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Dodge Diplomat, Plymouth Gran Fury, Chrysler New Yorker, Fifth Avenue, Town & Country, and Caravelle

Dodge DiplomatThe Dodge Diplomat was first introduced in 1977, the first two nameplates on a body style that would be little changed for all of its twelve years. The Diplomat name was revived from deep history of the Chrysler organization's legacy, while the Caravelle (for Canada) was new and later applied to a K-car derivative. They were the next step up from the F body Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare that had been offered since 1976.

In many respects, the new M-body cars were very similar to the Volare and Aspen; they shared a common architecture, wheelbase, drive train, and most components (quite a bit of the design was also carried forward from the F body cars’ predecessor, the A body Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Dart) It is even possible to trade the front doors or windshield of a 1976 Dodge Aspen with a 1989 Chrysler Fifth Avenue. Ed Hennessy wrote that it remains unclear why the two cars were designated with different letters, since they were virtually the same, aside from styling.

chrylser fifth avenue

Shortly after the introduction of the four door Diplomat, the line was expanded to include a two door and wagon. The two door and wagon configurations were discontinued after 1981 due to lack of sales. The Diplomat had a base four-speed manual transmission instead of a three-speed. Leather was optional, as was woodgrain trim for the sides, and the body was slightly longer than the Volare/Aspen. Paint, finish, and trim were all above normal Dodge standards. Three levels of Diplomats were sold, base, S, and Medallion, all with a choice of slant six and V8 engines. Weight ran around 3,300 - 3,600 pounds.

For 1978, the Diplomat was available as a 2-door sedan, four-door sedan, or four-door wagon. The 1978 Diplomat had the same features as the previous year.

For purposes of this history, the M body line will be referred to as the Diplomat line for the rest of this document, since the Diplomat was the only nameplate to stay the same for the entire 1977-1989 run of the model.

The Plymouth Volare was succeeded by the Gran Fury in 1982, long after the Dodge Diplomat was launched; Dodge deserves credit for quickly realizing the negative value of the Aspen nameplate, and creating a “totally new” car. (Insiders told us that is probably why they called these vehicles M, and not F, bodies.)

Chrysler applied the New Yorker name to their version in 1983, and used Fifth Avenue thereafter.

The Dodge far outsold the Plymouth version throughout the model run; and, unusually, the Chrysler version was the biggest retail seller, despite its rather steep price. The Fifth Avenue could be outfitted with a splendid interior, including plush leather seats, all the switches a gadget freak could want, and an amplified rear speaker; and the exterior was chrome-laden and elegant, with a crystal pentastar hood ornament. Underneath all that luxurious appearance and sound insulation was a “smogged,” low-power 318 V8 with a troublesome Lean Burn system and the old Volare basic architecture, with a moderately stiff ride.

In 1981, fleet sales were enhanced with a factory-engineered, factory-produced propane system, which was tuned for reliability and safety. That system, popular for propane, was improved in 1986, and used a carburetor.

The Gran Fury itself had been in continuous use as a nameplate for some years, hopping into progressively smaller cars - starting out as a C-body, moving down to the (B-derived) R-body in 1980 and 1981, and finally settling on the M-body from 1982 to 1989. This Gran Fury was essentially the same as the Dodge St. Regis, with a modified Newport nose. A hard sell in times of high gas prices, the Gran Fury was Chrysler's largest car in 1984.

Changes for 1984 were minimal; the slant six had been dropped so the 318 V8 with two-barrel carburetor was standard. There was one new exterior color, P205/75R15 Goodyear Arriva tires were standard, 60.40 cloth seats were optional (Gran Fury/Diplomat), a digital clock was added to the AM radio (standard), and black velvet finish bezel overlays were used in various places to match the new corporate radios.

At this time, rear wheel drive had a negative cachet among the general public, and the once-small, once-fuel-efficient A-F-M series had, with the downsizing of other cars, ended up with only a little more interior room than its modern competitors, but much more weight and much less gas mileage. The trunk area was Valiant-sized-and-shaped, though the spare tire was lifted out of the well and shoved under the package shelf.

The tough nature of the cars was appreciated by taxi drivers and cops, but not so much by the general public. Thus, in market terms, the Volare was replaced by the Reliant and the Aspen by the Aries, with the Diplomat, Gran Fury, and Fifth Avenue replacing - in market terms - their B-bodies for fleet use, and their top offerings for near-luxury customers.

1986 plymouth gran fury cars

In 1986, despite the attractive interior, few civilians bought Diplomats or Gran Furys; most appear to have gone to police departments (which favored the Dodge Diplomat), with civilian buyers generally opting for the Chrysler New Yorker/Fifth Avenue. The front suspension remained the famous, easily adjusted torsion bar setup, albeit in transverse form, while four leaf springs were used in the rear. The only tire choice was 205/75R15 whitewall radials; the air conditioner had a six-cylinder compressor, and the automatic temperature control was set via a slider above the vent pushbuttons. Fans had a traditional control switch with four speeds (with the automatic temp control). Other options included tilt wheel, warning lights in the alternator, fuel level, and coolant guages, illuminated entry, intermittent washer/wipers, electric rear defroster, cruise, power deck release, power windows, bigger battery, and a large variety of radios.

load leveling

For 1986, the wagon form (still named Chrysler Town & Country, for the last year a car, rather than a minivan, would carry that name) gained an automatic load leveling system, using a height sensor linked to the rear suspension track bar. Air was pumped into or released from rubber bladders on the rear dampers to keep the vehicle attitude correct and maintain the ride. The system was also available on Chrysler New Yorker.

1987 dodge diplomat

Dodge gently acknowledged the aging Diplomat with its 1987 brochure copy (Diplomat SE pictured): “It’s reassuring to know that some proven traditions carry on...like the 1987 Dodge Diplomat. Its V8 engine and rear wheel drive configuration preserve time-honored driving values: durability, reliability, steady performance, and smooth ride. What is more, years of engineering refinement have elevated Diplomat’s level of quality. ... Diplomat. The traditional expression of engineering, design, and value for the money.”

