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The 1939 Chrysler New Yorker was seen by Chrysler’s leader, K. T. Keller, as a way to move past the AirFlow debacle, with a conventionally designed and styled high-end car. It came out during the Depression, shortly before World War II ended civilian car production.
After the war, there were four Chrysler cars, including the New Yorker; all had similar bodies, with different trim. The New Yorker sat on the longest-wheelbase (127”) body, like the Saratoga, but with higher-end trim — two-tone wool broadcoth upholstery, a carpeted front compartment, and, on convertibles, a “goose neck” mirror. It was powered by the prewar 323 cid (5.3 liter) valve-in-head straight-eight pushing out 135 hp — 40% more power than the Plymouth, with only 25% more weight. The 1947 and 1948 cars were similar, though the 1948 New Yorker gained larger, lower-pressure tires and a new rear fender.
For 1949-1950, the New Yorker gained a Chrysler first, optional electric window lifts; another first was the leather-covered sponge-rubber safety pad over the instrument panel, created to reduce injuries in crashes. The hardtop body style was brought back, this time with great success.
For 1951, the New Yorker gained full-time power steering — another Chrysler first — and a hefty power boost via the new 331 cid (5.4 liter) Hemi V8, which replaced the straight-eight after a nineteen-year run. The long 131-inch wheelbase was shared only with the Imperial; but it had the Saratoga’s mechanical features, with better interior appointments, and Windsor trim for the club coupe, sedan, and convertible body styles. The 1952 had different tail-lights but was otherwise similar.
The entire Chrysler line was carried over into 1953, but all moved to (or stayed on) a 125 inch wheelbase. The New Yorker was essentially the same as the Windsor Deluxe, but with a V8; the New Yorker Deluxe was now a step above. Chrysler added the PowerFlite two-speed fully automatic transmission in June 1953, and replaced the old two-piece front glass with a one-piece curved windshield.
For 1954, the New Yorker Deluxe gained a four-barrel carburetor, boosting power to 235 hp. The engine was prominently advertised, and San Juan Motors dealership owner Brewster Shaw set the Daytona Two-Way Flying Mile record of 117.1 mph in a Chrysler New Yorker. (That would be the last New Yorker win, since the C300 came out the next year and took the top performance category; the C300 itself was closely based on the New Yorker.) In addition, a 1954 Chrysler New Yorker completed a record 24-hour endurance run with an average speed of 118.18 mph for 2836.42 miles, certified by the AAA (a feature in the dedication of Chrysler Corporation’s Proving Grounds at
For 1954, the New Yorker used more trim than the other series. The grille’s center bar was bow shaped and dipped at both ends to parallel the upper grille design. The front fender stone shield was unique to the New Yorker Deluxe. The rear fender stone shield had a horizontal trim piece in the midle, matching the trim on the front fender shield. Hubcaps were unique to the New Yorker Deluxe, using a flat spinner-like design in a gold color to match the exterior nameplates. The New Yorker Deluxe outsold its 1953 counterpart by nearly 25%.
The big news for 1955 was the first 300 “letter car,” the New Yorker-based C-300, named after its unique 300 horsepower (the only stock car of its time with that level of power). It was adorned with an Imperial grille and wire wheels, and one C-300 won NASCAR’s 1955 Grand National race at an average speed of 92 miles per hour — over 160 miles. The C-300 was based on the New Yorker, with additional luxury and performance features, and later Chrysler 300 models would likewise have their roots in the New Yorker.
The New Yorker was restyled in 1956 to have a finer detailed grille and different bumpers to set it apart from the Windsor. The Hemi engine was resized to 354 cid, raising power by over 10% to fight in the brewing horsepower wars. The eight chromed teeth on the rear fender, which would become a New Yorker hallmark, were added in 1956.
Some of the biggest changes in the New Yorker’s history took place in 1957, when Chrysler took two steps forward and three back. The two steps forward were the famed TorqueFlite three-speed automatic and torsion-bar front suspension (Torsion-Aire); both were leaps ahead of their domestic and foreign competition. Other cars used torsion bars to get a better ride/handling setup (with quick height adjustments), but they were generally higher-priced than the Plymouths and Dodges to use it along with Chrysler. The three-speed ended up being used by European luxury cars as well as Chrysler for many years.
