1988 Chrysler Fifth Avenue: Mike Ehrmantraut Approved

So here it is, Christmas Eve Eve, as some may say. I spent the day picking up a pie for Christmas dinner (I don’t cook), hosing off the Lincoln (damn birds, damn berries!) and perusing FB for cars I don’t need or have room or patience for.

And found this seemingly immaculate Mopar M body on Omaha CL. For a rather princely $11,500, but I will admit it appears to be a real time capsule, at least from the photos.

As the ad proclaimed: “Last of the big body, rear wheel drive, V8 Chryslers. Unrestored, driven occasionally, garaged and well cared for, one family owned. If you are a fan of the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul series you may recognize this car. The character Mike Ehrmantraut drives a similar Fifth Avenue in the show. Please contact me through Craigslist. Please only serious inquiries. Thanks for looking.”

While it is listed as an ’88, I am guessing it’s an ’89, as it has the airbag steering wheel. I seem to recall the airbag being an option late in the 1988 model year, but I don’t have my vintage Chrysler brochures in front of me at the moment, so I’m calling it an ’89, which was the last year these were available. (UPDATE: it is an ’88, thanks to CJ for decoding the VIN in the ad.) Those final relics of the old Chrysler Corporation were actually built in the old Rambler factory in Kenosha, believe it or not.

While this car and its Gran Fury/Diplomat brethren were the last V8 powered, larger than a K car Mopars (at least until the 300/Charger/Magnum appeared in 05), calling them big is kind of a stretch, as anyone who rode in the back of one of these would attest. It was a shrimp compared to the contemporary Brougham/Brougham d’Elegance/Town Car. But they had all those Brougham cues: opera lamps, wire wheel discs, padded landau top, hood ornament, poofy ‘lawyer’s office’ seats, etc.

And I always liked them. Sure, they’re gauche, blowsy and over the top, but still way more interesting and attractive than say, a silver silvermist leased Sedona or CR-V. At least to your author.

As always, thanks for reading and have a great Christmas/weekend, as the case may be!

24 Replies to “1988 Chrysler Fifth Avenue: Mike Ehrmantraut Approved”

  1. LynnG

    Tom,
    My sister (the oldest of six) had one of these new, same color combination. Interesting factoid: It had a leak somewhere along that padded vinyl roof from new, the dealer tied to fix it multiple times, including replacing the vinyl roof twice, and even after that and after multiple calls and letters to Chrysler, Mr. Lee sent three engineers down to the dealership to exam the car and they took the car apart to try determine why everytime it rained, the padded trunk got soaking wet. After all that, no one could figure out why water was getting into the trunk and Chrysler took the car back and delivered a new replacment to my sister’s house, with a check for consideration of her trouble. I told Lilian Jane not to trade in their 1978 or 1979 New Yorker Brougham with I think had a 440 but they thought the downsided car would be better for gas mileage for their retirement… 🙂 🙂 Anyway it worked out and they keep that car for 10 years and then went to the dark side at the request of her adult children and got a Lexus….

    Oh, by the way, Merry Christmas….

    Reply
    • Carmine

      It was probably somewhere on the plastic cap that these had added on to make the roof formal, a friend of mines always calls these “pimped out police cars”

      Which is what they sort of are…..

      Reply
    • nlpnt

      A *carbed* 318 at that. Starting in 1988 even the Omnirizon, almost as old and selling in the bargain-basement class, had single-point EFI.

      Reply
      • Tom Klockau

        Another interesting thing is the Fifth Avenue getting the airbag late in ’88 and having it standard in ’89 despite being put out to pasture. Same thing happened to the Omni and Horizon, final year ’90, they got the airbag too.

        Reply
  2. John C.

    Please indulge me, but I am going to split my comments on the Fifth Avenue into two while thanking Tom for the Xmas gift of this article. The first will be on the car itself and then on what I believe the example could offer the modern Chrysler.

    In viewing the car, we can see both what they were trying to do and what the limitations of the existing platform were. Not big enough, but able to host all the bonus of old Detroit because of the commonality. The 5.2 had 140 horsepower, as did the later NYers with the Mitsu. 3.0 V6. Yet with the lighter weight, the owner was able to experience what the older models felt like before the kowtowing and the austerity. 250 foot pounds compared to 170 at a higher rpm of the replacement. try to find similar uniqueness that with the imports.

    Yet you still see Lee Iococoa giving his people what they wanted, as an afterthought to all the work extending the K body to every niche. There was a palpable sense of old Chrysler with these but still here it was. Maybe the old wasn’t so off track after all?

