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Chrysler, Imperial, Dodge and Plymouth — 1970

plymouth duster and barracuda

Plymouth was still the volume leader for 1970, and its lead over Dodge was dramatically widened as customers sought less expensive cars. Plymouth had the answers, including an efficient slant six in an attractive new wrapper.

The big sellers for Plymouth were the A-bodies - particularly the Plymouth Duster. The Duster came at just the right time for Plymouth, though one could argue they stole sales from the brand-new E-bodies. In its first year, this Valiant lookalike (from the front) sold 193,375 units, nearly double the Valiant's prior year sales. Priced at $2,172 to $2,283, weighing in at 2,790 to 2,865 lb, the new Duster was simply a more sporty-looking Valiant, with rear curves to counter the front angles.

valiant sedan

The Valiant itself, ignoring the “Valiant Duster,” sold only 50,810 units, a severe drop from 1969 — and most likely due to the Duster, which boasted sportier styling, a much larger trunk, and a flush, aerodynamic rear window that cut wind noise and air drag. (Duster development story). Duster was the Chrysler success story of 1970. As for Valiant (and Dart), not much changed, other than expanding slant six brake drums to 10 inches in front and nine inches in back, and making 14-inch wheels standard. It was a bad year for the Valiant; Duster took around half its usual sales. Valiant would not recover until 1974, when the fuel crisis sent traditional B-body buyers down a notch.

plymouth valiant and duster sales graph

Showing up at the wrong time, and the result of some wrong decisions, was the E-body Plymouth Barracuda. Created by merging A and B body components to handle any engine Chrysler had, the E-bodies are now among the most popular and sought-after vehicles ever made by Chrysler Corporation. At the time, they were slammed for their relatively poor handling and build quality; performance was good but, ironically, the Plymouth Road Runner could beat equivalently set up ’Cudas and Challengers (albeit with much less comfort).

Identical under the skin (aside from two inches in wheelbase) to the Challenger, the Barracuda was a far cry from the light, nimble European-inspired road car of years past.

1970 barracuda

The Barracuda’s 340 pushed out a rated 275 hp (gross) and 340 lb-ft of torque at a low 3,200 rpm; the 340 with triple two-barrel Carter carburetors provided the muscle of bigger engines with much lower weight, helping traction and cornering. The 383 was up to 335 gross horsepower standard, with three optional engines: the legendary Hemi (425 hp), the 440 Magnum (375 hp with a single four-barrel carb), and the Hemi-challenging 440 Six Pack, with three two-barrel carburetors (390 gross hp and a stunning 480 lb-ft of torque at a very low 2,300 rpm). And of course there was a slant six option.

sox & martin Barracuda

The ‘Cuda, with its 340 six-pack engine, seemed perfect for Trans Am racing, but the package didn't work well, and the AAR ‘Cudas, acid-dipped and weight-reduced, didn't remain in production long. (A small number were sold to the public, but worksmanship was unusually poor.)

Just 55,499 Barracudas were sold, beating the Valiant sedan but a fraction of Duster sales, and far below projections. It was perhaps the right car for 1969, but the wrong car for 1970. Besides, on the one hand buyers could get the Duster, with its hot 340 V8 and light weight, and on the other, buyers could get the bigger Charger, whose weight was not far from the Barracuda and Challenger.

belvedere - road runner front

The Road Runner was mainly unchanged from 1969, except for the new Air Grabber hood, which was remote controlled from the passenger compartment. Press a button, and you have a scoop. Press again, and you have a normal hood.

Those seeking a more civilized ride with nearly all the looks of the Road Runner could simply buy the Plymouth Belvedere, then in its last year; it had the same front and rear, minus the cartoon graphics, and a very similar interior. The Belvedere was Plymouth’s entry-level big car, the first one above the Valiant.

road runner gauges

1970 brought a new grill and rear end treatment for the Satellite line, which was a higher trim level of the Belvedere, with different sheet metal. The Sport Satellite, after arriving in 1968, left at the end of 1970 with few changes.

