By on January 4, 2016

13 - 1979 Chrysler Cordoba in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Examples of the Chrysler Cordoba continue to show up in the self-service wrecking yards I frequent, though I tend to skip the ones that are particularly wretched and break out my camera only when I’m in the presence of a Cordoba that still has a certain personal luxury aura.

So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’76, this ’78 (which provided me with a classy Corinthian Leather couch), this ’79, and this ’80, and now we have this fairly straight ’79 that I saw in an icy Denver yard last week.
05 - 1979 Chrysler Cordoba in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

From the plastic “gold coins” on the door panels and taillights to the world’s phoniest-looking faux-wood dashboard trim, the Cordoba says a lot about the state of the American automotive industry during the late 1970s.

03 - 1979 Chrysler Cordoba in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

This one has Whorehouse Red Velour seats, not the optional Corinthian Leather.

07 - 1979 Chrysler Cordoba in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

It’s in pretty good shape, in fact.

12 - 1979 Chrysler Cordoba in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Oh no, not the dreaded “Lean Burn” system!

20 - 1979 Chrysler Cordoba in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Sold in Boulder, will be crushed in Denver.

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61 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Chrysler Cordoba...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Wow that’s a lot of red .

    Looks clean inside anyway .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Is that fake french stitching on the dash? Everything old is new again.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Interesting dealer franchise there. Chrysler and Mercedes. I know 1979 was a different world, but I don’t think people were cross-shopping the two. But I was two in 1979.

    That’s a really clean interior for a junker, nearly rivaling that 80’s Yellow Eldo a few weeks ago.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      It wasn’t very unusual to see Mercedes share middle-class driveways with Chryco products. Particularly among self-made small business owners like an aunt & uncle of mine, Chryco-to-MB was a fairly common transition back then, especially when the old guy passed and his wife had a desire for something smaller, more maneuverable and slightly snootier.

      The more I reflect upon it the wiser appears Crouch’s market positioning.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        As I always understood it, Mercedes prices were so stratospheric compared to anything domestic I wouldn’t think they’d have the same customer. Especially with interest rates the way they were at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      I've got a Jaaaaag

      Maybe they were a Studebaker dealer who got a Chrysler franchise when Studebaker went under. (Studebaker sold Mercedes in the 1950s and 60s)

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      In ’79 our local Mercedes dealer was also a Subaru dealer, of all things. Weird little $4K Subarus next to $25K Mercedes.

    • 0 avatar
      scottcom36

      Manufacturers tend to frown on dealers selling a competing brand out of the same showroom. So selling brands from different price classes helps the dealer make more money while keeping the manufacturers from complaining.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Lester was not happy after he crowbar’d the trunk to get it open.
    The keys were where they always were, on the beside table, next to
    the kangaroo.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    We had one of the first Cordobas sold in Canada. Silver exterior, black Corinthian leather interior with the console and bucket seats. All the options.

    For the time they were considered to be ‘tasteful’ and a desirable personal luxury auto. Chrysler was still considered a luxury or semi-luxury nameplate.

    We would flip the air cleaner cover so that the engine could ‘howl’.

    Compared to the very austere, all black plastic interiors of the Audis that 2 friends families had, the Cordoba was considered to be the more prestigious ride among our high school set.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    I noticed that this personal luxury barge came with manually hand-cranked windows.

    Fast forward to 2015, manually hand-cranked windows were not even an option when I bought my base model Tacoma 4×4 Access Cab.

  • avatar
    Cole Grundy

    Great photos, again

    Can feel the desolation. Love it

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Late 70s Chrysler products seem to be rare even as Junkyard finds…I’d be floored if Murilee somehow found a R-body or a Mirada.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Most of them were crushed 10-20 years ago. ’70s cars were “old crap” anytime after 1987 or so.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I thought of the Mirada just a couple days ago, randomly. All that came to mind was how hideous and awful it is.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Then you should see the 79-81 New Yorker! It’s…uh…awkward.

        Especially with the partially padded rear windows.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Just browsed a 79 on Ebay this morning, in very very clean condition.

          http://www.ebay.com/itm/262220019734

          I think it’s the cleanest I’ve ever seen. Just an old platform when Chrysler didn’t have any money (when have I heard that before?) so they piled on the gingerbread.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Glorious!

