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by David Zatz
1983 was a transitional year for Chrysler, during which the company continued to rapidly move its product line forward. A new line of extended wheelbase K-cars were brought out, showing that front wheel drive was not just for compact cars.
The Dodge 600/Chrysler E Class were just one of a group of new mid-sized front-wheel-drive cars, along with the Chevy Celebrity; the front-drive Toyota Camry appeared in 1983 as well. Not until 1986 would Ford sweep in with the Taurus, and garnering critical acclaim for being “revolutionary.”
Still, the stretched K-cars (Dodge 600 and Chrysler E Class) showed how flexible the basic K-car architecture was; it would soon spawn a minivan, a luxury sedan, and a sports car. K-car engineering would be resilient to all these stretches and squishes, though Chrysler was often penny wise and pound foolish in how they did it, so that larger vehicles retained far too much of the economy Reliant.
The public response to Chrysler’s changes was enthusiastic: Chrysler had the largest percentage increase in U.S. retail sales than GM or Ford, with cars up 19% and trucks up 11% (total retail sales were 1.2 million). While sales rose, the breakeven point had fallen to less than half of what it had been in 1979; productivity was up 50% since 1980, car quality was up 36% since 1979 (truck quality, up 40%), and record profits were made, partly thanks to a 45% cut in warranty costs.
Lost in the commotion was the continued starvation plan for Plymouth. The traditional volume division saw cars better suited to its buyers diverted to Dodge and Chrysler, dragging Chrysler’s reputation down and ending any “mid tier” aspirations Dodge may have entertained. Plymouth was becoming an afterthought, and as Chrysler was selling Dodges with more chrome and softer suspensions, Chrysler Corporation was all too clearly giving up on separate identities for its three divisions.
Most of the engineering work was done on the front wheel drive cars, and included:
The Dodge 600 and Chrysler E Class featured a new deck lid hinge and counterbalance system for an easier-closing trunk, adding to the perception of greater quality; it used torsion bars and drive links to control lid movement, with a new one-piece gasket that required less pressure but had a better appearance and seal.
Six new brake systems and four new actuation systems were used for 1983, to improve balance and address power booster output, rear brake adjustment and sealing, parking brake actuation, and noise reduction. A new magnetic fuel gauge increased accuracy and reliability, and eliminated interference with earlier gauges while providing a wider sweep.
A new fuel-efficient 5-speed manual transaxle improved gas mileage and performance, and was generally, in this year, available side by side with three-speed automatics and four-speed manuals. It was the first American-made five-speed transmission, according to Chrysler.
The 1.6-liter overhead cam four-cylinder engine from Peugeot (the Chrysler Europe engine originally intended for use in the Horizon; Peugeot had purchased Chrysler Europe) replaced a Volkswagen 1.7 over the model year; the 1.6 had similar power and economy but lighter weight.
"We devoted more than 250,000 work-hours over 30 months to re-engineer our new 1.6 liter engine for North American climate, roads, lubricants, fuels and driving habits," Robert M. Sinclair, Chrysler Director of Power Train Engineering, said. The engine had Chrysler's electronic feedback carburetor system and an electrically-heated choke, with redesigned intake and exhaust manifolds and combustion chambers.
Refinements in the 2.2 4-cylinder engine enabled it to deliver an estimated 2-3 more miles per gallon in 1983 with a 4-speed manual transaxle and up to 4 miles per gallon more with the new 5-speed manual transaxle. One change was a redesigned manifold, to improve intake-exhaust air flow and swirl and flow of the fuel-air mixture.
Re-calibrating the fuel and spark engine controls, modifying the catalyst system for less back-pressure, reducing idle fuel consumption and retuning the engine chassis so it would tolerate lower idle speeds and better controlling idle speed also contributed to higher mileage. The underfloor oxidation catalyst in previous models was replaced by a single 105 cubic inch, close-coupled, three-way catalyst. A retuned muffler reduced back pressure and joined a new air cleaner resonator and faster opening throttle linkage.
