By on January 20, 2011

We make fun of the Cordoba today— hell, we made fun of the Cordoba when it was new— but wouldn’t Fiat be wise to slather at least one 2011 Chrysler with “gold”-plated-plastic medallions and get some smooth-voiced macho man to pitch it on TV?

I’m not talking about that faux-classy plastic stuff that kinda looks convincing after you’ve knocked back 11 French 75s at the Hole In The Mole Club and staggered up to your parked Avenger Brougham Martha Stewart Edition LXXX in the fog. No, I mean pure cheeze, what Frank Zappa called “Cheepnis.” We’re Americans, by God! Just knowing we can roll into a Chrysler showroom and then burn rubber off the lot with a machine dipped in polystryrene heraldic crests, glued-on chrome script, and NearlyOak™ paneling makes us feel better.

Right. These are the thoughts that run through my head when I see a Cordoba— say, for example, a ’78 like this one I found at a Denver self-service yard— at the end of its personal-luxury road.

The Cordoba was one of the many dead ends that Chrysler careened down during the Middle Malaise Era, a car whose semi-strong sales (at first) hid the financial precipice looming not far ahead. A few years later, the K-platform family saved Chrysler’s ass and Chrysler ditched rear-drivers entirely; the Cordoba hung on until 1983.

Sadly, this car does not have the optional Corinthian Leather interior. The Crusher will enjoy its flavor.

It’s not possible to write about the Cordoba without referring to this ad. Here ya go!

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35 Comments on “The Crusher Doesn’t Like The Taste Of Corinthian Leather...”

  • avatar

    When I was in high school in the late 80s, my gearhead friend and I snagged some of those plastigold Cordoba emblems from the local junk yard. Then we got some brass chain from the hardware store, and made necklaces out of them. We’d go around wearing the “priceless gold medallions”, and talking like Ricardo about “rich Corinthian leather”. Yeah, we didn’t really hang out with the cool kids…

  • avatar

    That’s a 78 or 79 Cordoobie, as we called them. I had a friend in high school who’s father worked at the Twinsburg assembly plant, he got one of these (a ’78) for graduation. He enjoyed many a doobie in the Cordoba, so…
    I couldn’t tell from the photo of the engine bay if that was an E58 code 360-equipped version. That would be worth hanging onto. Actually, any Cordoba would be more desirable than the contemporary ‘baroque’ Monte Carlo. No, wait the 300 version with the E58 code 360 would be worth hanging onto above all others mentioned here. But even the most pedestrian Cordoobie was more pleasantly styled than the Monte, IMO.

  • avatar

    Best quote: “this small Chrysler”.
    “I like what they’ve done to my car”:

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    When I was in college (1995-99) my father’s cousin, who owned a body shop, had a customer with an ultra-rare 1979 Chrysler 300 (which was based off the the Cordoba.)  The customer was making a big investment in a restoration at that time and as a 20 odd year old college kid, I couldn’t understand why.  Now I do.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I wondered what the heck a “French 75”. Thank God for Google. 11 of those and you will have the Battle of the Marne going on in your head. From Esquire:


    * 2 ounces London dry gin
    * 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
    * 1/2 ounce lemon juice
    * 5 ounces Brut champagne

    Glass Type: Collins glass

    Shake well with cracked ice in a chilled cocktail shaker, then strain into a Collins glass half-full of cracked ice and top off with champagne.

    The 75-millimeter M1897, a light, potent little gun with a vicious rate of fire, was the mainstay of the French field artillery in World War I. Hence the drink. Of all the many champagne-and-liquor combinations known to contemporary mixology, this one has the most elan. Two of these and you’d fight to defend Madonna’s honor. The drink was a favorite of the Lost Generation — hell, there’s enough alcohol in it to give even Hemingway a buzz.

    Most modern recipes lowball the gin; one online compendium cuts it down to 1/4 ounce. For shame. Nor should one adulterate this old soldier with Cointreau or the like. No shame, however, in leaving out the gin entirely — as long as you replace it with brandy or cognac (yielding a King’s Peg, although often recipes for these omit the lemon and sugar).

