By on August 21, 2010

Beware of what you ask for. One of our most loyal readers and prolific commentators, Educator(now of teachers)Dan, expressed his disgust at the K-car Aries the other day, and begged for…this. Now I’m hardly an impassioned lover of the Ks, but I give them some grudging respect: they finally dragged Chrysler into the second half of the twentieth century, with a light, roomy and efficient sedan, an American take on the cars Europe had been building for decades. But this Fifth Avenue was a dinosaur from birth: heavy, dull witted, faux-luxurious, pretentious, gas-guzzling, plasticky, ill-handling…did I miss something? It does share one thing with the Aries though: it’s also for sale. But you’ll have to bring a tow truck if you just have to have this relic of an era that is best forgotten. Let me know, and I’ll put you in touch with the owner, who’s wife would be most grateful to see it gone. And she’s not the only one.

Regarding the Deadly Sin designation: there’s no hard and fast rule as to how a car earns that title. Frankly, Chrysler made a nice piece of change peddling these Fifth Avenues, once gas prices settled down again by 1982-1983. In fact, this car caught them by surprise, given that its predecessor was dead in the water. After the old 118.5″ wheelbase platform was killed in 1981, the New Yorker crown was regally placed upon this tarted-up version of the star-crossed 1976 Aspen/Volare twins, Chrysler’s DS #1. The Fifth Avenue’s claim to a DS is as much based on its genetics as well as its pretensions.

The Aspen and Volare’s claim to fame were the terrible quality glitches and recalls. That wasn’t the end of it. They were designed to replace the compact Valiant and Dart, but were conceived in the depths of Detroit’s obesity crisis in the early seventies. Their design  was obviously started before the 1974 energy crisis, and by the time they arrived in 1975, Chrysler realized they were never going to fill the thrifty Valiant’s shoes; thus the K-cars.

Ford’s similar-sized Fairmont, also RWD, was a very different animal. A crisis has the tendency to inspire some focus, and the Fox bodies were lighter, could be had with four cylinders, and was just a profoundly better car all-round, most of all for its accurate rack and pinion steering and sprightly handling. No one will ever use the words sprightly handling in describing these Chrysler F/M bodies.

So while the Aspen and Volare themselves had a short life, their lightly-disguised body was pushed into front-line service as Chrysler’s “big” RWD sedan after the death of the R body. But not before it played its part in Chrysler’s near-death semi-bankruptcy of 1979. Chrysler was spewing out Dodge Diplomats, Grand Furies and LeBarons (the predecessors of this car) way beyond what the market would bear in 1978 and 1979 (sound familiar?) and there were pictures of acres of these in stored lots all over Detroit, the classic meltdown scenario. One of the brilliant solutions: send them to Europe! I remember vividly reading in auto motor und sport about how Chrysler desperately shipped boatloads of them, and was offering “American V8 luxury sedans” for ridiculously low prices. The Europeans didn’t bite, given that these were slower than a Golf, and slurped several times as much gas (EPA: 15/20).

And although Chrysler quickly developed FWD K-car offshoots for the luxury market, first the LeBaron, and then the extended wheelbase New Yorker, Chrysler kept the M-Bodies in production because the police and taxi fleets were still eager for them. Back when FWD CV joints had to be replaced as often as tires, and transaxles were notoriously suicidal, the fleets insisted on tried and true RWD, and Chrysler was happy to sell the M-Bodies cheaper than the superior Impala or LTD. In its role as a cop car or taxi, the M-Body looked right at home; as a luxury car, not so much.

I could muster some enthusiasm for the M-Body if Chrysler had offered it in a performance sedan version, clean, and with all the cop car goodies, the 360, and some big pipes with a bit of rumble; something that at least evoked the good old days with at least some of the sensory input. But none of the Big Three had the stones to do that, just yet.

Instead, the Fifth Avenue’s purpose was to chase the Wal-Mart end of the luxury car market. It was hardly luxurious in its interior space, the one thing that might have still been a justification for buying a big RWD V8 sedan from Detroit. As pointed out the other day, the K-car matched pretty much every interior metric of the M-Body. The ride was soft, but fell apart on anything other than smooth pavement; the steering dull, and the word handling is irrelevant. Mileage: mid teens. Compared to the the quite competent GM B-Bodies of the time, the M-Bodies were all washed up.

Performance was equally sad; the 318 (5.2 liter) V8 made between 120 and 140 hp, depending on the year. And it kept its wretched Lean Burn carburetor right to the end in 1989, one of the very last vehicles ever built with a carb. Even the Dodge trucks with the 318 had fuel injection by then. As you may have noticed, that notorious carb is missing on this car; who needs it anyway? The ownership experience of an old Fifth Avenue is substantially enhanced without it: ultra lean burn.

But the Fifth Avenue was a surprise minor hit, despite its deeply-tufted limitations. Sales started modestly, but took off in ’84, and sales crested 100k in both ’85 and ’86, before they glided back to reality and crashed in ’89. The Fifth Avenue was a relatively cheap ($16k, $30k adjusted) way to express one’s disdain for the downsized new FWD cars coming out of GM, even if they were much better cars, objectively speaking. The target demographic was predominantly older and conservative; what they really wanted to buy was a new version of this, but times had changed.

Of course, the interior was available in that fine Corinthian leeaatthherrr, but other than the plush seats and door panels, there wasn’t much genuine luxury, unless padded half-roofs, coach lamps, wire wheel covers and a few fake fender vents are included in that definition. In fact, it was the polar opposite of the Mercedes/BMW/Audi sedans, whose understated refinement and quality had come to be the new standard for luxury, and which everyone eventually adopted ever since to great success. The Fifth Avenue is the evolutionary dead end of a line of cars that was flawed from its beginning, and only enjoyed a brief renaissance as a symbol of protest against modernity. That was a long time ago. Now would someone please remove this Fifth Avenue from West 22nd. Avenue? We’re all rather tired of looking at it.

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111 Comments on “Curbside Classic: Chrysler’s Deadly Sin #2 – 1987 Chrysler Fifth Avenue Edition...”


  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Ah, the memories. Family used to have one of these land barges when I was young. Here are some things I can recall.

    1. Leather was of the highest quality.
    2. Real nice stereo.
    3. Ride quality was superb.
    4. Reliability was atrocious.
    5. Engine was almost nonexistent (required full throttle to climb up hills).

    For all its faults, we loved it. At least it had character, which is more than you can say about most cars today…

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I’m going to defend these suckers as well, on a few points. The sales of these did actually go UP after GM introduced the FWD replacements for the Delta 88/98, small Caddies ect, this is a rare case in Chrysler history where the more expensive Chrysler version sold better than the cheap Dodge/Plymouth version. They had the durable Torqueflight and lean burn is easily eliminated. The people who have driven them have said that the handling was better than the RWD cars that GM and Ford were pushing at the time. Yes they lean over in corners but the tires still go where you point them. The ride has been described as firmer than a Grand Marquis or Oldsmobile of the same era.

    And the styling says to me “Baby Town Car” and in a good way.

    I see many of these on autotrader and most of them have been VERY WELL taken care of. The leather still looks thick and good, the paint is still shiny, the dashes are uncracked, and they aren’t rusted out. Infact, now that I (finally) have the new job (still studying the budget, the pay increase was minor) I’m thinking about one of these suckers for the sheer unusualness of it. A nice “grandpa car.” Supposedly they never came with dual exhausts cause they wouldn’t fit. They’re so damn kitchy I love them.

    My ownly question for anybody who ever drove one: If in good repair could I get the speedo up to the government mandated “end of the dial” at 85, set the cruise and forget it? I know every car has a comfy cruising speed.

    Allpar has a nice article on them. http://www.allpar.com/model/dodge-diplomat.html

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I know it’s a bit “duh” to respond to your own post but the edit function seems to be having issues for me today.

      I just wanted to add that I owned a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Sedan with a 307V8 from 1997 till 2001 when it was stolen. I’m convicnced that the ride, handling, and rust resistance would be better for these Chrysler M-bodies. And I have fond memories of my G-body GM.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The kitsch value is good.

