1978 Chrysler Newport Custom: Red, White and Brougham!

During the late ’70s, Chrysler Corporation found itself in dire straits. They were losing money hand over fist, their newest models, the 1976 Plymouth Volaré and Dodge Aspen, had serious quality issues and rust problems, their midsize Coronet and Fury were popular only with little old men, taxi operators and law enforcement, and there would be no relief in the form of a new product—in the form of the FWD Omni and Horizon–until 1978. And then there were the full-size yachts.

The redesigned full-size Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler never really got a chance. Production was still in its early stages when the “oil shortage” caused by events overseas caused the sale of Big Three biggies to plummet rapidly. GM and Ford did not get hurt as bad as Chrysler due to their overall better shape and subcompacts like the Vega and Pinto. Stop laughing, they sold! If not for the tried and true-and stone reliable-Darts and Valiants, Chrysler Corporation may not have lived to fight another day. But at any rate, the C-body Mopars never regained the popularity they had had in the 1965-73 period.

The one-two punch of the gas crisis and subsequent 1975 recession hurt all car sales, but in 1976 things were picking up and most Americans were eager to ditch their little penalty boxes for some full-size comfort. Everything from Ford LTD Landaus to Caprice Classic Landaus and Lincoln Continentals, Cadillacs and Pontiac Grand Villes, got a healthy sales uptick–even the Chrysler New Yorker and Newport. But for whatever reason, the Dodge and Plymouth C-bodies never got much of a boost, and were discontinued after 1977. But the Chryslers sold!

Maybe it was because folks ponying up for a big Mopar wanted the prestige of the Chrysler name for not a whole lot more money. Maybe it was due to the fact that they did not want drive the same unit as many local police officers and fire chiefs.

Or maybe because the Chrysler was arguably the best looking–though I must confess a soft spot for the hidden-headlighted Royal Monaco–especially as a coupe with the rarely-seen Diplomat landau roof! But today’s post is about the Chryslers, isn’t it?

While the New Yorker Brougham (née 1974-75 Imperial LeBaron) had a lot to do with the Chrysler sales boost, with its elegant roofline, fender skirts, waterfall grille and hidden headlights, the Newport was nothing to sneeze at, either.

Especially one in the right colors and options, such as this lovely ’77 example in Tapestry Red Sunfire Metallic, with an absolutely fantastic red and white interior!

All Newports came standard with a 400 CID V8, the excellent TorqueFlite automatic transmission, 15 x 5.5 steel wheels with HR78 x 15 BSW tires (whitewalls optional, ye gods!), torsion bar front suspension, and asymmetrical rear leaf springs. These cars were full-size and proud of it, with a 124-inch wheelbase (same as the flossier NYB), 226.6″ overall length, 79.7″ width and room for six real people–not four adults and one kid, or two adults and one tiny dog, as is the case with many cars today, ha ha.

That’s right, you had a bench seat. No center console was available, even as an option. Plenty of room to stretch out and lounge. And unlike the Ford LTD, Caprice, and Marquis, you actually got more than a gas gauge and a speedometer: All Chryslers (and Royal Monacos, and Gran Furys) received alternator and temperature gauges too. Chrysler was the lone holdout in having full instrumentation by this time. Unless you got a Corvette, Camaro or Mustang.

As the 1977 Chrysler brochure stated, “A look inside Newport reveals the richness of deep, body-conforming foam cushioning…bench seating with folding center armrest in beautiful cloth and vinyl…and finely detailed door panels.”

But despite the ladling on of praise in the brochure, these Newports still had to have several option boxes checked to make it really nice: air conditioning, tilt/telescope steering column, power windows, power locks, rear window defroster and stereo radio were all optional. Even an AM-only radio was optional.

Another interesting difference in cars of the ’70s vs. today is that smoking was more important than drinking. Indeed, ashtrays were the ’70s version of cupholders when it came to cars. Even rear passengers got a place to park their butts! On luxury models like Cadillac and Lincoln, they were lighted–and even had their own lighter built in. It was a different time.

And underneath the proud hood? Why a nice big V8. No frigging 2.0 liter lunchbox-sized mills, here! All the better to tow your Airstream or new speedboat. And was a towing package available? But of course. The 440 V8 was also optionally available if the 400 didn’t have enough oomph for your taste.

I spotted this very bright example recently on one of my favorite Facebook groups, Finding Future Classic Cars. I love the color combo, and upon seeing this mighty Mopar I had to share it with all you fine folks. Ifin anyone has an interest, here’s the link. And remember folks, keep calm, and Brougham on. And don’t forget to tip your bartender.

11 Replies to “1978 Chrysler Newport Custom: Red, White and Brougham!”

  1. AvatarJohn C.

    These are quite nice. I believe there was a delete option down to the 360 V8. With the industry first lockup torque converter automatic Chrysler introduced, bet it was matching the sized down competitors for highway mileage. Making it perfect for the traveling salesman who might have missed some of his road hugging bulk from the other guys. I think the fleet manager got a better deal from Chrysler as well. Thanks Tom.