    Reply
  3. John C.

    As to what hints are offered modern Chrysler given that 300 based cars still exist. We know the LH are compromised as with the M body as to size. This Fifth Avenue changed the established roofline of an intermediate by injecting a fiberglass crown that could be encased in vinyl and offer a formal roofline at minimal expense. Think of the opportunities a Cordoba and New Yorker with such a roofline that takes nothing from the Challenger or Charger but offers a level of Anglo heritage just unavailable for 30 years, Does anybody still connect? Nobody has tried since Lido was forced out.

    The engine options offer another possibility. What would the Hemi 5.7 or better yet a 6.3 hemi offer with single exhaust and a mild camshaft? No Hellcat obviously, but an alternative to 2.0 turbos that offers a real upgrade in owner experience in keeping with a powerful heritage that Lee Iacocca understood and has been reinforced by the continuance of pushrods in trucks.

    Reply
    • stingray65

      The interior also looks like something Santa would like while making all his deliveries. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

      Reply
      • Disinterested-Observer

        Indeed. Whether one is having roast beast or Chinese takeout, with their family or not, and regardless of ones immigration or vaccination status, I hope the the next couple days are ok for everyone. We could all use a break.

        Reply
  4. Ice Age

    I’ve always thought that the Dodge Diplomat this car is based on was the direct inspriration for the 2004 Chrysler 300.

    Reply
    • Pete Madsen

      I remember dreaming of a Diplomat ex-cop car with a Fifth Avenue interior. At the time I had a 1976 Dart Pursuit ex-cop car…more years ago than I care to count.

      Reply
      • CJinSD

        Dodge Diplomat police cars, along with their Plymouth Fury counterparts, made me think I was an invincibly fast driver due to my ability to outrun them in my slant-6 Scamp, 1979 Horizon automatic, 1988 Ford Festiva and 1976 Mercedes-Benz 240D. They were the NPCs of cop cars. Putting a nice interior in one would just result in a more comfortable place from which to watch other cars leave your line of sight.

        Reply
        • John C.

          In 1982, C/D tested a heavier 130 hp Fifth Avenue at 11.2 to 60. 84s and later went to 140hp and the police could still get 4 barrels. That is faster than any of the cars you mention. I have heard some big city police Diplomats had slant sixes, but those were dropped after 1983. It is funny to think of you in a 240D impressing your friends exclaiming I can take that copper.

          Reply
          • John C.

            You really see the effort C/D made to get the best 0-60 time over I think that was M/T. 35 more horsepower, way less weight and the Gran Fury gets the same time to 60 as the full boat Fifth Avenue. Perhaps brake torquing adds more with a V8.

            I am very rusty at such things because in adulthood I put childishness aside. In a grid pattern the thing was to make a quick turn into a subdivision and get into a driveway, lights off and duck with fingers crossed. Remember doing that in my Turismo and along in a friends Corolla wagon. Not outrunning the Dippy or it’s radio.

          • Jack Baruth

            It’s wasn’t so much effort as it was trickery; C/D calculated a “rollout” and then “temperature-adjusted” their times. I’ve been present for C/D testing, and the numbers they get in the moment are not the numbers they report. That’s why they consistently have the fastest acceleration times; David E Davis recognized the commercial value of always having the lowest number.

          • John C.

            I always liked DED better when he was gasbagging and name dropping about his lavish lifestyle. As Hugh Hefner and I think you Jack understand, it is on message for a magazine as you are trying to describe and sell a lifestyle that includes cars, fancy watches, and pretty girls as part of a well lived life. Talking more about that might get the young back reading again. Gosh knows they need some hope as to how their life will play out.

  5. Scottm

    My parents bought a new 82 Fifth Avenue that I got to drive for dates in high school. Otherwise I was banished to the 69 C10 pickup. I really liked the car. It was slow and I could not get the tires to spin or even chirp on dry pavement no matter what I tried. Not even the usually reliable “reverse drop” would break the tires loose. But the passenger seat would lean back almost flat and the stereo was pretty good so it made a good car to go parking with your date.

    My mom traded the 82 in for an 89 in this exact color combo. Black Cherry I think it’s called.

    Reply
  6. Carmine

    I remember the airbag being added to these and the Omni, through the 90’s there was this weird era where you had lots of 70’s era designs getting 90’s era features like air bags, the Panthers did this too, as did the circa 1971 GM full size vans and even the Rabbit style Cabriolet…..

    Reply

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