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by Eugene Calderaro
In 1965, all Chrysler Corporation full-size cars rode on the same basic chassis — the “C” body. The basic body dated from earlier years, but calling it a “C body” was done for the first time in 1965. Cars using that basic body had wheelbases ranging from 119” (1965-68 Plymouth sedans) to 124” (Chryslers through 1978, and 1974-77 wagons).
The C-bodies were upper range large cars; and, like every Chrysler Corporation car, they had torsion bar front suspensions and rear leaf springs. The Chrysler (brand) cars had long hoods to accommodate big block engines, and, in nearly all cases, standard TorqueFlite automatics. They had a smooth ride but, thanks to their torsion bar suspensions, handled better than most, if not all, other large cars.
For 1965, the last year for the 300 letter-series car, the dual quad option was not available, but a manual was optional even in the non-letter 300. 1965 was also the last year for the 413 V-8. The 1965 Custom 880 was a higher trim level than the Polara, and included all the features of the Polara plus air foam front seats and stainless steel window frames on station wagons and four-door sedans. The hardtops had vinyl interior trim.
1966 brought minor changes to the Chrysler full-size line and the addition of a new 440 V-8 in 350 and 365 horsepower versions. At the top of the Dodge line was the “posh, power, and pizazz” filled Dodge Monaco, available as a hardtop, wagon, or sedan, topped by the Monaco 500.
The Monaco 500 interior included deep-pile carpet, front bucket seats trimmed out in vinyl, a center console, and wicker inserts in the door panels; chrome was everywhere, tastefully applied to borders and edges. The standard engine was the four-barrel 383, though a two-barrel 383 which could take regular gas instead of premium was also available.
All Monacos had a standard 383 cubic inch engine. The Monaco name was just one year old now, having been launched in 1965 as a trim line of the Polara; in 1966 it was a model unto itself, though it was still different almost entirely in trim.
The 1966 Dodge Polara was nearly identical to the Monaco on the outside, with the most noticeable difference being the rear tail-lights: both had the same openings, but Monaco got full tail-lights (extending to the trunk area) while in the Polara, the tail-lights were confined to the body and the trunk lid got metallic fills instead. A modern buyer could be easily forgiven for mixing them up. Interior were similar, with a standard 383 again (economy minded buyers could get a special Polara 318, with the smaller LA engine in place of the big, thirsty B engine; fleet buyers got a 318 on the four-door sedan and 270-horse 383 on all others, with the 325 horse 383 and 350 horse 440 as options — except for Polara 318 which always got a 318).
A vinyl interior was optional in hardtops and the sedan, standard in the wagon and convertible; chrome was still much in evidence but not quite as prevalent as in the Monaco, and the standard seat was a bench, rather than buckets (buckets were available as an option). A Polara 500 was available, with standard front buckets. The automatic transmission had a console-mounted shifter.
The Chrysler Newport had five feeet of shoulder room in front and rear; safety belts were standard for all seats (no shoulder belts). Options included bucket seats, front disc brakes, and vinyl tops; five body styles were available. The base engine was the 383 V8, with an optional higher-performance 383 or the 440. The New Yorker featured standard 440 engine, power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission, and choice of two or four door hardtops or four-door sedan, with the same engines.
The Chrysler 300 capitalized on the name of one of the world’s best sport-luxury cars of the time, the 300 letter series; it provided a similar look and a similar name without the same unstinting attention to performance and luxury. The body ornamentation and tail-lights were different from the others; standard vinyl covered bucket seats conveyed a sportier image. The base engine was a 383 V8 with four-barrel transmission; a four-speed manual or 3-speed automatic were optional (base transmission was a three-speed manual), as was the 440. Two door, four-door, and convertible models were made. Options included tilt/telescoping steering wheel and six-way power seats.
The 300 came with a 325 hp 383 but could get a 365 hp 440. The New Yorker came with a 350 hp 440 or a 365 hp 440. The Newport came with the 270 hp 383, but could be purchased with the 325 hp 383 or the 365 hp 440.
1967 brought new rooflines for the two door hardtop models. The high-performance version of the 440 V-8 (dubbed “Super Commando” by Plymouth, “TNT” by Chrysler, and originally called “Sonoramic Command”) was boosted to 375 HP. 1968 brought minor style changes since a new body was on the horizon.
In 1969, Chrysler Corporation redesigned all C-body models with what they called “fuselage styling.” Plymouth buyers could choose the C-body in Fury or VIP form; the VIP was set apart by having all safety equipment, Deluxe wheel covers, a die-cast grille, bench seats with a fold-down center armrest, a clock, and the “Deluxe” steering wheel. There was no longer a high-performance 440 option for Plymouth, but there was still a standard-performance 440; Chrysler kept its 440 TNT.
1970 brought only minor style changes and the last year for a Chrysler convertible until the 1980s. The C-body Polara sold about 80,000 units in Polara, Custom, and Special models. The similar Monaco was at the top of the line, replete with luxury features and selling nearly 25,000 copies. These cars were very important to Chrysler, due to the high profit margins at a time when Chrysler’s automotive sales were overwhelmingly in passenger cars.
The revised C-body architecture was just a year old in 1970, having been introduced in 1969, but the splash of the first year was already a memory. The top line Chrysler New Yorker sold 34,000 copies; the 300 didn’t quite hit 21,000; the Town & Country wagon moved just over 15,000; and the mainstay Newport’s sales were half of 1969’s, with just over 110,000 Newports sold. Still, with 80,000 Dodges and all those Plymouths, it was enough to keep Chrysler profitable, and to spur the development of a new generation, to bow in 1974.