            My grandfather had one almost exactly like this. He used to trade for a new Chrysler every year, and then switched to Lincolns before he died.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          The town I grew up in had the 79-81 Dodge St. Regis police cruisers which was basically a stripped down New Yorker. They were the replacement for previous patrol vehicle, the mid-70’s Monaco/Fury. I always thought the were nice looking. Very clean and angular. For some reason they propped open the glass or plexiglass headlight covers. I guess they thought they were too much trouble and would have to be repaired after being opened every day.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            This model was only around for three years, the St. Regis was almost 100% sold to police fleets, and because it was the wrong time to introduce a gas guzzler, the St. Regis is incredibly rare today.

            I love the frosted retracting headlamp lenses.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            L.A.P.D. had them too and apart from the silly lean burn thing in the air cleaner 6″ above the mini – catalytic converter also foolishly placed underhood , they were good , reliable cars as were 99 % of all older Dodge Police Cars .

            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            Actually the 79-81 St. Regis, Newport and New Yorker were downsized compared to the mastodon like 74-78 Full-sizers. Iacocca dropped them to focus on the many variations of K-Car and kept the M-Body around until 1989, That’s 13 years when you include the Volare/Aspen. Hence the proclamation of “Best fuel economy of any U.S. auto company”

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    In the early 90s I snagged one that had a pretty rich option list..

    Power steel sunroof
    Factory tach (to the right of the speedo)
    Cruise control
    Power seats
    Power windows
    Crown landau roof with crossover light halo (see here)
    http://classicchassis.org/archives/756
    Factory Air
    AM/FM Stereo

    Unfortunately the tinworms were hard at work, on a California car no less, and I couldn’t stay ahead of the cosmetics…but it was hands down the best handling full size car I had driven up to that point and even 10 years thereafter. And despite all the bad press about the 360 Lean Burn, I never had any problems with overheating.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Soft Corinthian…oh, never mind…

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    The Cordoba has a special place in my heart. My Mom had a ’77 Ice light blue/baby blue Corinthian leather buckets, loaded with power everything, buckets/console, and a 440 lean burn engine. My first car, a ’76 Silver/Red velour, 60/40 split seat, power eveerything, 400 engine. Mom traded up to the all new ’80 Cordoba. Wasn’t as nice as the previous, so she switched to a ’85 Continental Valentino. A much nicer car. My Cordoba was traded in for a new ’86 Daytona. What a difference.
    The older Cordoba’s were luxo-barges. We loved them both. The ’80 was the begnning of the cheap models. That ’79 is a collector car. More so, if it was loaded…especially with T-tops.
    Great article. Thanks for the flashback!

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    The wife’s uncle still has the Cordoba-based 300 that he bought new in 1979. After many years sitting dormant in his mom’s garage, her death forced him to get it running again, though not as a daily driver. He dearly loves it and plans to get it fully back to spec, but it’s truly a labor of love since there doesn’t seem to be any real collector value to what was simply a desperate move by Chrysler to squeeze out some additional sales by sticking 300 badges and pin-striping on a Cordoba.

    • 0 avatar
      kmars2009

      Those Cordoba 300’s are also rare and collectible. Very unique!

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Didn’t Chrysler do a 300 package on the redesigned Cordoba too?

        That ’80 Cordoba and the Mirada were a nice looking cars.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          Nope, the intended 1980 300 ended up being sold as the Cordoba LS. Had the same style of grille as the 79 300 though.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I seem to remember that car…thanks!

          • 0 avatar
            la834

            I think the Cordoba LS nose was just the Dodge Mirada front clip with a different grille insert.

            Anyone know why the 300 wasn’t continued on the redesigned ’80? The LS was actually less expensive than the regular Cordoba.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        “Those Cordoba 300’s are also rare and collectible”

        I haven’t looked lately, but when he started on the task of getting it running again I did a search to see what his upside could be. I only found one for sale, and as I recall, the asking price was well south of $10K. However, it’s his baby, and the upside for him is purely personal.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Ha, a Chrysler-Mercedes dealer. Predicting the future, one awful Chrysler at a time. That would have been an interesting showroom to see.

    Get away from my SL you pleeb.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Corey, Even in the 70’s in North America Germanic cars did not have the cachet that they developed during the Yuppie Boom.

      Cadillac was still considered ‘the standard for the world’ and Lincoln was experiencing probably their greatest post-war resurgence in prestige.