Dodge Diplomat police car

By 1989, the cars’ last year, the only good seller of the trio was the Chrysler, and that fell from over 100,000 units in 1986 to 70,000 in 1987, to just over 40,000 in 1988. No four-door rear-wheel-drive car would be sold by Chrysler until 2003. The public didn’t want that form any more, outside of sports cars and imported luxury sedans. The engines produced too little power to make the Diplomat or Gran Fury sporty, and cornering and gas mileage were well below the competing K-car derivatives. Chrysler replaced the Diplomat and Gran Fury with the AC-body Dodge Dynasty and Chrysler Fifth Avenue/Imperial (derived from the K line); they sold better, despite their “looser” bodies, and the police switched to the Chevrolet Caprice.

Sales chart. Chrysler’s versions were always on top of retail sales; Diplomats for the police and taxis.

dodge diplomat and chrysler fifth avenue sales

Chassis and suspension

Majority of this section modified from Ed Hennessy's Aspen/Volare page.

1978 chrysler town & country wagonThe chassis design was typical Mopar, with a unitized body and chassis, torsion bar front suspensions, and leaf spring rear suspensions. However, the front suspension was a newer design carried forward from the F body Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare. Instead of the longitudinal torsion bars found on every Chrysler product since 1957, the F and M bodies used a transverse torsion bar, which placed the bar anchor near the control arm on the opposite side. The bar on each side was roughly L-shaped, and ran across the front of the car just ahead of the K-frame. This was first tried out on the F body to give the compact cars a "big car" ride. The rest of the front suspension was similar to that of the A body, with upper A-arms and lower control arms. A front sway bar was standard.

The rear suspension also used a design carried forward from the F body, attaching the leaf springs to the frame of the car. Chrysler called it an "Iso-Clamp," and it was basically a rubber donut sandwiched between the spring perch and the frame. The idea was to reduce transmission of road vibrations into the passenger compartment. The "Iso-Clamp" design was used on all of the other rear-drive Chrysler products from that time on.

Chrysler furnished the M bodies with 11 inch front disk brakes and 10 inch rear drums (11 inches for taxi and police applications). Power steering and power brakes were initially both optional. Wheel diameter was 15 inches for all models, with stock tires size FR78-15 and wheel sizes 5-1/2JJ, 6JJ.

rear

In 1988, Chrysler wrote (regarding the Plymouth version, but all were very similar):

Plymouth Gran Fury has transverse-mounted torsion-bar front suspension and multileaf rear suspension. The ride and comfort of Gran Fury is traditionally associated with a bigger car. It's a ride with stability, smoothness and handling control. These qualities are achieved with a unique Plymouth suspension. Isolated transverse torsion bar front springs are mounted ahead of the front wheels and Iso-Clamp multileaf rear springs are all rubber-isolated from the car structure. The transverse front torsion bars and multileaf rear springs contribute to ride stability, smoothness and handling responsiveness; the rubber isolation quiets the ride and increases the degree of smoothness.

Car height adjusters are built into the Plymouth transverse front torsion bar suspension system. Transverse torsion bars can be adjusted to keep the front end of the car at the proper height. Turning the adjusting bolts raises or lowers the front of the car.

Iso-Clamp rear suspension utilizes large rubber cushions between the spring clamps and axle housings to reduce road noises and axle vibrations before they can be transferred to the leaf springs. Sounds and vibrations are further reduced by rubber isolators in the rear spring eyes-where the spring mounts to the car structure. The rubber isolator in the front eye of the spring is oval shaped to increase fore-and-aft cushioning.

1981 dodge diplomat

With just the carbureted 318 (two-barrel) available in 1988, gas mileage was estimated by the EPA at 17 city, 23 highway. The compression ratio was a high 9.1:1, and horsepower figures were below the 2.2 turbo (though torque was far higher, and achieved at a very low engine speed, nearly at idle): 140 hp at 3,600 rpm, and 265 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. The 318’s top horsepower with a two-barrel carb, since 1971, had been 150 hp.

Drivetrains

diplomatThe Diplomat line offered the typical Mopar choices of the time. Either the single barrel or two barrel 225 Slant Six or the two barrel 318 V8 power plants would be joined with the standard Torqueflite 3 speed automatic transmission.

A four barrel was optional with the 318 V8; Rick Ehrenberg of Mopar Action wrote that the engine, with 360 heads, was available in the Plymouth and Dodge M-bodies every year from 1981 through to 1989 — the last few years had an electronic feedback QuadraJet. The four-barrel more than compensated for the smog equipment, achieving 165 and, later 175 horsepower.

For 1979 only, a 4 speed manual transmission was available, but it was dropped for 1980 and on. Fridrik R pointed out that the 1977-1979 models also had an optional 360 V8; his 1979 Chrysler LeBaron Medallion Coupe has the E-58 360 engine with a four-barrel carburetor and a dual exhaust aft of the rear axle where it turns into a single exhaust to the rear of the car (this car was originally built to be shipped to Saudi Arabia, but the same engine was available for the US in 1978-1979). The 1977-79 360s sold in the US had a single two-barrel carburetor (except in California) and did not match the 318 four-barrel’s horsepower, though it had more torque. See the powertrain tables at the end of this page for details.

cruiser

Official Police Package Diplomats and LeBarons were not initially offered with the debut of the new line, though a few law enforcement departments of the time saw it coming and ordered Diplomats for cruiser duty; early Diplomats were said to have problems with the shock towers, leading to their reinforcement on police models, which were the most likely to have problems otherwise. Police Package Diplomats were available starting in 1981 until the 1989 cancellation, with many claiming that the four-barrel 360 V8 and tough 727 Torqueflite 3 speed were available as special orders, though many police agencies stayed with stock two-barrel 318 engines.

All Gran Furys and Diplomats were equipped with Chrysler's Lean Burn emissions control system. After 1984, the 225 Slant Six was discontinued, and the 318 continued for another five years alone. Though the 318 would get fuel injection, the only vehicles to get injected 318s would be trucks.

Quality

police version - Dodge DiplomatThere were no serious quality issues after the first year of M body cars. There were little details here and there which are inherent every time a new product is offered, but since nearly all of the car was a reshaped F body, the major quality issues had already been addressed. A sheet metal skin updating in 1980 didn't change the appearance much - it could still be clearly traced to 1970s Valiant styling - but the front clip was more authoritative and upscale.