The 1971 Chrysler New Yorker was similar to the Imperial, with fewer features and a shorter wheelbase: it was lacking the 1971 Imperial’s 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 rather than 127, the length 225 inches (the overhang was the same), and the width still 79 inches.
“Scrounge” observed, “The 1967 Chryslers were interesting, but too often ignored. The 300s had protruding centers, akin to the large Pontiacs (and later, some of the Bunkie Knudson Fords); grilles of the Newport and New Yorker also projected at the middle.”
Just below the New Yorker was the Chrysler 300 - not a letter car - with the same drivetrain and basic dimensions, but a Charger-like front clip with headlight-concealing grille. Interior trim on the 300 was another step down, with either vinyl or cloth-and-vinyl bucket seats only. Missing from the standard features was the folding center armrest in front and rear, and the trunk carpet and electric clock were optional; the carpeted spare tire cover was not available at all; and the three-speed wipers were replaced with two-speed wipers. With low sales a perennial problem, the 300 was dropped after 1971 — a vehicle that was never really needed, and diluted the image of the 300 letter cars.
The Chrysler Newport (and Newport Custom) had the lowest level of trim: most dimensions were the same, but the styling again was different in front and back, and a 383 cubic inch engine was standard rather than the 440. The TorqueFlite automatic was optional; interior choices had bench seats instead of buckets, and an added 3-in-1 divided cloth-and-vinyl bench seat.
The Town & Country wagon had numerous options and features that set it apart as a true luxury wagon, such as a carpeted cargo floor; optional Strato Ventilation; optional cassette stereo with optional microphone; standard bucket seats; tilt wheel; power operated tailgate window; optional dual air conditioners; and concealed wipers. The wagon body had a 122 inch wheelbase, but was just .2 inches longer than the other Chryslers; width was the same.
Cargo space was large, with a minimum 48.5 inch wide (max. 54.5 inches) floor and the ability to lay a 4x8 panel flat with the gate closed and locked (if the rear seats were lowered flat into the floor). The dual action tailgate could either swing open from the side, or lift up like a hatch. Storage pockets were molded into the cover of the rear wheelhousing; the vertically mounted spare tire was on the right of the cargo floor, just ahead of the tailgate, for easy access. An optional third seat let two adults or three children ride, facing backwards, at the end of the wagon. The maximum height of the rear opening was 29 inches; the cargo floor stretched 63 inches from the back of the rear seat to the end of the closed tailgate, or 99 inches from the back of the front seat; and there were 104.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
The C-bodies carried on into 1971 with minimal changes. Fury lost its hood “power bulges,” and the grille was altered somewhat. Just 375 Sport Fury GTs were sold. Polara and Monaco continued, with slight trim updates. Fury was quite successful in sales, though there were numerous models: I, II, III, Sport Fury, Fury Custom, and Sport Fury GT. VIP did not return for 1971. The lion’s share of Fury sales went to the Fury III (167,960) and Sport Fury (84,922).
On the Dodge side, the C-bodies were Polara and Monaco; the lion’s share (91,056) of sales went to the more reasonably priced Polara, but the high-end Monaco, which ran in Chrysler’s turf, was responsbile for over 25,000 high-margin sales. Polara and Monaco were all too similar in appearance to Chrysler Newport; and of course, all the C-bodies were similar under the skin, albeit with different levels of trim, options, and soundproofing.
These cars were larger than the B-bodies, but carried the same basic architecture; higher trim versions with extra sound insulation in some cases were sold as Chrysler cars from Newport to New Yorker, and, with numerous trim and equipment changes, as Imperial. For 1971, C-bodies gained Torsion Quiet Ride, described later as Torsion-Quiet, and the new 360 engine. Styling changes included ventless window glass, two different grilles on Fury, new tail lamps, and urethane covered rear bumper. The interiors featured deeply padded seats in Bedford cord and nylon.
1972 brought a new roofline to all bodystyles. 1973 brought the new mandated safety bumpers, losing the unique bumper/grille arrangement.
1974 brought the next generation of C-bodies, created at great expense, with new styling accompanying the chassis changes.
The product line for 1974 and 1975 was nearly identical, with one basic model sold as the New Yorker, Newport, and Town & Country wagon. They remained as they had been in the past, solid, well-built big cars, selling (albeit not well) at a time when smaller vehicles were becoming all the rage. Chrysler Corporation had invested a huge amount in their re-engineering, and had reaped benefits in quietness and cornering; but these “C-bodies” came out at just the wrong time, as fuel crises meant that those who could find gas had to pay high prices for it. Many said, with hindsight, that Chrysler could have done much better by investing in a new generation of A-bodies.
After the Imperial was dropped in 1975, Chrysler introduced the New Yorker Brougham to take its place.
For 1977, the Dodge Monaco was a twin to the Fury, with standard features including power brakes, color keyed carpeting, day/night rearview mirror, forced ventilation, and radials. The Monaco Brougham was the ritzy version. The two-door Monaco's 115 inch wheelbase was not much longer than Volare’s; four-door models used a 117” wheelbase. Engines went from the slant six to 440 V8. The Royal Monaco was, in essence, the prior Monaco — a full sized C-body similar to Gran Fury.
1977 was the last year for the Town & Country wagon, and the C-body era came to a close in 1978.
Related pages: Plymouth Fury | Dodge Polara | Dodge Monaco | Chrysler Newport
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