      Watch early to mid 70’s TV. Rock Hudson (MacMillan) drove a Lincoln, Joe Cannon drove a Lincoln and just about every Mafia Don or criminal kingpin also drove one. The one thing the Starsky & Hutch movie got right was the car that Snoop Dog drove.

      German cars generally were perceived to have engine displacements that were too small, or the wrong number of cylinders. And their interiors were drab and lacking in creature comforts. Power antenna, power seats, the number of ashtrays and cigarette lighters, lit vanity mirrors, reading lights. Many things considered commonplace today were considered luxury items back then and lacking in some European name plates.

      In European cars you could hear the engine, feel bumps in the road and might actually have to shift for yourself. The majority of North American consumers equated those attributes with ‘cheap’ rather than luxury cars.

      Ostentation, plush velour, opera windows, coach lights, lots of fake (or real) wood finishes, gaudy ornamentation (like the Cordoba ‘coins’ or fake gold “made for plaques on Mark IV’s) and lots of chrome were what spelled ‘luxury’ during the Disco Era.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I guess it was not until the 80’s then! Thanks for the detail.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Unfortunately our taste in auto fashions was as bad as our taste in clothes. Check out what passed for fashionable style in the early and mid 70’s.

          Good taste seems to have gotten lost.

          So while many of the Germanic vehicles now look classic, as much as I like 70’s luxury North American vehicles (the Pucci edition Mark IV being my favourite), they really are an ‘acquired’ taste. And what they stood for, is passe.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Yeah, but Steve Austin drove a 450SL.

        I’m going to disagree with you here, Arthur. I think European cars – Mercedes in particular – had a great deal of cachet all during that decade, for a simple reason – they were VERY expensive, and exclusive. NOTHING said money in the late ’70s like a Benz. BMWs, Saabs and Volvos were also major status symbols.

        And Detroit wasn’t blind to this. How else do we explain why mid-decade, you had new models like Ford Granadas, Dodge Aspens, and Cadillac Sevilles – all direct knockoffs of the Mercedes 450 sedan? As I recall, Cadillac even did brochures comparing the Seville directly to the 450 sedan. If anything, I think by the early 1970s, Detroit was moving its luxury cars DOWN market qualitatively (as exemplified by Cadillacs becoming glorified Chevys), to pump up volumes, but this killed the prestige the brands had.

        Put differently: I started driving in 1979, and my family was fortunate enough to have lots of money. At the time, we had a ’75 Mercedes 450 sedan and a brand-new ’80 Eldorado, black on tan (one hell of a sharp looking car). Guess which one my friends were begging to ride around in? It was the Benz, hands down. That thing conferred me a St. Louis version of rockstar status whenever I drove it, but not one envious stare for the Caddy.

        Detroit just hadn’t caught up to the change in the market at this point (or didn’t want to).

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Fall of 1975. Purely anecdotal evidence based from extensively cruising around Toronto in these vehicles. So I was alive, driving and buying cars during the early/mid 70’s.

          The Old Man and his partner owned a large company. He drove a Mark IV, his partner a town car. The standard company cars that they provided were a choice of Grand Prix, Grand Torino Elites or Cordobas (just out).

          Two of their assistants (managers) drove Mercedes, as company cars. He borrowed them from time to time and of course I took them out when he brought them home.

          The Mercs never received the same adulation, recognition or respect as the Lincolns. They just did not have the ‘presence’. And one was a 450 SLC in a shade of orange. Driving around Yonge Street, Yorkville and even the Beaches, a Lincoln showed that you were ‘a Player’.

          When the leases came due, rather than buy-out the Mercedes, I bought an L82 Stingray and based on the reactions from members of the female gender, never regretted it, although it was ‘craptastic’.

          I will agree with the downsizing that started to occur in ’76, things changed dramatically and North American cars have never recovered in status or prestige. So your ’80 Eldorado (The Old Man hated his late 70’s Caddys) was ‘out’ and the German car was in. But by then Disco was also dead.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Pre-yuppies businessmans!

            Did they stick with Lincoln for the rest of their days?

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Corey: The Old Man gave up on Lincolns after his Mark V.

            Switched to Cadillac. Although he hated the downsized late 70’s and early 80’s vehicles. Then he got one of the first STS’s with a Northstar. Had one engine grenade with less than 5k on it. GM exchanged it for a new vehicle. Stayed with Caddy right until the end, although he did get a Grand Cherokee as his 2nd vehicle.