      However, I think a TC, Y-body Imperial, Eagle Vision, Eagle Premier, or LH-body New Yorker all have higher/equal camp levels.

      As actual vehicles, there are many things that are superior to the M-body. GM and Ford have better options even if you absolutely need to buy a BOF-V8-RWD.

      It still doesn’t deserve C4C execution though.

      The name “Gran Fury” is pretty cool too.

    • 0 avatar
      thebeelzebubtrigger

      I actually love these cars. Years ago as a new cab driver my first cab was a Dodge Diplomat with the police package. Great car — reliable, quick, decent handling, great brakes. The only real drawback was the tiny trunk and crappy plastic interior. I always thought it would be great to take the police goodies from the Diplomat and put them on one of these Fifth Avenues.

      And yes, lean burn was easily defeated with a screwdriver in the parking lot of the smog check place after getting the necessary certificate. Today it sounds unconscionable, but you really couldn’t drive safely with that factory setup. The car couldn’t get out of its own way!

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      What I’m trying to figure out, is if they really were such a POS as everybody says, why are the used examples (with the exception of the one Paul has given us) so lovingly cared for?

      http://www.autotrader.com/fyc/vdp.jsp?ct=u&car_id=283609877&dealer_id=67890&car_year=1988&rdm=1282434504494&lastStartYear=1981&model=FIFTH&num_records=100&systime=&make2=&highlightFirstMakeModel=&start_year=1981&keywordsfyc=&keywordsrep=&engine=&certified=&body_code=0&fuel=&only_price=1&awsp=false&search_type=used&distance=0&marketZipError=false&search_lang=en&showZipError=n&make=CHRY&keywords_display=&color=&page_location=findacar%3A%3Aispsearchform&min_price=&drive=&default_sort=priceASC&seller_type=b&max_mileage=100000&style_flag=1&sort_type=priceASC&address=87301&advanced=y&only_photo=1&end_year=2011&doors=&transmission=&max_price=&cardist=1257&standard=false

      http://www.autotrader.com/fyc/vdp.jsp?ct=u&car_id=281182957&dealer_id=72873&car_year=1986&rdm=1282434504494&lastStartYear=1981&model=FIFTH&num_records=100&systime=&make2=&highlightFirstMakeModel=&start_year=1981&keywordsfyc=&keywordsrep=&engine=&certified=&body_code=0&fuel=&only_price=1&awsp=false&search_type=used&distance=0&marketZipError=false&ct=u&search_lang=en&showZipError=n&make=CHRY&keywords_display=&color=&page_location=findacar%3A%3Aispsearchform&min_price=&drive=&default_sort=priceASC&seller_type=b&max_mileage=100000&style_flag=1&sort_type=priceASC&address=87301&advanced=y&only_photo=1&end_year=2011&doors=&transmission=&max_price=&cardist=1543&standard=false

      (sorry for the long links)

      Is it just Chrysler owners, taking better care of their cars? Ratty GM luxury cars from the 80s are easy to find, pampered ones, not so much. (Other than a few Cadillac obsessed people.) So why are people treating these surviving Fifth Avenues like they’re 1955 C-300s?

      • 0 avatar
        Carguy392

        I read with interest your review of the 5th ave. It sounds like you are more of a G M affectionate guy than a Chrysler man . The 5th ave was and still is quite an automobile . I still own one and it still looks like new . I went through it from bumper to bumper when first purchased 14 tears ago . It starts in less than ONE revolution , runs quiet enough when stopped for a traffic light that some of my passengers said said Oh , it stopped running. The handling is good for a luxury car and it rides very quietly . I have driven and worked on the G M and Ford equivalents and feel they do NOT favorably compare to the Fifth Ave. especially the handling , G M was by far the worst in this area . As a luxury car the mileage around town wasn’t great but then neither was Ford or G M . On the high way I can get 20 + m p g .. The best I’ve managed from G M was 17 + . Ford a tad better than G M . I also owned an Aspen , purchased new in 1976 , it was a great and dependable automobile . I agree with you that it could not replace the Valiant or Dart in mileage but the appointments made it a bit more luxurious then the first generation A bodies . I owned a first gen Valiant and a 65 Dart 225 slant six , extremely reliable , durable, and economical .

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with you all on this one. These cars were/are massively flawed, there’s no question about that, but I have a soft spot for them nonetheless. The styling wasn’t bad before all the goodies were tacked on (fake vents, landau roof, etc.), and the leather really was high-quality. Back in the day, we had a 1988 New Yorker. Ours was the K-based FWD model with the hooded headlights. The M-bodies had so much more class in comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      sabast20

      Here’s one in awesome shape…

      http://www.flemingsultimategarage.com/1987-chrysler-5th-avenue–c-1214.htm

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Dan, the reason these cars are being preserved by some is that we shall never see their likes again. Some, mostly on this board, celebrate that, but the American car is mostly gone and ain’t never coming back. It’s the same reason why some Brits lovingly preserve an old Mini from the 60s. Flawed? Sure. Undeniably British? You bet. They remember when individual countries had distinct flavours of automobile, before everything got diluted, assimilated, and converged to the point where we drive around in Malibus designed in Germany.

      Paul called this car pretentious. True, when you consider that it was a pale imitation of an American car from the halcyon days. But what I and others of my sensibility would truly call pretentious is a Buick LaCrosse passing itself off as an American car.

      That, my friends, is pretentious.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @sabast20, nice one. I know that the GM B-bodies were superior then, and you’d have to have been a real Chrysler loyalist to buy one back then, but now? I think 25+ years later, regardless of if we’re talking GM, Ford, or Chrysler, they’re all likely equal to have issues. If a man is going to take the plunge and buy an old American sedan from his youth, I think he could do worse than a Fifth Avenue.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      EDofDan: Perhaps these just don’t get the respect just like the K car you showed such distaste for. Are they as bad as most say? Probably not, but most cars are better than their online bashers say they are. While I have never owned one of these, I have driven them and had known some people who have owned them for a long time. I have to take the counter to your stand and say the K was a much better car, and way more in tune to the needs of the day. Obviously the K did not offer much in the way of luxury, but I changed that. I parted out a K based NY’r for the seats, overhead compass/thermometer console and door panels,among other things.

      Regarding the condition of the cars available and just what that means, I venture to say that any car that tends to be driven by old (70+) drivers is often purchased new, spends most of its time in a garage, and ends up with 20K on the clock when the owner dies or just leaves it in the garage unused. So, unless there is crash damage these vehicles end up being 15 years old and in perfect shape. Then comes the inevitable sale by the surviving family members and they hit the street looking like they rolled off the showroom floor.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Paul’s assessment of this car is spot on, but, and it’s a big but, the M body seems to have become a very durable car. The M-body may not have started well, but once Chryco worked out the bugs, they became reliable and exstremely durable. There is still a lot of the many variants on the road here some twenty-five years later, and a large percentage of them still are in reasonable condition. The torqueflite/318 drivetrain is bullet proof.

      I liked them then, and I still have a soft spot for them now.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @golden2husky (BTW that dog is beautiful) my distaste for the K car being a CC was simply that Paul had reviewed variants twice already. I encourage Paul to find any CC. Heck if he wanted to do a CC on a Yugo, I would have no objections. I would read it (but have no stories to share.) Given that several of us guessed “Diplomat” when Paul showed us his K-car clue, I was simply hoping for an M-body review, given the platforms longevity within Chrysler, just like Paul gave us a CC on a G-body Pontiac Bonneville. I have a natural soft spot for “dime store luxury” because my father is the sort of guy who loves to buy Oldsmobiles, fully loaded Pontiacs, and the occasional Buick. (So you can imagine what I grew up ridding around in.) I know that Iaccoca is one of the godfathers of selling ploys like “inventing” the Ford LTD, which was one of the nails in the coffin of Mercury. (Pantry cloth interior anyone?) I will say in the Fifth Ave’s defense that the well lit pics I have seen of their interiors showcases the deepest pile carpeting I have seen on ANY 1980s vehicle. The interiors definitely do not scream “cheap.” You Sir, are likely right about why they look so damn good. If the planets had been better aligned, my first ride could have been a 1979 downsized b-body Impala sedan with a 350 that belonged to my Great-grandmother. You can imagine how immaculate that car was.