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you, I was wondering about that. The “NearlyOak™” made me smile. The specification sheets in the owner’s manual to my ’67 Volvo say “woven genuine imitation leather” or something really close to that. It must be the translation from Swedish into the Queen’s English of “vinyl.”

  • avatar

    As lifelong moparite, I cringe when people mention the Cordoba.  It has the distinction of being one of those few cars that is mocked even by people who otherwise don’t pay much attention to cars.
    In it’s defense, all I can say is a) the Cordoba-based Charger was worse, simply for trashing the Charger name, and b) there is a 727 auto and 83/4 rear in there that can be put to good use somewhere else.

  • avatar

    My great-uncle traded in his 440-powered ’71 Charger R/T on one of these when I was a kid. He’s been dead for 25 years and I’m still grumpy at him about it. (He had — at age 70-something — traded in a 300F on the Charger, because he got sick of trying to get under the 413’s cross-ram to change the spark plugs. He was that kind of guy. Even in his 80s, the Cordoba didn’t really suit him.)

  • avatar

    Say what you will, the Cordoba marked the first time Chrysler hit a sweet spot in the market in years.  This is the kind of car that was selling in the 70s.  Sport was out, luxury was in.  Also, an unbiased eye will confirm that this is one of the cleaner 70s designs.  The unique Jaguar-esque headlights were attractive, and the car hit the right balance of angularity and softness in its lines.  If this car did not suffer from Chrysler’s horrid body engineering of the period (the doors sounded awful when you slammed them, and the steering column would quake) and that infernal Lean Burn system, I would take the Cordoba above all competitors. 

    This car is a lot cleaner looking than the Monte Carlo we saw the other day, along with the other GM A bodies and anything on the Ford midsize platform as well.  Don’t even start me on the Matador.  Chrysler made a lot of conquest sales with the Cordoba.  Had GM made this car, they would have been everywhere.  We can shake our heads about 70s styling, but I think that the Cordoba stands out as the best styled car of its genre.  Its problem was the miserable build quality and Lean Burn that affected everything the company made in those years.

    • 0 avatar

      You got it right – another car everyone hates today that was a huge success in its time. Just like the Monte Carlo that obviously inspired it.  

      While the Cordoba was a huge success, what people usually forget is that the full-size Chryslers (Newport and New Yorker) rebounded strongly after 1975, and sold well right up until they were downsized. (The full-size Dodges and Plymouths never recovered from their fuel-crunch slump in sales.)

      Cordobas, Newports and New Yorkers probably paid many bills for Chrysler during an otherwise grim time.

      Chrysler’s big mistake was making the Charger a Cordoba with a different grille. If it had introduced the 1975 Charger with Magnum styling from day one, it would have sold much better. The 1978-79 Magnum was a sharp car – tied with the 1973-77 Cutlass Supreme coupes for best-looking personal luxury coupe of the mid- and late-1970s, in my opinion.

    • 0 avatar

      @geeber: 100% spot on about the post 1974 Charger. The 75-77 Charger was as ridiculous as the same era “Road Runner”, err, Fury. Ick.
      But I would add the 75-77 Grand Prix and Grand Am to your list of Magnum and Cutlass.

  • avatar

    When the Cordoba premiered, it accounted for roughly half of Chrysler’s sales. Chrysler really needed this car at the time. The brand pimped out it’s name and image in order to stay in business, but it was a very profitable move during Cordoba’s first generation.

    The car delivered to buyers what it couldn’t get anywhere else. The car had Jaguar-esque headlamps and fenders, coach lamps for tail lights, gold coins for call outs, and the Chyrsler name at a time when that name meant engineered excellence.

    Cordoba was to Chrysler what Seville was to Cadillac. Both cars generated excitement in the Market by being affordable versions of respectable auto names. Smartly, the Seville was a four door sedan, while Cordoba chased the two door personal luxury coupe market.

