Curbside Classic: 1985 Chrysler New Yorker

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer
curbside classic 1985 chrysler new yorker

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.

More new Curbside Classics here

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  • AllThumbs AllThumbs on Nov 21, 2013

    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.

  • Spiritwomyn Spiritwomyn on Sep 12, 2015

    I have a 1985 Chrysler New Yorker. has been doing ok till recently. Mechanic tells me it would cost more to fix then it is worth. Then I see a guy selling his for $6000. But it is all I have so if anyone can give me pointers that would be great.

  • Wjtinfwb I can hear the ticking from here...
  • Daniel Bridger When y'all going to learn that nothing is free?
  • MrIcky This vehicle had so many delays, then a poor launch, and then the recalls- but I look at the recall for lugnuts and I wonder if you can miss the torque spec on those, what else did you miss? This car just seems very first gen to me. I'm glad it's out there. I like competition in this space, but I'd wait until the refresh on this one. Just one too many things.
  • Jalop1991 "Toyota and Daimler merging..."Wait--another merger of equals?
  • SPPPP Aggression is pretty much the reason that racing exists, so I am going to call this an unsolvable problem. It's a contrived scenario in which you take risks to get rewards. You may be able to improve it ... but never eliminate it.