The Chrysler Cordoba (and 300)
The Chrysler Cordoba first appeared in 1975, a twin of the new Dodge Charger SE. Reportedly meant to be a Plymouth, its home at Chrysler may have led to its success, since it allowed for much higher-level trim; and by then, Plymouth was known mainly for the smaller Valiant and Duster.
The Chrysler brand needed the sales; the “full size” cars they specialized in had suddenly become unpopular. Over half of the Chryslers built in that first year were Cordobas. For just over $5,000, a buyer could say with pride that they owned a Chrysler, in the days when Chrysler ranked with Lincoln and Oldsmobile.
The Cordoba was a B-body (in the first years), like the humble Coronet and Satellite, but given the Chrysler sound-insulation and luxury-feel treatment, it sold in vast numbers. 150,000 Cordobas were sold in 1975, all of them two-door hardtop coupes.
In February 1975, PR man Frank Wylie bragged in a press release, “Cordoba, the new Chrysler personal luxury car, has flourished wonderfully in 1975. Already Cordoba is #3 among the specialty cars. It is outselling such established cars as Gran Prix, Cougar, T-Bird, Toronado, and Riviera (January 1-February 20 sales showed Monte Carlo at 23,838; Ford Torino X at 10,752; and Cordoba at 10,445. Gran Prix followed at 7,983; the Cougar, Thunderbird, Toronado, and Riviera were all below 5,000.)
The Cordoba was still the big seller for Chrysler in 1977. Many changes took place under the skin in the name of saving weight. The wheelbase was a modest 115 inches, not much more than the "compacts," but the B-body ride was far smoother than the F-bodies, and cornering was not compromised.
The smallest engine was a cash-back option: the 318 V-8 coupled with a TorqueFlite automatic. The standard engine was the 400 cid V-8 (with two or four barrel carburetors) until 1978. Like the Charger SE, the Cordoba could also be ordered with a 360 (depending on year, both two and four barrels could be available).
With this big engine, the Cordoba easily beat the Buick Century Regal and Ford Granada in acceleration (based on Car & Driver which recorded a 0-60 time of 9.3 seconds), with a 17-second-flat quarter mile; but gas mileage suffered accordingly. It was priced between Regal and Granada, and the interior was quieter than either of those competitors. Performance wasn't bad for the time, and strong torque meant instant acceleration at highway speed.
Despite annual styling and option changes, the early Cordobas were similar in appearance and substance through 1979. In 1978 the Charger SE was replaced by the similar Dodge Magnum XE and GT, that was swapped out in 1980 for the Dodge Mirada.
The suspension used longitudinal front torsion bars with lower trailing links and an anti-sway bar, coupled with semi-elliptical rear springs and a rear anti-sway bar. This provided the large, heavy car with surprisingly good handling. A standard lockup torque converter showed up in 1978 and by 1979 was on most cars.
For 1977, Cordoba added a chrome-plated grille, eight new paint colors, new tail light lenses, deck lid lock cover, and medallion, black and white checked cloth-and-vinyl seat covers, low-slip torque converter (with the standard 400 V8 engine), suspension crossmember rustproofing (“Autophoretic Paint System”), more weight reductions, glass-belt radials, more reliable wire terminals, higher-capacity ignition switch, and double-contact starter relay for better starting. New options included T-tops, a padded landau roof with an illuminated opera band across the roof and Frenched rear quarter windows, color-keyed body-side mouldings, and side and deck stripes.
In 1978, the Chrysler Cordoba saw many weight-saving changes under the skin, and a power sunroof was made optional; it was now a two door hardtop only. The base engine was now the 318 (with two barrel carb, four barrel in California) with Lean Burn; the 360 was optional in both two and four barrel carb versions, along with the 400 V8.
Cordoba was still popular for a Chrysler in 1978 with 112,000 sales, but that was a scary drop for a car that had beaten 160,000 for two years in a row. Even so, 1978 may have been looked on with nostalgia by Chrysler brand leaders; the next year, sales dropped below 80,000 (possibly, partly due to a square-look makeover). That was also a good year, compared to what was to come.
The Downsized 1980 Chrysler Cordoba
In 1980, the Cordoba joined the LeBaron and Dodge Mirada on a shorter wheelbase; the “new” chassis, dubbed J-body, was essentially the same as the M-body Diplomat, which in turn was essentially the F-body Volare-Aspen. The base engine was now a slant six.