In the 2.6-liter 4-cylinder Mitsubishi engine, improved carburetion gave quicker engine response to the accelerator. The exhaust muffler was re-tuned to reduce back-pressure and improve performance. Modification of carburetor calibrations improved drive ability and fuel economy. Redesigned flow curves and carburetor jets enhanced responsiveness and the secondary throttle was advanced for improved acceleration when the second barrel kicked in.
Using fewer, but more expensive, parts, TBI surpassed the carburetor's ability to meter fuel under all operating conditions. The system used by Chrysler on the Imperial was far less ambitious than the one sold in 1958, and certainly less ambitious than Volkswagen’s multiple-point system for 1979 Rabbits. It used a computer to control timing, air-fuel ratios, and emissions controls, with a number of sensor inputs and the ability to revise its own programming as needed.
It provided automatic idle adjustment and automatic shut-off to prevent "dieseling."
Even scaled down from the original multiple-port version of 1958, the system was unreliable, and many customers complained.
An electronic travel computer was optional on the 1983 Dodge 600 and Chrysler E Class.
The system provided the time and date, had a trip odometer, provided the average speed and gas mileage, and estimated the range until running out of gas (using the average fuel efficiency of the previous 5 to 15 minutes.)
Chrysler also launched its Electronic Voice Alert (EVA) system, which had 11 spoken messages (for key left in ignition, headlamps left on, door ajar, seat belts unfastened, low oil pressure, overheating engine, electrical system low voltage, parking brake on, washer fluid low, and low fuel). The voice advised that "All monitored systems are functioning" if no problems were sensed after start-up. Standard on premium front-wheel-drive models, it was produced by Chrysler's Huntsville Electronics Assembly plant and was developed in cooperation with Texas Instruments. (Huntsville was sold to Siemens after Mercedes acquired Chrysler.) [Stories and development of Electronic Voice Alert/the talking car]
The Dodge 600/Chrysler New Yorker/E Class used a 103.1-inch wheelbase, longer than the Reliant and Aries or related Dodge 400 and Chrysler LeBaron; it was 185.6 inches long, 68.3 inches wide, and 52.9 inches high and came in two trim levels, the 600 and 600 ES. The 600 ES had a firmer suspension and black trim. The bigger cars were powered by Chrysler's 2.2 liter engine, with an optional Mitsubishi 2.6 liter engine, and the new five speed transaxle (for ES) with an overall top gear ratio (OTG) of 2.57.
The 600/E Class New Yorker had better power brakes, a key-operated fuel filler door, halogen headlamps, and 14-inch wheel covers, along with power steering, cloth center arm rest bench seat, 20-ounce cut pile carpet, clock, cloth headliner, message center, a complete set of interior lights, color-keyed seat belts, carpeted trunk, underhood light and insulation pad, and three-mode heater system.
The Chrysler E series cars were more than a little confusing, since they shared a name with the rear wheel drive Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue. The extended K-car was called both Chrysler E Class and Chrysler New Yorker.
On the 600 ES, protective rub strips were black finished, as were the dual power-adjustable mirrors. All exterior moldings, the "B" pillar and door handle inserts were black. Front seats were cloth high back bucket seats with recliners.
The Dodge 400/Chrysler LeBaron added new standard equipment, new colors, and new options for 1983; they were available in two-door coupe, convertible, and four-door sedan body styles (LeBaron was also available as a convertible, Town & Country, with faux wood panels). A new optional roadability package contained a larger sway bar, higher control shock absorbers, a firm-feel power steering gear with quicker ratio, and a heavy-duty rear axle. The new five-speed transaxle was available on two-doors with bucket seats and the 2.2 engine. The Dodge 400 convertible's standard equipment included power convertible top with console-mounted control switch.
Both cars had a standard remote-controlled fuel filler door, with a lock that could be opened with the ignition key.
The six-passenger, front-wheel-drive Reliant, Aries, and LeBaron had better engine performance and braking capability. The 2.2 liter standard engine increased fuel efficiency with Chrysler-engineered improvements and modifications in the cylinder head, compression ratio, carburetor, throttle linkage, and exhaust and intake manifolds.
