By on August 14, 2020

Rare Rides has featured plenty of Chrysler vehicles before, and some of them were even as large as today’s range-topping sedan. But none of them had quite as much trim as today’s subject.

From the last gasp of the truly full-size offerings from domestic manufacturers, it’s the 1979 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue Edition.

New Yorker was a long-lived nameplate at Chrysler. In 1938 it was introduced as a slightly cheaper variant of the Imperial. Branching off from Imperial was an auspicious start, as that model was Chrysler’s top-of-the-line car since 1926. In 1940, New Yorker became its own model, and debuted with its own body separate to Imperial.

Through the decades, New Yorker stayed the course as the company’s offering to those who couldn’t spring for the ultimate-luxury Imperial. Always a full-size car, the New Yorker was sold for many years in five body styles. With two doors it was a hardtop or a convertible, and with four doors it was a sedan, hardtop, or wagon. Things started to change for the nameplate in the Sixties, when the wagon and convertible vanished for 1965.

Chrysler didn’t let its New Yorker get too stale, and the generations typically lasted three to five model years. 1978 marked the ninth generation’s fifth model year, and, as with all car manufacturers in the period, big changes were expected. Fuel economy needed to increase, and size had to do the opposite.

Chrysler complied in 1979, when the 10th-generation New Yorker debuted. The new model moved from the old C-body to the smaller R-body, the platform a response to the wildly successful downsized ’77 full-sizers from General Motors. Because Chrysler was not exactly flush with cash at the time, the R platform was a rework of the B-body from the Dodge Dart of 1962. While the wheelbase decreased six inches (to 118.5″) for ’79, overall length was down 13 inches. Chrysler still needed full-size dimensions, and managed via some truly impressive overhangs at either end. The New Yorker was 221.5 inches long, which is three inches shy of the 2020 Chevy Suburban. New Yorker was joined by three other new cars, albeit of lower class aspirations: Chrysler’s Newport, the Dodge St. Regis, and the Plymouth Gran Fury (with the latter car arriving for 1980).

Keeping in mind the Imperial name disappeared after 1975 from Chrysler’s lineup, New Yorker was the marque’s flagship vehicle. Pleasing both traditional and progressive luxury enthusiasts, New Yorker was offered in a singular body style — a pillared hardtop. It featured a high specification of trim, unique flip-down headlamps, and a tiered heckblende at the rear. While the lesser R-body derivations offered an available Slant Six, the New Yorker was solely propelled by V8s. The largest 360 (5.9L) engine of 1979 was the smallest available on New Yorker in 1978. Skinflints could also select the 318 (5.2L), but engine selection ceased for 1980.

Options for New Yorker were limited, and included the Fifth Avenue Edition package from introduction. In 1980, the 360 V8 option disappeared, but Chrysler made up for it with a new luxury package in addition to the Fifth Avenue Edition, called Fifth Avenue Limited Edition. That version features a stainless roof panel and dark brown metallic paint. In 1981 the New Yorker saw its last independent year for a while, as the R-body faded away — a sales failure. A new grille for its final year heralded the merger of the Fifth Avenue and New Yorker names in 1982, in the more successful luxury version of the M-body Dodge Diplomat.

Today’s Rare Ride is for sale in Pennsylvania. With 42,000 miles and a 360 V8, this chocolate bar is an unusually well-preserved car. The ask of $8,995 is much less than the $50,000 inflation adjusted price in 1979.

[Images: seller]

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63 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1979 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue Edition – Big and Brown...”


  • avatar
    Cicero

    Until just now I never realized that the ’79 New Yorker had a tiered heckblende.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Despite myself, I like this car. And back in 1979 I would have derided it as inferior to the competing cars offered by Lincoln or Cadillac.

    And ‘tiered heckblende’? Thanks, I learned something new today.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Well at least it has the 360 – it would be fun to play with that engine after stripping the emissions stuff off of it or updating to things like high-flow catalytic converters. Play around with the gear ratios in the rear.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Obviously the Lean Burn has to be either rebuilt or with many of them replaced with a performance carb like a Carter.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        4 barrel intake if it doesn’t already have one from the factory.

        Simple TBI set up.

        Dual exhausts with crossover and high flow cats.

        I’d wager real money that it would run cleaner on a smog test after you were done than it did from the factory.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I’ve never seen one of the these with 26 inch wire rims but it certainly cries out for the look.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    A good looking car let down by poor execution, a common Chrysler failing. That interior is miles better than Cadillac’s “whores drawers” look of the period.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Glorious excess and opulence.