For those who wanted sport and luxury together in a non-luxury brand, there was the Plymouth GTX, also in its last year, to be replaced in 1971 by the short-lived Satellite Sebring. There were good reasons for dropping all three nameplates — poor sales. The Belvedere racked up just over 24,000 sales; the GTX, under 8,000; and the Sport Satellite, under 16,000. In contrast, the Road Runner sold over 43,000 units, the Satellite over 66,000.

plymouth satellite sport suburban

The big seller of the Plymouth line, excluding the hit-of-the-year Duster, was the Plymouth Fury series. The Fury III alone sold over 150,000 units in 1970, more than all the big Plymouth muscle cars combined. These were huge C-body cars, with four models ranging from the unpopular Fury I (17,166 units) up to Sport Fury (39,268). The Fury II/Gran Coupe sold as many copies as the brand new Barracuda.

sport fury

The Fury line had been redesigned for 1969, with a longer wheelbase of 120 inches, and more shoulder room; the shape was less boxy. For 1970, the Fury continued its uncluttered appearance, while styling made the car seem smaller, and concealed headlamps and full-loop bumpers were added.

Dodge cars

The base Dodge car was the Dart, with nearly 190,000 sold — and if had not been for the Duster, perhaps more Darts would have fled out the door. Dart sales were up just a little from the prior year, as customers downsized their cars, squeezing the division’s margins. Fortunately, it did have the Darts to sell, and they were still a little longer in wheelbase and length than the Plymouth Valiants they competed against. The Dart Swinger was the sporty model, featuring two doors, a sportier hood, and a moderately restyled rear; it was clearly outclassed in practical terms by the Plymouth Duster, which had much more attention devoted to reducing wind noise and drag, not to mention a larger trunk. The Swingers were still very popular, and ranged from slant six up to 340 V8. Dart also had a Custom two-door hardtop; the GT and GTS sold in 1969 were not available in 1970.

dart swinger

Up one level from the Dart was the Dodge Coronet, the familiar workhorse B-body that ranged from cheap to luxury-performance in trim and treatment. In 1970, the base Coronet was dropped and the Coronet Deluxe took over as the bottom of the line, without the Deluxe name on the outside. The other series - 440, 500, R/T, and Super Bee - continued. Sales dived for this year, and in 1971, a new Coronet was introduced, with a much simpler grille, a new 118 inch wheelbase, more rounded styling, and a more subtle Coke bottle side styling. The Coronet, though, remained very popular with taxi fleets, and can be seen in the introduction to the original Odd Couple TV series. The mainstay was the Coronet 440, selling over 66,000 units, over double the next best Coronet; the R/T moved under 3,000 units.

dodge coronet 500

Next up was the Polara, jumping up into the newly redesigned C-body chassis. These sold around 80,000 units in Polara, Custom, and Special models. The similar Monaco, once a trim level of the Polara, was at the top of the line, replete with luxury feature and selling nearly 25,000 copies.

dodge monaco

The big news for Dodge was unquestionably the new E-bodies. The Dodge Challenger easily outsold the somewhat smaller Barracuda, perhaps because people preferred the styling or extra length, or perhaps because it was a fresh new name, while the new Barracuda was very unlike the old one. Either way, a full 63,000 plain Challengers were sold, as well as nearly 20,000 performance Challenger R/T models, and exactly 1,000 Challenger T/As - required for Trans Am racing.

The Challenger was made in both hardtop and convertible versions; there was an R/T (road and track) performance version and an SE luxury package, with leather seats, a vinyl roof, and the "formal styled" rear window. Base engine for the base Challenger was the humble slant six, but the "starter" V8 was the 340, producing a rated 275 hp (gross) and 340 lb-ft of torque at a low 3,200 rpm.

1971 dodge challengerThe R/T was the hot model, with a 383 cubic inch engine putting out 335 gross horsepower standard, and three optional engines: the legendary Hemi (425 hp but only 356 buyers), the more affordable 440 Magnum (375 hp with a single four-barrel carb), and the Hemi-challenging 440 Six Pack, with three two-barrel carburetors (sold to over 2,000 people, and featuring 390 gross hp and a stunning 480 lb-ft of torque at a very low 2,300 rpm). While the R/T had a standard dual-scoop hood, the functional scoops simply pushed air into the engine bay, rather than forcing it into the engine; for that, you need the "shaker" hood, which was essentially an attachment to the air cleaner that protruded through the hood.

