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In 1983, Chrysler brought out two unlikely “luxury cars” — the Chrysler Executive Sedan and Limousine, lengthened K-cars with Chrysler New Yorker styling, powered by four-cylinder engines with front wheel drive.
They were based on the New Yorker, which was a Chrysler Lebaron with three more inches of wheelbase (creating the “E,” or “extended,” body code); its design and engineering were similar to the inexpensive Plymouth Reliant K.
Chrysler’s launch materials claimed that they wanted to attract “very affluent, status-oriented buyers seeking traditional limousine characteristics in a modern, efficient size.” No doubt they’d made some quick projections along the lines of “if this trend continues...” and if gas prices had continued to dive, it may have worked.
Chrysler’s light front wheel drive cars were taking off in sales and profitability, while their rear wheel drive lineup was dying on the vine. The company’s last attempt at a rear wheel drive luxury car, the 1981-83 Imperial, had failed miserably.
Nicholas Esslinger, owner of a 1984 Executive Sedan, wrote that the Executive was made up of the front half of the LeBaron four door sedan, cut behind the B pillar, and the rear half of the LeBaron, cut behind the A pillar, with the two halves strengthened by steel bars in the frame and one weld around the body. The front door was original, the rear doors were made of the front of the front door and the back of the coupe/sedan; the rear window was made smaller. Mr. Essinger also wrote that the work was done by ASC, which also worked on Chrysler convertibles of the time; it was the idea of Bob Marcks, then the head of Special Vehicles Projects, and a red Sedan and Limousine were sent to the NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show) in January 1982.
Chrysler wrote that “they may be compared to luxury vehicles like the Cadillac Fleetwood Sedan and Limousine,” comparing them with the Lincoln Continental and Mercedes, but with attractive pricing and “the advantages of Chrysler Corporation manufacturing, quality, warranty, and nationwide service.” They were all made at the St. Louis assembly plant, which was making the LeBaron coupes and convertibles.
The Sedan was rated at five passengers, the Limousine at seven; both had a three-speed automatic and 2.6 liter carbureted Mitsubishi engine, inadequate for the cars’ weight and class. That was the only available engine that would fit, at launch time.
Chrysler never used its 2.2 turbo in the Executive, though it was optional in the 1984 Chrysler New Yorker; it did make it to the final year of the Limousine.
Standard features included air conditioning, cruise control, power brakes, divider, and rear compartment with cabinet (Limousine), rear defroster, digital instrument panel, electronic voice alert, tinted glass on all windows, lights that went on with the dual horn, illuminated entry, a full lighting package, opera lights, power antenna, FM stereo, “luxury cloth” seats, tilt steering with leather, intermittent wipers, and a padded landau roof. In short, they came well equipped for the time, but not as well equipped as they could have (no standard cassette player).
In 1984, the cars were available in black, blue, charcoal, and silver paint; interior trim was silver or blue, with gold, silver, or charcoal accept stripes. The vinyl roof was color-matched to the paint: black roof for black or charcoal paint, dark blue roof for blue paint, silver roof for silver paint.
Of the top Chrysler cars for 1984 — Imperial, which was larger than Fifth Avenue, ended in 1983 — Fifth Avenue was clearly wider and had V8 power, albeit not much of it. Headroom was much higher in the front seat of the traditionally shaped Fifth, but rear seat headroom was equal in the Ks, and legroom was far superior in the Executive and Limousine (albeit not in New Yorker). None had generous trunk space.
The pair were both stretched coupes, and kept the opera windows in the C-pillar. Styling was essentially that of the extended-K platform LeBaron coupe and sedan.
Had there been another gas crisis, Chrysler would have been ready. They were almost certainly the lightest cars of their size, at around 3,000 pounds.
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
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