By on March 3, 2010

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 New Yorker ran off the lines in 1939. The energy crisis and the decline of the big car brought on a prolonged slide that should have ended with its retirement in 1982. But Lee Iaccoca would have none of that: the New Yorker would be reinKarnated! Add three inches to that infinitely malleable K-car platform, and slap on a healthy dollop of all the usual faux-luxury car trappings of the time, and presto: a mini-me New Yorker. Just in case you forgot what it looked like in its prime, here’s the before and after:

But don’t think just because you were getting a four-cylinder Reliant 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: $27k in today’s dollars.

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.

But once ensconced in that luxurious interior of fine Corinthian leather, all was well with the world. 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, in herky jerky 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 $14k bought you in 1985: wire wheel covers, 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!

I’ve been getting a bit tired of the endless “these all rusted out in three years” comments to Curbside Classics, and my inner Kraut is on the verge of going all Bertel and banning anyone who ever does that again :), but I’m going to postpone it for this car. So help yourself, and pile on with all the rusty comments you want, because it would make me happy to know that some parts of the country aren’t plagued with these things.

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55 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1985 Chrysler New Yorker...”


  • avatar
    Ion

    There’s so many K/E-car Turbos around you, all the K’s I’ve seen out in the wild have been NA.

  • avatar
    IGB

    The seat looks comfortable. Too bad it gives you a vantage of that dash. The chrome panelling hides and perhaps holds rust together pretty well.

    I don’t remember hating these cars so much back in the day. They were just…there. Completely anonymous, innocuous. Someones grandparent owned them.

  • avatar
    majo8

    I remember reading a review of these extended K-cars where the writer referred to them as “Virginia Slim” cars, as they would lengthen the chassis, but the width always remained the same.

    In Ohio, the brown New Yorkers were very popular — it hid the rust better.

    Couldn’t resist…….

  • avatar
    geozinger

    My inner Kraut is ignoring the rusting out comments, only because I live in Michigan… EVERYTHING RUSTS! I don’t care who built it.

    My wife’s uncle had one of these things. I never understood why, as he’s a pretty big man, and frankly he barely fit in it. It too rusted, but in Pennsylvania with it’s fairly strict inspections you could not drive it until it looked like mechanical Swiss cheese.

    Since we’re digging up Iacocca era Mopars, I”d like to know if there are any Dodge Rampages up in Oregon. Or other L Body Mopars, I miss the old Omni-rizons.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    I remember a K car convertible Plymouth maybe. Basic white, maroon interior, auto on the column. It was an honest and fun little car, good on secondary roads in the Hamptons.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Love those front seats. Did this car come in a special lay-z-boy edition?

  • avatar
    Anchorman33

    Barely tangential reference ahead.

    Vaguely reminds me of my first car, an ’86 Plymouth Reliant (no K). Had a 1.9 FI 4-banger that would roll down the road at about 27 MPH without giving it any gas because the idle was set so high to keep if from stalling. Pea soup green with 1 speaker AM radio. Not sure why I ever bothered locking that car.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Wow, I thought I was the only one with a four banger with too high of an idle. My Celebrity with the 2.5litre Iron Duke would idle at 20mph with no input from me. That was very handy trying to cruise tiny little Miller City, OH. My unintended acceleration was to let my foot off the the brake at a stop sign and feel the car lurch forward just running at idle.

    • 0 avatar

      The driving school I attended used a combination of early 90s Dodge Spirits and late 80s Plymouth Reliants as its student driver cars. While the Spirits were pretty awful, they still weren’t quite as bad as the Reliants, which the school had decided (for some ungodly reason) to convert to natural gas. This, of course, succeeded only in draining whatever pep remained in the cars’ 89 hp, 2.2l 4-bangers. Merging into highway traffic in these things was a hair-raising experience…hell, those Reliants would probably have been smoked by the 3-cyl Geo Metros in the quarter mile.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    My father had one of these, non-turbo. No dead cows, either, just fine crushed velour.

    One of the worst cars he ever bought. However, a HUGE step up from the Buick Skylark (X-car) that it replaced.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    My mom had a ’84 Town & Country wagon. Only drove it a few times, but it was awful. A big step backward from her previous ’78 V8 RWD T&C wagon, which was actually a pretty decent car.

