By on April 19, 2022

We finish up our Abandoned History coverage of the long-lived UltraDrive transmission today. The pursuit of simplification, modernization, less weight, and better fuel economy lead to the creation of the electronically controlled four-speed A604 marketed as UltraDrive. The idea floated around at Chrysler in the Seventies and then was greenlit and put into production (before it was ready) by an eager Lee Iacocca. A case of unfortunate timing, the new transmission arrived in 1989 at a time when there was almost no exciting news in Chrysler’s product portfolio. Thus the UltraDrive name was coined by marketing, and the new and advanced transmission was featured heavily in the company’s PR materials in 1989 and 1990.

The UltraDrive’s debut version was prone to numerous types of failures because of fluids and sensors, build quality, parts, really everything. But engineers at Chrysler quickly massaged the A604 into the improved 41TE that was ready for use midway through the 1990 build year. UltraDrive was up and running within acceptable reliability standards per Chrysler. Clearly, it was time to create more UltraDrive variations!

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By on April 11, 2022

Today we reach the 22nd and final installment in the Imperial series. In our last edition, we reviewed the development and birth of the final production car to wear the Imperial name: The super-extended K-car platform known as the Y-body. Lee Iacocca was keen on the idea of a full-size luxury sedan for the elderly customer, but Chrysler had neither the resources nor the platform to do it properly. Thus the Y-body appeared, and its angular and pencil-thin shape went on sale in 1990 alongside the similarly lengthened Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue. Speaking of angles, let’s talk about that sweet money-saving clip swap action.

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By on April 7, 2022

The recent Rare Rides Icons post on the 1990 Chrysler Imperial Super-K Gingerbread Cookie Edition generated a few comments not only about the subject in question but its four-speed UltraDrive transmission. It seems more than one of you wants a discussion – no – an essay on the UltraDrive. Wish granted! Here we go.

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By on April 6, 2022

We find ourselves at the final two installments of the long-running Imperial series today. It’s been almost six months since the first Imperial entry, when a new model was dreamt up by Chrysler’s founder as competition for the likes of Pierce-Arrow and Studebaker. The Imperial name outlived most of the Twenties competition it was designed to beat, though along the way it drifted both nearer and further to the original mission. The concluding entrant into the Imperial lineage was definitely the weakest ever. K-car time, commence!

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By on March 25, 2022

Here we are, the 20th installment of the Imperial series. We’ve covered the Imperial’s inception as a coach-built car for the wealthy, through its Fifties rebirth as an independent brand with hand-built quality that rivaled the best luxury car makers had to offer. From there Imperial’s tale was ups and downs (mostly downs) as Chrysler’s luxury arm continually found itself less independent, and more tied to the New Yorker.

But after its sad Seventies cancellation, it was time for an Eighties rebirth under the direction of CEO Lee Iacocca. He was determined to make the best, most exclusive American personal luxury coupe money could buy. To date we’ve learned about the angular bustle back exterior, the J-body Cordoba platform underneath, and the Cordoba-plus leather-lined interior, by Mark Cross. Today we continue with Iacocca’s close personal friend, Frank Sinatra (or ‘FS’ if you’re talking badges.)

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By on March 15, 2022

We return to our Imperial series again today, and the third installment on the all-new personal luxury coupe Lee Iacocca launched in 1981 to resurrect the historical Imperial name. Unlike every other Imperial to date, the new one was available only in two-door coupe guise. The new car had the dual mission of bringing luxury car credibility back to Chrysler, and grabbing some high margin luxury coupe sales from GM and in particular, Lincoln and the Continental Mark VI. We’ve covered the exterior and the underpinnings, so today we slide into the interior, which is most definitely not covered in Rich Corinthian Leather.

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By on March 7, 2022

In our most recent installment of our long-running Imperial coverage, the Eighties dawned with a resurrection of the Imperial name and the debut of an exciting new personal luxury coupe. Chrysler’s new chairman Lee Iacocca was determined to recreate the runaway success he’d had at Ford with the Lincoln Continental Mark III. But that meant a simultaneous ask that luxury coupe buyers ignore the very recent financial troubles that plagued the Detroit automaker. And while the exterior of the new Imperial coupe was all bustleback and new angles, its platform and mechanicals were not quite as exciting. Let’s talk about Mirada, Cordoba, and the reliability benefits of electronic fuel injection.