The first-generation Hemi V8 was also bored and stroked to its largest size ever, 392 cubic inches — 6.4 liters — increasing power over the prior year and helping the 300C version of the car to win at Daytona. Other improvements were a compound curved windshield and new air conditioner using a reheat principle.
The down-sides were continued use of rear leaf springs, albeit redesigned for higher effectiveness, and — mostly — a sharp reduction in quality which slammed Chrysler’s sterling reputation for years, including visible and rapid rusting, rattles, and shaking mirrors. The roof overhang did not help with aerodynamics. The cars sold very well, but higher sales in this case hurt the company.
For 1958, dual head lamps became standard equipment on all Chrysler cars, and the Sure-Grip limited slip differential could be purchased. More subtle changes were made throughout the car to fix issues that afflicted the 1957s, with engineers addressing rust, vibration, and other problems.
In 1959, the new B-series engine was used for the first time in a New Yorker (413 cubic inches), replacing the Hemi engine; the size, weight, and cost of the early Hemis could no longer be justified. The instrument panel and dashboard were relatively unchanged, but back-up lights finally became standard. A new optional “first” was an electronically controlled rearview mirror which automatically adjusted to a dim or nonglaring attitude when a headlamp beam crossed its surface.
For 1960, the New Yorker body was completely re-engineered, moving like most Chrysler vehicles to unit-body construction. Swivel front seats swung outward when the front doors were opened were a popular option, along with vacuum-operated power door locks.
The New Yorker gained a hardtop station wagon; and the masculine 300-type grille was “trenched,” also gaining a fine horizontal bar motif within the outline. A ninth rear fender trim bar was added; but exterior brightwork was minimized, with standard stone shields and sill moldings.
Inside, the buyer saw a beautiful electroluminescent integrated gauge setup, with full instrumentation enclosed in a single design. The “Panelescent” lighting had never been used in a car before, and was much liked.
In 1961, the New Yorker had more body styles, none reaching 10,000 sales, and three falling well under a thousand. These were the four door sedan and hardtop sedan, two door hardtop coupe and convertible, and two station wagons (with two and three rows of seats). The front styling was toned down, with the upper and lower bulges removed; the fins grew.
The New Yorker was priced at $4,175 for the coupe, $4,592 for the hardtop convertible, and $4,871 for the nine-passenger wagon.
For 1962, the New Yorker had a 126 inch wheelbase and 219 inch length, differentiating it from the other Chryslers, had a 122 inch wheelbase and 215 inch length. Around 19,000 were sold, mostly four door sedans. Fron the outside, the car looked similar to the 1961s, except for a new, 300-like grille. These long vehicles weighed in at nearly 4,000 pounds, with the wagon topping 4,325 lb; only 728 six-passenger wagons and 793 nine-passenger wagons were sold. A Chrysler New Yorker, averaging 18.11 miles per gallon, took top position in the Luxury Car Class of the 1962 Mobilgas Economy Run.
For 1963, all Chryslers were built on the Windsor’s shorter 122-inch wheelbase and painted in a buffable acrylic enamel which permitted a wider range of metallic colors. Positive crankcase ventilation was now included, reducing emissions and keeping oil cleaner. Chrysler’s auto pilot, the first cruise control, had been optional; in 1963 it was made standard on the New Yorker and Imperial. This system let drivers dial in their speed, and could either be semi-automatic — with the accelerator pedal giving tactile feedback when a set speed was reached — or fully automatic. As with modern systems, it let the driver override with either fuel or brakes.
February 14, 1963), a new limited production Chrysler, the New Yorker Salon, was announced. It had a vinyl-clad roof, and all major power equipment and accessories were standard.
1964 saw few changes; but it was the last year for pushbutton automatics and the last vestiges of Virgil Exner styling. For 1965, the Chrysler line received new bodies with a standardized wheelbase of 124.0 inches — two inches longer than the normal Chrysler and two inches shorter than the New Yorker. Galvanized sills and full front wheelhouses gave corrosion protection, and the luxury ride of the New Yorker was enhanced by a constant-velocity joint added to the drive line.
In 1966, the New Yorker featured a standard 440 engine, power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission, and choise of two or four door hardtops or four-door sedan, with the same engines. A new option available only to the Chrysler was the first independent rear heater to combine heating, defrosting, and defogging in one unit.
