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.

Tom Klockau:
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