Standard for the first time were both power brakes and self-adjusting rear brakes. Other changes included larger wheel brakes, more responsible pedal, and improved balance front-to-rear. Two and four-door sedans were available in the standard and Special Edition models, and four-door station wagons were in the Custom and SE versions. The base engine shot up from 84 to 94 horsepower. Minor changes include a “flash to pass” headlight actuator, naturally forced ventilation, bilevel air conditioning, and a pentastar on the trunk lid.
The Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant were EPA-rated at 29 and 41 with the 4-speed, and 28 and 44 with the 5-speed, versus 26 and 41 in 1982. That made it the highest mileage six-passenger car sold in America.
In its final year, the Chrysler Cordoba had few changes; the bottom model LS was dropped, and there were minor revisions to the body and wheel covers. The base engine was the slant six, with a 318 optional. Buyers could still buy a Cordoba without even an AM radio, if they so desired, an odd way to sell a car with luxury pretensions. Fewer than 14,000 found homes, compared with 83,500 New Yorker Fifth Avenues — Chrysler’s most popular car, though not for long.
As for Imperial, Chrysler’s second most expensive car (after the Executive) started at $18,688. For that money, buyers got a two-door hardtop coupe with a unique-looking body, free extended warranty, Mark Cross leather, and fuel injected 318. Only 1,427 were sold, and given the problems customers had with the 318, the company might have been very happy sales weren’t higher.
The two cars were similar in many ways; Burton Bouwkamp wrote, “The 1981 model was derived from the Cordoba platform and had its own sheet metal, instrument panel, etc. It was a pretty good looking car. We built it but we couldn’t sell it - so it faded out of production in 1983. I think we built a total of about 17,000 over the three years. ... Part of the problem was selling and servicing Imperials from the same dealerships as Plymouths.”
Stuart D. Somers wrote, “The throttle body fuel injection gave a lot of trouble. Chrysler soon discovered that someone who could afford a $20,000 car could also afford an attorney! Instead of repairing the fuel injection, Chrysler replaced them with a carburetor. The kit included a new gas tank, complete exhaust system, and a new digital dashboard, and, of course, the intake manifold and carburetor.” Richard Samul added, “This system was prone to magnetic fields generated by power lines along roadways.”
The upcoming fuel injection for the 2.2 was very different in design; Imperial used a continuous-flow system, using a low pressure, high volume pump in the tank and a high pressure control pump in the air cleaner, which pushed gasoline through a spray bar assembly (with a low speed and high speed spray bar). A mass air sensor was used, unlike later systems. (Full details)
The Dodge Mirada, essentially the same car as the Cordoba, continued its stable, quiet ride, and responsive handling in its final year; Diplomat, Gran Fury, and New Yorker Fifth Avenue would carry the torch. TorqueFlite automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, electronic ignition, and front transverse torsion bar suspension were standard on all of them. Mirada had an optional CMX package featuring a simulated convertible top in a choice of Dark Blue, White, Black or, new for 1983, Beige. The 225 Slant Six engine was standard, the 318 optional.
Canadians did not get a Plymouth Gran Fury; instead, they could get the identical Plymouth Caravelle, which caused some confusion when, in 1985, a front wheel drive Plymouth Caravelle debuted in the United States.
The 225 Slant Six engine was standard, even on the top Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue, with an optional 318 V8 (the Fifth Avenue did have a “make it like the factory should have” package including the V8, illuminated entry, power locks and seat, stereo, cruise, and such, but it cost $1,870 on top of the car’s already steep $12,487.)
The group were all modified F bodies, owing their undercarriage and shape to the economy compacts Volare and Aspen — which took up the market position of the Valiant and Dart. As Americans moved to smaller cars, aided by the comfort and relative space of the K-cars (whose interior dimensions were competitive with the K-cars), “intermediate” and large car sales fell; so Chrysler had re-shaped the Volare and Aspen, re-named them (to get away from the poor reputation of the originals), and re-priced them. They even changed the body codes; the Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury were technically M bodies, but the F, J, and M bodies were about as similar as the various B-bodies or A-bodies had been. Inside, the cars were “upmarketed” as much as possible from their original, humble ancestry; dashboards featured the new, modern “chrome look,” which was all the rage in stereo and camera equipment as well.