    Hey, it worked for four years. It bought Chrysler time which they needed to build volume to a point to justify a federal bailout by 1980. It kept the factories running long enough to paper over the Aspen/Volare fiasco into the LeBaron/Fifth Avenue/Diplomat sales success no one expected. It helped keep Chrysler from being a one-flavor K-Car company until the minivan boom paid off everyone’s investment.

  • avatar

    Gotta say, I prefer the early front end with the Jaguar-eque headlight treatment to these later Walk/Don’t Walk headlights.  Don’t quite know what they were going for there, a throwback to the mid-late 60’s stacked headlights trend?   Just to prove that the Malaise Era wasn’t just for making new mistakes, but repeating old ones?

    • 0 avatar

      DeadFlorist, walk/don’t walk headlights is the best description of anything I’ve seen or heard in a while. And I agree, the round headlights were better.
      I remember, many years ago seeing the rare and perfectly optioned example of this bodystyle…in a junkyard of course! It was actually a Charger SE. Black with red striping, no vinyl top, power sunroof, polycast wheels, red buckets, console shifter, 8-track and a 400. I’d have made an offer but as usual,they set something on top of it. Actually a pretty clean design without all the baby dolls and door knobs.
      I like the red accent steelie on the back!
      I think it’s pretty safe to say that the ideal “Cordoba lifestyle” is more or less the premise of Frank Zappa’s “Sheik Yerbouti” album.
      I believe those medallions are really made of metal.

  • avatar

    I had one once in the early 90’s -and never got to really get it back to its original glory, whatever that was.
    It was loaded more than most, with a sunroof, factory tach, AM / FM, the cross-roof halo that lit up when you turned on the headlights, cruise, A/C, and that plastered-on half padded vinyl coach roof that was actually stuck to a fiberglass shell that was then attached to the body.
    As much flak as this car will probably get on this site, it was hands down the best handling Malaise sled I ever drove. The torsion bar suspension did what it was supposed to do, and pretty well.  The Lean Burn 360 always ran hot, but never terminally so and I never had a problem with the engine– and the tranny never caused a problem. Mileage was almost 20 on the road, not bad for >4000 pounds as Chrysler’s “small” car, as Ricardo said.
    I wish I had the time to preserve it as a weekend cruiser, but the inner body quarter panels were turning to rust and it soon became PNP material because I couldn’t stay ahead of it.
    There’s still a super clean ’78 with a green body and T-tops that is in my area, and I get a twinge thinking it would’ve been nice to have something that clean.
    I see where they were going with the idea; at the time is was downsized from the huge GM and Ford sedans. too bad the execution didn’t match the ambition–

  • avatar

    The Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials are a brilliant homage to the Chrysler one linked to in this article.

  • avatar

    Wow, Ricardo is really putting that Cordoba through it’s paces on that mountain road, and not a hint of suspension travel either.
    Truly a drivers car.
    Actually I kind of liked these cars as a kid, along with the Monte Carlo’s, Malibu’s,Dart’s,  Torinos etc of that era, and I had no idea how poorly built and executed they were, they just seemed nice.
    In the late 80’s my then girlfriends grandparents had a burgundy 1978 Doba with (I believe a 360) and all the options, including opera lights, but no rich corinthian leather. He traded it soon after for a 1988 Hyundai Accent Olympic edition, then traded that for a K car. While the Cordoba may not be a good car it seemed like he was trading down IMHO.

  • avatar

    Gotta say, I thought the early Cordobas were pretty decent cars for their time. Handsome styling, smaller size, etc. And they were good sellers for Chrysler. As usual with Chrysler in those days they took a pretty good original design and garbaged it up over the various model years with useless add-ons while ignoring the engineering side. Thats what caused their first ‘crisis’. My Stepdad was a dedicated GM guy, but fell in love with the Cordoba and bought one of the early ones. It ended up being one of his favorite cars, and he had switched every 2 years up until then. He kept it for 4 or 5 years and traded it for one of the downsized Fifth Avenues of later years. I think he stuck to Chryslers for so long because they were one of the few automakers that offered a smaller RWD V-8, which was his (and mine) preferred ride.

