Brougham, Landau, D'Elegance… or Salon?

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Traditionally, when Detroit mass-produces luxury, it stamps out heraldic crests and classy-sounding names by the ton. Back in the day, the East Saginaw Lux-U-Ree Works worked three shifts belting out chrome-plated pot-metal emblems for the Big Three, but everything had gone to plastic by the Reagan era. I had forgotten about Salon-edition cars until last week, when I spotted this one at a Denver wrecking yard.

The Chrysler New Yorker of the late 1980s and early 1990s wasn’t quite up to the snob-appeal level of its early-60s predecessors, since it was based on the proletariat-grade Dodge Dynasty (which was itself a K-car derivative) and packed Mitsubishi V6 power under its hood. The Salon of this era was the base model, which shows the cheapening of the once-proud New Yorker Salon designation since its debut in the 1960s. Chevrolet did the same thing to the late-80s Camaro RS, which became the name for the El Cheapo base model instead of a pricey option package.

However, Ricardo Montalban was still pitching New Yorkers, and that helped. Check out that Crystal Key™ (and if you want one today, you must pay). Chrysler was willing to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the d’Elegance Cadillacs, no doubt about it.

The final owner of this car clearly was a man of the world, if we are to judge by the reading material I found on the passenger seat.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Nikita Nikita on Sep 06, 2011

    Most do it but Chevrolet may be the king of model name cheapening. 1955 Belair is top of the line, Delray is extra on top of the "210". 1958 Impala pushes Belair down a level, then Biscayne and Delray is El Cheapo. 1959 Delray is dropped, leaving Biscayne at the bottom. 1965 Caprice pushes Impala down a level. 1973 Cheyenne is top truck trim, above Custom Deluxe and Custom. 1975 Silverado is top of the line in trucks, with Scottsdale just below, pushing Cheyenne down two levels at once. This remained for at least two decades. Now, Silverado is generic for the whole line.

  • Keith Tomas Keith Tomas on Sep 06, 2011

    For MRF 95 T-Bird: Let's see, there were several cars with the Salon designation. The New Yorker Salon in the early 60's....then the Cutlass Salon, Olds' version of the Pontiac GrandAm...then the Omega Salon. Then it brought the moniker back for those awful 78-80 fastback models - and those were the base models! Chrysler briefly squeezed in a Salon model between the base and Medallion models for its LeBaron/Diplomat series. Clearly, the name has meant different things to different makes.

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    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Sep 07, 2011

      @MRF 95 T-Bird After reading this article on Tuesday I glimsed a sun burned slightly rusty old diplomat in the Burger King drive-thru. I spent my time waiting in line trying to decide if it was an ex-police car or not.

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