the early '70s had them, as well as Buicks from the '60s. This is more of a collection of red rectangles kind of stacked on each other. I guess the center portion comes out to accommodate the square trunk bulge that's not quite a Continental kit. Why, Chrysler? 
Some huge cars pull it off. I LOVE the enormous cars of the '60s and '70s but somehow this looks like the trunk will break off under its own largess. Remember that this is a downsized version of the pre-'79 New Yorkers.
That baleen grill makes this thing look like a blind whale looking to feed. The fancy stand-up hood ornament once had a crystal insert but this one seems to be missing.
Look I know I bagged on this car relentlessly but I was legit astonished to see one in the wild. Chrysler took on so much water from these R Body rides the Lee Iacocca was brought in after being fired by Ford to save the company. He immediately brokered a guaranteed loan deal with Congress and green lighted both the K-car and minivan. His plan was an unparalleled success, righting the Chrysler ship and creating an entire automotive category in the process. Amidst all this heroism these forlorn beasts marched off the line to uncertain futures. Good luck enforcing from the velour throne of your R-Body ride, Sir!

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