Chrysler E Class, Chrysler New Yorker, Plymouth Caravelle, and Dodge 600ES
In 1981 and 1982, Chrysler was at a crossroads. The K-car had just taken off, as had the front drive Omni/Horizon. The rest of the Chrysler Corporation line had engineering still based in the mid-1960s, updated ever since. Lee Iacocca's mission in saving the Chrysler organization was to streamline and modernize the product line across the board.
A mid-sized front wheel drive sedan was missing from the lineup. The R Bodies (St. Regis, New Port) were gone and the Diplomat/Gran Fury was a fleet car and only a bit larger than midsize. GM launched the Celebrity, Century, Ciera, and 6000 for 1982; Chrysler launched the Dodge 600 and Chrysler E Class for 1983. At the same time, they released their first front wheel drive “luxury” car, the New Yorker. Finally, in 1985 and almost as an afterthought, Chrysler introduced the Plymouth Caravelle.
This was a wise and frugal bit of engineering and the first of the many permutations of the original K platform. As the K was a roomy, wide design already, they added length, stretching it by ten inches between the B and C pillars. The cars featured a new greenhouse with extra windows in the C pillars. The deck lid was a bit higher than the K to increase trunk room. The front ends were taken from the Chrysler Le Baron and Dodge 400.
The interiors were roomy and airy with the extra legroom and windows. Dashboards and most interior trim were initially borrowed from the K-cars, particularly LeBaron and 400. The engines on initial versions were the 2.2 Trans 4 and the Mistubishi 2.6 Silent Shaft 4 cylinder engines. Later versions saw the 2.2 with single point fuel injection and the "Turbo I " 2.2 litre turbo. Numerous options allowed them to be equipped from basic family models to Euro Sport sedans.
Model breakdown and history
Chrysler E Class - 1983-1985
This was the Chrysler for people who wanted an efficient front drive family sedan with more room than a K car and a bit of flash, but not the girth or cost of the Fifth Avenue. The car was marketed against the Buick Century and Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. The car came in one trim level, but was available with many options, either á la carte or in packages. Engines were the standard 2.2 litre four, the Mitsubishi 2.6, and for 1984, the turbo-2.2. It did not sell in the numbers that Chrysler had expected, so it was dropped at the end of the 1984 model year, despite having just been upgraded with numerous new interior and exterior features, including a new instrument panel, power windows, electronic gauges with car graphics, and optional Electronic Navigator.
Plymouth Caravelle - 1985-1988 (USA), 1983-1988 (Canada)
Chrysler repackaged the E Class as the Caravelle in 1983 for Canada only, and then in the US in 1985. The 1985 Caravelle came in one model/price only, the SE; most popular options were standard, including delay wipers, cloth split bench seats, AM/FM Stereo, cruise control, automatic transmission and power windows/locks. Engines were the 2.2 litre FI, the 2.2 Turbo, and the 2.6. This model featured the same front end as the 400/600 with an egg crate grill instead of slats.
For 1986, the body received some styling changes on the front and rear to soften the corners a bit (apparently in a response to the Taurus introduced in 1986) with the front grille being less pointed and with tail lights frenched in the rear. The interior was also freshened with new seat materials. The dashboard received new round gages and standard temperature gage and ammeter. For 1986, a "standard" version was available with fewer features; the 2.6 was replaced by the new 2.5 litre engine. The Caravelle carried on until 1988 with few changes and was replaced by the Plymouth Acclaim. Webmaster note: the name "Caravelle" was used in Canada for the Plymouth version of the Diplomat, as well.
Dodge 600 1983-1988
The so-called Super-Ks were first introduced in late 1981 as 1982 models - as the Chrysler LeBaron and a Dodge 400. .... The major styling differences between the Aries and 400 were the unique front clip and fascia, front grill, quad headlamps, the pointed, prow-shaped front bumber, the hood, and the tail.