      @Monty, your remarks remind me of my father (in his 50s) who proudly purchased one of the last Chevy “S10″ Blazers off-lease in the mid 2000s. (He still has it. He’s one of those guys who will only buy “American” cars and he believes GM builds the best of the American makers.) His remarks when he purchased it? “I figured they finally had to have gotten it right. I mean, it’s been in production for 20 years.”

      IF I where to purchase a late 80s M-body I would figure that Chrysler was giving me the penultimate that they could accomplish with that platform.

    • 0 avatar
      jimboy

      I read somewhere that Carroll Shelby had a hot-rodded version of this car. Anybody know anything about it?

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      @golden2husky (BTW that dog is beautiful

      Thank you!! She’s my baby. Borat would have found her to be the ultimate “pussy magnet”…LOL

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      @ Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Try tinyurl.com for you uber long links next time.

      My mom had the same car as this one but in silver and it was actually one of the best domestic cars we had from this era. She drove that car for over 5 years with nary a problem except for the cars inability to start once the temps dropped below 0. I mean, it literally wouldn’t start no matter what we did. As soon as it warmed up to 20 or higher it would start without any problems. Stupid carburetors.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Try tinyurl.com for you uber long links next time.

      HTML FTW.

      Autotrader: 1988 Chrysler Fifth Avenue.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Those cars are just crying out for a modern Hemi conversion. A nice donor engine/trans from a 2wd truck or Durango would do nicely.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @Wheeljack, abso-freaking-lutely. That’s kind of what I was thinking. Buy one that’s cosmetically perfect and worse comes to worse with the drive train, well… mechanical work is cheaper than extensive body/interior work.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike66Chryslers

      @ajla: The Chrysler M-body is not BOF. All Mopar cars except for Imperial have been unibody since 1960. The Imperials went unibody in 1967.

    • 0 avatar
      Billy Rockfish

      I have to side with Educator (of Teachers) Dan and not slam the M bodied New Yorker/Fifth Avenue. No, I never owned one, but my compadres who were cops and fleet mechanics were enamored of these cars as bulletproof and the fleet favorite before the Ford Panthers took that crown. Yes, they were aimed more towards convservative (read ‘elderly’ folks), but those who had them that I knew of or my Dad, etc, never complained about them being unreliable.

      I looked one over at a car show in Virginia in 1984 and in San Francisco in 1986; both cars were Chrylser’s “Nightwatch Blue” (I had an ’83 Dodge Ram in this color) was applied so smooth and even you could dive into it. Corinthian leather Imperial-style tuck and roll seats were sumptous. Yes, it’s no Mercedes and never had any pretentions of being ‘sporty’. It was a competent car for what it was made for and had a good succesful run. Build quality, was quite good – these cars were certainly not ’76-’77 Aspen/Volares!

      What I would complain about is how Chrysler misled AMC Kenosha into building this car for the last few years of it’s run and pulling the plug on it and on the Kenosha plant!

  • avatar
    dastanley

    This is only somewhat related, but what was the deal with the Chrysler starters of that era (60s-80s)? That high pitched “tweet-tweet” sound? And then after the engine fired (or misfired), the gritty gravelly sound as the starter wound down? The only Chrysler product we owned was an ’86 Omni (POS), so I don’t have much experience with Chryslers. Just curious. Anyone.

    When I lived in an apartment complex in Kingman, AZ, one of my neighbors had an old clapped out Dodge van from the 70s. Every morning at 0530, some old woman and her over grown son would begin their start up ritual of the old van. Tweet, tweet, tweet, rumble, pop, gritty winding down sound, (attempt #2) tweet, tweet, tweet, rumble, pop, gritty winding down sound, (attempt #3)… and on it went. This was usually my wake up call, as this happened just before my alarm clock went off. By the time I shaved, showered, dressed, ate a pop tart, and was out the door to my own car, they were having various amounts of luck on different days getting their van running to where it could move under its own power without stalling out. This evoked various emotional reactions from me, ranging from amusement, to annoyance, to pity. Poor van and poor old woman (and her fat lazy ass son).

    • 0 avatar
      getacargetacheck

      I don’t know the answer to that question, but I remember that sound well. That and the annoying pitch of an air-cooled VW puttering by. I mostly associate the starter sound with the Darts and Valiants and Satellites of the 60s and 70s. Also, Chrysler products of that time frame had very fast turn signal blinkers.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      Getacargetacheck, I remember the VW air cooled sound well. Anymore, all I hear is the loud, modified open pipe exhaust of those engines in the older VW buses and dune buggy variants of the bug here in NM. I have been told, and I cannot confirm this, that the original little twin pipe exhaust was very restrictive, and that the open pipe exhaust was good for about 10 hp. I guess 10 hp makes a real difference in an engine that only got 35-40 hp to begin with.

    • 0 avatar
      Austin Greene

      Chrysler used a reduction gear in their starter design that caused this wind up and wind down sound. Ford and GM used a direct drive design.

    • 0 avatar
      johnnydoedio

      …and the reason it took you neighbor and her fat ass son two hours to start his van is that mopars depended heavily on the air cleaners and vacuum system to be maintained correctly for cold start. if the heat tube(looked like a dryer vent hose)or vacuum hoses were in disrepair – or disconnected, the choke would not operate properly, causing too rich or too lean a fuel mixture. despite these vehicles being a bit tempermental, (referring to the satellite and the new yorker in my previous response) they became reliable transportation for me as a young man, after installing a manual choke, and filling my glove boxes with ballast resistors.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      “Hamtramck Hummingbird” was the term for the sound. Chrysler ignitions sounded the best.

      “google” it.

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      Lincoln and Cadillac both managed to have real wire wheels that looked much worse than their wire wheel covers.

      What the hell are you guys talking about?

      edit: meant to reply to getacargetacheck’s post below

    • 0 avatar
      Johnster

      I’ve always thought the part of the thing with the Chrysler starters had to do with the lousy Chrysler carburetors. I think that the same things that made vehicles equipped with those carbs stumble and stall also made them hard to start. Owners held the ignition key and ran the starter motor for a longer period of time trying to get the vehicle started than with most other cars.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      An easy way to hear what the ‘Hamtramck Hummingbird’ sounded like is to listen to the sound of the Martian ‘heat ray’ from the original, classic 1953 movie War of the Worlds. Until I just looked it up, I would have swore the the F/X department cribbed the sound from the Chrysler starter (except that the gear-reduction starter wasn’t introduced until 1962).

      OTOH, maybe the Chrysler engineer that came up with the design had been inspired by the movie nine years earlier.

    • 0 avatar
      OMG_Shoes

      “Tweet tweet”? Never heard it described that way, though I suppose it might be what inspired some to call it the sound of the Highland Park Hummingbird. What you were hearing was chrysler’s gear-reduction starter. The extended, gravelly wind-down was the result of a worn brake washer or a sloppily-rebuilt assembly.

    • 0 avatar
      cwatwell

      A Chrysler starter motor always sounded to me like the bark of Dino on the Flintstones. That was followed by the sound of a winding down coffee grinder. I remember helping my dad replace the starter motor on his 1967 Chrysler 300 droptop, and how tinny the sound of the replacement was versus the original. Now the only distinctive starter out there is Ford’s, and that’s for the truck-based models.

      And speaking of carbs, my 1982 Charger 2.2 had one with an idle sendor that would eventually go bad and pour raw fuel into the engine. Fire literally erupted from the exhaust when I started it. After that happened (once, and it was then rope-towed to the shop to get a new carb), I noticed a lot of K-cars and Omnirizon models on the side of the road with a perfectly symmetrical burn ring on the hood. I wonder how many folks died from that?