The appearance kept the square look, with front mini-fins reminiscent of the final Valiants. Two new premium models were brought out, the Cordoba Crown and the Corinthian Edition Package; the latter had 60/40 cashmere leather seating, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, and many other luxury features. Crown added a padded Landau vinyl room, “Frenched” rear window, opera lamps, and chrome just about everywhere they could put it.
New Cordoba coin ornaments were added to the hood and body sides; forged aluminum wheels were optional, along with a flag-type driver's outside mirror, opera windows, and three two-tone paint combinations. Tires were comfort-oriented P195/75R15 glass-belted radial whitewalls. Halogen headlights and tinted windows were now standard.
The chrome-plated grille had a vertical texture and was surrounded by a chrome-plated, die-cast frame; they were accompanied by chrome-plated aluminum bumpers.
The only engine available in California was the four-barrel 318.
Sales plummeted even further, to below 50,000, making the car and the Chrysler brand niche players. Still, Cordoba managed to outsell the Dodge Mirada and Chrysler Imperial.
The 1982 cars brought better rustproofing and, finally, clearcoat paint (used starting in 1979 on humble Volkswagen Rabbits); an optional four-way passenger seat, with new bucket seat cushions; a new polished steering wheel; and a better stereo. The LS was added, and front-end styling was changed, with the parking and lane-change lights moved between the headlights and the grille.
The Cordoba stayed on through 1983, and dropped out of the game, having gone from a 160,000-sale success to a barely-moving “Volare with frills.”
Was a Plymouth version of the Cordoba ever planned?
Burton Bouwkamp wrote:
The 1975 Chrysler Cordoba was always intended to be Thunderbird/Riviera/Grand Prix competition. This upmarket specialty segment was stable and profitable, so the “beancounter” management finally agreed that we needed to be there.
The mistake that we (including me) in Product Planning made was deriving the 1975 Dodge Charger from the Cordoba sheetmetal. The Cordoba style was far too formal for the Charger buyer. We would have been better off carrying over the 1974 Charger. [The Charger SE looked identical to the Cordoba, but came with a performance suspension. Just 36,000 Charger SEs left the line, though, compared with over 160,000 Cordobas. — editor]
Within two years Charger sales were so bad that the nameplate disappeared — replaced by the Magnum. In the meantime the Cordoba sold well and made a lot of money for the Corporation.
There were no plans to do a Plymouth version of the Cordoba. By that time, Chrysler and Plymouth were combined into one division, so C-P dealers had a luxury specialty car (Cordoba).
1976 Details from Rich Hutchinson
In small print above the year in “1976 Cordoba,” the brochure said, “The Small Chrysler.” Standard seating was a “cashmere-like knit cloth and vinyl” bench seat with center armrest; the uplevel was the velour 60/40 seat configuration. Top of the line was the famous Corinthian leather.
The dashboard was traditional 1970s Chrysler, with a three spoke wheel. The climate controls were hidden to the left of the steering wheel like they were on the Omni/Horizon, and for all of the cars’ beauty, that’s still a foolish place to put them.
The (optional) power window controls were mounted flush against the door panel, likely in the same spot the standard crank was. The optional sunroof was manually operated. It featured the Chronometer clock on the passenger side of the dash.
The 1976 Cordoba rode on a 115" wheelbase, and stretched to 215.3" long. It was 52.6" tall and 77.1" wide. The brochure tells me the 400 ci V8 with 2bbl carb was standard, fed by a 25.5 gallon gas tank. Optional V8 motors were:
- 318/2 bbl carb (no charge option to save fuel)
- 360/2bbl carb (except in California)
- 400-4V single exhaust
- 400 ci 4bbl and dual exhaust (n/a in California).
My folks had a 1976 Cordoba, and I've got great memories of it. It was burgundy with white leather and a white landau roof (even though the brochure doesn’t list that as a possible combination) and the 400. My dad always raved about the handling, and I still think it’s one of the most beautiful cars they came up with, a very classy looking vehicle, especially before they did the stacked headlights.