The T/A, named after the SCCA Trans American series, was a street version of the racing car, using a 340 Six Pack and running at a rated 290 horsepower (gross); some claimed it was more poweful. On many of these Challengers, fiberglass hood was lifted off (no hinges), and the flat black color and fender pins gave the car a unique look. (Wendell Lane wrote: “my 1970 Challenger T/A had hood hinges, with lighter hood springs for the fiberglass hood, and dual hood pins up front.”) The Challenger T/A had “show,” with big stripes and dual exhausts with special outlets, but it was also a runner, with a special heavy duty Rallye suspension, increased rear-spring camber, different sized front and rear tires, and an engine that could do 14 second quarter miles. Like the Plymouth ’Cuda AAR, it wasn't competitive in the series it was designed for (where it used a destroked 303 cubic inch V8).

Finally, the Dodge Charger continued its rollercoaster sales; around 50,000 units moved through the door in 1970, including the standard Charger, Charger 500, and the Charger R/T. The Charger 500 was now just a dressed up base model with a 318; the SE was still available. The R/T got simulated scoops on the door, and a longitudal stripe instead of  the rear bumblebee stripes. Engine options remained the same, except for the addition of the hot 440 6 pack (three double-barrel Holley carbs monted on an Edelbrock intake manifold).  Volume was sharply down from 1969, possibly due to the new front styling.

Dodge trucks and vans

dodge motor home

The big news for 1970 trucks was the availability of the LoadFlite automatic transmission (based on TorqueFlite) with the four wheel drive W100 and W200 models; and, for manual transmission lovers, a new three-speed, fully synchronized transmission was standard on the half-ton and three-quarter ton trucks, and on six-cylinder W100 and W200 models. A new tailgate could be removed or installed by a single person without tools, helping camper owners. The Camper Special got a new electrical hookup, and a standard 25 gallon gas tank. Tools were moved under the hood.

D100 Adventurer

Bolstering Dodge’s leadership in motor homes and campers, the 413 V8 was added to the options for motor home chassis; while heavy duty trucks could get 478 or 549 cubic inch engines. D-series light duty trucks used a new anodized-aluminum grille with cross-hatched bars.

The A-series compact vans were in their final year, but still got the new three-speed, fully synchronized manual transmission and the 198 slant six (which replaced the 170). It continued with Job-Mated Tradesman interiors, Travco’s Host Wagon and Executive Suite conversions, and optional 225 and 318 engines.

Sales for all Dodge trucks together were 137,509 units in the United States, with nearly 190,000 trucks made across the world. Dodge was the only truck maker to gain in sales in 1970.

sportsman van

Chrysler cars

The 1971 Chrysler line was big and proud. Each vehicle was made as a two door and four door hardtop; the New Yorker and Newport also came in four-door sedan form, and the Town & Country was a wagon, with two or three rows of seats. All but the wagon were basically the same car, with different front and rear clips and varying trim and engines; and all had the fuselage styling, now in its second model year (1969-1971).

The revised C-body architecture had been introduced in 1969, but the splash of the first year was a memory in the second year. The top line Chrysler New Yorker sold 34,000 copies; the 300 didn’t quite hit 21,000; the Town & Country wagon moved just over 15,000; and the Newport’s sales were half of 1969’s, with just over 110,000 Newports sold.

chrysler 300

The 1971 Chrysler New Yorker was similar to the Imperial, with fewer features and a shorter wheelbase: gone were the covered headlights, two-spoke horn-on-rim steering wheel, and some of the other frills, but it was still clearly a luxury vehicle, with standard 440 and automatic, and vinyl replacing the leather. The wheelbase was 124 inches rather than 129, the length 225 inches (the overhang was the same), and the width still 79 inches.

Just below the New Yorker was the Chrysler 300, with the same drivetrain and dimensions, but a Charger-like front clip with headlight-concealing grille. Interior trim was vinyl or cloth-and-vinyl bucket seats only. No longer standard were the folding center armrests, the trunk carpet, electric clock, carpeted spare tire cover, and three-speed wipers (replaced with two-speed wipers). The 300 was dropped after 1971 — a vehicle that was never really needed.