By the middle 1980s, the Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury were almost always purchased for fleet duty while Chrysler's New Yorker (1982) and Fifth Avenue (1983-on) sold moderately well in the mid-size luxury market. The most powerful selling point for all of them was the long history of solid design and rugged reliability, and those factors sometimes overcame the dated styling and lackluster performance (even with the 318 V8, which ended up with just 120 horsepower).

Derivatives

In addition to the Diplomat, Chrysler sold the J-bodies, Dodge Mirada and Chrysler Cordoba, off the F/M platform from 1980 to 1983. These were essentially two-door M body cars with different sheet metal exteriors and and interior furnishings. They were virtually identical, in the same manner that the Diplomat line cars could freely interchange even the smallest detail parts, though the J bodies offered (in some years) more powerful engines to the public.

Dodge Mirada Dodge Diplomat
1982 Dodge Mirada with optional T-top.
Robert Ewald's 1980 Dodge Diplomat
with custom T-top.

Kevin McCabe wrote: “The 1981-1983 Imperial coupes, while heavily based on the J body cars, were actually known within the Corporation as Y body vehicles. The sharing of parts between Cordoba and Imperial included but was not limited to doors and front fenders. ... Once the Imperial was assembled at the Windsor Assembly Plant each car was taken on a several mile road trip around the streets of Windsor which ended at the Imperial Quality Assurance Center, a Chrysler facility some 2-3 miles from Windsor Assembly. This building was in fact, the original home of Maxwell/Chalmers of Canada, the office area at the front of the plant served as the first headquarters of Chrysler Canada and the building itself predated the construction of Windsor Assembly by approximately 15 years.” Thus, the Y-body Imperial could be called a descendent of the humble F body, itself a next-generation A-body.

It has been rumored that the proven ability of the M body also led to the preliminary design of a light pickup based on the Diplomat frame, drivetrain and suspension. This could have been an early version of the Dakota. While it seems reasonable that an M derived truck was once on the drawing board, it never made it to production. Had the vehicle been produced, it might have eliminated the need for a Mitsubishi small pickup and given the Diplomat itself a longer life.

Fleets

Dodge Diploamt
A 1979 Diplomat rental car-turned Washington
State Motor Pool car, after being sold with two
surplus pickups to the author's father in 1986.

Looking back, the lasting legacy of the Diplomat continues to be visible. Even now, years after the last one rolled off the line in 1989, someone who knows where to look can find a Diplomat still in police duty, and Diplomat taxis remain commonplace, a testimony to the proven durability of the F and M body design. Diplomats still on the road with 200,000+ miles are the norm. Many old Diplomat police cars also still serve in other ways, such as being handed down to Fire Departments and City Services. They continue to get up and serve faithfully despite many years of abuse and brutal working conditions.

The Diplomat's predecessor, the F body, failed to catch on right away as a police cruiser because of its interior space; full size cars such as the Fury and St. Regis were in common use when it was introduced. By the time the M cruiser was created, law enforcement agencies had begun to recognize the advantages of a nimble mid-sized squad which could more easily navigate city streets and fit into tight situations. Fuel economy was also becoming a minor issue. The Diplomat answered all of these problems, and looked pretty mean as well, making it a perfect fit for the industry and supplying Chrysler with a steady reliable income for years.

Even Diplomats not designated for fleets found their way in anyway. Government agencies already sold on the Diplomat squads started picking up rental returns and lease returns through auction services, and funneled those Diplomats into service as motor pool cars and other light-duty fleet jobs. The author's own 1979 Diplomat came into his possession through such a chain of ownership via surplus auction, one of three owned by the family.

Drivetrain and Model Choices by Year

Much of this section adapted from Ed Hennessy's Aspen/Volare page.

Body styles

1977-79 Dodge Diplomat 4 Door, 2 Door, Wagon.
Chrysler LeBaron 4 Door, 2 Door, Wagon.
Chrysler Town and Country Wagon.
Plymouth Caravelle (Canada) 4 Door, 2 Door, Wagon.
1980-81 Same as 1977-79 but...
PLUS Plymouth Gran Fury 4 Door, Wagon.
1982-83 Four door only. Wagons dropped.
Dodge Diplomat, Plymouth Gran Fury, Plymouth Caravelle (Canada).
Additions: Chrysler New Yorker (1982),
Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue (1983).

1984-89 Four door only.
Dodge Diplomat, Chrysler Fifth Avenue,
Plymouth Gran Fury, Plymouth Caravelle (Canada).

Slant Six (single barrel carb)

1977-78 1979 1980-83 1977-78 (CA) 1979 (CA)
HP 100 @ 3600 RPM 100 @ 3600 RPM 90 @ 3600 RPM 90 @ 3600 RPM 90 @ 3600 RPM
Torque 170 @ 1600 160 @ 1600 160 @ 1600 170 @ 1600 165 @ 1600

V8 engines: 360 and 318

Continual adjustments to the 318 can be seen from 1980 to 1985, after which it settled down as a torquer. At the time, the 2.2 liter engine produced 86-99 horsepower with 111-123 lb-ft of torque.

318 1977-78 1979 1980 1981-83 1984 1985-89* 1977-78 (CA) 1979
(CA 4-bbl)
HP 145 @ 4000 140 @ 4000 120 @ 3,600 130 @ 4,000 130 @ 4,000 140 @ 3,600
135 @ 3600 155 @ 4000
Torque 245 @ 1600 245 @ 1600 245 @ 1,600 230 @ 1,600 235 @ 1,600 265 @ 1,600
235 @ 1600 245 @ 1600

The 318 with four barrel carburetor (using 360 heads) was available from 1984 to 1986, according to the Standard Catalog of Chrysler; but both former officer Curtis Redgap and Mopar Action’s Rick Ehrenberg said it was available from 1981 to 1989. Chris Greene it produced 175 horsepower through 1989.

For a few years, the M-bodies also had an optional 360 engine, but in the United States, it was equipped with a two-barrel carb (except in California); there were rumors of 360s in Diplomats through the 1980s, but these appear to have been Federal special orders or people assuming that four-barrel 318s (with 360 heads) were the bigger LA V8s.