Chrysler carried over the K-car interiors, using more plush fabrics and wood toned trim. There were features standard on the Super-K that were optional or just not available on the basic K-car platforms. ... The Super-K also boasted quieter interiors, due to the heavier sound insulation used. ... Convertibles arrived at mid-year, offering the first domestically produced convertibles since 1976.
The Dodge 600 was sold as the standard 600 (née 400), the luxury 600SE, and the 600ES Sport Sedan. Styling featurds the Mirada like "slat" grille and quad headlights set into the front fascia. This version of the E car was meant to cover many bases, from grocery getter to Audi killer. Engines again were the 2.2, 2.2 FI, 2.5FI and 2.2 Turbo.
The standard 600 was for the value minded consumer with practicality and value. The 600ES, with its stretched wheelbase, was the luxurious model equipped with all sorts of amenities standard such as power windows/locks, velour or leather interiors, stereo radios, Climate Control, Voice Alert and wire wheel covers. The 600ES was one of the most unique of all the E cars. It featured uprated suspension, Eagle GT tires on cast aluminum wheels, a blacked out exterior, full gauges, bucket seats, console and all of the luxury features of the 600SE. It was marketed as an alternative to European sport sedans. In 1984, the 600SE did that job well since the Turbo became available offering astounding acceleration and handling.
Though somewhat noisy, the 600SE was the first US alternative to Euro-sedans and was less costly (and more available) than Pontiac's slower 6000STE. For 1985, the 600ES sedan was joined by the K based 600ES Turbo convertible.
For 1986, the 600 received the same minor styling changes as the Caravelle; the 600ES sedan was, perhaps unwisely, dropped and replaced by the larger Dodge Spirit.
Far more information on the standard 600 and 600SE — which were “super K-cars,” while the 600ES was an E body (a stretched K-car)— is available on our “Super K” page.
Chrysler New Yorker -1983 - 1988
The New Yorker was Chrysler's ultimate expression of the front wheel drive car and the top of Chrysler's line (later models were more expensive than even the Fifth Avenue; my 1987 was more expensive than the most heavily optioned Fifth Avenue of that year.) It was marketed as a contemporary and technologically advanced luxury car aimed for those who wanted the style and content of a premium sedan without the girth and thirst of a large barge [editor’s note: interior space was similar to the Diplomat; see our comparison]. It came as only one model, the four-door sedan.
The 1984 Chrysler New Yorker was designed to retain upper-end Chrysler owners, with luxury cues in a more efficient vehicle and loads of high technology; it provided the roominess of the B-bodies with much less bulk and fuel use. Restyled for 1984, the New Yorker had "refined suspension and handling, excellent passing power (enhanced by a new turbocharged engine option) and electronic with new luxury ‘engineered-in’." A number of interior and exterior features were new, including a new padded woodtone instrument panel, power windows, electronic gauges with car graphic and optional Electronic Navigator.
Options were limited to sound systems, interior fabrics, wheel covers and sunroof (like the Imperial of this era). Standard features included digital dashboard with full instrumentation, voice alert, trip computer, relining seats and climate control. A formal vinyl Landau roof distinguished styling with silver trim and electro luminescent coach lamps.
The car featured the same front grille as the Lebaron for 1983. For 1984-1988 the grille was made a bit more vertical. For 1986 new rear quarter panels were added with a full width tail lamp. The rear license plate was molded into the bumper. For 1983 the only engine available was the Mitsubishi 2.6. For 1984 the 2.2 Turbo was added as an option (adding the ventilated hood). For 1986 the 2.5FI was added and the 2.6 was dropped, the turbo remaining an option. The 1988s were marketed as "New Yorker Turbo" alongside the "new" New Yorker introduced that year. (rumour is that they were all re-badged leftover 1987s)
Though these sedans were marketed only for a few seasons, they were the first "stretched" K cars. Their plebian roots were very well concealed and they had their own personalities and sense of style. Most importantly, they validated the engineering concepts of the K platform. The 600ES Sedan and New Yorker were the most distinctive of this generation. They offered styling, decent performance, and value.