    • 0 avatar
      slyall

      Dastanley I laughed like hell at your description of this, it is so accurate though, I heard that sound  many times on my ’75 Dart Slant Six especially before I rebuilt the carb, afterwards it was more like  ” tweet rumble, pop, gritty winding down sound”, and ready to go!  Except of course on a rainy day, then it was stall at every slow down until warmed up fully then ” tweet, tweet, tweet, rumble, pop, gritty winding down sound”  drive a little slow down, stall then repeat above.  Ah how I miss that car though :)

  • avatar
    SomeDude

    “But this Fifth Avenue was a dinosaur from birth: heavy, dull witted, faux-luxurious, pretentious, gas-guzzling, plasticky, ill-handling… did I miss something?”

    Well, there is always a demographic which predominantly is older and conservative, who are willing to buy cars like this. Granted, Lexuses (I hate that dog Latin Lexi) are more reliable, but, honestly, which of the adjectives above would not apply to a modern-day Lexus?

  • avatar

    There is a taxi company in town here that run these exclusively (all in white) until maybe three years ago. They are called Fifth Avenue Cabs.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    The M-body Chrysler might have had humble origins, but the design looked great in the traditional American way, and the interior (leather or velour) was positively plush. Ironic that the Big 3 are going back to using chrome interior detailing after being relentlessly criticized by the auto enthusiast press all through the 80s for not making their interiors Euro enough. BTW, Chrysler had the best looking wire wheel covers. Olds was second.

    • 0 avatar
      Austin Greene

      Cadillac had real wire wheels, not just wheel covers. In my view these trumped anything Chryco had ever dreamed of.

    • 0 avatar
      johnnydoedio

      cadillac did have nice wire wheels during that time period. too bad when flushing the cooling system they required “pills” to prevent the heads from leaking. style over substance.

    • 0 avatar

      Real wire wheels on 80s Cadillacs were not very easy to come by. But they were a common option on Lincoln Continentals, Marks, and fairly common on the Town Car.

      I’ll never forget the time I unbolted the hub on one wheel of my 1983 Continental…that was one move I really, REALLY regretted.

  • avatar
    JimC

    My friends and I helped a neighbor replace the carburetor on his 318 in one of these c1995. I’m pretty sure he had ordered a carb for a much earlier, “pre-leanburn” 318. After hooking up everything, we test drove it and it ran fine. I remember being surprised how small it was on the inside, even though I’d rode in some of these as taxi cabs. I also used to marvel at how such a cramped, overweight, yet reliable gas pig could have descended from such an overweight and unreliable gas pig (Aspen/Volaré).

  • avatar
    JMII

    Love the EQ sliders on the radio – classic! Along with the plastic chrome all over the place… its just like all the fake wood or metal trim in most cars these days. When are they going to come up with something new that is not so tacky?

  • avatar
    obbop

    Ahhhh……… the venerable air pump below the upper radiator hose.

    I believe that is a gulp valve atop the air pump.

    Many a mechanic wandered the yard seeking a car/truck in that era with a complete engine installed in a vehicle so as to make a sketch on how the little vacuum hoses were connected.

    Some set-ups were so complex, so intricate, with so many vacuum hoses spaghetti-ing through the engine compartment that more than one mechanic, out of frustration, just connected them in any way they could and hoped the engine ran.

    A great time had by all.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Oh god, tell me about it. My 86 Chev 1/2 ton was a maze of vacuum lines under the hood. My mechanic did everything from reversing some of them to plugging them with a screw.

      I may have been one of the unlucky ones, but I don’t miss the days of carbs.

  • avatar

    Chrysler Filth Avenue?

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Please, melt it down and make a Hyundai Genesis from the remains!

  • avatar
    willbodine

    I remember these turds and the people who bought them. Yes, at one time, they probably had a “real” New Yorker. The cognitive dissonance must have given the owners the willies. Considering the humble Aspen origins, the profit margins had to be obscene.
    As for the Chrysler gear-reduction starter, it was one of their rare “better ideas” along with the alternator which appeared around the same time (61 & 62). GM used the Mopar starter on the Olds V8 Diesel.
    And if you listen closely, most Honda and Toyota starters since the mid 70s have been gear-reduction and sound vaguely similar to the Hamtramck Hummingbirds.

    • 0 avatar
      OMG_Shoes

      Check y’facts; GM did not buy starters from Chrysler. Ever. Not for the Olds diesel, nor for any other application. There were eventually Delco gear-reduction starters for various applications, just as Ford and others eventually jumped on the bandwagon Chrysler started rolling with their own starter in ’62.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I loved these cars, because the cops in my hometown drove the Gran Fury and Diplomat badged versions of these when I was in high school. I drove really slow cars in the mid to late ’80s, but they were all good enough to leave our local cops in the dust on the back roads of my small town in Virginia. It got so bad that I would swap cars with my sister who was in college when whatever I was driving became so sought after by the police that they would drop their breakfasts in their laps when I passed Hardees on my way to school in the morning and give chase.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t disagree more with this article. The cars were designed for older owners whose main objective was a leisurely drive from point A to point B. They were not interested in a driving experience that placed them in a situation well beyond the basic engineering of the car. The actual appearance of the car-vinyl roof and all-has to be placed in the context of a bygone era, much like rumble seats.I owned one after I purchased it from a 20-something girl who found it to be an image-crusher. It was a basic reliable vehicle that owed me nothing when we parted ways. We parted ways when a very bad driver blew a stop sign and T boned me. I was very glad to have that car between me and incompetence behind the wheel.It is easy to pot- shot this car from an elitist point of view-as many have, but it was a pretty good car in its day, and even with the carb issues.I still got high 20s on the highway.

    • 0 avatar

      You could go to point A and B with far better style, performance and efficiency in a Lincoln or Cadillac. Well, discounting the majority of Cadillac’s terrible engines from that era.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      “It is easy to pot- shot this car from an elitist point of view-as many have.”

      Exactly. In its day the Diplomat/Fifth Avenue was an okay car. Not great, but not much was back in the mid-80’s. I was more of a GM fan at the time so I would have taken a Malibu or a Cutlass over one of these, but I have friends who were from Mopar families who still have and drive these to this day.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I was pretty young when these came out, and I recall my grandfather, on a lark and because he’d had good experiences with a Fury (which rusted badly) and Valiant (which was really solid), yet been burned so very badly by his ’76 Aspen, looking at one of these. Did I ever mention said Aspen was rusting practically at delivery?

    His impression was that it was, essentially, a tarted-up Aspen without the virtues of simplicity that car had. Bought a Cressida instead (my parents bought a Corolla, having bought said Aspen previously) and neither looked back. The Cressida was utterly faultless by comparison.

    What a lot of enthusiasts don’t recall is that it wasn’t just the powertrain and body that grieved customers. Heck, even when the engine and transmission on a D3 car from this era happened to be decent, you paid through the nose for glitchy electronics and sub-standard “consumables” like, eg, brakes, raditators, pumps, etc. Heck, a few years after this car showed up the D3 collectively forgot how to apply paint properly.

    That they also forgot how to honour warranty obligations didn’t help.

    To this day I’m not completely convinced they get this. I think they do, but they’re a few years out from the proof. Customers don’t see engines or electronics or whatever, they see down time and repair bills. I don’t think Chrysler et al would have had nearly the reputational pasting it did if it just manned up and paid out readily.

    • 0 avatar
      OMG_Shoes

      Tarted-up Aspens and Volarés is exactly what these were and are. The doors even interchange, bolt-for-bolt. By the end in 1989, they were a reasonably illustrative example of the general tendencies of GM to do a halfassed job of building a halfassed design, Ford to do a good job of building a bad design, and Chrysler to do a bad job of building a good design.

      It is difficult to imagine how the Diplomat and Gran Fury (not the “Grand Fury”, Herr Niedermeyer) managed to find favor over the Caprice and the Crown Vic in the California Highway Patrol’s notoriously stringent tests, but somehow or another that’s what happened for a surprising number of years.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    The people I know that bought these cars absolutely loved them.

    Paul, you’re trying to review this car with hindsight you don’t have. My guess is you were just starting grade school when it was new.