1977-7819791979 (California) 1984 1985-86
Engine2-barrel 3602-barrel 3604-barrel 3604-barrel 3184-barrel 318
Horsepower 155 @ 3600 RPM155 @ 3600 RPM160 @ 3600 RPM165 @ 4,000 175 @ 4,000
Torque 275 @ 2000270 @ 2400265 @ 1600240 @ 2,000 250 @ 3,200

Transmissions

Available transmissions included the A230 3 speed (Slant Six only), the A833 4 speed overdrive (Slant Six and 318-2 only), and the A904 and A998/999 Torqueflite 3 speed automatics. These were coupled with either the Chrysler 7 1/4 inch rear axle (for Slant Six coupe and sedan, non-towing applications) or the Chrysler 8 1/4 axle for the wagon, heavy duty, and V8 versions. Axles were available in 2.45, 2.76, 2.94, and 3.23 to 1 ratios, depending upon transmission and engine. Sure-Grip limited slip axles were optional. Torqueflites got a lockup torque converter in 1978 for non-heavy duty engines. Police Package Diplomats with the 360 V8 were equipped with the virtually indestructible 727 transmission.

1988 gas mileage

1978 chrysler gas mileage ratings

Dodge Diplomat performance

1979 Dodge Diplomat with undercover lights, siren

At the time of the Diplomat's introduction, car performance was a fading concept not to return for several years due to tighter emissions restrictions coupled with the engineering tweaks precipitated by the gasoline shortages. The baseline Diplomats and siblings were not usually marketed with an emphasis on their performance as much as their consumer-friendly features and utility. If you wanted a high-performance Diplomat, the answer was to pick up a surplus police cruiser. While not flashy by styling standards of the day, they could be made to look less authoritarian and more like the high performance muscle cars of Dodge and Plymouth's proud past with the right cosmetic touches.

Dodge seemed to recognize the police car stigma of the Diplomat's appearance, and countered with the J body offerings (Mirada, Cordoba) which more easily could be seen as trying to remind someone of the glorious days of the cars like the Dodge Charger and Plymouth Barracuda, however there really was not much of a comparison.

Owners of former police squads frequently can brag about how some hotshot in a souped-up Chevy Camaro or Ford Mustang has been left eating dust after they screamed off the line in their unassuming Diplomat squad-turned-grocery getter. However I do not have any specific information on performance standards and capabilities of the Diplomat squads. Perhaps the reader can contribute from some other resource.

Incidentally, it should be noted that after the cancellation of the Dodge St. Regis in the early 1980s, several NASCAR drivers petitioned to have the Dodge Diplomat approved as a racing car, but NASCAR turned them down with a comment mentioning that NASCAR drivers would only be driving full-size cars....

The various M bodies - Diplomats, LeBarons, etc.

1985 Dodge Diplomat SE
A 1985 Dodge Diplomat SE owned by Scott Kuznicki's family,
featuring a Chrysler-like grill merged with the Dodge "gun sight" trim.

During the first run of the model (1977-1979), Diplomats and LeBarons could only be differentiated by the headlights. Diplomat headlights were placed above the turn signals, LeBarons below. The Plymouth Caravelle (in Canada) has the Diplomat headlight configuration as well, but the Diplomat's grille was dark gray and the Caravelle's was silver. Chrysler grilles had vertical elements while the others were block eggcrate.

The LeBaron was new to the Chrysler line in 1977. The LeBaron was a natural extension of a process begun in 1960, of making each brand a full line, blurring their identities to the point where executives would decide their once-most-popular brand was no longer needed. The LeBaron was similar under the skin to F-Body Volare and Aspen, but had a more restrained, dignified exterior (except perhaps on wood-like-sided wagons).

Chrysler LeBaron was available in eight models for 1980: three 4-door models, three 2-door models, and two station wagons. The 2-door models had a shorter, more compact 108.7" wheelbase and a sport appearance. Station wagons and 4-door models with new front and rear appearance continued with 112.7" wheelbases and family-size interior roominess. There was also a new medium-price non-woodgrain wagon.

In 1980, when the sheet metal was updated, the Diplomat and Caravelle had single flat tail light lenses while the LeBaron had two lenses on each side of the rear; one vertical along the edge of the fender, and another flat one towards the inside, slightly smaller than the Diplomat's. 1980 also saw the rear window made shorter with a steeper, more box-style angle. Wagon tail lights maintained the older style from the 1977-79 body as Chrysler seemed to indicate the lifespan of the Wagon (or the company’s restyling budget) was running short; given that dies last about 100,000 cars, it’s quite possible there was still considerable life left in the tooling. (There were both a LeBaron and Town & Country station wagon, the Town & Country being more upscale.)

Inside, door-pull straps were standard on all LeBaron Medallion, Salon, and Town & Country models, with roof-mounted assist handles standard in the Medallion 4-door rear compartment. A one-piece acoustical headlining covered with foam-backed, napped-knit nylon was standard on all LeBaron models, as was faux wood trim on the dashboard. Bi-level heater and fresh-air ventilation was standard on all models. The conventional spare was replaced on all but wagons with a compact spare. The conventional spare tire in a wagon was stored in a hidden compartment beneath the cargo floor near the rear of the wagon, where it was easily accessible.

There were various options, such as improved automatic temperature control air conditioner and new AM/FM stereo radio with cassette tape player with Dolby. A TorqueFlite automatic was standard; the base engine was the slant six with single-barrel carburetor, which could not have been especially enjoyable with a vehicle of this size. The 318 was available with a choice of two and four barrel carburetors. The transmission had a lockup torque converter except for California slant sixes; and slant sixes got a higher first and second gear ratio for better acceleration.

gran fury gauges

For 1981, LeBaron had eight models: salon and Medallion two-door hardtops, Special Sedan, Salon, and Medallion sedans; and the LeBaron and Town & Country wagons. Diplomat continued as a two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and four-door wagon. Sedans and wagons had a 112.7 inch wheelbase; LeBaron hardtops and two-door Diplomats had a 108.7 inch wheelbase. All had a torsion-bar front suspension and leaf springs out back; they would be the last cars built with that architecture.

LeBaron's interior was upgraded; standard features included power steering, power front disc brakes, whitewalls, and trip odometer. Diplomat got longer door armrests, a two-spoke steering wheel, and weight reductions from more use of plastic.