            He changed vehicles every year. Also got 2 year leases for his wife. A mixed bag that included a very nice, collectible Integra.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thanks. I like to hear how people move with the times when there’s a fundamental shift in cars – the Japanese shift, or the downsize shift after the fuel crisis.

            It occurs to me that in life, I have not yet experienced a major car shift. I don’t think the sudden popularity of the SUV counts.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Well, like you say…differences in taste. But I think German sedans had plenty of cachet by mid decade. If they hadn’t, then Detroit would not have shamelessly knocked off the Mercedes 450 as many times as it did (even the Nova got in on the act).

            And I don’t think Detroit luxury brand suffered for lack of fashion sense per se – their competition was obviously better by the late 1970s. There was a huge qualitative difference between their cars and, say, Mercedes by that time that was easy for consumers to pick up on. All you had to do was open and close the doors, or simply drive around and not have to listen to constant squeaking and rattling. Put differently: even if Caddy and Lincoln had restyled their cars to look exactly like a Mercedes inside and out, but used the same materials and mechanicals, the outcome would have been the same – anyone but a diehard loyalist of the brand would toss them overboard for a far better built car. That’s exactly what my dad did after two bad Caddys in the ’70s (a horrid ’75 Coupe de Ville with a bent frame and the aforementioned Eldo, which was also junky) – he went over to imports and never went back.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Mike: Agree that by the late 70’s there was a marked difference.

            By the mid 70’s in terms of performance, the D3 luxury marques were largely living off prestige built up from 1945 on.

            When the D3 downsized these vehicles, with the loss of size (phallic reference?) they also seemed to lose prestige and fall backwards in relation to their imported competition. But tastes also changed. Luxury prior to that in North American driving meant not feeling the road, the antithesis of BMW marketing.

            In the mid and early 70’s there certainly were no other vehicles that could rival a Lincoln regarding a soft and quiet ride. Their commercials emphasized this. Remember the jeweler cutting the diamond while riding in the backseat or the ads extolling the fact that the Cartier clock could be heard ticking because the the interior was so quiet (and I can confirm this was true)?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Depends on where you lived. Even in the 70s, nobody with any class cared about Lincoln and Cadillac on the coasts (unless they were elderly). Midwest, sure. The Germans and Swedes had taken the market for the younger crowd.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @krhodes: it makes a great sociological and demographic study but your assertion regarding ‘class’ is not accurate, although your observation regarding age/generation is.

          Among North American consumers who could afford a luxury car circa 1970 to 1976 the vast majority were born pre or during WWII.

          They aspired to large V-8 D3 luxo barges.

          German engineering had much different connotations to that generation, generally quite negative.

          It is only when the Boomers ‘came of age’ that German (and later Japanese) vehicles became aspirational for a large number of North American consumers.

          One had to be alive and engaged in business at the time. to experience this phenomena. For the majority if you bought German (and Japanese) it was largely out of dire necessity (cheap vehicles) prior to the ‘Energy Scare’.

          Where I am employed our owner is in his 80’s and to this day, there are unwritten rules regarding the use of ‘German’ vehicles as company cars.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I am talking about a bit later than the early 70s. This was in the late 70’s early 80’s, the era of this Cordoba. Neither my parents nor any of my friend’s parents had any interest in the big American luxobarges by that point. Grandparents, sure, as you say the WWII generation still wanted them, to a point. My stepfather, who was a bit older than the usual (14 years on my Mom) was an anomaly as he bought a loaded ’77 Grand Prix new (which was replaced with a Mercedes eventually), but my Mom had been driving used Porsches for a while at that point, and switched to new Saabs and Audis in the early ’80s. It was a sea of German and Swedish cars here by the time I graduated high school in ’87. The joke being the official car of my high school being the “hand-me-down Volvo” – there were dozens of them. As usual, the coasts set the trends, the middle of the country catches up later.

            I do find it interesting that my WWII Marine Corp torpedo bomber pilot grandfather was an early adopter of Japanese cars around here, having bought one of the first “new gen” Subarus off the boat in late ’79. But then he bought a (FWD) barge of an Oldsmobile 98 as a retirement present in ’84. And almost never drove it.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            khrodes,
            We got our Cordoba in the late summer of 1975, when these American luxobarges still ruled.

            Downsizing in US autos occurred, just after that. In fact the Cordoba was returned for a just released downsize Caprice Classic.