    Although I personally wasn’t a big fan and during its production run sold both Lincolns and Cadillacs the car did have its place in time.

    TTAC’s deadliest sin: having the editor review/comment on a vehicle built a quarter of a century ago with zero relevant knowledge of the vehicle’s buyers. Guess what, they liked what they bought.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      And I know folks who loved their Yugos.
      Actually, I was married with kids when the Fifth Avenue was new, but thanks for the compliment:
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/auto-biography-21-doing-an-e/
      Maybe you’re mixing me up with my son Edward?

      No, he (rightfully) doesn’t write these articles on old cars. I had plenty of first-hand experience and familiarity with these and the other cars of the era, and yes, my taste and preferences were different. Sure, plenty of folks bought Fifth Avenues and loved them, but you can say that about every car ever made: they all have their fans. There are Yugo fans, Chevette fans, etc. More power to them. That doesn’t mean my informed opinions and experiences aren’t valid. And you’re welcome to disagree. But you’re not likely to change this car’s place in history: it was a modest to mediocre car for the standards of the time. BTW, Did I not say in the article that it appealed primarily to older and conservative buyers?

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      Sorry Paul, I did confuse you with Edward. It is a fact that compared to the Lincolns and Cadillacs of the same era the Fifth Avenue was on paper a substandard offering. I had many customers that owned them and also owned Lincolns and Cadillacs at the same time and down to the last owner they really liked their Fifth Avenues. Many owned multiple Fifth Avenues. I just feel based on my experience with owners your criticism of the car is overboard. The impression I got was you were criticizing the car more based on present day standards rather than in the context of its time. As I said, I was never a fan of them but it did strike me how well their buyers liked them, something I still remember well almost three decades later.

  • avatar

    The “K” car is sold to a nice young girl that goes to the University of Oregon, She adores it, Likes the smooth ride, The condition of the car, The cuteness, and the fact it felt solid with no rattling, She said” I will try to make it last another 30 years. We drove to Veneta, Or. and back(about 30 miles round trip) she didn’t care about the a/c but the radio has to be updated. Thanks guys,she read the mixed reviews(She could tell they were honest opinions) and you definitely have a new reader!And she watched the Ted drives a Aries video on Youtube.I’ve owned quite a few cars in my life. The Best cars I’ve owned are 1: 1983 Volkswagon GTI(Rabbit) 2: 1985 Honda Civic SI 3: 1990 Jeep Cherokee. They have been all fun to drive, Good gas mileage, And very reliable. If you haven’t done Curbside classics on any of these, You should

  • avatar
    TG57

    I’ve always found it rather odd how they fitted the late-1988 and 1989 models with driver’s side airbags. Something about a carburetor and an airbag in the same car doesn’t quite jive in my mind. Look up a picture – the big blocky 90s-style steering wheel doesn’t flow with the interior styling at all.

    I have to wonder why Chrysler even bothered… surely they must have known the platform would be biting the dust soon after.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    Paul says that he could muster some enthusiasm for the M-Body if Chrysler had offered it in a performance sedan version, with 360.

    Chrysler’s 360 cubic-inch V-8 engine was available as an option on Chrysler’s F-Bodies (Plymouth Volare/Dodge Aspen) from 1976 to 1979 and in Chrysler’s M-Bodies (Dodge Diplomat/Chrysler LeBaron) from 1977 to 1979. It was also offered as an option on the 1980 J-Bodied Dodge Mirada CMX and Chrysler Cordoba where it out 185 horsepower, the last year the engine was offered in passenger cars by Chrysler.

    Also, the M-bodies were supposedly available with the 318-cubic inch V-8 and a 4-barrel carb that made 170 horsepower, a bit more than the 140 horsepower made with the same engine and the 2-barrel carb.

  • avatar
    celoewe

    I owned a 1985 5th Ave. bought used in 1995 after graduating college and getting my first suit and tie gig at a brokerage firm. I needed a car with A/C since commuting with a CJ-7 in a suit in New Orleans was impractical, to say the least. Gave a corner lot dealer $1000 for it and felt like a CEO as I drove it off the lot to my personalized parking spot at the firm. My job only a year there but I kept the 5th. for another eight and 180,000 miles getting transferred around the country. I still don’t why I kept it for so long but everything still worked and drove tight when I sold it for $1000 dollars.
    In the south these cars are still very prevalent, as they work, drive nice for what they are, and seem to last longer than rivals from Cadillac and Lincoln.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    One thing that these cars had going for them was the 318 mill, which no 305 or 350 could touch as far as durabilty and longevity go. It was easy to remove the lean burn carb and install an older carb or an aftermarket carb and manifold and that 318 would run like a top. And it was backed by the legendary torqueflite trans.
    Chrysler’s gear reduction starter was superior to gm’s design, which was prone to heat soak when the solenoid got hot from the exhaust manifold and the car would not want to start until it cooled off or you squirted it with a water hose.
    A lot of chevy guys put ford starter solenoids on their cars to eliminate the problem. There was even a company that sold the ford solenoid with all of the wires and hardware to make the job easy, they were called MAD enterprises.
    Sure the lean burn carb was junk, but so were some of ford and gm’s electronic carbs of the era. The carbs on the gm 2.8 engine were junk, and a replacement unit cost 500 bucks in the 80’s. Ford’s variable venturi carb was prone to failure, and I think it was about as expensive to buy as the gm unit.
    I always thought it would be fun to take a 5th ave. in good shape and install a 400hp 360 crate engine, and leave the wire spokes and whitewalls on. That would make one hell of a sleeper!

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Yeah my 1987 Oldsmobile (307V8) had an E-Quadrajet on it and needed to be rebuilt every 50,000 miles or so. Combine that with the sort of fragile lightweight 4-speed auto that GM put in there to try desperately to meet CAFE #s and well I don’t see how any of us who enjoy truly “American” cars from that era can throw stones at one being significantly worse than the other. They all had faults and they all had good points, it’s not like were talking about 1980s Maseratis for crying out loud. (Maserati – Car and Driver’s best car to give someone in a divorce (for the 1980s), judge thinks your generous, but the repair bills will kill your ex and there’s always the chance it might start on fire randomly.)

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Ahh……the good ol GM quadrajet. It was an excellent carb, when it was working right. The small primaries made for good low end torque and mileage, while the large secondaries made good power when you put your foot in it.
    Only problem was it was very finicky, even back in the 60’s and 70’s before it got electronic controls. It didn’t take to dirt very well, and the needle valve and float would stick. They were referred to as “quadra bog” and “quadra junk” by a lot of people. But like I said, when they were right they worked well. Chrysler used them on a few 72 big blocks, but the majority of chryslers with 4 bbls used the excellent carter unit throughout the 60’s and 70’s.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I almost forgot to mention the throttle shaft bushings used in the quadrajet, which were prone to wear and caused a rough idle.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC

      You could say the same about SU carburettors. Good idle, good economy, good power when they worked. When they got to be 10-20 years old they worked like crap. The problem was they’d still work- barely (a blessing and a curse). Very sensitive to dirt, leaky throttle shaft bushings (and jet and needle wear), and people didn’t know they were sensitive to dirt and throttle shaft bushings (and jet and needle wear) and would keep on messing with the adjuster screws to “fix” them.

      Random related thought: I think there is a special place reserved in the next world for the people at Holley and at the EPA responsible for my personal favorite automotive abomination- the smogged 1bbl in the Slant 6. I never had to fix any Quadrajet myself but it sounds like the E-Quadrajet people might end up in the same place.

      I don’t miss the underhood spaghetti salad of 70s and 80s cars either!

    • 0 avatar
      Johnster

      I never really had any problems with the Quadrajet that went with my ’69 Chevy 350. After about 8 years and 100,000 miles it needed to be rebuilt as the plastic floats wouldn’t float and the gaskets were worn and leaking slightly. I was told that the floats had become saturated with gasoline and that was why they wouldn’t float anymore. They were replaced as part of the carburetor rebuild. I was also told that in the “good old days” that carburetor floats were built from brass and didn’t suffer from this problem. I owned the car for 265,000 miles and rebuilt the carburetor twice.