  • avatar
    NoChryslers

    My uncle, my mom’s oldest brother, got one of these used. The leather was so brittle that it would crack if you looked at it wrong. Everything inside was plasticThe comments about the turbo lag are so, so true, and the ride was ghastly, with jarring impact harshness and more rattles than Octomom’s playpen. This is truly an awful car. Dear Uncle thought he was living in the lap of luxury, insisting that this turbo could smoke a Bimmer or an Acura….seriously. His younger brother, ten times the car nut I am, would laugh in his face. Good times.

  • avatar
    telrbm1

    “A door is a jar.”

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    My late father-in-law (may he rest in peace) owned one of those. It was not very likeable, and after he passed, I dumped quick and cheap.

    You got to hand to Guido, he made a lot of lemonade out of that K-car lemon. Too bad some of his successors were not as clever.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking the same thing while reading this review. Today it’s easy to laugh at Chrysler’s endless series of K-Car derivities. But to Chrysler’s credit, they didn’t have much to work with at the time and they made the most of what they did have.

      The K-Car begat the long-wheelbase E-Body, the even longer wheelbase Executive Sedan Limo, the Caravan and Voyager minivans, the Laser and Daytona coupes, the sleek LeBaron coupes and convertibles, the not so sleek Dynasty, the Lancer and LeBaron GTS, the Spirit and Acclaim, etc.

  • avatar
    relton

    God help me, I enabled these cars during one of my stints at Chrysler. Also the folowing New Yorker and Dodge Dynasty, and, I shudder to think about it, the Imperial, world’s longest K car.

    Bob

  • avatar
    detlump

    Ah yes, we are due for an X-car review. An Omega perhaps? Or a Phoenix? My neighbor is Chrysler engineer from way back, and used to have souped-up turbo company cars. He could get the most out of those engines. To be fair, a lot of cars were tarted-up like this back in the go-go 80s. Fake half or quarter tops, wire wheels (with locks), hood ornaments (the crystal pentastar was cool) and plastic chrome to make up for the lack of real metal chrome bumpers. This was just before the tidal wave of gold plated badges. Interesting that now fender vents are reappearing. What goes around…

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    I guess I’m going to be the weird one here, and say that given the chance, I would totally own one of these! Why you ask??? Well, I guess because for one, it’s not that big, it’s kind of efficient, and lastly, and most importantly, after a long stress filled day at my job, I love the idea of being able to climb into a quiet, comfortable interior and set the climate control, turn on the premium stereo and just relax and enjoy the ride home.

    And you gotta love that file cabinet thing in the lower part of the dash!

    And FWIW, the K-New Yorker actually came out in 1983. There is a white one of that vintage that tools around my little Great Lakes seaside town, and it’s in surprisingly good condition. Every time I see it I say to my self, “Oh yeah, that’s my kind of car!”

    I know, I’m the weird one…. :P

    -Richard

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      +1: the right size, efficient and looks totally comfortable. You’re not alone.I love my cars basic, but a comfortable and quiet ride is more important to me than raw power or size.

      In Hell-Ay you need an isolation tank like this after a long tormenting day at work.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    We had a 84 version of this car with the silent shaft Mitsubishi four. This was our family’s first truly unreliable car, at least for the first 2 years. Most of the reliability issues centered around the engine, specifically the lousy Mikuni carb. The integration of this engine was poor. For example, the heater hose was a US diameter on the car body side but a metric size on the engine side. The seats were actually very comfy. I bought a set from a wrecked NYer and installed them in my ’87 Reliant, along with the OVH console that had a temp guage and a compass. Funny how many of the interior components were a direct swap into my K.

    Another oddity is how after 2 years of chronic problems, the car became totally reliable, solidering on for us for another six years, and then for another 5 years in the hands of a distant relative. At that point the little dash voice said “your oil pressure is low!!!Immediate attention is required!!!” The oil pump which was driven off the balance shaft died and the engine died as a result. And no the car did not rust for the first 10 years.

  • avatar
    tech98

    Here’s a K-Car for sale :-)

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    That loose driver side floor mat looks dangerous!