The Chrysler Newport (and Newport Custom) had the lowest level of trim: most dimensions were the same, but the styling again was different in front and back, and a 383 cubic inch engine was standard rather than the 440. The TorqueFlite automatic was optional; bench seats were standard instead of buckets, with an added 3-in-1 divided cloth-and-vinyl bench seat.

The Town & Country wagon had numerous options and features that set it apart as a true luxury wagon, such as a carpeted cargo floor; optional cassette stereo with microphone; bucket seats; tilt wheel; power operated tailgate window; optional dual air conditioners; and concealed wipers. The wagon body had a 122 inch wheelbase, but was just .2 inches longer than the other Chryslers.

Cargo space was large, with a minimum 48.5 inch wide (max. 54.5 inches) floor and the ability to lay a 4x8 panel flat with the gate closed and locked (if the rear seats were lowered). The tailgate could either swing open from the side, or lift up like a hatch. The vertically mounted spare tire was on the right of the cargo floor, just ahead of the tailgate, for easy access. An optional third seat let two adults or three children ride, facing backwards, at the end of the wagon. There were 104.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

Options included automatic headlights and tilt wheel, with a dial-based automatic temperature controls.

Imperials

The 1970 Imperial LeBaron stretched to an amazing 230 inches, with a 127 inch wheelbase - the rear overhang was simply enormous. The car was a full 79 inches wide and was powered by a standard 440 cubic inch V8 that ran on regular gas. For 1970, the ignition lock cylinder was moved to the steering column and a steering wheel lock feature was added.

As in 1969, the top-of-the-line LeBaron six-passenger four-door hardtop ($6,328) was best received, reaching 8,426 buyers versus 1,333 Crowns ($5,956) in the same body style. The LeBaron two-door hardtop ($6,095) went to 1,803 destinations, while the Crown ($5,779) in this configuration moved just 254 units. Company leadership closed out the Crown line at this point.

imperial lebaron

Weights were reported as ranging from 4,610 to 4,805 pounds. Stability and control capabilities still led the field — there was no large luxury car at the time that could equal Imperial. The V-8 was rated at 350 GBHP, even though the compression ratio was reduced to 9.7:1. 1970 Imperials featured (as did the entire corporate lineup) a new isolated-field alternator teamed with a new 2-prong electronic voltage regulator making use of a zener diode.

Standard features for the Imperial LeBaron included an automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, power windows, fender-mounted turn signal indicators, and cruise control; unusual features included hidden headlights (with manual overrides), rear reading lights, vinyl covered pillows (four door), automatic doorway enlarger (two-door), and power disc brakes.

1971 Imperial dashboard

Unusual (for the time) options included headlight washers and wipers, a power operated sunroof, cassette stereo (or eight-track) with microphone, thermostatic air conditioning, dual air conditioner with thermostatic control, rear heater/defroster, automatic headlights, and cornering lights. Four interior seats were available: cloth-and-leather bucket-back bench seat or divided bench seat, and leather bucket or divided bench seats. The bucket seat had a passenger recliner, center cushion, and pull-down center armrest; power adjusters were used on both seats. A new feature for 1970 was the full circle horn switch: squeezing any part of the steering wheel rim would blow the horn.

When gauges reached a danger zone, a check gauges light flashed to get the driver's attention. At night, the entire instrument panel was externally lighted.

Burton Bouwkamp wrote:

From 1968 to 1975, I was Director of Product Planning at Chrysler. During that time Styling (Elwood Engle) lobbied top management to put the antenna in the windshield á la GM. I objected because of the loss in radio performance.

I had a very simple test. My cottage in Mecosta was 160 miles from Detroit [... and] I could get WJR with a mast antenna from the cottage but not with a windshield antenna. I was worried that if the customer experienced this loss in performance that he would blame the reduced radio reception in his new car on the quality of the radio. ...

Management made a compromise decision and that was to put the windshield antenna only on the [1970] Imperial - not across all car lines as Styling wanted. After one year's field experience, the Chrysler/Imperial National Dealer Council formally recommended that we return to the fender mounted mast antenna. We did - but we built Imperials with windshield antennas for one or two years. Eventually, GM also discarded the windshield antenna.