The Cordoba-based Chrysler 300 (Bob Downard)
I owned two of these great cars in the early 1980s while working at a Chrysler dealership, and can attest that the performance of these rare machines was on par, if not beyond the Z-28, Firebird and even the heavily smogged up Corvettes of the day! [Reference]
Here in Canada these cars usually came fully loaded, with beefy rear sway bars, a factory tach, and brushed trim standard on the dash. With the 360 four-barrel W2 premium motor from the Li’l Red Express pickup, a stout Torqueflight, and 3:21 final drive, mine would pull to the red line in 3rd gear. I bought my first from Chrysler Credit as a repo. The price was low and with a little help from a buddy in the parts department, (and the fact the car had several months warranty left on it), we rebuilt the motor, trans and rear end just full of Direct Connection parts. I paid the difference between stock and my employee price, warranty paid the rest!
As a result of this overhaul, my 4400 lb leather and air conditioned “Cordoba” 300 would sit and smoke the tires nonstop from a start and give a nice spin and step sideways into second gear. I ran it once at the drag strip, and despite my inexperience, recorded a 14.7 in the low nineties.
More 1980 Chrysler Cordoba details
The last B-body Cordoba rolled off the lines in 1979. In 1980, the name was moved to the F/J/M body created for the economy Volare. The wheelbase was reduced slightly from 115 to 113 inches; length was slashed to 210 inches; and weight cut by 400 pounds. It remained roomy, and claimed more legroom and rear hip room than in 1979, but the ride suffered with the move. As with the Volare, Aspen, and Diplomat, the new Cordoba had a transverse torsion-bar front suspension rather than the traditional torsion bar layout.
Inside, new door trim panels had integral armrests and door pull handles with Cordoba coin insets. There were four interior color choices, an optional illuminated entry system, and a new Featherwood instrument-panel trim (not actually wood). A cloth and vinyl folding center armrest split-back bench seat, front and rear ashtrays, color-keyed molded headliner, and tinted glass, were all standard.
More serious features included an inside hood release, standard interior lighting package, electric rear defroster, intermittent wipers, a new Maximum Cooling Package, and optional cornering lamps and leather seats, the latter only on Crown.
Improvements included lighter-weight windshield wiper carriers, a new cruise control servo body, reduced emissions-control maintenance on single-barrel slant six and four-barrel 318, sidesill jacking, 18 gallon fuel tank, better rustproofing, and a standard 60 amp alternator.
The new console on Cordobas with bucket seats was color-keyed to the interior, with an air vent on the passenger side and a covered storage compartment. The shift mechanism was console-mounted on cars with bucket seats and console.
Removable tinted “T-tops” (glass panels on either side of the roof) could be stored in the luggage compartment.
The sun roof was color coordinated in gray or gold, and had an integral sun shade. The motor was actually in the trunk for improved headroom.
The illuminated entry system option turned on the interior courtesy lights, and illuminated the door lock cylinders whenever either exterior door handle was lifted and released. Courtesy lights turned off automatically after 30 seconds or when the ignition switch was turned on.
The optional power seat adjuster let you adjust the seat 6 ways-up, down, forward, backward, plus tilting forward or backward. Tilting steering column was available, too, with six positions.
Chrysler's modular instrument panel made it easier to service bulbs, switches, and such; everything was removable from the passenger compartment side. The snap-in top cover provided access to radio speakers and wiring. The 85 mph speedometer had smaller calibrations for kilometers per hour. A trip odometer was standard, and calibrated in miles.
The bilevel heater system had components for optional air conditioning (ducts and outlets), in conjunction with heating ducts and outlets. When the "Bi-Level" button was depressed, the heated air was distributed 30% to the floor area and 70% through the air-conditioning instrument-panel outlets. Cordoba's heater had a four-speed blower; automatic temperature control was optional.
Windshield washer jets on wiper arms put four streams of washer fluid directly onto the windshield at each wiper blade for fast cleaning. The wiper blade arm on the driver's side had an articulated action: the blade arms parked off the windshield below the hood line.
For many more details on the 1980 Chrysler Cordobas, including radio options and such, see our main 1980 engineering page.
1982 Chrysler Cordoba
For 1982, halogen headlamps became standard; a new rear suspension anti-sway bar became optional, along with a new high-altitude emissions control; and precoated steels, painted with a zinc-rich primer, were used to prevent rust. A new formal vinyl roof without opera windows became standard; clearcoat paint finally became available; dual remote control sport mirrors were standard; and body-side, hood, and decklid stripes became available as a single option. Otherwise these models were essentially a carryover of 1981.
