Chrysler Cordoba is First Produced
The Chrysler Cordoba was an intermediate personal luxury coupe sold by Chrysler Corporation in North America from 1975 to 1983.
It was the company's first model produced specifically for the personal luxury market and the first Chrysler-branded vehicle that was less than full-size.
In the early 1960s, when other upmarket brands were expanding into smaller cars with such models as the Mercury Comet and Buick Skylark, Chrysler very publicly declared that there would "never" be a smaller Chrysler. Historians of the marque noted later that "never" on the Chrysler timeline had equaled not quite fifteen years. The Cordoba was one of Chrysler's few genuine hits of the 1970s. At a time when Chrysler was teetering on bankruptcy, demand actually exceeded supply for its first couple of years, with production of over 150,000 units annually. Half of Chrysler division production during this period (and occasionally more) was composed of Cordobas. Cordobas were built in Windsor, Ontario.
Although Córdoba is the name of a city in Spain, the car's emblem was actually a stylized version of the Argentine cordoba coin. Either way, the implication was Hispanic, and this theme was carried out with somewhat baroque trim inside and by using movie star Ricardo Montalban as the car's advertising spokesman. Notable was his eloquent praise of its "soft Corinthian leather" interior and his Americanized stress on the second syllable of the car's name.
The Cordoba was first introduced for 1975, as an upscale personal luxury car. At the time the personal luxury market was large and growing, with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix selling over 300,000 units each annually. The car carried the Chrysler name, then still associated exclusively with large luxury models like the Imperial. It was, however, priced to compete with rivals such as the Monte Carlo, Ford Elite, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The Cordoba was originally intended to be a Plymouth (the names Mirada, Premier, and Grand Era were associated with the project), but losses from the newly introduced full-size C-body models in 1974 (at the onset of the energy crisis) encouraged Chrysler executives to seek higher profits by marketing the model as a Chrysler, a name with a more upscale appeal. The car was an unforseen sucess, with over 150,000 examples sold in 1975, a sales year that was otherwise dismal for the company. For 1976 sales increased slightly to 165,000. The midly tweaked 1977 version also sold well, with just under 140,000 cars sold. The success of this strategy is well illustrated by the fact that its similar and somewhat cheaper corporate cousin, the Dodge Charger SE, only sold about a quarter as well during the same model years.
1978-1979 Cordoba, with rectangular headlights
The original design endured with only very small changes for three years before a variety of factors contributed to a decline in sales. For 1978, there was a modest restyling with the then de rigueur rectangular headlights in a stacked configuration that had the unfortunate effect of making the Cordoba look much like the 1976 to 1977 Monte Carlo from the front. A Chrysler designer, Jeffrey Godshall, wrote in his article on the Cordoba in Collectible Automobile magazine that this restyling was viewed as "somewhat tacky" and eliminated much of the visual appeal that the 1975 to 1977 Cordobas had been known for. The restyle also made the car appear heavier than its 1975-77 predecessor.
At the same time, Chrysler's financial position and quality reputation was in steady decline, and rising gas prices and tightening fuel economy standards made the Cordoba's nearly 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) weight with 360 cu in (5.9 L) or 400 cu in (6.6 L) V8 engines obsolete. In its final year, 1979, however, high performance made a return as the original Cordoba provided the platform for a one-year-only revival of the Chrysler 300 name.
The Cordoba was downsized for the 1980 model year. The new smaller model used the J-platform, which dated back to the 1976 Plymouth Volaré and was twinned up with the newly-named but very similar Dodge Mirada. Chrysler also revived the Imperial for 1981 as a third variant of the J-platform. The Cordoba and Mirada now had a standard six-cylinder engine (the famous 225 Slant Six), which, while very reliable, did not seem to be suitable power for these slightly upmarket coupes. The much-detuned 318 cu in (5.2 L) V8 was an option (standard on the Imperial), along with the 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 that was available only in 1980, its final year in Chrysler's cars.
1981 Chrysler Cordoba LS
The 1980 and 1981 LS model featured an aerodynamic nosecone with "crosshair" grille. Other features of this model were vinyl top delete and monotone coloring.
The second-generation Cordoba's styling did not attract the praise of the original, and sales were off substantantially. It is true that downsizing was tough on personal luxury models generally; both the Chevrolet Monte Carlo in 1978 and the 1980 Ford Thunderbird shrank in size and sales simultaneously. However, those models eventually recovered as their makers moved to correct their cars' flaws, while the smaller Cordoba never did. Chrysler was increasingly concentrating on its compact, front wheel drive models with modern four and six-cylinder engines, and management stopped producing the Cordoba in 1983. Total sales of the second generation cars was just under 100,000 units.
The 1975-1979 Chrysler Cordoba Grand Coupe had its beginnings amid high gas prices in a company at the verge of bankruptcy.
Nobody bats a thousand, but Chrysler Corporation has had more than its share of wrong cars at wrong times. Perhaps the two best known examples are the advanced but awkward Depression-era Airflow and the ill-timed 1962 Dodge and Plymouth intermediates that failed to pass as "full-size" cars.
But there was also 1974, when fully redesigned big Chryslers, Dodges, and Plymouths ran smack into an unprecedented national gasoline shortage. While that winter's OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil embargo hurt big-car sales throughout Detroit, the Chrysler brand was hit harder than most, dropping more than 50 percent for the model year from a fairly healthy 1973 total of nearly a quarter-million units.
Chrysler Corporation goofed plenty more in the 1970s, enough to be knocking at bankruptcy's door by 1980 -- which only makes the Cordoba seem a surprisingly good stroke. Indeed, had it not been for the high early success of this one luxury coupe, Chrysler might have gone to the brink even earlier.