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    I always felt the whole point of these cars was to mock the General’s badge engineering efforts by taking the concept to such an absurd level that even the typical 80yo BOC target customer couldn’t miss the point. And I think it succeeded, enabling future market share gains and costing precious little in the process. The fact that some folks actually bought these ridiculous cars was a bonus.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Although k cars were typical 80’s cars, with cheap rattle trap interiors, and peeling paint, the basic design was much better than the x car.
    The mitsu V6 was junk. The 2.2 chrysler 4 banger was a strong engine. Only problem it had was blown head gaskets, which were easy to replace. The escorts of this era were even harder on head gaskets , and were much harder to work on.
    The 2.2 actually ran pretty strong for a 4 banger in the lighter dodge and plymouth cars, some could outrun stock 305 camaros, which is pretty sad.

    • 0 avatar
      97escort

      I bought a used ’85 Aries 4 door in 1988 with 100k on it for $2800. It was mink brown metallic with a tan interior. I thought it was a pretty car. It did have rattles though.

      It ran until 220k when I decided to stop fixing/painting the body even though the car ran fine. It was an easy car to work on. Plenty of room under the hood compared to my 97 Escort for example.

      Changing oil was easy since the filter was accessible from under the hood and positioned on the engine front just behind the radiator. The timing belt was easy to replace as were other belts and things like alternators. I thought the car was pretty reliable.

      The main problems I had with it were keeping the muffler and exhaust system in one piece and hanging on. The radiator fins deteriorated to the point that I had to get a new one at about 200k. That repair too was an easy fix.

      I changed oil every 3k and when I gave up on the body I took the engine apart to look at its condition. It looked like new inside to me. The car was using little oil even at 220k. And the transmission worked fine. I never changed transmission fluid.

      It was overall a good car. It didn’t have much electronics and that made for easy repair. I wish there were more easy to work on, comfortable small cars like it on the market today.

  • avatar

    My grandfather had the real “New Yorker”, which he bought only when the Imperials fell from grace. I still recall the heavy metal parts, the power seat motors (back in the day…a huge option), and the big V8 and leather seats. Weight was good and gas was 20c per gallon.

    My formative years had a GLH Turbo (non shelby) so I”m well aware of the primitive nature of the 2.2 Turbo. I had prior a VW Scirocco with a Callaway aftermarket turbo and the Callaway system was BETTER than the factory 2.2.

    I was really impressed that they could build everything from a base Omni to a supposed luxury car out of the same parts bin with very minor changes. I was appalled that the American public would line up to some extent to buy those cars. A Kid with a CheapSpeed car will put up with a lot, but the fit and finish for the “Neu Yawker” was just as crappy at twice the price.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    You’re correct, speedlaw. I remember a lot of kids buying the chargers and dusters and hot rodding them. They could care less about the interior, they just cared about making them fast, like any true car guy.
    People still actually buld those things and race them, a large number of them were at the mopar nationals in columbus last summer, and they were hauling ass. These cars were the front runners of the tuner cars that kids now have, and many of them can blow them away.
    They can be bought dirt cheap,and are pretty easy to build. If i was into 4 bangers i would probably get a K new yorker, like the one shown, leave the body stock looking and gut the interior among other things to lighten it up. That would be one hell of a sleeper.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      The 2.2 turbo is/was a far better motor than most people realized. I had one for 11 years in my Lancer ES, other than a head gasket caused by a leaking rad hose, the motor gave no problems. Like any other turbo motor of the times, you had to work with it, but even in that car, I could outrun small block Chevys, turbo SAABs, even GTI’s. A friend had a Shadow ES Turbo, with a little more boost, that thing was a beast!

      If I were to do a sleeper, I would like to find a Reliant station wagon, use the trans, struts and etc. from the New Yorker turbo station wagon, and maybe the VNT 2.2 turbos that were in the Shelby Shadows. How to get all of that stuff together would probably require a lot of welding and access to a specialized boneyard, but the end result would be killer!

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I agree, Joe. It’s amazing how many vehicles Iacocca made from that damned K car. he pulled it off pretty well, though, because they made a lot of money off that platform, and it got them well out of the red.
    It may not have been a great design, but as far as 80’s cars go it actually wasn’t too bad. There were much worse designs during that time.