  • avatar

    I owned a 77 cordoba back in the 80’s, which I bought from a used car lot. It came from another state, and was in decent shape except for a bullet hole on the bottom of the driver’s door. It had the 400/727 combo, and vinyl bucket seats that looked a lot like the “corinthian leather” seats, and floor shifter with a console. I didn’t care for the color, it was sort of a piss yellow.
    It was a very solid car for what I paid for it, 800 bucks. I had to have a buddy of mine weld up the right rear spring perch, which was starting to go, and I removed the lean burn system and installed a distributor and carb from a 383 that I had laying around.
    I had bought the car as a winter beater, but it was actually pretty nice for an 11 year old car. I drove it for a couple of years or so and sold it to a friend’s younger brother who within a month lost it on black ice and wrapped it around a pole.
    These cars handled better than the ford and gm intermediates due to chrysler’s superb torsion bar/leaf spring setup and had much stiffer unibody construction, as opposed to ford and gm’s rubber band like body on frame construction.
    They may have been a bit of a copy of the monte carlo on the outside, but they had the superior chrysler suspension, engines and drivelines and the aforementioned unibody.
    The cordoba was cleaner and more restrained looking than the monte. They didn’t go overboard with the creases on the sides like gm did with the monte, and the bumpers didn’t hang off the ends. I think they ruined it tho when they tacked on those stacked square gm style headlights in the 78 models.
    I would like to find another 75-77 model to park alongside my 78 new yorker. I see lots of cordobas at mopar shows and they are starting to go up in price, I have seen some nice ones priced pretty steeply lately in hemmings.

  • avatar

    Ok, here it is in a better, purer form, and with the funky alloys with rattly turbine centers. Dig that pornographic guitar!

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Mike, the 727 was still standard fare behind the 360 in those years. They may have built a few with the 904 during periods of parts supply shortages. My 77 had the 8/34 rear.

  • avatar

    Whenever I read about personal luxury cars like the seventies’ Monte Carlo and Cordoba, the first thing that I always notice is how much better the first, round-headlight versions look. It reminds me of the whole rationale for headlight standards being changed. Supposedly, the auto companies lobbied congress to change the standards to allow the rectangular headlights  on safety reasons, the logic being it would lower the hoodline for better visibility.

    Then they replaced the single round headlights with stacked rectangular headlights (and ruin the appearance, to boot). Of course, there were some cars with rectangular headlights that did look okay, but they were mounted side-by-side.

  • avatar

    No discussion about the Chrysler Cordoba is complete without watching this video.  It features the “Redenck Restoration” of a ’79 Cordoba to one of the most brilliant songs written about a car IMHO.  It nails the car on the head so completely its is amazing.

  • avatar

    I had a 1976 model with the 318 (pre lean-burn)…not a rocket, but with the torsion bars and sway bars front and rear, it was a handler.

     It also had the Corinthian leather…a nice car.

  • avatar
    alfred p. sloan

    Right On! My first car was a 1979 Chrysler Cordoba. 360 V8, Two barrel with a functioning lean burn system. the Landau roof was gone by the time I got the car and the paint was flaking off. I sanded the whole thing down to bare metal and primed it before wrecking it.

    Loved it as a first car and I’d like to get another one for nostalgia purposes. Not a great car and really nothing more than an average maliase era Chrysler design, yet I frequently search the classifieds for one. 

    I still have the plate off the car (WA STATE 007-BCV).

    Yep, good times had in that car. one halloween I fit 8 girls plus myself in it. Tight squeeze but it was worth it. 


  • avatar

    Here are some nice looking magnums. I’ll take either the black or white one. Back in the fall I saw a magnum painted in primer sitting in a parking lot for sale. It still had all the trim and bits and pieces intact, and the body looked straight. Looked like it would have been a great candidate for a restoration. Unfortunately I didn’t have time toi stop that day, figured I would when I was back out that way  couple of days later. Sadly it was gone by then.

  • avatar

    If I had the money and bought one of these, I could install an Art Morrison Max-G chassis and a 3G Hemi crate engine. Cordoba SRT-8 anyone?

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