My own experiences
I owned a 1984 Dodge 600 sedan and currently own a 1987 New Yorker:
1984 Dodge 600
We purchased the 1984 Dodge 600 as a used car in January 1986 and had it until May 1997. It was a base 600, with few options such as A/C, automatic transmission, delay wipers and custom wheel covers. Though it was the standard model, it harldy looked it. The stylish front end with slatted grille, a modicum of chrome trim, pinstripes and lustrous black paint made it look very sharp. The pretty grey interior done in a tufted vinyl, featured a split front bench seat with arm rest, reading lamps, wood trim and assist straps -- quite nice for a base model. The dashboard was quite basic but featured the "message center", a group of indicator lights in the shape of the car indicating "door ajar", "Low Fuel" and the like. The lay out of the dash was logical, with a large speedometer and fuel gauge, AM ETR radio with clock and center mounted A/C controls. Head room and leg room were exemplary and the many windows gave great visibility. Other conveniences included door kick panel lights, passenger assist straps on the headliner and doors, map lights and dual remote mirrors.
The ride on the streets and highway were smooth and relaxed, in line with most midsizes of the day. Handling was safe and predictable; though not a Daytona Turbo Z it cornered fairly well and absorbed the bumps. Rack and pinions power steering was on the light side, but not as bad as the GM competition. P185/75R14 WSW tires with deluxe wheel covers were on our car. Acceleration from the 2.2, rated at 99 horsepower, was not bad for a 2500 pound car. The 2.2 FI was much better in terms of drivability than the Mistubishi 2.6 (which lacked fuel injection and I found to be noisy and unrefined and not worth the marginal increase in horse power) . The quiet ride was only marred by a bit of noise under harsh acceleration. Cruising down thw street or highway, the 2.2 was fairly quiet and especially so compared to GM's ancient 2.5 litre, who's noise reminds one of a lawnmower. Even with 5 passengers and A/C on, it did not require "mashing" the accelerator to the floor to get it moving. Its mileage was never less than 24 MPG, even with lots of urban driving.
As I mentioned, we had it until 1997 when at that time it had 187,000 miles. It was used for commuting about 60 miles a day as well as vacation driving. The real benefit of owning this Dodge 600 was its incredible durability and reliability. Aside from routine maintenance and regular items such as brakes, struts, alternator, muffler rear springs and battery, we never had any major breakdowns. The engine, transmission, fuel injection system and A/C were all original. The only major repairs were a timing belt at 112,000 miles and a rack and pinion a few thousand miles later. It was highly reliable and never ever left us stranded. Even though the body loosened up a little bit with a few rattles and squeaks, the engine ran like a Rolex watch. The paint remained lustrous and there was not one spec of rust anywhere.
My only complaints about the body was the hubcaps, which were made from plastic (which were replaced with ones from an Aries) and the AM radio which never worked well (poor reception and "kazoo" sound quality) . It proved its mettle in many ways. Its interior was roomy enough to carry my ailing Mom with her wheelchair and oxygen tank, lots of college friends, furniture and computers. It plowed through snow with ease and kept us cool in the hot summers. Most importantly, its sturdy body was lifesaver! In May 1997 it was it struck by (ironically) a Dodge Caravan making an illegal u-turn and subsequently rolled over. My father walked away with only a few bruises from the seatbelts. The front of the car was damaged but the roof did NOT crush in the roll. Even the doors were able to open. Even the engine started up and ran. We would still have that car today if not for that accident. The Dodge 600 is the best car we have ever owned.
1987 Chrysler New Yorker
The 1987 New Yorker was purchased in May 1997 with 64,000 miles. We were looking for another Chrysler product to replace the fine Dodge 600. quite frankly, we were looking for something newer, but the price was right and the car was beautiful. Because it was an E Body and derived from the 600, we bought it.