  • avatar
    threeer

    It was the summer of ’89…my best friend and I both owned 2.2 Turbo Dodges…his, the Shelby Charger, mine a Lancer GTS. We both thought we were the hottest cars on the road (his, as you will read shortly, quite literally). With my (almost luxurious) four-door sedan adorned with tasteful five-star rims and nearly $2k worth of stereo (ah, to be a young kid in college) and those marvelous seats, I thought the gun metal blue sedan was one of the nicest cars I’d owned. Of course, coming from a 1976 Rabbit, it kind of was. And fairly reliable, too. The only thing I replaced in three years of ownership was the clutch. True, I’ve been on tractors that have a smoother transmission than that Lancer did, but I still loved that car. Of course, getting out of it and driving anything else was dangerous. Once, after pulling a 12-hour stint to visit my sister, I hoped out of the Dodge and climbed into her 1989 CRX Si (now THAT is the one car we all wish we would have kept in the family) and damn near stalled it…oh, and my friend’s Shelby? Constant issues, so after about the same time owning it, he sold it. One week later…the car went up in flames! Did I mention the time I put his 1979 Fire Arrow into a ditch??

  • avatar
    Lokki

    In those dark and desperate days for car enthusiasts, I thought of the K cars as American Trablants – with the Reliants as the peoples’ car, and the New Yorkers as the upgraded versions for party members.

    I can’t fault Iacocca though, I admire him. He had a real trick for turning pig’s ears into sow’s purses, but he made them look like minivans, and pickup trucks, and limosines.

    Still, whenever I think of K cars, I remember the company car Reliant that I had for a brief period during that era. It wouldn’t idle, the air conditioning would stall it at stop lights, and the first thing that always pops into my mind is tearing a sleeve on my dress shirt on the unfinished edge of the driver’s door trim.

    I hated those New Yorkers on principle. It was insulting. Sort of like dressing up a pot-bellied pig in a suit, a monocle, and a cigarette holder and insisting he was reallly Teddy Roosevelt. You expect me to fall for that?

  • avatar
    AJ

    My granddad’s last new car was a ’78 New Yorker he bought after retiring from years of successful work as a rancher. I have fond memories of that big car such as the blinker lights that were at the end of it’s long front hood (to remind him to turn them off… seriously marketed towards the elderly). As a kid I could sit in the front seat between my large grandparents on the way to church when visiting and still have plenty of room around me. Then sitting in the back seat, it was like riding in a luxury jet. Now that was a car!

    It was indeed a shame what Chrysler did to the New Yorker. Of course they have done so again such as by adding the Compass to the Jeep brand. What a shame…

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    Not ALL of these cars have rusted out in the rustbelt. Up til about 2 years ago, I saw one in the parking lot at work every day. I cringed every time I saw it. Disgraceful to see the New Yorker badge on a K-car. Her whole department got moved to a different building so I don’t see it any more, but she may still be driving it.

  • avatar
    windswords

    “The K-cars provided nearly the same interior space and ride as the M-body Gran Fury and Diplomat, at much lower cost, with much better mileage…”

    “The Gran Fury [Diplomat/Fifth Avenue] was a full two feet longer, but legroom was only 1.5 inches better in the rear seat, and a mere .3 inches longer in the front. The trunk capacity was similar – .6 cubic feet better in Gran Fury. The Gran Fury was actually narrower inside than the K-car, while managing to be four inches wider outside. And the K-cars didn’t have transmission humps inside.”

    Remember, this is just the K. The New Yorker was an E class so it was streched from the K mentioned above.

    “The K platform spawned almost all of Chrysler’s products for the 1980s, and sales of the car were strong enough to bring Chrysler back from the brink of bankruptcy. They were simple and humble but they did their job. And in the wake of the rather disastrous tenure of GM’s X-bodies, they led the American automotive world into an era of small, space- and fuel-efficient FWD cars…”

    more at:
    http://www.allpar.com/eek/k/k.html

  • avatar

    Believe it or not, there is one of these beasts roaming the streets of Chicago. My elderly neighbor still drives one, even if now it’s mostly rust held together with denture cream. I feel bad for the guy because the start up procedure for the damn thing takes slightly less time than launching a space shuttle.

  • avatar
    Bergwerk

    Alas the New Yorker finally regained some of it’s former style as the more traditional version of the LHS in 1993. But the end was neigh, the edgier LHS was much more popular and the New Yorker version was shortly retired.

  • avatar
    catbert430

    It’s all about perspective.