While Dodge most likely sold more police packages with the Diplomat, Plymouth sold 8,500 Gran Furys to police departments in this year (most of the 15,739 made). Chrysler seems to have been the only division successful in selling rear wheel drive cars to retail customers after 1981. In several years, the Chrysler versions were surprisingly successful, given their pricing strategy and their origin as economy cars (not that GM and Ford were averse to using the same trick of up-marketing their rear-drive “economy compacts.”)
The 1983 Dodge Diplomat had two trim classes: Salon and Medallion. The Salon exterior had bright moldings, bumper protective rub stripes front and rear, front bumper guards, deluxe wheel covers, left outside chrome mirror, halogen headlamps, and glass-belted radial white sidewall tires. The Medallion exterior offered all of the Salon items plus a full vinyl roof with Laredo grain, more sound insulation, bright upper door frame and vinyl roof molding, and remote control left outside mirror. The slant six was standard, 318 V8 optional.
Horizon and Omni for 1983 had two models, with the base models replacing the Miser, in the same price category but with a longer list of standard equipment. Omni had a "blackout" exterior treatment including the trim area around windows, full-length body side molding, "B" post, bumper ends, bumper rub strips, windshield wiper arms, left remote outside mirror, and black sidewall tires. Omni Custom had a more "American" appearance with such items as thin line bright moldings, whitewall tires and deluxe wheel covers. Horizon Custom added a woodtone instrument panel, chrome driver’s mirror, deluxe wheel covers, and bright moldings.
Standard in Omni and Horizon was a 1.7 liter, four-cylider engine from Volkswagen, to be replaced during the model year with a 1.6 liter (97.5 CID) Peugeot (Chrysler Europe/SIMCA) engine. The Omni 024 and Horizon TC3 versions didn’t make it past 1982, as the Charger and Turismo took over those spots.
The Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon were EPA rated at 29 city and 42 highway with the 4-speed, and 29 city and 45 highway with the 5-speed, versus 26 and 41 in 1982.
In 1983, Chrysler brought out unlikely luxury cars — the Chrysler Executive Sedan and Limousine, stretched-wheelbase K-cars with New Yorker-like faces. The goal was to attract “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.
Without a gas shortage, the little Mitsubishi engines probably doomed these cars to irrelevance, but had there been another gas crisis, Chrysler would have been ready.
Chrysler wrote that “they may be compared to luxury vehicles like the Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan and Limousine.” They also compared the pair favorably with the Lincoln Continental and Mercedes sedans, while noting their “attractive pricing” ($18,900 for the sedan and $21,900 for the limousine) 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. Only a few were sold.
At the time, Chrysler had no V6 or turbocharged four, and the smallest V8 was far too large. The 2.2 turbo appeared in the final year of the Limousine but failed to save it.
The Dodge Charger and Plymouth Turismo were based on Chrysler Europe’s Horizon, designed mainly in France with styling from England; the American version was different in many ways. Charger was essentially the former Omni 024, Turismo was essentially the former Horizon TC3.
For 1983, the Miser models were dropped, and the “plain” Charger remained in the same price category with a longer list of standard equipment items. Charger 2.2 had more features, including the new five-speed manual transaxle and of course the 2.2 liter engine.
Standard in the Charger and Turismo was a 1.7 liter, four-cylider engine from Volkswagen, to be replaced later in the model year with a 1.6 liter (97.5 CID) Peugeot (Chrysler Europe/SIMCA) engine. Charger 2.2 had the upgraded 2.2 liter engine as standard.
Charger had black trim for windshield moldings, tape inserts in door handles, belt, drip rail, and liftgate window moldings, and lower sill area plus left outside remote mirror. Charger 2.2 contained most of the Charger's equipment plus a simulated hood scoop and front fender air exhauster, rear hatch spoilers, P195/60R14 steel-belted radial ply tires with raised white lettering, Charger 2.2 tape graphics and special quarter window treatment, steel 14-inch rallye wheels, sport suspension, and performance exhaust system.