    If the real skinflints had their way, these would come special order with a Slant 6. Just think of the stoplight races with those diesel Chevettes we were talking about in the other article.

    That material covering the seats… fine leather… I’ve seen such leather somewhere before… but where…

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Well they did cut some costs. Notice that the driver’s side view mirror is moved using a manual ‘toggle’ rather than being a power operated mirror. I don’t see in the pictures a toggle for the passenger side mirror on the instrument panel.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        As I recall, “toggle” operated mirrors were pretty commonplace in those days, Arthur.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          I remember when passenger side mirrors were rare. And they were optional extras on many cars right up until the early 1980’s.
          However and I am racking my memory regarding this, I believe that Lincoln and Cadillac were using power operated mirrors by this time?And in the absence of a toggle on the instrument panel does this vehicle have one on the passenger side/door, like a mid-level domestic vehicle of this era might have?
          Being unsuccessful in finding any evidence of when power side view mirrors became available, I would appreciate any feedback.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            They could have been using power mirrors in the ’70s but I seem to remember that being a ’80s invention. That’s just memory, of course.

          • 0 avatar
            justVUEit

            As a wrack the cobwebs of my mind, I believe electrically adjusted mirrors first appeared in the Corvette, around the mid-’80s. Everything up to that point had cable adjustments via the little joystick. Passenger side mirrors were not widespread, being standard on higher-level trims but optional on others.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            This is quite upsetting. I keep closing my eyes and trying to remember the interior of the Pucci Mark IV or My Old Man’s Lincolns and Cadillacs of the 70’s and for the life of me, I cannot remember if any had power side window adjusters. I can picture the instrument panels, the interiors and remember looking out over those hoods you could land a helicopter on. Even remember the look and location of all the cigar lighters. And that the Eldorado had a pair of little red lights that you could see in the rear view mirror to remind you that the turn signal was on. But I cannot remember if they used toggles or power switches for the side view mirrors. This getting old stinks!

            Now base grocery getters have options that were not even available on large luxury land yachts.

          • 0 avatar
            SqueakyVue

            To piggyback off Dan the poverty spec Caviler’s passenger mirror was an “option” all the way up until 1995. Had a friend buy a leftover base model sans mirror in 96 for around 8500 IIRC Time really needs to take a break.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            Eldorados had remote adjustable right side mirrors at least as early as 1972. The trouble is that being in a automotive engineering family that evaluated and owned a lot of different cars, the childhood memories kind of blur together.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            It seems like the term “remote mirrors” was a fancy way of saying “cable-actuated adjustment” not “electric adjustment”.

            Check out 5:01 of Doug’s video to see the system in action:
            youtube.com/watch?v=HxHfrc60k8M

            Then here’s the brochure page from the 1977 Eldorado. Notice how it refers to “remote control” mirrors and trunk release, which appear to mechanical features while they use the descriptor “power” for any electric features.
            lov2xlr8.no/brochures/cadillac/77eldo/bilder/6.jpg

            I also looked through some GM parts catalogs and couldn’t see any 70s side mirrors for Cadillac or Buick that appeared electrically adjustable.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @ajila: Aha, cable-controlled. That’s what I kind of expected. I remembered them being adjustable and suspected it was probably by cable. Some older cars I’m familiar with used old-school methods for remote-controlled parts. Like vacuum-actuated power door locks on the Thunderbird.

      • 0 avatar
        Tomifobia

        The seller posted a pic of the original window sticker in his listing. Flag mirrors, LH remote, RH manual. NC.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          So did this confirm that all of us who are old enough to have driven those cars, are too old to remember some specific details? That is scary.

          Thanks @Tomifobia. If the passenger side (RH) mirror is manual that means that the original purchaser either did not spend to option up to a remote one of that this vehicle in that regard was lacking something that by that time was standard on a Cadillac or Lincoln.

          I did of course have vehicles that did not have passenger side mirrors.

          My Old Man’s Eldorado had the motorized trunk. Something that the Lincoln’s did not. He burnt it out twice in one year.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    This was only the beginning for the full-sizers from Chrysler, by the time it was over the New Yorker/5th Ave/Imperial were nothing more then stretched K-cars :(

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      IIRC, this car was actually based on the chassis of the previous midsized Plymouth and Dodge models (the Satellite/Fury and Coronet/Monaco) that Chrysler sold from, I believe, 1971 to 1978.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    This 40-year old Chrysler is almost as long as a 2020 Suburban, yet weighs *significantly* less than a current Mazda CX-9.

    (Guess which has thicker sheet metal?)