Standard features included a wide-ratio TorqueFlite automatic transmission, power steering and brakes (disc front, drum rear), and P195/75R15 glass-belted radials. A variety of steering wheels and wheel covers were available, along with three vinyl roofs - cabriolet (simulated convertible), padded landau vinyl, and non-padded landau vinyl.
Engines were now down to the trustworthy 225 slant six with single-barrel electronic feedback carburetor, and the 318 V8 with two-barrel carburetor (four-barrel in California only). A compact spare was standard, a standard spare was optional (along with larger 7.0” JJ wheels that accommodated 205/75 or 215/70 radials).
The instrument panel, with brushed-aluminum trim, was made of injection-molded plastic with a vinyl trim pad. A trip odometer was standard. Remote outside mirrors were standard, using wire/spring connectors, as was tinted glass.
Luxury features included a semi-automatic climate control, with a slider that would set the temperature anywhere from 65 to 85 degrees (Farenheit). A vent feature (push Norm in and then pull it out) allowed for use of the fresh-air vents without air conditioning. Another option was the electric rear defroster, which came with a 78-amp alternator. Other options included tilt wheel, T-bar roof, intermittent wipers, automatic cruise control (on the stalk), digital clock, power windows, six-way power seat, 60/40 split-bench power seat, power locks and deck-lid release, illuminated entry system, and cornering lights.
Radio options included the standard AM unit as well as a digital quartz-lock seek-and-scan FM stereo; 8-track or cassette with AM/FM stereo radios; plain AM/FM stereo; CB radio; power and standard antenna; and premium speaker packages.
Chrysler Cordoba feedback and other information
Tannon Weber wrote:
About a year ago, I purchased a '78 Chrysler Cordoba, with a little over a hundred-thousand miles on it. I've put into it a new radiator, new muffler, some new exhaust hangers, the standard tires/brakes, a new master cylinder (replacing the original), and some easy to reach gaskets, and I rebuilt the front-end. I also replaced the lean-burn ignition with a stock electronic ignition.
Since completing the work that I have, it feels like an almost totally different car. The front-end is tight, and the steering is amazingly responsive. Replacing all of the ball joints, rubber (with polyurethane), and tightening up the steering gearbox helped with that immensely. Removing the lean-burn seemed to give me tons of extra power. Rebuilding the front-end also allowed for a proper alignment, and I went from getting nine to ten miles per gallon with this 2-barrel 360 to fifteen, in the city.
Rebuilding the front-end worked wonders on the rattles. The car is quiet when the front takes bumps, and I can definitely tell that the springs in back need replacing. Fortunately, St. Regis police cars had compatible rear-ends, with some different mountings and springs, and it looks like I can put a much beefier rear-end, with better handling characteristics, on the Cordoba.
|Wheelbase||114.9” (2.9 m)||<||<||>||112.7”|
(38.6’ in 1975)
|Weight (225)||3,362||3,403 - 3,460|
|Headroom F/R||37.7 / 36.6||<||<||37.5 / 36.5|
|Legroom F/R||42.4 / 32.4 (’77)
41.9 / 33.9 (’75)
|42.6 / 32.1||43.7 / 35.2|
|Hip room F/R||55.8 / 57.0||<||<||55.5 / 57.0|
|Shoulder room||58.0 / 61.0||<||59.2 / 61.0||58.8 / 59.3|
|Trunk capacity||16.3 cubic feet||<||<||>||16.7 cubic feet|
|Alternator||50 - 100 amp||60||60 - 78 amp|
|Rear axle||8.25”||7.25” or 8.25”|
|Axle ratio, 225||n/a||2.7 Fed||2.9:1|
|Axle ratio, 318||Unknown||2.2:1|
|Front sway bar||0.94” diameter||<||?||1.0” diameter|
|Rear stabilizer||0.86” diameter|
|Rear leaf springs||57” x 2.5”
(5 leaf optional)
|58” x 2.5”
(5 leaf opt.)
|Engines||318, 360, 400||318, 360||<||>||225, 318|
|Transmissions||3-spd auto||<||<||>||3-spd auto|