Turismo essentially continued from 1982 other than the name change; the base Turismo had the 1.6 or 1.7 or an optional 94-horse 2.2, and the Turismo 2.2 had a warmed-up 100 horsepower 2.2 with 100 horsepower (along with AM radio, sport suspension, 14 inch wheels, fake hood scoope, dual remote mirrors, performance exhaust, rear spoiler, front console, low-profile tires, and stripe kit). A five speed manual because optional.
Many say they’d like to forget the Horizon-based Charger, but it continued in the same tradition as the original Charger in many ways – pricing structure, low end and fast engines, and being a highly restyled car based on a plain-jane four-door. It was also still competitive with the same cars the Charger had gone up against, which had been greatly detuned; what it lost in the straight, it made up for in the curve. And, above all, it was still basically a Chrysler, unlike the Dodge Challenger made by Mitsubishi (see below).
Turismo and Charger 1.6 claimed a 50 mpg highway mileage rating from the EPA, with a combined estimate of 32 mpg.
This was the first year for the Shelby Charger, which came midyear with a 107 horsepower version of the 2.2 liter engine (it had a hotter cam, higher compression, and less exhaust restriction). The Shelby had many trim and paint changes to make it clear that it was a special edition, along with 15 inch wheels and 50-series Goodyear Eagle GT tires; even the pedals were changed to allow heel and toe shifting. Heavy duty shocks and high-rate springs were standard. The Shelby Charger could run 0-60 in 8.5 seconds, according to Dodge, which was quite good for the time - and for the gas mileage.
Not to be forgotten despite a meager 8,033 sales (in 1983) was the Dodge Rampage, the Omni-based front-wheel-drive pickup brought out in 1982, which followed the quickly-dropped and even-more-quickly forgotten Rabbit-based Volkswagen Pickup. For 1983, the Rampage 2.2 appeared, featuring the relatively powerful and fast 2.2 liter engine, coupled to a five-speed manual transmission; it also included a stripe package, raised hood, fender-exhausters, and an optional folding tonneau cover. Shelby would later work this over.
The Rampage included a standard double-wall pickup box, load-sensing brakes, linkless front sway bar, single-piece construction, power front disc brakes, and 335 amp battery, along with numerous driver convenience features; it was in some ways an ideal parts runner. The standard transmission was a four-speed manual with overdrive; wheels were thirteen inches (fourteen with 2.2). The payload was 1,145 pounds.
AMC was owned by Renault at this point, having been purchased in 1982. The AM General military division was, like Chrysler Defense, no longer part of the automotive company, in this case so a major military contractor would not be part of a foreign power.
Motor Trend awarded the Renault Alliance the Car of the Year award; it was a well-equipped car that got 37 mpg in city driving, but it never really took off.
AMC’s other cars — Eagle, Concord, and Spirit — were all essentially the same body and transmission, with different packages built around it. AMC used two engines, an advanced AMC 2.5 (150 cid) four which would eventually be used in the Dakota, and the 4.2 liter in-line six which the four-cylinder was based on.
AMC Eagle (or, as brochures referred to it, American Eagle), the odd, heavy 4x4 compact car, could be switched from four wheel drive to rear wheel drive with “Select Drive,” which incorporated a controlled-slip differential and the ability to disengage the front wheels. The Eagle was used by the National Ski Patrol, for its compact size coupled with high ground clearance, 4x4 traction, and five-passenger seating. They had power front discs and rear drum brakes; suspensions were independent up front, and live-axle in back. The little Eagles weighed a whopping 3,264 lb in sedan form, 3,285 lb in wagon form, and 3,033 lb in SX/4 form.
Concord and Spirit were similar in appearance to AMC Eagle; Concord was “affordable luxury” while Spirit was meant to be more mainstream, with a sporty Spirit GT model that included the I-6 engine, a higher performance suspension, and a tachometer, with different wheels. Both Concord and Spirit show up in the AMC brochure as having the I6 standard and four-cylinder “not available,” though the brochure provided specifications for the four cylinder, for unknowable reasons. Spirit was 2,809 lb and Concorde 2,902-2,947 lb depending on whether buyers got the sedan or wagon.