Our New Yorker is silver with a grey interior. It shares many basic aspects of the 600, including a long wheelbase, roomy interior and useful trunk. However, it has every option sans the Turbo (which I didn't want anyway). It is every way a Chrysler, offering classic styling, boulevard ride and a sumptuous interior with the added bonus of economy and maneuverability. Even today, my New Yorker stands out from all the other luxury cars. Its formal roof, waterfall grille and wire wheel covers offer distinction above all the blobs and potatoes that pass for luxury cars today.
The 2.5 litre FI engine with counterbalancing shafts provides power. It provides improvements over the 2.2 by giving a bit more torque and horsepower. The counterbalancing shafts give the engine additional smoothness as well. Acceleration is more than sufficient to propel the 2700-pound New Yorker and has surprising midrange pick up for highway passing. Like the 600, it is frugal with the gas, never getting less than 24 MPG in mixed highway/urban driving. The ride is smooth and refined with silence, even under hard acceleration. The supple suspension absorbs the bumps without the "porpising" of the larger barges. Highway driving is smooth and relaxed as well. The tires (currently) are Dunlop Axiom Plus P205/70R14 WSW. Power steering is light fut road feel is pretty good for a luxury minded car.
The interior is the epitome of comfort and convenience. The seats are covered in rich dark grey velour with a "loose pillow" look. The rear seat features integrated head rests and a fold down arm rest. The front seat is a split bench affair, with individual armrests and cargo packets sewn onto the front below the leg and on the back rests. The reclining front seat also features headrests that not only go up and down, but pivot front and back as well. Combined with the tilt steering column, maximum comfort for the driver is assured. The long wheelbase provides ample leg room for all passengers. There are door pull straps and passenger assist handles to make ingress and egress easy. There are courtesy lamps on each door kick panel to light the way. An overhead console features reading lamps, storage for a pair of sunglasses and garage door opener and compass/thermometer. On each "c" pillar there is a courtesy lamp and an adjustable high intensity reading lamp. The Digital dashboard is well laid out and informative. Chrysler re did the dash for 1986 by rearranging the gauges, controls and speedometer. The speedometer, which features large numbers, has bar graphs vertical bar graphs on either side representing fuel level, temperature, voltage and oil pressure. On the left is the 5 function "Traveler" trip computer and headlamp switch. In the center is this stereo and digital climate control switch. All controls are within easy reach and easy to read in all light conditions. Also, among the "high tech" highlights is the Electronic Voice Alert, which reminds one "Please Fasten Your Seat Belts", "a Door is Ajar" and several other messages in an authoritarian male voice. ( As a computer systems engineer, I really appreciate the voice and the digital dash; even though the technology may seem dated by today's standards) . The steering wheel is leather wrapped as well. This car has one of the most "opulent" interiors I have seen on a luxury car and one of the most comfortable.
The New Yorker, like the 600, has held up well. The metallic clear coat paint is lustrous and the Landau vinyl roof is soft and not faded. There is no wear on the seats either. The previous owner took excellent car of the car and we keep it garaged and off the streets. The body is tight with no sqeaks or rattles. Reliability has been excellent as well, though a bit less than the 600. The engine is holding up well as is the driveline and suspension. The car currently has 88000 miles on it. We did however have to replace the power steering pump, front axles and master cylinder. However, all the power assists and electronics have held up well. The only problems have been a burned out power window motor and a failed blower control module.
Conclusions: Overall I rate both of these cars as excellent. They have offered reliability, convenience and economy. Though eclipsed by some of the more contemporary Chrysler cars, they are still competitive today, especially the New Yorker. The New Yorker is fully featured, roomy and economical, a combination that many carmakers still can't get right. My New Yorker is still my "dream car".
Pluses: classic styling, efficiency, sturdy drive train and body, fully contented luxury car for those who want a Fifth Avenue, De Ville or Town Car without the bulk and fuel bill.
Minuses: occasional mechanical problems and scarceness of some body and other parts unique to this car.
Tips, points of view and some observances:
The basic versions of these cars are (were) reliable, efficient and inexpensive. They offered middle of the road handling, great fuel economy and distinct styling. It is amazing how many other cars sit on this car's basic chassis and engine. These cars were simply engineered and that is a big plus in keeping them going.