With the final major body update in 1982, the Chrysler LeBaron nameplate moved to a front wheel drive car, and the Chrysler New Yorker nameplate dropped down from a larger model to the M body; the New Yorker had the same tail light treatment as the Diplomat and Caravelle. The Gran Fury was introduced in the US, nearly identical to the Diplomat and selling at the same dealers as the also nearly identical New Yorker (and, later, Fifth Avenue). The New Yorker retained the headlights under turn signal configuration and had a narrow grille that stretched over the lip of the hood with vertical grille elements. The Chryslers also now had nearly vertical rear windows while the Dodge and Plymouth rear windows were somewhat angled. Some later year high trim level Diplomats adopted the Chrysler front end design, but were quickly identifiable by the slanted rear window and "gun-sight" cross hair grille design that Dodge was just beginning to implement. In 1983, the name New Yorker was replaced by Fifth Avenue, the New Yorker also going on to front wheel drive.

M bodies were also sold outside of North America, and were given rather different names. In Colombia, you could buy an M body Dodge Coronet from 1978-1979. In Mexico, an M body Dodge Dart was offered from 1980-1981. There are many other examples...

1978 Dodge Coronet
1981 Dodge Dart Diplomat
Raul Niño Serna's 1978 Dodge Coronet
Dr. José Marcos' 1981 Dodge Dart

Dodge Diplomat and other M-body 1980 changes

Key technologies in 1980 included galvanized steel provided anti-corrosion protection. Body-side sills, front fenders, door outer panels and quarter panels were made of sheet metal galvanized on one side. This galvanized steel had a high resistance to corrosion. Galvanized steel liftgate inner and outer panels were used in the Town & Country wagon.

A more advanced bit of tech was the diagnostic connector, in the engine compartment on the left wheelhouse, with a plug-in for quick diagnosis of engine electrical functions. When it was connected to the analyzer, it took less than five minutes to perform fifty different test procedures.

Chrysler LeBaron was available in eight models for 1980: three 4-door models, three 2-door models and two station wagons. The 2-door models (also available for Dodge Diplomats) had a shorter, more compact 108.7" wheel base and a sporty appearance; but they would only last until 1981. There was also a new medium-price non-woodgrain wagon.

Changes from 1979 to 1980 included:

  • New styling: front, rear and roof; front and rear lamps; vertical texture chrome-plated grille with chrome-plated die-cast frame.
  • Five new metallic paint colors and three new solid colors. Fourteen colors available. New two-tone Exterior Paint Treatment Package available with 4 color combinations except on wagon
  • New padded 2-door landau vinyl roof designed with unique quarter- window appearance and Frenched rear window was standard on the Medallion series. Roof was available in a choice of eight colors. New padded landau vinyl roof without unique quarter window appearance was optional on LeBaron and LeBaron Salon 2 door models. (Not available with LS "Limited" Coupe Package.) New style full, padded vinyl roof with Frenched rear window was standard on the Medallion 4-door. New style full vinyl roof option for LeBaron and LeBaron Salon 4 door models.
  • Scissors-type sill jack.
  • Lightweight inner and outer hood panels
  • Self-adjusting hood hinge assembly
  • High-strength steel front bumpers
  • Teakwood-grain woodtone appliqué with simulated white ash moldings were standard on body sides and liftgate of the Town & Country wagon.
  • Door-pull straps were standard on all LeBaron Medallion, Salon and Town & Country models.
  • Roof-mounted assist handles were standard in the Medallion 4-door rear compartment.
  • Door courtesy lights were standard on all Medallion models.
  • A one-piece acoustical headlining covered with foam-backed, napped-knit nylon was standard on all LeBaron models.
  • New, rich woodtone trim on the instrument cluster and glove-box door was standard on all models.
  • Coved side panels above rear-seat armrests on 2-door models.
  • New passenger easy-entry system was standard on 2-door models with 60/40 seats. An assist spring pulls the seat to the full-forward position when either the seat-back release or recliner lever was operated — provided maximum entrance room to the rear-seat compartment
  • New inertia seat-back release on 2-door models made it easier to fold the driver's seat-back forward on the 60/40 seat and both seat-backs forward on the split-back bench seat with folding center armrest.
  • Multifunction control lever on steering column for headlamp beam selection, directional turn signals, windshield washer and wipers—and optional automatic speed control
  • Ignition switch light with time delay was standard on Medallion models.
  • A map/dome reading lamp was standard on all Medallion models. Dome reading lamp standard on all other models
  • Bi-level heater and fresh-air ventilation was standard on all models.
  • Compact spare tire. Conventional spare standard on wagons.

Basic M-body chronology

1977 - 1979
Introduced Dodge Diplomat, Chrysler LeBaron.
1980 - 1981 Major restyling; hard-edged body style with slightly steeper rear windows. Chrysler headlights went from above to below turn signals and dual tail light lenses. Dodge grilles dark gray, Plymouth grilles silver, both eggcrate. Chrysler grilles: vertical element with wrap over front edge of hood.
1982 - 1984 Dodge and Plymouth headlights above turn signals, Chrysler headlights. Slightly steeper rear windows on Dodge and Plymouth, nearly vertical rear windows on Chrysler. Single tail light lenses on all models.
1985 - 1989 Lower trim Dodge and all Plymouth headlights above turn signals, all Chrysler and higher trim Dodge headlights below turn signals. Lower trim Dodge grilles dark gray, all Plymouth grilles silver, both eggcrate. Higher trim Dodge and all Chrysler grilles vertical element with wrap over front edge of hood, with "gun sight" overlay for Dodge. In 1986, Ultimate Sound radio with cassette and five-band equalizer became optional; radios came with either black faceplates and chrome trim, or metal faceplates with chrome trim. Third brake light added. AM stereo standard with FM stereo optional.

Trim lines

Gran Fury was available as a sedan through its run, called simply Gran Fury in 1982 and 1988, and Gran Fury Salon in other years from 1983-1989. From 1986, Gran Fury only had a Salon four-door, with standard 400 amp battery and 60 amp alternator, with power brakes, power steering, automatic, V8, bumper guards, dual horns, and bright moldings on the windshield, roof (drip), belts, rear-door glass division bar, rear window, sill, and wheel openings.

