The Chrysler Corporation certainly had its share of ups and downs between the 1950s and 1970s. The shrunken and bizarrely-styled 1962 full-sizers (a misinterpreted response to the 1962 Chevrolet “Chevy II”) was the Airflow all over again.
Only the clean, attractive new full-size cars of 1965, courtesy of Elwood Engel’s deft hand, saved Chrysler’s bacon, and brought Mopar’s coffers back up to par. The 1965-68 Chryslers were well-made, handsome and brought back a fair share of luster to Chrysler’s pre-1957 engineering credibility.
So, why were they called Fuselage? Simple. As period sales catalogs and advertisements explained, the cars’ design was meant to recall aircraft design–a road-going 747, if you will. Their most prominent feature was a profile that was one consistent curve from the rocker panels to the roof.
It was a big change, not only for Chrysler but for the industry, as the roofs of most contemporary domestic rolling stock appeared to be separate from the body, with a ridge between the tops of the fenders and the A, B and C-pillars.
I’ve always found the curved sides rather attractive. Unfortunately, approximately 82% of these cars had a vinyl roof, which effectively masked the car’s most prominent styling feature. At any rate, however, they quite cleanly styled in all variants.
Though I must admit, the Plymouths had a bit of an anonymous look, unless it was a more heavily decorated Sport Fury or VIP. But I discussed the “Low Priced Three” version of the Fuselage Mopar last year. So let’s focus on the Chrysler version today, shall we?
The new biggies looked good. Clean, modern, and with plenty of optional extras that folks wanted when shopping amongst the upper middle class brands: Chrysler, Buick, Oldsmobile and Mercury. But remember those intermittent Chrysler Corporation crises? Well, they were due for another one.
Yes, around the same time the fuselage C-bodies were introduced, a brand new period of panic presented itself at Highland Park corporate headquarters. Today, we can look back at cool cars like the E-body Challenger and Barracuda, Charger Daytona, Superbird, GTX and Road Runner and think, “Gee, Chrysler was at the top of its game with such a great lineup!”
That wasn’t the case, however, as Chrysler started to experience slipping sales-once again!-starting in early 1970. The fuselage cars were not horrible sellers per se, but still were not meeting management’s high hopes for the all-new models: 260,771 full-size 1969 Chryslers were built. That was below 1968 Chrysler production of 264,863-and the ’68s were a three-year old design!
Things got much worse as 1970 advanced. Model year production dropped by 30%. Chrysler was, once again, moving from the “fat” years of 1964-68 to another all too common “lean” period. It didn’t help that Chrysler quality remained hit-or-miss despite the company’s efforts to shed the rusty tin can reputation that started with the rushed-into-production 1957 models.
As I’ve been told by friends who are perpetual Mopar
masochists fans (I kid, I kid!), if you got a good one, you got a REALLY good one. An excellent one, that would be excellently screwed together and provide years of faithful service. But if you got a bad one, you got a really, REALLY BAD ONE. Russian near-luxury car roulette, anyone? Sure, GM’s taken a beating from hackneyed bloggers over the past thirty years, but in the ’60s and ’70s, their reputation was still sterling. No one fretted about buying a new Electra or Ninety-Eight LS. With Chrysler, there was a little bit more concern.
But enough of Chrysler’s corporate ups and downs; let’s focus on the car itself. There’s something about a Chrysler New Yorker that always catches my interest. In my opinion, “Chrysler New Yorker,” along with “Lincoln Continental” and “Buick Electra,” are among the upper echelon of great car names.
With the New Yorker, no matter the model year, you knew you were getting one of the plushest, most comfortable models in the Chrysler-Plymouth lineup. Only the pricey and low-production Imperial cost more.
1971 was the last year for the original fuselage styling. Between 1969 and 1971, not much had changed for the New Yorker, beyond minor grille and taillight revisions and a few trim changes. The convertible had disappeared after 1970. For the 1972 model year big Chryslers would receive new sheet metal and a blockier roofline, but retaining a recognizable resemblance to earlier Fuselages.
The New Yorker, as the top of the line Chrysler, had more trim and detailing than lesser Newports and Newport Customs. received a flossier, prow-like grille and gold-tone “New Yorker” emblems.
Other New Yorker features included wide, full-length chrome side moldings, plush Cairo cloth-and-vinyl upholstery, electric clock fender skirts, and more. The cheapest variant was the $5,555 four-door sedan, and the four-door hardtop, at $5,686, was the priciest. In the middle was the two-door hardtop coupe.
The coupe was also the least popular New Yorker, as only 4,485 were built. Even when new, these cars didn’t grow on trees. Indeed, any 1971 New Yorker is a find these days, since only 34,968 coupes and sedans were made for the model year. Every one of them had standard power brakes, power steering, and a 440 CID, 335-hp V8.
That 440 V8 is one of the reasons you don’t see many Fuselage Mopars anymore. Every dipstick wants a 440 in their rusty, piece of crap pickup or rusty, piece of crap Plymouth Duster. And since the big Chryslers are not particularly valuable, many, many New Yorkers, Imperials and Newports have had their big-block hearts ripped out by dubious means, for dubious people, and the remains unceremoniously crushed. Philistines.
Many, along with their cross-town rivals from Oldsmobile, Mercury and Buick, were also lost to various and sundry demolition derbies. As I believe I have previously mentioned, philistines! A shame, as these cars are big, plush and comfy. They were top of the heap when new, with power everything, a smooth ride, and that oh so excellent V8 silently moving the owner to greater velocities, should he so desire.
Yes, big! The 1971 Chrysler New Yorker hardtop coupe was 224.6 inches long, with an impressive 124-inch wheelbase. Interior room was unquestionably ample. Despite being the top-dog Chrysler (save Imperial, of course), plenty of options were available. Popular additions included factory air conditioning ($426; $501 with Automatic Temperature Control), and AM/FM stereo with cassette player ($407) and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel ($91).
So Klockau, you may be asking, what’s the deal with this car? Where in the hell did you find one? The date was May 1st, 2013. I was heading to the downtown Rock Island library after work, when I saw the nose of this car peeking around the corner while sitting at a red light. Holy crap! Well, what else could I do? I had to stop and document this rarity!
As I was poring over this car, looking through the windows and walking all around it-and taking the many pictures seen here!-the owner came over, wondering what I was up to. He was happy to open up the car for better interior pictures, and even popped the hood and started it up for me so I could hear that wonderful big block Mopar burble! It sounded very healthy. He had owned the car for a few years, and other than a possible repaint in the original color, he was planning on keeping it just the way it is.
I was happy to meet another C-body fan. I don’t always get to meet the owners of the cool old cars I run across, unless I’m at an actual car show, so it’s always a pleasure when I can hear a little about the car I’m gawking at, and hear a little bit of its story!
And I ran across the car at a cruise-in just last fall. Other than a flashier set of wheels and tires, it looked just the same. And it still stands out among the me-too resale red Mustangs and Camaros. There’s just something about a Mopar product…