Though the Imperial was clearly linked to the Chrysler New Yorker, it sold well for a $6,000-and-up car in 1970, moving 10,000 LeBarons and nearly 1,600 Crowns.

Common engineering on the domestic cars

1970 was the first year for the new 198 cid slant six, which boosted power over the old 170 while still being slightly more fuel efficient (and cheaper) than the 225. The 198 was based on the 225, with a shorter crankshaft throw and longer connecting rods. High performance 440 engines got heavier connecting rods and piston pins; they also had a vibration damper and torque converter (or flywheel) balanced to match the engine.

In California, cars could no longer have open fuel systems, so Chrysler created a clever system that stored vapors in the crankcase, to be pulled into the engine later (it was redesigned in 1972 to store fumes in a separate canister, where they remain today).

Hydraulic tappets used in some engines had a larger plunger diameter. The 426 Hemi was produced with hydraulic tappets, cutting maintenance and noise alike.

Carburetors changed, with a Holley 2210 two-barrel used on some 383 engines in place of the Carters. The idle tubes on that carburetor were pressed in, and could be damaged if the air horn was not handled carefully.

test cell

Chrysler boasted that 90% of cars produced by domestic automakers used emissions control systems they had pioneered. Chrysler started building a new emissions lab in Santa Fe Springs, California, to find solutions for the 1975 rules (“At the present time, there is no technologically practical way to meet these requirements.”)

The primary tools were enclosed crankcase ventilation and an automatic choke that warmed up more quickly. There was also a solenoid to raise the idle speed on high-performance engines during idle and deceleration, and a hot-idle compensator on carburetors with air conditioning for better driveability and lower idle emissions. The manifold air heater, a metal cover over part of the exhaust manifold, warmed intake air until it reached 100° F, speeding warmup dramatically — providing a direct customer benefit at little cost. The 383 and 440 engines (except triple-carbs) also had a timing retard which reduced timing at idle.

All engines had hydraulic tappets and a fast-action choke. The V8s had deep skirt engine blocks. The distributor was always mounted in front for easier service.

Floating caliper disc brakes were standard on Imperial, optional on everything else, except Valiant and Dart. Drum brakes generally had bigger linings than competitors, with finned front drums and flared rear drums to dissipate heat. All brakes were self adjusting, and used a dual master cylinder (half controlling the front, half controlling the rear) for safety.

1970 Dodge Dart Swinger

Batteries would last far longer due to a standard-across-the-board electronic voltage regulator, and theft was deterred by standard steering column locks (active when the car was left in Park, or, with manual transmissions, Reverse). The key could only be removed when the wheel was locked, again to prevent theft.

The new two-prong, non-adjustable electronic voltage regulator used a zener diode, and was not interchangeable with the one used on some 1969 models. New isolated-field alternators were also not interchangeable with the 1969s; both field rotor brushes had separate terminals.

“Strato ventilation,” fresh-air ventilation coming through the adjustable outlets in the middle of the instrument panel, was standard, along with floor level side-cowl fresh air vents.

Manual transmissions included the new A-230, a three-speed with synchronizers in all forward gears (and no clutch interlock).

The “lane change turn signal” also became standard in 1970, letting drivers to use light pressure to turn on a turn signal, and full pressure to push the stalk into a detent so it would stay on. The hazard flasher switch moved the steering column (except on Chrysler and Imperial, where it stayed on the instrument panel).

airbags

Safety was also starting to be a concern, and Chrysler responded by developing airbag components, adding interior padding, and selling what they claimed to be the first four-wheel anti-skid (anti-lock) braking system in the industry, used on Imperial. Challenger and Barracuda got a new energy-absorbing steering column, added roof rollover protection, and crash-resistant inner door beams.

torsion bar suspension

All 1970 Chrysler Corporation domestic cars were unibody designs, with a subframe isolated by rubber cushions to support the engine, transmission, steering, and front suspension. The Torsion-Quiet ride on some models isolated the suspension with rubber cushions and blocks. Critics considered the Chrysler and Imperial cars to be as comfortable as competitors, but with far better cornering.

torsion-quiet

The suspension on all cars used high-chrome-steel torsion-bar front springs; an antisway bar up front on many models; angled upper control arms to resist brake dive; diagonally mounted steel struts to reinforce and position front wheel lower control arms; widely spaced, off-center mounted rear springs to eliminate acceleration squat and resist brake dive; and a wide-track rear axle. Leaf springs were used in the rear. The result was surprisingly good cornering for a huge, comfortable car.