Mechanical reliability of the engines and drive trains in my experiences have been very favorable. The 2.2FI and 2.5 FI engines are efficient and very reliable and offer sufficient power in these applications. The three speed transaxles are reliable, smooth and very durable (unlike the atrocious "Ultradrive" offered on later V6 "EEK"s ). We received 178,000 miles from the 600, even though it received heavy use as a commuter. However, we took an active roll in preventative maintenance. Essentially, we halved all service intervals, changed the oil every 1500-2500 miles (!) and serviced the transmission every 50,000 miles. Though that may seem extreme, the cost makes sense.
I am also not one of those people who is into "modifying" a car. But I have found that there are things you can do that are not extreme. Use name brand filters and lubricants. Improve handling and adhesion with a good set of tires (I replaced the tires on my New Yorker with Dunlop Axiom Plus WSW tires). Be vigilant in washing waxing and polishing (every 6 months to a year for polish wax). Use good quality fuels (I do use "premium" fuels; not because of anything except quality. I know it won't make the engine more efficient or quicken acceleration. I do use premium fuel because my chances of getting at least 90+ octane are better, since you and I both know that fuel can be (and is) adulterated, dirty, watered down etc.) . Use only high quality replacement parts of the proper "spec". Use genuine "Mopar" or reputable replacements from name brand manufacturers. All common sense, but true; I'll bet my 178,000 miles on it.
Some weak points and issues I have found:
Vinyl tops look nice but are a pain to keep up and to replace. Clean and protect them often (I have seen several Fifth Avenues and New Yorkers with shredded vinyl tops). Rear springs can sag, and it was one of the few problems on the 600. Leaking gaskets and heads, as described on other pages of this sight are well documented and the 2.5 in my New Yorker is no exception (It was repaired).
Soft trim and body parts are a chore to replace on the New Yorker. I had to fix a tail lamp after an encounter with an idiot in a Navigator, an electro-luminescent coach lamp had to be replaced and conceivably anything like the trunk lid, rear fascia, from grille and headlight carrier will also be difficult since they are unique to the New Yorker (and not interchangeable with the 600/Caravelle). There are also several other unique parts which are becoming scarce, such as some of the electronics for the dash and climate control system. I have had to resort to the internet to get some replacements. Mechanical parts, however are in good supply. However, when dealing with a lot of the salvage yards and mechanics, be sure to be concise about your year E car. I have had a lot of confusion because the 1987 and 1988 New Yorkers are separate cars with nothing really in common. Include part numbers if you can, pictures (yes I have had requests for pictures of parts!) and a VIN number (DO NOT GIVE OUT THE ENTIRE NUMBER! Only the first few digits are required with the letters. Never give out the whole number because title fraud is a possibility! [Webmaster note: the last six digits are a sequence number and should never be given out to a yard]).
One major problem is finding a mechanic who can deal with the electronic parts on the New Yorker. Actually finding a mechanic who knows how to fix a contemporary FWD car is a problem! That is common sense, but I have had my share of incompetence. The Chrysler dealers are good sources for parts, but are not cost effective for repair (and occasionally snicker at older models).
The Allpar web site has been one of my best reference points in keeping my Chrysler products rolling.
Use the Internet.
(credits -- Consumer Guide books, my Dad, ALLPAR, Cameo Motors (out of business))
I own a 1987 Chrysler New Yorker...there are unique characteristics of these cars distinguish them from the rest of the herd and they were immensely popular in their time. Though based on the K car and share much commonality with the other "EEKs," these cars have many nuances and issues relating to items such as digital dashboards and electronics, parts availability problems which separate them from the EEK and K cars. I could write a book on some of the bizzare nuances of these cars and some of the problems in getting "soft" body parts, electroluminescent coach lamps etc that are unique to these E cars only; I have the 87 New Yorker now, but had an 84 600 in which caused such confusion for mechanics because the 600 line also had a K based coupe and convertible!