Dodge Diplomat models (courtesy Bill Watson) — (letter) is the series:

Diplomat
Diplomat
Medallion
(P)
Others Diplomat
Salon
1977 coupe, sedan (H) coupe*, sedan*
1978 coupe, sedan,
wagon* (H)
coupe*, sedan* Dip. S (M)
coupe*,**, sedan*,**
1979 coupe, sedan, wagon (H) coupe*, sedan* coupe, sedan, wagon (H)
1980 coupe, sedan, wagon (M) coupe*, sedan* Special (L) coupe** coupe, sedan, wagon (H)
1981 coupe, sedan, wagon (M) coupe*, sedan* coupe, sedan, wagon (H)***
1982 sedan (H)*
1983 sedan* sedan (L)
1984-1988 SE sedan* (P) sedan (L)
1989 sedan (E)* SE sedan* (P) sedan (L)

* Not offered in Canada; ** Midyear introduction; *** salon sold in Canada as series (M)
In 1982, Salon not sold in Canada, but Salon interior was optional

Chrysler models ... Newport was always an export-only model. Wagons were all called Town & Country. Again, series is in (parentheses). Information courtesy Bill Watson.

LeBaron (H)
LeBaron
Medallion (P)
Fifth Avenue
(S)
Others
1977 coupe, sedan coupe*, sedan*
1978 coupe*, sedan* wagon coupe, sedan LeBaron S (M) coupe, sedan **
1979 coupe*(M), sedan*(M), wagon (H) coupe, sedan LeBaron Salon (H) coupe*, sedan*
1980 coupe*, sedan*, wagon coupe, sedan, wagon LeBaron Special (L) coupe*,**
1981 sedan(M), wagon (H) coupe, sedan LeBaron Special (L) coupe*, sedan*
LeBaron Salon (H) coupe, sedan
1982 New Yorker (S)
(Fifth Ave. was a trim option)
1983 sedan
1984-1988 sedan Newport Sedan (H)
1989 sedan

* Not sold in Canada though in 1977, Medallion interior was available as an option
** Mid-year intro

Impressions and notes

Frank Billington, responding to an inquiry on the Fifth Avenue

Especially the late years, the padding and sound-deadening, and luxury trimmings make the Fifth Avenues pretty heavy. It's quite safe, though, and the 1989s had airbags, too. As a firefighter, I've seen "M"s in a fair number of accidents, and they come out smelling like roses pretty much all the time.

I had a 1987 Fifth and it wasn't as fast as Farley (1979 Diplomat). Off the line acceleration was better than Farley, though. My guess was that the late emissions stuff choked it up, but I was never sure, it always ran a little funny even if it was a dependable car. It had its own share of annoying little problems that any car over 150K will have with its various gadgets, nothing I couldn't fix or live without.

Handling will be a little like a battleship - it will lean on hard corners, and the turning radius is a little wide, but you can feel the road just fine and you'll have no problem dodging inattentive children and errant traffic cones. Though the body leans, the tires always go where you want them to. Never had any problems braking, both the Dip and the Fifth Ave stop right now (except for when the dang-finagling front brake hose breaks, it's a weak point).

Mike Taylor wrote about the Chrysler Fifth Avenue:

From what I've learned about them 1988 and 1989 are completely galvanized underneath and what isn't galvanized is stainless. Guess this may or may not mean something to you depending on what your winters are like (we live in Ontario).

The weak spot of the drivetrain is the rear end, but driven like an average car they'll hold up. With the Lean Burn running properly the 318 gives nice performance for a car of this size and also good gas mileage (with an engine that had under 100 compression in most cylinders my dead one could still chirp the tires). When problems occur a non-feedback BBD and vacuum distributor can easily be changed in to eliminate the system altogether.

Diplomat - front

Both of mine have now had the gas lines rust out behind the front wheel, but it's a repair that's easy to do. For longer drives the plushy seats maintain their comfort and the automatic temperature control works well. The only flaw with the interiors is the fabric trim around the door frame, window pillars, etc... tend to wear through and peel with age. The problems I've had with them are typical ones- muffler and tail pipe once, brakes, ball joint, brake hoses.

Problems with the power features are simple to repair. Just about everything about the M-bodies goes back to the older 1960s+70s style mopars. Even little things like the window motors and door handles have the older look and the styling has minor cues as well, such as the rounded up edges of the front fenders which is a scaled down look of the 1970s New Yorkers and Imperials. Parts can be found all over at prices anyone can afford.

The interiors in 1988/89s are toned down a bit - not as plush carpet, no chrome dash faces. There's a lip right behind the front wheel where the floor pan meets the firewall, check for rust there. The lip tends to trap winter dirt and salt and such and can rust a hole which then easily lets water in as the wheel spins. The flaw in those gas lines is they ran them in part of the frame, then over it where dirt collects. When they first go you'll smell gas a bit, then one day you'll wake up to a leak under the car. The metal line under the car goes to rubber under the passenger feet and then to metal again, the garage fixed the 1988 by running hose from that spot up the firewall, across the fender and down to the gas pump. The manifold is right there and if run in the frame the control can rub it and under the hood that manifold gets it.

Features (from 1980 Chrysler publicity materials)

Smooth automatic shifting and a part-throttle downshift were featured in the 3-speed TorqueFlite au­tomatic transmission. At low speeds, moderate accelerator pedal depression provided a smooth downshift from high to second gear, minimizing the need to "floor" the accelerator pedal in passing situations. TorqueFlite transmissions with all LeBaron engines—except six-cylinder in California—had a fuel-saving lock-up clutch in the torque converter which provided a direct mechanical connection between the engine and transmission at cruising speeds. On six-cylinder engines for 1980, wide-ratio first and second transmission gears had numerically higher ratios for better acceleration per­formance.

The instrument panel and cluster were luxurious and functional. A bright Sherwood woodtone enriched the panel face; luxury-designed cluster with gauges directly in front of the driver provided excellent readability. The circular gauges were recessed in the panel. The large speedometer and fuel gauge were directly above the steering column; the speedometer had both miles per hour and kilometers per hour. An odometer and a trip odometer were within the speedometer. Gauges for the alternator and engine temperature were to the left of the speedometer, as were warning lights for the oil pressure, brake system, and optional door-ajar warning light. Controls for the headlights and optional rear defogger were to the left of the steering column.