      The last car I owned with a carburetor, an ’86 Civic CRX, seemed to have the same problem; although problems with the floats weren’t really as noticeable, the carburetor was definitely leaking and needed to be rebuilt about every 100,000 miles, just like my ’69 Chevy with its Quadrajet.

      I just sort of figure that’s they way carburetors were designed, as an item that needed to be rebuilt or replaced every 100,000 miles or so as part of regular maintenance.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    All the bashing of carbs is well founded, but should such bashing be limited to the Detroit products? We had a 84 FWD NY’r with the Mitsubishi engine. The Mikuni carb was a non stop problem. The base warped, the needle valves plugged up, requiring a removal and cleaning every 20K miles. And they cost almost $700 back then!! Surly most makers struggled to make a primitive device like a carburetor work well with electronic feedback…

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Paul, you missed the one big theme of this car – Chrysler’s attempt to make the best of a wrong decision. When Iacocca presided over Chrysler during its darkest days of 1980-82, he and his management team bet the farm on $2/gallon gasoline.
    This car came out as the LeBaron and Diplomat in 1977, a mildly luxurified version of the 1976 Volare/Aspen. The big R body Fury/St.Regis/Newport/New Yorker came out in 1979, with the usual host of Mopar teething issues of the day. But it was a newer and a superior vehicle to the Volare-based Lebaron.
    But in 1980-82, Iacocca believed that while Chrysler might survive, it could not afford to do so in all segments of the market. There were not enough resources to be a full line company, and the big car seemed the best place to cut given the fuel cost issues of 1979-82. Recall that the big GM B/C body and the Ford Panther platform were all scheduled for euthinasia as well.
    Unforunately, this was one of Iacocca’s few bad (in hindsight) decisions. When the economy started up and fuel prices started down about 1983, GM and Ford began an annual stay of execution on the big guys, and sales began to really take off in 1984. Chrysler, however, allowed the big cars to die after the 1983 model year. So the old LeBaron was the only thing left besides the K car.
    Chrysler knew that it had to make a place to go for all of those loyal WWII era customers who had kept them in business, who wanted plush seats, a smooth ride and wire wheel covers. So a tarted up LeBaron was the only choice available.
    Chrysler had to have made a ton of money on these. The tooling was basically paid for. The only restyling it ever got was the rear roofline-a genuine low budget job if there ever was one. Ever see one of these without the vinyl top on? You can see the old roof line and the quickie panels welded on to square up the C pillar.
    In a more perfect world, Chrysler would have freshened up the big R body, which made a pretty nice New Yorker. They would have sold a ton of them through the 80s and would have given the Panther a fair fight in snagging defecting GM customers.
    But the world is not perfect. Iacocca made the tough (and seemingly safe) call, only to have later events play out differently than expected. So you adapt. You take the biggest platform you have, and try to make a full sized luxury car out of it, and see if you can sell them and make some money. So, we should consider this car a “nice save”, but nothing more.
    I, for one (and maybe the only one) would like to see a CC on the big 79-93 R car.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      If he could find an R-body, that would be really cool. But honestly I’ve never seen one that wasn’t rusting like crazy somewhere, and they were sort of rare to start with. I’ve NEVER seen one actually on the road (born in 1977) but when I was just in my teens I had a Saturday job of delivering “advertising inserts” (in plastic bags) door to door. One house always had the garage door open in the summer and there was a St. Regis sitting there chrome bumper peeling (& rusting), but otherwise looking pristine in its off yellow paint. The date? Had to be about 1990.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      jpcavanaugh: I’ve had one in the can, for a long time, and your story goes with that car. I’m always a bit unsure of whether my articles are too long or too short. But the R-Body and its star-crossed story will be coming this way. I did make some mention of it in this CC.
      You’re absolutely right about Chrysler making the best of what they had (left) after the R’s demise. Which kind of adds to the pathetic-ness of the Fifth Avenue.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @Paul, I actually think this CC of a Fifth Ave actually fits somehow into Baruth’s article: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/darwin-transplant-automakers-and-the-invisible-hand-of-the-1978-cutlass/

      Isn’t this Chrysler, “right sized?” I see it as a GM G-body competitor, especially against the “Brougham” Oldsmobiles and higher end Regals (RWD.)

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      A friend has TWO 1979 Chrysler New Yorkers – one is dark blue, the other is that “driftwood” color that was popular for a year or two and then vanished completely. He still drives both of them on a regular basis.

      A Dodge St. Regis was for sale near my house about a year ago. I wanted him to buy it, but he didn’t bite.

      The R-bodies were pretty rare even when new…Chrysler’s struggles were pretty well known at the time, and people stayed away from them as a result. Plus, they were simply inferior to the GM B- and C-Bodies and the Ford Panther cars.

  • avatar
    sportsuburbangt

    These Fifth Avenues were solid cars. They ironed out MOST of the Volare problems, by the early 80s’ and by 88-89 they had fixed most the K frame transverse t-bar issues. The trick was removing the lean-burn and feedback carb and replacing it with the Mopar electronic ignition system and a 77-75 318 carb, or small 4 barrel.
    I used my fathers old 86 5th set up with a Mopar electronic ignition, and a 75 318 2bbl carb (for all the correct emissions ports). I put 18k on it from 2007-08 (I ran the odo up to 182,000) and it was a slob on the NYC roads, but the AC was ice cold and it never failed to start. It also constantly gave me 16mpg in my daily commute (85 Miles Daily).
    The transverse t-bar set up was one big compromise, but the bullet proof Mopar mechanicals made up for the limitations. They had rust proofing very well sorted out on these things and they are very cheap to keep running.
    BTW at 182k that 86 5th ave still does not burn any oil between 3k oil changes on the original engine, and the original torgue-flite still shifts perfectly.
    If they kept these M-bodies around long enough for the 318-360 magnum motors and an OD torque-flite they really would have been a sleeper.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    I think that the survival rate of these models is in some part attributable to the original owners.

    This is hardly a representative sample, but from my observations over the last 25 years the original owners tended to be older, blue collar empty nesters, and often the Fifth Avenue was driven by the woman of the house. Thus, they were rarely abused and well maintained. And as sportsuburbangt pointed out, the anti-corrosion measures were fairly extensive, particularly in the last few model years.

    There is an older couple in my neighborhood who still drives one of these. If I’m mowing my lawn and he’s driving past my house, he will slow down to make sure that the output chute of my mower is pointed away from the street, to protect his Fifth Avenue from a possible thrown rock. Now that’s taking care of your vehicle!

  • avatar
    mr.auto

    Import cars of the day were worse than this…..

    These weighed 3300-3600 lbs..a new Honda accord weights the same today !! So it isnt heavy !!!!

    A Honda had a carb and a manual choke(late 80’s) !!!!! My sister had a 85 Honda crx in the 80’s and it never ran,her Toyota was another dead beat..she got ticked off in 1990,bought my Uncles 77 Volare coupe 360-4bbl,drove it until 1998 ! No major issues ever..no rust..ect..ect..(I should of bought it off of her).

    My dad bought one of these new(1984),worked perfectly for years and 450,000 miles ! Changed carb,removed computer and had more power !Still looked like a new car when he sold it,shiny paint,ect..

    Remember its a 5 digit odometer,meaning every 99,999 it went back to 0.So thats why people claim low miles..

    The picture is of a non lean burn 318 !!! Computer was on the air cleaner !

    Lean Burn was the auto industries 1st computer….

    Remove the lean burn,put a carb from a non smog 318 and you will have a 15 sec.1/4 mile car with its 2.21 rear axle.I raced it here locally in the mid 90’s..lean burn 18-19 sec 1/4,the engine sounds,runs,drives,starts better this way..

    These cars handles great,better than GM/Ford and many imports of the day..plus the torsion bars you could lower/raise the front end in 5 minutes !!