1967 New Yorkers were different from the Newport and 300 mainly in the rear tail-lamp and rear quarter panel styling; they also had standard power brakes, undercoatings, hood pads, lighting packages, clocks, bright moldings, faux-walnut appliqués, power steering, armrests, and fender-mounted turn signals, along with higher-trim steering wheels and seat coverings. 1968 saw standard front sidelights; these would become reflectors in 1969 and lights again in 1970. The front and rear were resylted somewhat; standard equipment was similar to 1967.
The Chrysler line saw major changes for 1969 as the fuselage look came into play. The side glass had a much stronger curve, and hardtops with air conditioning had ventless front door glass. The company borrowed the Valiant’s door lock strikers to cut noise, and, as with all Chryslers, gained 15-inch ring-mounted wheels; the ring mounting, a new design, helped to make the wheel-to-brake-drum fit more uniform, improving cooling and preventing drum distortion. Radial tires became optional in this year. New brakes greatly improved stopping power, with eleven inch drums in back and new floating-caliper, single-piston front discs.
All Chrysler cars switched to 10° hotter thermostats. Cars with the 383 four-barrel engine, automatic, and towing package had an auxiliary oil cooler. Imperials gained electronic voltage regulators, and so did New Yorkers with 60-amp alternators — a new design since 1968. New distributor housings were added, with permanently lubricated upper bearings. The wheelbase was 124 inches again.
From the customer’s perspective, there was a little more headroom due to more compact power seat motors, standard concealed wipers, reminder lamps (e.g. for seat belts and door locks), dome/reading lamps, headlight-on buzzers, and various changes in styling. The wagons were all Town & Countrys now. The 1970 New Yorkers were similar, but with a slight facelift — and now, a 440 cubic inch, 350 horsepower V8 engine. Production ended up being roughly 23,000 cars, weight 4,155 to 4,265 pounds (shipping weight, without all fluids) and the price started at a hefty $5,241.
The 1971 Chrysler New Yorker looked like an Imperial, with fewer features and a shorter wheelbase: gone were the covered headlights, two-spoke horn-on-rim steering wheel, and some of the other frills, but it was still clearly a luxury vehicle, with standard 440 and automatic, and vinyl replacing the leather. The wheelbase was 124 inches, the length 225 inches (the overhang was the same), and the width still 79 (technically 79.4) inches. That length would grow, in 1973, to 230.8 inches, without any wheelbase change; but the width stayed the same.
1972 and 1973
A years-long redesign of big cars (which the company could not truly afford) finally appeared as the 1974 Chrysler line in mid-1973, just in time for the oil crisis and a public desire for more fuel efficiency. The fuselate styling and minimal decoration emphasized their large size.
At the top of the line stood the New Yorker Brougham, “a totally new expression of an idea that has never changed ... well-styled cars with engineering differences that set them apart from the crowd.” Newly restyled for 1974 (and remaining virtually identical for 1975), the New Yorker Brougham was sold as a two-door or four-door hardtop, and as a four-door sedan.
The company had added additional sound deadeners, foam seals, silencer pads, and vibration absorbers, with standard 50/50 bench seats (to have individual adjustments for driver and passenger). As usual, they had power disc brakes, windows, and steering, with a regular-gas-drinking 440 cubic inch V8 engine coupled to a smooth, reliable TorqueFlite automatic. As in the past, a torsion-bar suspension was used to provide remarkably good cornering for a fairly immense vehicle; they also had standard steel-belted radials. Options included a power retracting antenna, power sunroof, and vinyl-covered roofs in six colors.
Inside, a new interior included dual armrests (Brougham), passenger-side recliner (four-doors), and rear center armrest; colors were blue, green, black, gold, and parchment. A new modular instrument panel included temperature, alternator, and gas gauges, with a digital clock and optional LED warning lamps for overheating, discharging, and low fuel. A thermostatic temperature control was optional, along with FM stereo and eight-track.
The New Yorker sold about as well as before, despite the fuel crisis; over 6,100 base models and about 26,000 Broughams sold in 1975, led by the four-door hardtop. In 1975, the plain New Yorker was dropped, and Brougham sales remained at around 26,000, again mostly four-door hardtops. Generally, it wasn’t a good time for full-sized cars, but the New Yorker maintained as brisk a trade as it had before the pumps ran dry. Chrysler did respond, though, by making the 400 cubic inch V8 optional at no extra cost, and by adding a “St. Regis” option package (named after the hotel).
For 1976, the Imperial would depart, and Chrysler New Yorker Brougham would take its place. But that’s the story of the 1976-1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham.
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
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