    Reply
  2. Avatardanio

    I’m a fan of the late C-bodies and have been hatching a plan for a while to justify getting one as a tow rig. This example is really in fantastic shape and doesn’t seem overpriced for what it is. It’s hard to think of these cars as valuable, but you have to appreciate the preservation.

    Reply
  3. AvatarCarmine440

    ’74 C’s also had industry-first backlit gauges, led warning lamps on the gauges, glove boxes in the middle of the dash (prepping for airbags) and were slightly downsized from ’73. Overall a very solid effort and a pleasant car to drive… I daily a loaded ’76 RMB in dry weather. They deserved better in terms of sales.

    Reply
  4. Avatar-Nate

    This car looks great ! .

    In the very early 1980’s a friend bought a Dodge Royal Monaco from the state police in Ma., it was fully loaded and a great if thirsty car .

    -Nate

    Reply
  5. Avatardejal

    “…the 1976 Plymouth Volaré and Dodge Aspen, had serious quality issues and rust problems, ”

    Could never figure how they got those wrong and the Valiant and the others so right, other than the previous chassis was in production for a very long time. But rust wasn’t the chassis, it was the sheet metal.

    Reply
    • AvatarJohn C.

      The Valiant was far from free of rust issues. Remember also that they were using more road salt every year and with computer aided design sheet metal was getting thinner. Not foreign car thin but still.

      Reply
      • Avatardejal

        The last year of Valiant and it’s variants was a better tool for the job than the 1st year of this. Maybe more of “It works, and sells enough, leave it along” as opposed to designing something brand new and getting it wrong with the added pressure of making it cheaper and lighter.

        But, I got off track. Comments should really be about the Newport and not some aside I focused on.

        Reply
  6. AvatarGreg Hamilton

    Beautiful car. I’m always partial to Chryslers and Dodge Darts in particular. These C bodies look great. I never got one because I thought I could not afford the gas they would use and I’d never find a place to park in New York city. Plus this car would look too good for New York. Someone would just key it out of spite.

    Reply
  7. AvatarGeorge Denzinger

    Wow, what a fabulous car… A YouTube channel called MyMopar.com has a bunch of the sales films from the mid 1970’s for these cars. I love watching them, as they take me back to a time that I didn’t appreciate back then.

    This was the kind of car you could buy and arguably drive for 15-20 years (rust notwithstanding) and it would work for most phases of your life. It could do almost anything you reasonably needed it to do. I love that there’s a bigger 440 cubic inch motor in case the 400 cubic inch motor wasn’t whipping the Airstream down the road quickly enough for you. I love the idea that you don’t need a Ferd F15000 to pull a camper trailer…

    Reply
  8. AvatarBill Malcolm

    This was the torture car I was subjected to every three months when visiting my agent in another jurisdiction. Same color scheme, but he had some higher trim than a Newport on his ’76.

    I’d drive 300 miles in my Audi 100LS to get there, and then he would insist in using this barge to go visit electric utility customers with me. He was a short man, so the bench seat was up close and friendly to the dash, trapping me sideways with no legroom in the passenger seat. Lounge room? The very opposite, and I was only 5’10”. The hardtop creaked over pavement joints, let alone potholes, and the thing just struck me as a big bag of wind. It was too long to turn around in the parking lot of the small downtown parking lot of the HO staff of one outfit, so we’d cruise around looking for non-existent parking spaces as I squirmed in discomfort. Only the conventions of business civility stopped me from saying anything. But boy, I remember that thing to this day. Awful.

    Typical of older people at the time, he couldn’t work out that something smaller than aircraft carrier size could possibly be comfortable. Much like the author implies. It was a mindset from antiquity to my engineering mind. The Chrysler had a rubbery ride at best and was a handful in the snow, while ergonomics never seem to have been considered inside. All it was was big and crass.

    So you see, not everyone thinks these old barges were great.

    Reply
    • AvatarLorenzo

      If you started driving small cars (the 100LS was about the size of a 1965 Rambler American) you might have trouble adjusting to a full size car. I started out with my sister’s 1963 Rambler Classic, but thanks to her non-maintenance, it blew up a couple of months after she gave it to me.

      That was replaced by a 1963 Buick LeSabre that took a little getting used to, but the joy of leaving a 195 cid inline-6 for a 401-V8 made up for it. I also drove a 1965 Impala, 1966 Newport, and 1971 Dodge Polara before downsizing to a 1968 Mercury Montego.

      Large cars takes some getting used to, but you shouldn’t judge them by the experience you cited. You need to get behind the wheel and hit the road – a long stretch of interstate – to appreciate a big car. I drove a 1973 Dart and the 1966 Newport from Boston to San Diego and back, and the Dart beat me up, while the Newport was a pleasant drive.

      Reply

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