A standard 7-step antirust treatment started with a cleaning dip, then two rinses, a phosphate dip, cold rinse, acid rinse (metal conditioner for paint adhesion), and primer dip. After that each car got two coats of epoxy primer, then two coats of acrylic enamel.

unibody

Air conditioning was installed on over half of all Chrysler Corporation cars (52%). Automatic transmissions were on 91% of their cars, power steering on 80%. Power brakes (38%) and disc brakes (25%) were less popular but growing in use; the prior year, only 14% of their cars came with discs.

Trailer towing went up to 5,500 pounds on the big Chryslers, with a larger radiator, seven blade fan with shroud, hood air seal, heavy duty suspension and electrical system, auxiliary transmission oil cooler with 383 four-barrel engine, and 3.23:1 axle ratio.

A new self adjusting cable-and-vacuum water valve for midsized car air conditioning eliminated linkage adjustments (Barracuda and Challenger was cable controlled, with a self-adjuster). All cars got greater protection against overpressure damage:a pilot-operated pressure regulator valve opened the main EPR valve as needed, giving better control; a high pressure relief valve replaced the “fusible plug,” to in case of overpressure (over 475 psi), only the amount of refrigerant needed to prevent problems would be released (instead of all refrigerant); and a low pressure valve protected the system cut power to the compressor clutch if pressure dropped below 23 pounds.

Conforming to Federal law, all cars got bulb-and-reflector sidelamps.

Chrysler Corporation, 1970

Vehicle sales rose a little from 1969, but the company went from a net profit of $99 million on $7 billion of sales to a net loss of $8 million — with a dividend of $29 million! Had they not paid the dividend, they would have retained a profit.

The United States had economic problems including high unemployment; the big C-bodies were spurned by Americans demanding less expensive cars. Customers flocked to the old A-bodies, restyled and lengthened for 1968, particularly that runaway hit, the slightly-altered Valiant known as the Plymouth Duster. Chrysler snagged 39% of the domestic compact market - the largest share of any company. Corporate planners, though, planned another set of the C-bodies, for 1974, postponing investments in the A-bodies.

airtemp

Chrysler was still involved in defense and space operations, air conditioning systems, chemicals, and more. The company had a $1.8 billion payroll with over 228,000 employees worldwide. Defense-Space Group had $140 million in sales; during 1970, they developed a compact vehicle exhaust analyzer and an automated mail sorting system. Chrysler Defense was already working on converting a Saturn V gantry to support the smaller Saturn 1B for Skylab (the S-1B Skylab transport would be built by Chrysler, but their space shuttle design was rejected).

drafting and electron microscope

The Detroit Tank Plant in Warren made M-60 tanks; Chrysler also built tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided anti-tank missiles. M-615 military vehicles and outboards continued production, and a night-vision surveillance system was completed for military and civilian use.

The Airtemp Division set sales records, as it had in 1969, with commercial sales rising by 10%. International operations grew, with high profile installations including the BBC, Bonn’s airport, and a hospital in Brunei.

hydrovee hull

The boating division unveiled two new lightweight 13 horsepower models, one with an electric starter; a 45 horsepower outboard; a 35 horsepower alterator-equipped motor; new six and eight horsepower fishing models; and four new boats (Conquerer, Buccaneer, Bass Runner, and Courier 231). Chrysler sold 44 power boat models, from 14 to 24 feet, and four sailboats, from 13 to 18 feet. Those seeking more power would find it in three new gasoline V8s and two four-cycle diesels (four and six cylinders, 65 and 100 hp), as well as a new 318 inboard-outdrive model dubbed the Super Bee.