Gas mileage on Eagle four-cylinder was 23/32 with five-speed, 23/30 with four-speed; with V6, it was 20/29 with four-speed, 20/31 with five-speed, and 20/28 with automatic. (These figures are unadjusted and only comparable to cars made in the same era. Typical drivers would likely get lower mileage.) Gas mileage on Concord and Spirit was 21 city regardless of transmission and model, and ranged from 29 to 34 highway depending on transmission and model.
This would be the last year for the slow-selling, compact Concord, Spirit, and Eagle SX/4.
What AMC lacked in cars, it made up for in Jeeps. Selec-Trac, new for 1983, provided a dual-speed transfer case for extra torque (it required drivers to stop before changing from 4x4 to RWD or back). The I-6 was upgraded with a higiher compression ratio, knock sensor, and fuel feedback system, increasing power and efficiency.
Two Wrangler-type “traditional Jeeps” were sold, the CJ-5 and the longer-wheelbase, far-more-popular CJ-7; both were bantamweights compared with the later Wranglers, weighing in at 2,100 lb (CJ-5) and 2,600 lb (CJ-7). A half-ton pickup version, Scrambler, was also sold, in small numbers (fewer than 5,500 were made, compared with under 3,100 CJ-5s and under 38,000 CJ-7s.) Jeep also made J-10 and J-20 pickups (half and three-quarter ton, respectively), in small numbers.
Jeep Wagoneer and Cherokee continued as they had for so many years, selling at a premium price — Wagoneer started at $13,173, while Cherokee started at $10,315, while CJ-7 was under $7,000. That put Wagoneer well over Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue, for example. Total Jeep model-year production was under 65,000; that would change dramatically once the 1984 Jeep Cherokee “XJ” appeared, a year late but still far ahead of the competition. As a side note, 65,000 was good for Jeep, the highest production since AMC had purchased the brand from Kaiser back in 1970.
A significant event of 1983 was the creation of Beijing Jeep, a joint venture in China which would be profitable for Jeep, and then Chrysler, until Daimler took it over in the 21st century.
Challenger added the Challenger Technica, whose instrument panel featured a digital speedometer, graphically-displayed L.E.D. tachometer, and a heater/air conditioner air flow indicator that changes color with air temperature; it also had electronic voice alerts and a two-tone black and silver exterior. The Challenger was powered by Mitsubishi’s 2.6 liter hemi-head engine and a five-speed manual transmission.
The front-wheel-drive Colt hatchback had two body styles and three price lines - Three and five-door Colt, three-door Colt Deluxe, and three and five-door Custom models. MMC's Twin-Stick Transaxle, with economy or power driving modes, was standard in all except the base Colt three-door hatchback. Colt was sold as both Plymouth and Dodge; the other car was sold as Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Champ.
The MCA Jet 1.4 Liter engine, standard on Colt and Colt Deluxe, and 1.6 liter, standard on Colt Custom, promised to increase Colt's already high mileage of 39 mpg in the city and 51 on the highway by about one mile per gallon. The redesigned front 10 inches of the Colt provide a more aerodynamic appearance and lower drag coefficient.
Dodge’s mainstay full-sized pickups had been restyled in 1981, with new interiors, sheet metal, and grilles, and more galvanized body panels. Four wheel drive models used automatic locking hubs, engineered by Chrysler and made by Borg Warner. The Ram symbol (including a hood ornament) was used with the phrase "Ram tough."
For 1983, Dodge introduced the D150 Miser, with a slant six and four-speed manual overdrive. It proved to be very popular, combining size with torque and gas mileage, and lasted in various names through 1988. The slant six was rated at just 95 horsepower, a far cry from today’s 300-horsepower pickups, but the engine was biased towards producing large amounts of torque at low engine speeds. Truck sales were not particularly high, despite a 12% gain over 1982; just over 50,000 D150 models were made, with fewer than 10,000 D250s and D350s. The four wheel drive models were even slower sellers, with barely over 10,000 W150s and fewer than 5,000 of the W250 and W350. This has to be compared with nearly 100,000 of the big vans, or over 100,000 of just the Dodge version of the K-car (Aries).
The Mitsubishi-based Dodge Ram 50 provided a diesel engine option along with two gas engines; it was already a relatively thrifty pickup, given its four-cylinder engine and small size and weight, unless compared with the similar-capacity Rampage. Gross vehicle weight was around two tons; curb weight was around 2,500 pounds; four wheel drive was available.
