Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Chrysler Cordoba was the name of an intermediate personal luxury coupe sold by Chrysler Corporation in the North America from 1975 to 1983. It was the company's first model produced expressly for the personal luxury market and the first Chrysler-branded vehicle that was less than full-size. In the early 1960s, when other upmarket brands were expanding into smaller cars with such models as the Mercury Comet and Buick Skylark, the company had very publicly declared that there would "never" be a smaller Chrysler. Historians of the marque noted later that "never" on the Chrysler timeline had equaled not quite fifteen years.
Although the Cordoba name was generally thought to be taken from the Spanish city, the car's emblem was actually a stylized version of the Argentine cordoba coin. Either way, the implication was Hispanic, and this theme was carried out with somewhat baroque trim inside and by having Mexican movie star Ricardo Montalban as the car's advertising spokesman. However, comedians noted that his eloquent praise of its "fine Corinthian leather" interior seemed to indicate either Greece or Mississippi as a design influence. ("Corinthian leather" was a meaningless term invented for the purpose, but the term has come to mean leather with a vinyl surface treatment that requires little care)
Fortunately, geographic coherence was not required for success in the intermediate personal luxury market. What was needed was a combination of eye-catching styling, lots of options, affordable price, and at least the appearance of prestige. The Cordoba delivered all of these in spades and became one of Chrysler's few genuine hits of the 1970s. Demand actually exceeded supply for its first couple of years, when production was over 150,000 annually. Half of Chrysler division production during this period was composed of Cordobas, and it has been theorized that without this one model the corporation would have skidded into crisis several years sooner than it did.
The car had several things going for it. The personal luxury market overall was large and growing. Cordoba's debut styling was genuinely well proportioned and graceful, and is still considered one of Chrysler's better efforts. Perhaps most importantly, it carried the Chrysler name, then associated exclusively with large luxury models like the Imperial, but it was priced to compete with relatively plebeian rivals such as the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Ford Elite . The Cordoba was originally intended to be a Plymouth (and likely would have been called something else) but the losses from the newly introduced full-size C-body in 1974 (at the heels of the onset of the Energy Crisis) needed to be balanced out somewhat by predicting higher sales of a "smaller" downsized Chrysler. This is well illustrated by the fact that its similar and somewhat cheaper corporate cousin, the Dodge Charger SE, only sold about a quarter as well.
The original design endured with only very small changes for three years. For 1978, there was a modest restyling, easily recognized by new square headlights, used in a stacked configuration. This was generally considered to have bloated the original sculpted body and demand fell. The deteriorating financial position and quality reputation of Chrysler during this period did not help, and rising gas prices and tightening fuel economy standards made its nearly 4,000 lb. weight and 360 and 400 CID V-8 options obsolete. In its final year, the original Cordoba provided the platform for a short-lived revival of the Chrysler 300 name. The Cordoba was then downsized for 1980.
The new smaller model was based on a platform tracing back to the 1976 Plymouth Volare and was twinned up with the newly-named but very similar Dodge Mirada. Both cars now had a standard six-cylinder engine (the famous 225 Slant Six), which while very reliable did not seem to be suitable power for these allegedly upmarket coupes. (There was a much detuned 318 V-8 as an option.) The second-generation Cordoba's styling, although not unpleasant, did not attract the praise of the orignal, and sales were off substantantially. It is true that downsizing was tough on personal luxury models generally; both the Monte Carlo in 1978 and the Ford Thunderbird in this same year of 1980 shrank in size and sales simultaneously. But those models eventually recovered, while the smaller Cordoba never did. Chrysler was increasingly concentrating on its compact, front-drive models with modern, sensible four- and six-cylinder engines, and management finally pulled the plug on the Cordoba in 1983.
Today the 'Doba, as it is known to its fans, maintains a fairly loyal owner base and in some models is considered collectible. The very early production 1975's, particularly with optional four-barrel carburetion, and the quite rare Cordoba-based 300 of 1979 are the most valuable. The smaller body has attracted little interest in the collector market so far.
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