Controls for the windshield wiper/washer, turn signal, headlamp beam selector, optional speed control and intermittent windshield wipers were on a stalk. A 2-spoke steering wheel with horn pad, padded center and woodtone trim was standard; the optional electronic digital clock was visible through an opening of the glove box door. The control switch for the optional power trunk lid release was inside the glove box. A glove box lock was standard as were an inside day/night rearview mirror on LeBaron Salon, LeBaron Medallion and Town & Country model and an inside hood release. The instrument panel had modular construction for easy access to gauges and controls for servicing. All were accessible from the passenger compartment.

Bi-level heater- defroster system was standard on all models. This used the four air-conditioner outlets in the instrument panel in addition to floor-level outlets.

Opera lamps were standard on LeBaron Medallion 2-door and 4-door models. Door courtesy lamps were standard on LeBaron Medallion and on Town & Country models with optional 60/40 seats.

The ignition switch and key cylinder were located on the steering column, and the key could only be taken out when in Park to prevent theft.

A multifunction control lever was used in all models for turn signals, headlamp-beam selector, windshield wiper and washer—plus controls for the optional intermittent windshield wipers and the optional automatic speed control. Apply light pressure to the turn-signal lever and the signals flashed to indicate a change of lane.

Color-keyed cut-pile carpeting in LeBaron, LeBaron Salon and Town & Country models and long cut pile in LeBaron Medallion models was standard. Medallion 4-door rear compartment featured foam-padded seats and folding center armrest. Carpeted in­serts on the door panels added to the richness of the interior. Door pull assists were standard for all doors on LeBaron Salon, LeBaron Medal­lion and Town & Country models.

A scissors jack, which lifts the car at reinforced sill pads, was stan­dard on all models. Each two-inch-square sill pad had turned-down flanges to engage the scissors jack. The flanges prevented the car or jack from slipping as the vehicle was raised.

Easy-entry system, passenger side—2-door models with 60/40 seats: standard on the Medallion 2-door: this feature used an assist spring in the front passenger seat that automatically moved the empty seat fully forward when the seat-back release lever or the seat reel inner lever was oper­ated for easier entry to the rear seats.

Power brakes were standard. Disc brakes were used for the front wheels, 10" drum brakes for the rear.

18" windshield-wiper blades cleaned at least 95% of the significant viewing areas of the windshield. The computer-designed wiper linkage was located in the plenum chamber, and the wiper motor was located in the engine compartment for servicing accessibility and to reduce noise transfer to the passenger compartment. [This is, again, a Chrylser claim.]

A one-piece headliner made of molded fiberglass with a resin binder and covered with foam-backed nylon knit facing was standard on all models. The headliner was smooth, soft, attractive and easy to clean—and it was color-keyed to the car's interior

Power steering was standard. A fast-ratio steering gear turned the front wheels from full left to full right with only 3.5 revolutions of the steering wheel. An 18-gallon gasoline tank was standard on all models.

For the wagons, marine teakwood-grain appliqués on body sides and liftgate were framed with simulated white ash moldings; the wagon area was carpeted in Town & Country. Cut-pile carpeting — color-keyed to the interior trim —covered the cargo floor and sides up to the window trim and the back of the second seat-back. The cargo floor and back of the second seat had stainless-steel skid strips. With the second seat-back folded forward, the cargo capacity was a big 71.8 cubic feet on all wagons. A push button unlatched the second seat-back so the seat-back could be folded forward to expand the cargo compartment. A carpeted floor panel—attached to the back of the second seat-back — pivoted forward to fill in the floor gap between the cargo floor and second seat and locked the seat-back down. This panel made the cargo floor continuous and gap free.

Other Specifications

The 1980 LeBaron figures are nearly identical to the M-bodies! Slight difference in wheelbase between 1980 and 1986 may be the result of a typographical error.

1980-81
LeBaron
2-door
1980
Diplomat
Sedan
1980
LeBaron sedan
1986
Gran Fury
1980
Chrysler
Wagons

Wheelbase

108.7"

112.7"

112.7"

112.6

112.7"

Overall length

201.2"

206.1”

205.2"

204.6

205.5"

Overall width

74.2"

72.8”*

74.2"

72.4

74.2"

Overall height

53.4

55.3

55.1

55.5

Track—Front / Rear

60.0"/59.5"

60.0"/ 59.5"

60.0"/ 59.5"

60.0"/59.5"

Turning diameter (curb-to-curb)

39.5'

40.7'

40.7’

40.7'

Headroom—Front /Rear

37.6" / 36.7"

39.2 / 37.5

39.3" 37.7"

39.3 / 37.7

39.2" / 38.7"

Legroom—Front /Rear

42.3"/ 33.4"

42.5/36.6

42.4" / 37.4"

42.5 / 36.6

42.4" / 37.4"

Hip room—Front /Rear

55.6" /51.2"

56.8/56.6

56.8" / 56.6"

56.8" / 56.6"

Shoulder-room—Front /Rear

55.9" / 57.1"

55.2 / 55.2

56.0" / 56.0"

56.0" / 56.0"

Cargo capacity— [cu. ft]

14.8

17.0

15.6

15.6

71.8

Weight 3,309 - 3,375 3,600 lb 3,395 - 3,493 3,545 - 3,617

* Two door specs: Length- 204.0 in; Width- 73.5 in.; headroom, 37.4/36.2; shoulder room, 55.2/56.0; rear leg room, 34.1; rear hip room, 55.6 / 52.8. Note, 18 gallon tank used on both two and foor doors.