    • 0 avatar
      JimC

      I will take a manual choke over an automatic choke any day. Too many memories of automatic chokes pulling off too soon on days when it was below freezing, making the engine run rough and stall- sometimes at the first stop sign, other times making a turn at low speed (bye bye power steering!).

      Good point about the weights- a lot of fat family sedans sold in the U.S. nowadays (or sedans for fat families??).

      I’m pretty sure these cars had the 904-LA transmission- the “lightweight” torqueflite made to fit the LA blocks (318) for better economy and supposedly better acceleration.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Uh, I hate to say this Mr.Auto but I had the 1983 Honda Civic 1500 hatch and it had the auto choke on its carburetor and this was the US spec Civic hatch at that.

      My Dad’s ’76 Honda Accord had the manual choke, but I think Honda did away with this by 1980, if not a year or two prior.

      I don’t think the US even allowed a manual choke for any car by the end of the 70’s although I’m sure some people fitted them on cars that didn’t come with them originally. BTW, I had no faults with that Civic, up until the last year I had it (1997-98), it was stalling some when doing a cold start, but rarely more than once and then it ran fine after that and that carb never let me down and the little bugger just started up and ran every time.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Mr. Auto – I had an ’83 CR-X and it had a carb and O2 sensor. Had an automatic choke too. Ran good and delivered something north of 40 mpg. Car started easily everytime and ran good when I sold it at 125K miles.

  • avatar
    mr.auto

    Also its funny reading peoples comments…

    No they didnt have fast blinkers back then..either a bulb is out or your blinker switch is going out..

    These cars never had factory paint problems,the clear coat issue was the early 90’s problem…

    The 2 barrel carbs,start fine but with city driving,AGE,high mileage and never putting carb cleaner in the carb they will be hard to start in the morning…Chrysler used carter 2bbl carbs..

    The starter sound is awesome,gear reduction starter..(nothing to do with the carb)

    Actually, Chrysler was very profitable in the 80’s,these sold very well they were a good handling/driving car,well built and they had NO major flaws..Great looks for the Luxury car in the day.

    These actually handled better than the GM/Ford counterparts..

    3300-3600 lbs,these cars were not that big..2.21 rear axle,like I said remove the lean burn computer,Mopar ecu,change the carb and have a 15 sec 1/4 mile car with a 2bbl !! Not bad from a low compression 318..

    • 0 avatar
      FJ20ET

      You know, I tried to read this post, but then my brain shut down to protect itself the second I read the word’s “Volare” and “reliable” in the same sentence.

      Honda and Toyota also had MPFI fuel injection and Anti-Lock brakes avalible in 1982 for honda 1977 and 1981 for Toyota, respectively.

      I also think your apparent CRX and Toyota are strawmen.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    JimC, you are correct. This car used the 904 trans, which was introduced in the 60 model year behind the slant 6 and 318 poly engines.
    It was used with the slant 6, 273 and 318 engines until the A518 was brought out, which is the same trans only with an overdrive added to the tailshaft.
    The 904 was a scaled down 727, exact same design only in a smaller package because the brute strength of the 727 was not needed with the lower torque outputs from the 225/273/318 engines.
    The A500 can be swapped into early cars for the best of both worlds, overdrive combined with a torqueflite. Even most of the internal parts like clutches and bands interchange.
    A friend of mine swapped one from a 99 dakota into his 72 dart. You have to get the driveshaft shortened and add a toggle switch to the dash for the overdrive, since the older vehicles don’t have a computer to activate it.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I mistakenly typed A518 in the second paragraph. The 518 was a 727 with overdrive added, which was used in the ram behind the 360 and cummins diesel.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Schumacher industries already makes mounts for dropping the 3rd gen hemis in A,B and E body mopars, so I would not be surprised if the bring out parts for a swap into these cars.
    Add a mopar performance manifold with a nice carb and it would be a breeze. The New hemi even has the same bellhousing pattern as the old small blocks and bolts up to those transmissions.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    My wife’s great uncle gave us a 1980 Le Baron two-door, cream/yellow, 225, tan interior, no vinyl roof in 1988 when he quit driving (WW1 vet). I put a “Batman” sticker on the rear deck lid and our kids forever referred to it as the “Batmobile”! That thing was a pretty nice car, considering it was getting old and needed a few things, but we kept it two years until we bought our 1990 Acclaim. Yes it was a tank, but you sure got your money’s worth in steel!

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Geeber, 79 was the year that the new yorker was downsized and used on the previous B body platform. While this year was not the best, and did have issues with quality control it did still use the rugged chrysler engines and powertrains.
    It also still used the torsion bar/leaf spring suspesnion that was superior to ford and gm’s offerings at the time. Not to mention unibody, which was much more rigid than the flexi flyers offered by the other two.
    You also had the undersized trannies in the gm cars, the diesels, the 305 and 350 chevies that had cam wear problems, headliners that fell down on your head while you were driving the gm cars.
    Sure, the mopars had issues, but at least you had a solid piece to work with, especially compared to the gm offerings.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    It’s not at all difficult to see why the mopars passed the california highway patrol’s stringent tests. The engines were built stouter. I’ll give one example, the lowly 318 2 bbl had beefier rods than a chavy 454, including the LS6.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Oops, that’s chevy 454.

  • avatar

    Dropped by a dealer to drive the new Grand Cherokee today, and they had this car in this car in like new condition on the showroom floor. Sat in it to get a blast from the past (my family used to own a Volare wagon).

    Some observations:

    –both the beltline and the roof line are very low by current standards; this car looks small as a result

    –the IP is far lower than I recall; and the relatively upright A-pillars are much closer than in any current car

    –the seats aren’t far removed from bean bags

    –the rear seat is about as roomy as today’s average compact

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Michael, you are correct. Those cars were introduced a year after the granada/monarch and two years prior to the gm A bodies. All of those cars were about the same regarding interior and trunk space.
    But at least you could roll the back windows down in the ford/chrysler cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Amen to roll-down windows! In fact, they rolled almost ALL the way down. GM Deadly Sin #(pick a number): “Half-way” mentality – rear windows that barely opened on the Caprice/Impala “roach-mobiles” 1990-96, windows that rolled halfway on 1977-89 Impala/Caprice and Celebrity and no-open on Malibu. I didn’t own a GM car from 1977 until 2004 when I bought my Impala which is/has been a very good car.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      First car, 1982 Celebrity sedan in which the back windows went “half-way” down. At the tender age of 8 (when my father purchased it) I said to my father: “Hey I think the windows back here are broken, they don’t go down all the way.” He was not amused. His next car (a few years later) 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass sedan, windows didn’t roll down at all. Dad’s revenge. Plus the back seat was more cramped in the G-body.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Educator, the highway patrol in our neighboring county bought a fleet of chargers last year, as well as the police department.
    The florida highway patrol bought 10 hemi challengers for use on the fla turnpike, and the officers love them.
    From what I’ve read a lot more police agencies would be using hemi chargers if they had the trunk space and more interior space. their biggest complaint about the chargers is lack of interior space for things like shotguns and such, and it’s more difficult for them to get prisoners in them, so many departments stick with the full sized crown vics.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC

      I’m not a big fan of the Charger cop cars. Never mind the interior space, lack thereof, or the engine (although it’s great to see a highway patrol car with enough torque to push a broken down 18 wheeler out of the way… just in case you didn’t want to wait around for the tow truck). I think the styling makes it look like a cop car designed by giddy teenage boys.

      One of my favorite cop cars was the Diplomat. It had no-nonsense, cross-the-line-and-I’ll-arrest-you styling and it _looked_ like a cop car should.