    Modern engineers with their modern materials and cutting-edge weight-optimization expertise are amazingly awesome.

    …sips coffee

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Let’s see how well the passengers in this “lightweight “ Chrysler hold up on a crash versus a CX-9.

      I know which vehicle I’d rather be in when things go sideways.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        When my wife’s 4200 lb Terrain had a “fender bender” which basically ended up necessitating replacing most of the front end we came out of it unharmed. The flatbed driver was nice enough to drop us back at home (it was a Saturday and the accident happened a few blocks from home). Across the street was the neighbors mid 70s Continental Town Car.

        The driver remarked – “If you’d have been in that the car would probably look pretty good but you’d be severely injured. Your newer car did what it was designed to do – sacrifice itself.”

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Exactly!

          Granted, the present-day porkers gracing our driveways and roadways are heavy because of more than just safety/crashworthiness (the early Volvo 240s were as light as 2800lbs curb weight for the basic 2 door coupé with a manual transmission and no a/c). The creature comforts add a lot to it too.

          The weight of all those toys adds up- power windows aren’t any heavier than crank windows, but power seats, heated seats, heated everything, a bazillion speaker premium sound system, a couple of mini TVs to keep the love goblins electronically sedated, dual and multi-zone climate control, 12V plugs for everybody… Quiet makes for a heavy car too.

          It’s pretty amazing what we believe we “need” these days and it’s a far cry from burning ourselves on the vinyl seats of grandma’s Chrysler Newport and alternately playing “I spy with my little eye” and fighting with our siblings… but It’s what the customer happily pays for these days.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Exactly. All that weight and complexity is there for a reason.

          Plus, I bet your wife’s Terrain would put about 90% of late-’70s “performance cars” on a trailer.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      Postulated so far:
      1) Ceteris paribus, denser materials and higher weight improve crashworthiness and overall safety
      2) Ceteris paribus, heavier vehicles are quicker

      Validation homework:
      1) Compare the mass of the steel front bumper in the first picture with the mass of the foam CX-9 front bumper absorber (behind the bumper cover).
      2) Compare 0-60 times of your current daily driver with and without two NFL linebackers in the back seat [if your vehicle has no back seat, place 640 cubic inches of depleted uranium in the front passenger footwell instead].

      My results:
      1) The lighter bumper system is on the safer vehicle.
      2) Increased mass (ceteris paribus) did not improve my acceleration times.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Any modern car is safer than any 1979 car because modern cars have a steel safety structure around the passenger compartment, and all those airbags add weight as well. Bumpers have zero to do with it.

        And as far as why Dan’s GMC would waste the New Yorker, that answer is easy too: more horsepower and a far better, quicker-shifting transmission.

        Ceteris paribus, indeed!

  • avatar
    geozinger

    In hindsight, these are fabulous cars. The reality was, the Chrysler Corporation of the late 1970’s was a dead car company walking. While the concepts of the products were good, the execution was bad, really bad. It added up to a whole lot of negative feelings about the cars, whether you had a good one or not.

    My FIL had the 1980 version of this car and it was sad. The car itself was very nice, well-equipped and rather stylish for the era. But it was assembled haphazardly and performed poorly. He couldn’t wait to be done with it, but since it was a company car and their biggest client was Chrysler Corporation, guess what he was going to get in 1981?

    Now more than ever, you realize what a monumental task Iacocca had in front of him when he took the reigns in 1978. If you would have asked me in 1980 that the Chrysler Corporation was going to survive, me and many, many other people would have said no. As it was, I ended up becoming a fan of the later 80’s FWD Mopars and still would like a recent Hemi Challenger as a trophy car…

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I recall the part of Lee Iaccoca’s biography where he talked about his early years at Chrysler – the product was such garbage that his wife actually threw shade on the company cars he brought home for being so junky.

      She was right! My aunt, uncle and grandparents on my mom’s side had various Chrysler products from this era, and it was all garbage.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I had relatives with fuselage era 69-73 Chryslers and Plymouth’s that were very well built with excellent panel fit and great paint. Our family were the Dart/Valiant buyers and those were well made. You could see Mopars quality and reliability decline from the all new 74 and up full sizers as well as the 76-80 Volare/Aspen.The Mitsubishi built Colt and Arrow were quite decent.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          You nailed the time period perfectly. The 1973 oil embargo drastically reduced Chrysler’s profits, mostly from the full sized cars, and Chrysler pinned its hopes on production of the Volare/Aspen twins, letting the Dart/Valiant and Duster/Demon money makers go. The lack of cash to fix the rushed new models and meet emissions nearly killed Chrysler before Iacocca arrived.

