In 1983, Chrysler brought out unlikely luxury cars — the Chrysler Executive Sedan and Limousine, long-wheelbase front wheel drive cars with Chrysler New Yorker styling.
The New Yorker itself was a stretched-out K-car, the Chrysler Lebaron with three more inches of wheelbase (creating the “E,” or “extended,” body code); its design and engineering were similar to the Plymouth Reliant K.
The goal, according to Chrysler’s launch materials, was to attract “very affluent, status-oriented buyers seeking traditional limousine characteristics in a modern, efficient size.” No doubt they looked at the downsizing of the luxury market and made some quick projections of future trends. In their defense, Chrysler’s light front wheel drive cars were taking off in sales and profitability, while their rear wheel drive lineup was dying on the vine, quickly becoming relegated to use as police cars and taxis. The company’s last attempt at a rear wheel drive luxury car, the 1981-83 Imperial, had failed miserably.
Nicholas Esslinger, owner of a 1984 Executive Sedan (which he said placed second in the Concours d’Elegance 2010) with 141,000 miles, wrote that the Executive was made up of the front half of the LeBaron four door sedan, cut behind the B pillar, and the rear half of the LeBaron, cut behind the A pillar, with the two halves strengthened by steel bars in the frame and one weld around the body. The front door was original, the rear doors were made of the front of the front door and the back of the coupe/sedan, he wrote. The rear window was made smaller. Mr. Essinger also wrote that the work was done by ASC, which also worked on Chrysler convertibles of the time.
According to Mr. Essinger, “This car is the brainchild of Bob Marcks in the spring of 1981, who was then the head of Special Vehicles Projects; the first (finished) sedan, in Mica Red, was ready for Mr. Lee Iacoccoa to review about Labor Day of 1981; a red Sedan and Limousine were sent to the NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show) for January 1982.”
These cars were unique, but Chrysler wrote that “they may be compared to luxury vehicles like the Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan and Limousine,” moving on to compare the pair favorably with the Lincoln Continental and Mercedes sedans, noting attractive pricing and “the advantages of Chrysler Corporation manufacturing, quality, warranty, and nationwide service.” They were all made at the St. Louis assembly plant, which was also making the LeBaron coupes and convertibles.
The Sedan was rated at five passengers, the Limousine at seven; both had a standard three-speed automatic and 2.6 liter Mitsubishi engine with carburetor, a drivetrain that was inadequate for the cars’ weight and class. Chrysler had nothing between the 2.6 liter Mitsubishi, with its finicky carburetor and not much more power than the corporate 2.2, and the 318 V8 still used in the Fifth Avenue, which was far too large for the engine bay. Without a gas shortage, these cars were practically doomed to irrelevance, but had there been another gas crisis, Chrysler would have been ready. They were almost certainly the lightest cars of their size, at around 3,000 pounds.
Oddly, Chrysler did not use the 2.2 turbo in the Limousine or Executive in 1984, though it was optional in the 1984 Chrysler New Yorker; this engine was smoother and more reliable than the carburetor-equipped Mitsubishi powerplant, and made considerably more power. The 2.2 turbo was never used in the Executive, and was only used in the final year of the Limousine.
Standard features included air conditioning, cruise control, power brakes, front and rear cigarette lighters, front/rear divider and rear compartment with cabinet (Limousine), rear defroster, digital instrument panel, electronic voice alert, tinted glass on all windows, hood ornament, lights that went on with the dual horn, illuminated entry, a full lighting package inside, opera lights outside, dual power mirrors, power antenna, locks, windows, and driver's seat, FM stereo, "luxury cloth" seats, tilt steering, leather steering wheel, intermittent wipers, and padded landau roof. In short, they came well equipped for the time.
In 1984, the cars were available in black, blue, charcoal, and silver paint; interior trim was silver or blue, with gold, silver, or charcoal accept stripes. The vinyl roof was color-matched to the paint: black roof for black or charcoal paint, dark blue roof for blue paint, silver roof for silver paint.
Of the top Chrysler cars for 1984 — Imperial, which was larger than Fifth Avenue, ended in 1983 — Fifth Avenue was clearly wider and had V8 power, albeit not much of it. Headroom was much higher in the front seat of the traditionally shaped Fifth, but rear seat headroom was equal in the Ks, and legroom was far superior in the Executive and Limousine (albeit not in New Yorker). None had generous trunk space.
The pair were both stretched coupes, and kept the opera windows in the C-pillar. Styling was essentially that of the extended-K platform LeBaron coupe and sedan.
We have never seen one at a car show.
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