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By on February 25, 2022

In our last Imperial entry, we found the brand’s run came to an end. In production since 1926 and an independent brand since 1955, the Imperial fizzled out to nothing after 1975. Chrysler closed its luxury Imperial division, and the once proud two- and four-door Imperials were stripped of some standard features and rebranded into the Brougham trim of the New Yorker. The Imperial name had come a long way from its beginnings as a super luxurious coach built car for the wealthy, and ended up as a slightly nicer New Yorker with more formal front and rear clips. But 1975 was not the end of the Imperial’s story, as a particular Chrysler CEO had big Imperial aspirations. To get to that point for Imperial, let’s talk about Ford.

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By on September 13, 2021

1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati in Colorado junkyard, LH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWith The General offering a costlier-than-an-S-Class Cadillac built in Turin and Hamtramck (the two assembly lines connected via custom-built 747 freighters) as well as Italianate Buicks and Oldsmobiles in the late 1980s, Lee Iacocca decided to leverage Chrysler’s investment in Maserati to create a K-Car-based Italian sports car: the TC by Maserati. Like the Allanté, Troféo, and Reatta, the TC hasn’t held its value so well over the decades, and I find the occasional example during my junkyard travels. Here’s a crashed ’91 in a yard near Denver, Colorado. (Read More…)

By on August 26, 2021

In Part V of the Rare Rides series on the Eagle Premier, I mentioned an abandoned project at Chrysler called Liberty. Announced in 1985, Liberty was supposed to be a direct challenge to GM’s recently announced Saturn brand. Or it wasn’t, depending on what day of the week Liberty was addressed.

Chrysler’s PR department and CEO Lee Iacocca seemed at odds on what the Liberty project was, but they were both sure it was very important and it would build something, probably.

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By on May 24, 2021

1983 Chrysler New Yorker in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhen Lee Iacocca’s K-cars finally hit American showrooms for the 1981 model year, the ax that had seemed poised over Chrysler’s neck for much of the late 1970s seemed to pull back. For model year 1983, a stretched version of the K chassis became the basis of such luxurious machines as the Dodge 600, Plymouth Caravelle, and Chrysler E-Class. Just to confuse everybody, the New Yorker line bifurcated that year, with the New Yorker Fifth Avenue remaining on the same platform as the rear-wheel-drive Dodge Diplomat and the regular New Yorker becoming an E-platform sibling to the 600/E-Class/Caravelle. Here’s one of those first-year New Yorkers, found in very clean condition in a Denver-area self-service yard last week. (Read More…)

By on August 12, 2019

1984 Dodge 600 in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOnce Lee Iacocca’s front-wheel-drive K-cars brought Chrysler back from near-death and into profitability, the platform became the basis of a sprawling family of K-related relatives. One of the earliest spinoffs was the E Platform, a lengthened K that gave us the Chrysler E-Class/New Yorker, the Plymouth Caravelle, and the Dodge 600. Just to confuse matters, the Dodge 600 coupe remained a true K, sibling to the Dodge Aries.

That’s what we’ve got here, and this Denver 600 coupe has some stories to tell. (Read More…)

By on July 3, 2019

Digging up names from the past is a popular hobby at most car makers, to the point that a few of them would be well served to hire their own archaeologists to smooth out the process. Some are wantonly ditched prematurely in the pursuit of alphanumerics (*ahem* Legend, Vigor *ahem*) while others are relegated to the dustbin of history after being appended to a particularly horrid car.

Others simply slip away into the night like a silent bandit after the shuttering of its brand. Voyager is one of these, with FCA deciding to trot it out again and apply it to entry-level versions of the Pacifica (which, by itself, is a recycled name).

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By on July 3, 2019

fca

It’s seldom spoken of publicly, but every writer keeps in the back of his or her mind an obituary they hope to never pen. In this keyboard jockey’s case, that obit would be the one you’re reading now.

Tuesday night brought word that Lee Iacocca — era-defining auto executive, marketer extraordinaire, outspoken patriot and critic — passed away at the age of 94. Lia Iacocca Assad says her father died of complications from Parkinson’s disease at his Bel-Air, California home, The Washington Post reports. (Read More…)

By on November 19, 2018

1982 Dodge 400 in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Lee Iacocca’s original Chrysler K Platform spawned an incomprehensible tangle of K-related offspring between the 1981 and 1995 model years, but only a few U.S.-market models were true K-Cars: the Chrysler LeBaron, Plymouth Reliant, Dodge Aries, Dodge 600, and Dodge 400.

Of these, the 400 has been the hardest for me to find in the self-service wrecking yards I frequent; in fact, this is the first junkyard Dodge 400 I’ve photographed. (Read More…)

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