    In 1985 my car was a base model Mitsu Mirage 3-door with A/C as the only option. It was completely gutless and extermely Spartan interior-wise.

    On a Florida vacation, I had reserved an economy car as a rental but, they had none on hand and gave me a 1985 New Yorker for the price of an Escort.

    Compared to my little hatchback, the New Yorker seemed ultra-luxurious, powerful, and comfortable. I was not used to power steering, automatic transmission, or more than 70 bhp much less all that faux elegance.

    From today’s perspective it may well be a POS but, for an econobox driver in 1985, it was the bomb. I wanted one just like it.

  • avatar
    Hoser

    I got a hand me down 85 New Yorker (2.6 Mitsu) around 2000 from my grandparents. It had about 120k on it at the time. It had a pretty bad miss at idle that I attributed at the time to a messed up carb, so I replaced that and it ran the same way. It went through 20 Iowa winters by the time it blew a head gasket in 2006 (169K) and never had a spot of rust. The seats were the most comfortable I’ve sat in, in any car, past or present. The electronic dash never malfunctioned, I slapped a R-134 retrofit kit on it and blew cold A/C. It was a pretty good car actually. I miss it. Not enough that I wanted to dissect the mountain of vacuum hoses and timing belts and “silent-shaft” chains to get the head off to replaced the gasket, or find out the head was cracked, but it was good for being a glorified K.

    http://www.satburn.com/esloan/NYER.jpg

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Very dissapointing that this of all cars didn’t some up as a Chrysler deadly sin. To take the V8 smooth riding RWD classics of the past and turn them into this parady of a K-car was already a major sin in it’self. But Chrysler didn’t stop there. The pathetic garbage Mistubishi 2.6 with a stomping 101 HP was the std engine and Chryslers rude crude 2.2 146 Hp turbo was the 4 banger with the power of a V8 or so the ads said. In reality a pair of ear plugs would have been handly in full throttle with the turbo and several quarts of oil and antifreeze in the trunk were a common site with the junk 2.6. They also ate head gaskets like candy and the timing chains were a royal PITA. Also the Mikuni carb was real expensive to replace and seldom was in proper tune. GM down sized there B and C-body cars in 1984 as 85 models but IMO did a much better job than this abomination. They at least had the sence to install far more powerful and smoother V6 (Olds and Buick)and V8 engines(Cadillac) and were steadily improved with more power every year from that point on. They were also a bit bigger and much better looking and less garish unless you let grandpa order his Park Ave with pillow velour seats, vinyl top and those god aweful clanking wire wheel covers. Thankfully most were equipped without vinyl tops, had allow wheels and tasteful leather interiors. Too bad GM screwed the pooch with the dreadful 440 transaxle and oodles of steering rack issues with these cars.

  • avatar
    buickbaby

    I bought a ’84 Chrysler E-Class brand new with the Mitsu engine. That carburetor was a piece of crap! No mechanic at a dealership or otherwise could adjust it right!!!!!  I replaced it with a new one and it was the same way. I am quite tall, 6’7″, and the seats may look comfortable, but they are way to small. It was done to make the interior look bigger. After eight years I had had enough and traded it in on a used Camry. The salesman wouldn’t even drive the Chrysler and gave me $1500.00 dollars for it. He said it would be salvaged, but the following year I saw someone loading groceries into it. He admitted that he had sunk alot of money into it!

  • avatar
    Mopartial

    Laugh all you want, but I have an ’84 New Yorker, same exterior color as pictured above, but blue leather interior. The paint is original, shiny, the vinyl roof has no cracks–looks new, just like the leather seats. It runs like a top, and everything works on it. Only problem has been the sagging headliner, but that’s been fixed. There is absolutely no rust at all on top or underneath. My mechanic is impressed and makes compliments after every oil change.

    Just so you’d know that they’re still out there with very proud owners. :)

  • avatar
    AllThumbs

    I’ve got an 84 Le Baron convertible with the turbo 2.2 and a 91 Dynasty with the 3.3. Bought them for next to nothing, have done a lot of work (I bought them to teach myself how without fear of “ruining” anything), and they’re actually good little cars now.

    Well, except I did just blow a head gasket on my Le Baron, so I’ll be “learning” that next. All the guys on the forum I ask advice on saw it coming, though, so I was warned.


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