HOW THE CHRYSLER CORDOBA SAVED THE COMPANY

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The mid 1970s were a rough for car companies because the recession that started in 1973 was still around in ’75.

Oil prices piled on the problems for Detroit because they had to face the music on the fuel economy front.

There were also smog rules and bumper rules–1975 was a low point for companies like Chrysler, so they were close to the financial cliff.

Jerry Sutherland

Chrysler needed something to spark their lineup, because the Hemicudas were four years in the past and B-bodies had become de facto taxicabs and police cars instead of muscle car classics. The legendary Plymouth Road Runner had lost its performance mojo by 1975, so the Chrysler Corp muscle car had been de-tuned by edict—not choice.

Chrysler was stuck in the middle of an over-legislated world, so they had to come up with a viable plan to keep the creditors away from the doorstep.    

The answer came in the form of the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba. Personal luxury car sales took flight in 1970 with the Chevy Monte Carlo. Purists will point to cars like the 1956 Lincoln Mark II as the advent of the personal luxury car era followed by the Thunderbirds, Rivieras, Toronados and Eldorados of the 1960s. Nevertheless, the Monte Carlo was an affordable personal luxury car—that was the target market for the Cordoba.

The first Chrysler Cordoba debuted in the spring of 1970 as a special edition package. It was a paint and trim concept—not a specially designed car, but it did well for sales that year.

The next Chrysler Cordoba was almost a Plymouth. Chrysler wanted a fancier Plymouth Sebring hardtop for 1975, but the Monte Carlos still sold extremely well, so the Cordoba was born. They built the Cordoba on the B-body platform, so this compact Chrysler had a 116-inch wheelbase. For perspective, the 1975 New Yorker Brougham two-door hardtop rode on a 124-inch wheelbase. 

The term compact may seem strange when you’re referring to a ’75 Cordoba, but it was considerably smaller than its C-body New Yorker cousin. Despite its B-body origins, the Cordoba was a big step up on your uncle’s B-body 1975 Plymouth Fury coupe. There was a running joke at the time about the “fine Corinthian leather”—as actor Ricardo Montalban called it, in the TV ads back in ’75.

The leather may not have been upscale leather because it was the same leather found in every other Chrysler, but the interiors of the Cordoba were far more well-appointed than your uncle’s Fury. There were many other upscale touches like carpeted trunks and spare tire covers, plus the landau lights and the gold coin hood ornament. The grille and headlights were more Europe than Detroit, but under the skin it was all 1975 B-body—a taxicab with class.

As mentioned, Chrysler was teetering on the brink of oblivion, but the Cordoba line sold an unexpected 150,000 cars in 1975 when the rest of lineup was floundering. Sales increased to a respectable 165,000 in ’76 and levelled off at 147,000 in ’77.  

The Cordoba may not have rung every Mopar fan’s bell then–or now—but every Mopar guy on the planet owes a debt of gratitude to Chrysler’s personal luxury car.  

Jerry Sutherland

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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