          • 0 avatar
            BobinPgh

            One question that was asked about the Chrysler bailout was: Besides build unreliable gas guzzlers, what has Chrysler done to benefit humanity? Turns out the answer is provide jobs, so the company was bailed out just to save the jobs. Even today the question is: What does FCA do to benefit humanity? You have to think about the answer.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    If I had money and room, I wouldn’t mind this car.

    If I had money, room and talent, I’d put a more modern power train and underpinnings in it and enjoy. I’m not saying “all things Hellcat” but even a Pentastar or modern 5.7 would be great.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Forget about the heckblende – check that alligator-skin carriage roof! This car’s pimp had was STRONG, baby!

    But as with all Chrysler products of this vintage, quality was laughable. My aunt and grandparents each had one, and both were absolute garbage. Apparently they were all in tight with a Chrysler dealership, so my aunt went full Marquis DeSade and traded hers on a ’80 Cordoba, which was also trash.

    For fun, follow the sales listing link, and gaze upon this car’s epic-fail body panel fits.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    This car is not Chrysler’s best example. They slapped it together and shoved it out the door. They were in survival mode for sure. And for all the hating on Chrysler, I have had a very good ownership experience with mopar products all the way back to the 60s. It’s not BS. I was a GM man and got burned repeatedly. Ford was so-so but Chryco stuff simply didn’t breakdown for me. Small stuff ya, but not the myriad major breakdowns experienced with GM/Ford (especially GM). Musta got lucky.. -shrug-

    • 0 avatar
      teddyc73

      I have had great experiences with Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram products over many years. So have by parents and brother. I’m so sick and tired of the on going poor quality accusations directed at Chrysler. It’s bunk.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The police department in the town I grew up in had the R-body Dodge St. Regis with the police package which included the 360ci heavy duty suspension and larger slotted wheels. For some reason they kept the attractive clear retractable headlight doors propped open.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    During the Summer of 1979 Chrysler had tent sales to get rid of excess inventory which they had parked on ball field lots, shopping center lots, and anywhere they could park new unsold cars. During that time I had a 77 Monte Carlo and I was out of work so any interest I had no interest in buying a new car especially a Chrysler product. Later I did have an 84 Chrysler 5th Avenue that was my mothers which was slightly better quality but it had electrical issues, poor body hardware, and a not so good electronic carburetor. I am not a Chrysler fan especially since FCA but I am no longer a GM or Ford fan.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    This is most famous as the car John Travolta recorded crashing in the 1981 movie Blow Out.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparmann

      Enjoyed that movie, and it has been in rotation lately! :-)

    • 0 avatar
      SilverCoupe

      That road is called Lincoln Drive (not New Yorker Fifth Avenue Drive). That is the route that I take to get from my neighborhood to center city Philadelphia, back when I had a reason to go into town. That route in to town is one of the reasons I bought in my neighborhood. Much more fun than an expressway. I generally go at double the posted speed limit of 25, though. In my current car that is easy; back when I had the ’64 Riviera, it was not so easy!

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Chrysler had produced a special edition of the New Yorker Fifth Avenue, which was two-toned creme and gold. Among other features, it included a special wide-whitewall tire with a gold stripe–one of which appears to be on the passenger side rear of this car. I wonder if they can be sourced.

  • avatar
    Super555

    She is beautiful! Well preserved. I would love to drive it.

  • avatar
    Super555

    She is beautiful! Well preserved. I would love to drive it. Oh an obligatory question: 392 Hemi or Hellcat swap?

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    To see one of these with working headlight doors, interior carpet pieces that aren’t falling off, closed windows that you could stick your finger through the gaps and bumper trim coverings that aren’t warping is truly a miracle. Being a 1979I I would bet the owner had many of these items re-done as the abysmal factory quality control on these was well documented. Consumer Guide and Reports said it best. These were stop gap downsized cars based on ancient underpinnings that performed poorly compared to the competition. They both recommended a GM B-body or Ford Panther instead.

    I remember reading a write up on the New Yorker for 1980 in one of the auto rags back in the day. The lone engine choice was a 120 hp 318 Lean Burn V8 moving around over 4000 LBS. I remember looking at that several times and wondering if it was a mistake. Then I saw that a 130 HP 360 was also available for perhaps California buyers. Suddenly the 120 HP figure that my 1981 Grand Prix made didn’t seem so bad being that it was only a little 4.3 liter 265 moving around 3300 LBS!

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