Chrysler Park, Australia

Chrysler Industrial supplied ten gas engines from 230 to 440 cubic inches and seven diesels. Amplex still sold the Oilite bearings and powder metal parts it had pioneered four decades earlier, along with cold extrusion and ceramic magnets products. Sales by the chemical division also rose 7%, including a new compound (Monocote) for the steel industry. The Plastic Division sold vinyl coated fabric, pressure sensitive foam tape, and other items, and the Introl division sold control devices.

Rootes Group paint shop

Market share was high at 19% for the year, while Dodge truck retail sales hit a new high of 145,519 units, (just 8% of the market). In Canada, Chrysler's share (excluding imports) was 26%, four points over 1969. Sales outside the U.S. and Canada rose to $1.7 billion, or 25% of total sales. The company was actively investing in Mitsubishi Motors, aiming for 35% of the company and eventual takeover.

In 1970, one year after taking control of the company, Chrysler renamed Barreiros Diesel to Chrysler Espana S.A. Barreiros made diesel engines, buses, tractors, and other vehicles.

barreiros tractor and bus

townsend and riccardoA big advance for domestic Chrysler customers was the linking of all North American parts depots into a single computerized control system, helping people get parts faster.

Other key corporate items:

  • Richard K. Brown was named general manager of Chrysler-Plymouth Division
  • John J. Riccardo was named president of Chrysler Corporation.
  • Chrysler, with 73% of Rootes Group, renamed it Chrysler United Kingdom Ltd.
  • Societe des Autos Simca (SIMCA) became Chrysler France SA; sales would shoot up each year in the early 1970s, earning Chrysler its first million-cars-sold-in-Europe year in 1973.
  • Show cars: Cordoba de Oro, Concept 70-X, Dodge Diamante
  • 18 millionth Plymouth; 13 millionth Dodge car; 5 millionth Chrysler

1967-73 sales and profits

The imports

Chrysler brought in cars from its current and “future” overseas divisions: the Plymouth Cricket, a Rootes Group car built in the UK using a 70 horsepower four-cylinder and an optional three-speed automatic; and the Simca 1204, sold under its own name. These cars started at under $2,000, with few takers.

simca 1100GLS In American trim, the Simca 1204 produced 62 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 65 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm, and weighed 2,025 pounds (similar to Saabs, lighter than the Toyota Crown, and heavier than Subarus). Length was 155 inches, and the transmission was a four-speed manual. The 1100 on which it was based was the best-selling Simca of all time; in 1971, it became France's best selling car. The little front wheel drive car eked out a mere 6,035 U.S. sales for all of 1970, despite having a full range — two and four door sedans, and two and four door wagons.

In Australia, the Australian Production (AP) Valiant line was achieving high performance. The VG series of 1970 had three engines created by and for that region, the 215, 245, and 265 cubic inch straight-sixes (dubbed “Kangaroo Six” by some engineers); the 265 was the power option, using the same cylinders as the 318, but with triple Weber carburetors and hemispherical heads designed to squeeze out power. The VH Pacer, a 1971 model, was the fastest mass-produced four-door sedan with a six cylinder engine produced in Australia until at least 1988. An American V8 was also available, but it was seen as more of a luxury option.

Hillman Avenger

In February 1970, the Hillman Avenger (also sold as the Plymouth and Dodge Avenger, in some markets) was launched; the press was taken by its overall competence on the road, and smart contemporary styling. There was a sense that, under Chrysler's direction, Rootes Group would go on and prosper. It was a car for the time, with no frills, but a low price and conventional, contemporary technology — a live coil sprung rear axle, four-speed manual gearbox, and overhead-valve iron four-cylinder engine. According to Graham Robson’s Cars of the Rootes Group, the 50,000th Avenger was produced in August 1970, and by the end of its life in 1981, a total of 638,631 Avengers had been made.

In the United States, the Avenger was sold as the Plymouth Cricket; its styling fit into Chrysler’s lineup, but its size did not. Only the 4-door sedan and 5-door wagon were sold, with a base 1.5 liter engine. Front disc brakes were standard; these were optional in the UK. All Crickets used the uplevel UK model's four round headlights, as rectangular lights were not yet legal. Americans found the build quality to be below standards, and avoided Crickets in favor of Japanese and German imports.

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