      JMHO.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    http://media.motortopia.com/files/5173/vehicle/4612953c62d48/4-29-06d.jpg
    here’s a PA diplomat cop car for you jim. it was restored and is owned by a guy here in Ohio. My favorite police cruisers are the C bodies, but I like the diplomats too.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    What about the 1983 derived FWD crapbox stretched K-car New Yorker with 4 cylinder only engines including the rude crude turbo engine, the same outrageous pillow tufted bean bag seats and closed in fat ass padded rear roof- all on a slightly longer Aries body! And to think GM’s 1985 era downsized C-bodys were bad. At least those had real interior room, didn’t come with that god aweful roof, had V6 and V8 power and looked way better. Yes the 1983 Aries derived streched New Yorker is far more deserving of deadly sin number 2. This car was at least a proper RWD car on a solid design with a time tested engine and tranny and a decent trunk and interior room. The 1985 on up 140 HP 265 torque 318 was a solid engine with a 4BBL carb and intake upgrade an easy swap.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Rockfish, I can relate regarding the durability/longevity of those cars.
    back in 78 our police department replaced the old galaxy/LTD cruisers with the new downsized malibus. That seemed to work pretty well at first, until the malibus started having transmission and cooling problems, and a couple of other issues that I can’t recall.
    When chrysler released the diplomats and gran furies in police form our department started purchasing them, and within a couple of years they were everywhere you looked.
    We also had them for countless other jobs within the city, such as detective use, city inspectors, you name it. The police cars were used for about 10 years, and many of the cars used in other branches of government use were around far longer, probably 15 years or so.
    That’s really saying something, considering the abuse they took in stop and go city driving, salted roads with potholes, etc. And you can be sure that a lot of the drivers of those cars did not treat them like they were their own.
    A lot of them were eventually auctioned off and were still seen around town. A guy that I worked with years ago had one, I believe it was an old city inspector’s car. Even though the diplomats/gran furies were plain looking even in civilian trim I think they made cool looking police cruisers.
    I think some of the ugliest and most homely looking mopars looked natural as police cars, like the 62 dodges and plymouths, and the 70’s polaras and monacos.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Speaking of rear windows, the 4 door chevette’s rear windows rolled slightly LESS than halfway down! They may as well have used fixed windows.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Cwatwell, cheaply rebuilt chrysler starters sounded different than original factory and quality remanufactured units.
    The japanese started making their starters as gear reduction units similar to the chrysler design during the late 70’s to 80’s. By the 90’s ford and gm folowed suit. That is why just about all modern day starters sound very similar to the old chrysler units, only quieter because they are now more compact.
    As far as the old carbs on the K cars go, they used an idle solenoid on a/c equipped cars, just like on most other carbureted vehicles. It raised the idle speed when the a/c unit was engaged to prevent stalling.
    There is no way it could introduce raw fuel into the engine, the only way that could happen would have been from a sticking float or needle valve.

  • avatar
    FJ20ET

    I will give him 500$ for it. Then I will promptly light it on fire. To give credit where credit is due, it’s amazing how long this car lasted, A 23 year old North American Chrysler is a very rare bird, running or not.

    also LOL at selling these in Europe.

    “You can have this W126 OR you can have a 1976 Plymouth Volare with extra pretense that comes broken from the factory”

  • avatar
    Ziggy89

    I purchased an ’89 Fifth Ave in April, and it’s been a very good car so far. I’m 21 (a month older than the car), it’s only my 2nd car, and the first I bought with my own money. It has 60,000 on the odometer, but it being a 5 digit odometer, it’s likely 160,000. Though the whole car is in good enough shape for me not to be sure. It does indeed have a driver-side airbag, which is nice to have (assuming it works). I’ve driven it quite often since I bought it, including some lengthy joyrides, and highway driving, and the thing runs like a bear. Only problem thus yet encountered was a leaky transmission line. There’s an old mechanic in town who gladly fixed it cheaply. It seems to be solid and reliable, and it’s seats are easily the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in in a car, including my mom’s Odyssey and the 93 Caprice my dad used to own. It is literally more comfortable than my living room. Also, the rustproofing has definitely been doing it’s job, as there is virtually none on the car (and in New England, that’s saying something). I may have lucked out with an ’89. They seemed to have worked out some issues with the car by that year that.
    Overall, I love it. It has bagfuls of character… more than you can say for the majority of cars today.

  • avatar
    windsormarxist

    These are great cars- not deadly sins.  Yes, it is like driving around in a prostitute’s boudoir, or what SupaFly would buy upon his retirement, but it is a proper solid and reliable piece of Americana.  My first experience of one of these is when my parents were upgraded to one from the rental car place when going to Disneyworld- this was in 1987, and I was ten.  It felt like a proper limousine in the back, with the built in ‘pillows’ on the doors, and felt far removed from our Kraptastic Aries back home.  That one was in dark blue with blue velour. The button tufted velour seemed to be so much more luxurious than leather.
    Ten years later, I found myself with a GranFury from SVDP in New Orleans.  It was a great car, and excessively reliable too.  Anyone who has running problems can fix them for about $150 worth of parts from Autozone.  Just get a carb and distributor from a pre-74 Mopar with the same engine- a dodge dart in my case- and wire it up.  Everything fits.  Or if you prefer changing ballast resistors instead of contact points, get a post-74 dizzy ;)
    Regardless, these are great cars, and are a much more managable size than a crown vic or Caprice.  I got around 22-25mpg all of the time, which isn’t bad, and about what I get now out of my Volvo 245.
    Even with ripped and searing Vinyl, the seats were very comfortable- with the lumbar support in the right place and the armrest perfectly positioned for lazy driving.  It really did feel like a car that you could keep going forever.  I only got rid of mine because I acquired a perfect ’64 Rambler. Wouldn’t you?
     

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Marxist….the best factory distributor to use would be the 72-75 electronic unit. Some 76’s were also non-lean burn units. They all still used a ballast resistor, but a good one will last. The distributors just mentioned are very reliable. Points distributors will work well with a pertronix conversion kit, but you’re better off using the factory electronic unit, or a mopar performance electronic distributor, also available at summit racing.
    Carb choices are virtually unlimited, but your best bet would be an edelbrock performer 600 4bbl with performer intake. That would give smooth and excellent throttle response, lowest emissions and  easy 20 plus mpg highway fuel economy.  A holley street avenger or pre-leanburn thermoquad would also make a nice choice.

  • avatar
    kneegloc

    Hi. I’m new here, and I don’t know a lot about the “specs” of cars, but I just wanted to share this. I’m currently driving a 1983 Chrysler New Yorker 5th Avenue, as my MAIN car (I love older cars–before this, I was driving a ’79 Cordoba, until some #&%$ ran a stop sign and totaled it). It looks just like the one in the pics, in fact. I bought it from my elderly neighbor who kept it in her garage since she bought it (yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s true–less then 50g miles on it). I haven’t really looked at the engine to see if it was a 6- or 8-cylinder, but that’s not why I’m writing. I have a love/hate relationship with this car… Since I bought it a year ago, I’ve had a few electrical problems (which I hear are common in this car) like brake lights not working/only working in reverse/headlights only working on high beams… But, overall, it’s a good car! Once it gets up to speed, it’s a breeze on the highway. It’s a very smooth ride (not like new cars I’ve driven–new cars, to me, handle like bumper cars. I know, it’s all about “responsiveness” but, I don’t like white-knuckling it when I pull out of a parking spot–I like steering with my index finger lol). Since I got it, I don’t think I put 300 bucks into it… It’s pretty reliable, I would say… The only problem is, it stalls when I hit a big pothole or drive over some railroad tracks… What’s up with that? At any rate, it’s cool to see all of your comments on this classic. Thanks!

  • avatar
    Ziggy89

    I posted a couple posts up, three years ago. I still drive the same ’89 5th Avenue and still love it. It was giving a little trouble over the summer- turned out to be a simple fuel line problem. This really is a very good car though.
    Shortly after my previous post, I entered a relationship with a girl who lived near where I go to college, about 85 or so miles from where I live, and that next summer I put a lot of highway time on the car- it never let me down. I’ve not taken it on as many long drives since breaking up with that girl but I did drive it all around the Berkshires a few weeks ago, getting footage for a video (film student). It took to the hills like a champ.
    Great cars as far as I’m concerned.

    Also, I’ve found they’re pretty decent for having sex in- if only to feel like a total pimp. Red velvet seats, frost on the windows with the heat cranked, “Rocketman” playing on the radio, and a hot redheaded gal. Ah, memories…


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