  • Axle Assembly, Rear—Semifloating, with flanged axles. Hypoid gears, 2-pinion differential
  • Wheel Bearings—Tapered-roller front wheels, ball bearing rear wheels with 7.25" rear axle
  • Brakes—10.8 disc front, 10" x 2.4" drum-type rear. Swept area—rear, 355.24 square inches.
  • Catalytic Converter—A welded stainless-steel housing contains a catalytic material that oxidized hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to reduce exhaust emissions Standard on all models.
  • Choke, Automatic—Controlled by engine temperature, air velocity and vacuum. Heat-sensing coil is recessed in exhaust manifold on 6-cylinder engines, located in exhaust crossover on V-8s. The choke was assisted by an electric heating element.
  • Circuit breakers prevent wiring damage during a short or overload and automatically provide for restoration of circuit continuity with removal of the fault. Circuits protected with circuit breakers include headlamps, wipers, and power windows, power seats and power door locks. A system of fusible links protects the charging system circuit and all main feed circuits numbering up to five Extreme overload current in any protected main feed circuit opens that fusible link without disabling circuits fed by other fusible links—thus preventing total electrical power loss due to a problem in that main feed circuit.
  • Cooling System. Engine—16 psi. pressure-vent, coolant-reserve system.
  • Crankcase Ventilation—Closed-circuit crankcase ventilation system on all models. Crankcase vapors were routed to the combustion chambers through a PCV valve located in the valve cover. Vapors were burned before being expelled into the air through the exhaust system
  • Axle ratios: 2.7:1 with slant six (except wagon, California); 2.9:1 with slant six (California, wagons); 2.4:1 with 318.
  • Drive Shaft Tubular steel, with internal vibration absorber
  • Electrical—Alternator, 12-volt. 60-ampere alternator. 65-ampere alternator was included with the optional electric rear-window defroster and with optional Heavy-Duty Package. Battery, 325-500 amp. Electronic ignition standard.
  • Exhaust System—Single exhaust with aluminized-steel mufflers and tailpipes
  • Exhaust-Valve Seats—Induction-hardened exhaust-valve seats on all engines
  • Fan, Engine—Slant Six: 17.5" diameter, 4 blades, 18" diameter, S-blade fluid drive with air conditioning. V-8: 18.0" diameter. S-blade flex; 20" diameter. 7-blade fluid drive with air conditioning
  • Filter, Fuel —Two filters Woven plastic 65-micron filter in gas tank, 15-micron paper filter between fuel pump and carburetor.
  • Filter, TorqueFliteTransmission Fluid—Full-flow internally mounted provided 100% filtration of ail fluid. Under normal driving conditions, transmission fluid and filter did not require changing, according to the company.
  • Lubrication. Four front suspension ball joints, four tie rod ends and one pitman arm joint require lubrication at 30,000-mile or 3-year intervals, whichever comes first. Oil pressure, all engines 35-65 p.s.i. @ 2.000 rp.m. Crankcase oil capacity four quarts; when changing filter, add one extra quart.
  • Plugs, Spark—14 mm. Tapered seat on Slant Six. Cables have heat-resistant rubber boots at distributor and spark plug as moisture seals.
  • Seat Adjustment, Front—Manual, two-way. Adjustment limit: 5.9" front-to-rear
  • Shock Absorbers —Hydraulic,double-acting telescopic.
  • Steering Linkage —Trailing parallelogram with equal-length tie rods.
  • Steering, Power—Full-Time Constant-Control recirculating ball. Gear ratio, 15.7 to 1. Number of steering wheel turns full left to full right, 3.5.
  • Suspension, Rear—58" leaf springs. 4-leaf were standard; S-leaf with wagon and heavy-duty suspension.
  • Suspension, Front—Independent, lateral, non-parallel contro) arms with transverse torsion bars
  • Transmission, TorqueFlite—3-speed automatic with torque converter. Accelerator pedal kickdown control. Liquid-cooled Planetary-gear ratios for six-cylinder: first, 2 74 to 1, second, 1 54 to 1, drive, 1 to 1; reverse. 2.2 to 1.
    V-8: First, 2.45 to 1, second, 1.45 to 1; drive, 1.0 to 1; reverse, 2.2 to 1
  • Transmission Torque Converter with Lockup Feature—The lock-up clutch engaged after the TorqueFlite shifts from 2nd to direct drive (as low as 26 miles an hour). This eliminated torque converter slip at cruising speeds, increasing highway fuel economy.
  • Turning Diameter (Curb to Curb)—4-door and station wagon models 40.7 feet. 2-door models: 39.5 feet.
  • Universal Joints, Drive Shaft—Front and rear cross trunnion with rollers.
  • Windshield Washers—Electric, multijet nozzles.
  • Windshield Wipers—Electric. 2 speed, parallel action with articulated arm on driver's side standard. Intermittent wipers were optional at extra cost on all models

Wagons:

  • A—Maximum height of rear opening 27.3"
  • B—Length, back of second seat to end of cargo floor 49.2"
  • C—Maximum cargo height 30.7"
  • D—Width of rear opening at floor 44.1"
  • E—Length, back of front seat to end of cargo floor 82.1"
  • F—Width between wheelhousings at floor 43.3"
  • Cargo capacity (cubic feet) 71.8
  • Glass area, total (square inches) 4,990

 

Selected 1980 LeBaron options

  • Improved automatic temperature control air conditioner
  • New AM/FM stereo radio with cassette tape player with Dolby noise reduction
  • New center console available with bucket seats on Salon 2-door with optional LS Packages.
  • Cloth, high-back bucket seats available on Salon 2-door and with the optional LS Packages.
  • 60/40 split-back bench seat with folding center armrest and passenger seat-back recliner available in leather-and vinyl trim on Medallion and wagon models
  • New illuminated entry system.
  • New Handling Package with special firm-feel power steering, rear sway bar and heavy-duty shock absorbers.
  • New liftgate wiper-washer option available on Town & Country and LeBaron station wagons.
  • Halogen headlamps—high and low beams
  • Electrically heated rear-window defroster.
  • Remote-control sport chrome or painted mirrors—left and convex right.
  • AM/FM stereo radio with Electronic Search-Tune; or with CB radio.
  • Illuminated vanity mirrors, left and right.
  • T-Bar roof for 2-door models (Late availability.)

DeSoto Diplomats

The name “Diplomat” was taken from export DeSotos, often based on Plymouths or Dodges. Plymouth started converting its cars to DeSoto Diplomats in 1946; Dodge versions were called the Kingsway. This continued until 1960, when the DeSoto Diplomat switched over to the Dodge Dart body.

1953 DeSoto Diplomat

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