The Ram Van and Wagon were largely unchanged; in 1981, a new Mini-Ram van had been added on a 109.6 inch wheelbase (with more brightwork, big chrome rearview mirrors, and a 36 gallon tank), but it would only last until 1984. The base engine across the board was the slant six, with 95 horsepower at 3,600 rpm. For 1983, the 318 was dropped to 135 horsepower, but a new four-barrel version of that engine was added, putting out 160 horsepower - compared with the 318's pre-smog 150 hp. The 360 four-barrel engine put out 180 horsepower at 3,600 rpm. A four-speed manual transmission with overdrive was available.
The Ramcharger nearly reached 20,000 sales with few changes from 1982.
In December 1983, Chrysler gained a new Control Data Cyber 205 supercomputer, capable of 400 million calculations per second, tripling its CAD power and allowing for complete vehicle structural analysis and simulation of aerodynamics and crash tests.
A new labor agreement guaranteed two years without strikes, and most plants joined the UAW-Chrysler Product Quality Improvement Program; over 300 teams found and solved quality problems, with immediate financial and customer-relations results. Within engineering, there were 62 Quality Circles which had already saved an estimated $3 million per year.
The Windsor plant was, during the year, “stripped to the bare walls” and retooled, at a cost of $400 million; the company claimed it was the most advanced auto plant in North America, with 112 robots doing 97% of each minivan’s 3,800 welds, and applying sealer and handling materials; and with computers monitoring on weld quality and positioning. The plant also included automated full-immersion cleaning and primer application, the industry’s first robotic painting of body interiors, and automated headlight and front end alignment. The ten mile Windsor line was computer monitored with 44 video camera placements for supervisors.
Windsor was put onto a “just in time” inventory system, using computerized material tracking system and Chrysler’s new cooperative approach with suppliers. The system included “in line sequencing,” where the vans had to move according to a schedule through 1,837 stations; anything going wrong had to be fixed immediately. (All these changes were to be applied to Sterling Heights in 1984.)
In November 1983, Chrysler announced that it would, with Control Data Corporation, start working on its own Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, which eventually would be used to design all its vehicles.
Robert M. Sinclair, Chrysler Director of Power Train Engineering, noted that "We are beyond 28 miles per gallon CAFE for 1983, two years ahead of the 1985 deadline."
The Chrysler electronics division in Huntsville was contracted to build a revolutionary traffic control system for 110 miles of the Northeast Corridor rail line, one of the busiests routes in North America, a contract Walter P. Chrysler must have approved of. It would be the first North American system to get both traffic and power control from the same equipment.
In retail, Chrysler added 227 dealerships, bringing the total to 3,872; and increased service support and training by 77%. Most sales were in the US (1.4 million vehicles), with Canada coming in a close second (404,620), and the rest of the world following far afterwards with 52,039 total sales, mainly in Mexico. Most sales were still cars, by a factor of 5:1, and most were made in the US (around 1.5 million vs 244,000 in Canada, 151,000 in Japan, 42,000 in Mexico). Japan’s share of Chrysler sales was actually decreasing from past years.
Financials were strong, with record operating profits of $927 million — far better than 1982’s $68 million loss, and drowning 1981’s $538 million loss. Net profits were $701 million, despite writing down $224 million of its investment in Peugeot. (1982’s net earnings of $170 million included $239 million from selling Chrysler Defense.) Profits came largely from the success of the Chrysler LeBaron and Dodge 400 (launched in Fall 1981 as 1982 models), and higher sales of cars like the New Yorker Fifth Avenue, as well as lowered costs and enthusiastic receptions for the 1983 Chrysler E Class and Dodge 600.
Overall, Chrysler sold $13 billion worth of cars (up from $10 billion in 1982). The company still held $100 million of Peugeot stock (used as collateral for a $100 million loan) and $28.5 million of Mitsubishi Motors stock. It still owed, at the end of the year, $40 million to Peugeot, $145 million to Michigan, $185 million to Volkswagen of America, and varying other amounts to other sources.
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