            So the demarcation line would have been probably the summer of 1977. Ironically, when Elvis died.

            As stated, you had to be in the market and working at the time to understand the underlying psyche.

            When you started driving in the mid 80’s that change had become entrenched. German cars were the new luxury norm (driven by Yuppies) and Japanese cars were top sellers.

            And as Corey alluded to there was a huge shift in attitudes/beliefs that occurred, in order for this to happen.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    About this time, I recall driving a 78 Caprice and a 79 Dodge Magnum (sister car to Cordoba) back to back. The Chevy had the F-41 sport suspension and could run circles around the Dodge, far classier look too. But, in the right context, Corinthian Leather did have certain appeal.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    The 78-79 Magnum was cool with the retractable clear plastic covers. Copied by the St. Regis.

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    I have to go against the grain of most of these comments. What a hideous tacky barge of a car, like most PLC’s but with an even uglier front end.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I’m still trying to figure what made 1970s velour, Vinyl, and cloth upholstery so durable. You would think the Koreans would want to know too. Whatever the secret was, it probably costs too much to duplicate today.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    My mother had a black Cordoba, with the red whorehouse interior. It was big, and comfortable. When it ran. It broke down a lot, as Chrysler’s tend to do.
    Then for some reason she got one of the smaller 81 models in blue. It was worse. All I remember is it being incredibly slow.

  • avatar

    Cooorrrdoba….dah nah nahhhh…

    In 1979 I had a college friend whose family gave him the 450 SL as a school car. It was light years ahead of any domestic in quality.

    It isn’t the same today, but back then, the differences were huuuge, as the Donald would say.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Detroit didn’t know how to deal with CAFE standards and tougher emissions, because they didn’t want to spend money on technology such as fuel injection, 3-way catalysts, OHC engines, or 5 speed gearboxes. So by the late 70s you had Chrysler and Ford products that had not yet been downsized but packing smaller smog-choked engines to boost the fleet average fuel economy (i.e. 302 or 255 instead of 351 ci, or 225 or 318 instead of 360/383). GM was a little better because they were ahead on the body downsizing, but they also used conventional technology in smaller engine sizes which decimated performance. In contrast the Germans, Swedes, and Japanese were offering way better technology and much better build quality, and it is not surprising that Big 3 market share went quickly downhill.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Here is an insightful comment from a ’78 Cordoba find of Murilee’s from which he pulled the magnificent Corinthian leather front seat.

    Kudos to ‘VanillaDude’ for originally posting this.

    VanillaDude
    January 26th, 2012 at 10:29 am
    These cars were bringing the finest in luxury home furnishing of the period, into a personal luxury car. Walnut paneling was very popular at this time. Wood veneer was quite the fashion. So filling the interior of a personal luxury car with faux wood trim was considered quality.

    Also, the Cordoba copied some styling themes from the Jaguar. Wood IP panels were considered exotic. Chrysler slathered faux wood upon everything, even upon knobs and buttons. Plush thick carpeting, especially in the trunk and on the spare tire was the height of luxury touches. The very idea of finishing the trunk with these touches seemed so elegant in an era when trunks were forgotten black holes filled with wires, unadorned structural braces, smelly fresh rubber full sized spares, and cold hard metal surfaces.

    Air conditioning changed culture, including car culture, a great deal. These kinds of interiors would not have been offered in the age before air conditioning. No one wants to sweat all over these materials within this kind of decor. One of the reasons we have this personal luxury car interior happening is because drivers could sit in air conditioned luxury within a car, as they could their homes. Car interiors couldn’t be glamorous except in luxury cars with air conditioning. When a/c became standard, we can see a demand for similar luxury touches in smaller, more affordable, cars. The personal luxury car begins a chapter best called “affordable luxury”. That was not done before. It was new. And buyers ate this crap up with a plastic spoon.

    Women were buying cars during this era at a never-before rate. Ladies are more comfortable within a comfortable car interior, than within a car interior built for spills, families and dogs. Women were working and the second car was hers. This created a new marketing niche filled with profits. It is simply amazing how one can take a dated Road Runner and turn it into a silk purse filled with profitable options as a personal luxury car.

    I know these cars don’t appeal today to most buyers. Considering their build quality, performance and design features, these cars appear insane. So, it is important to respectfully understand how sane and rational folks would spend their hard earned wages on this kind of vehicle. People weren’t crazy. To them, a Chrysler Cordoba was something to desire.


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