HOW IT BEGAN
Inspired by the 1938 New York Special four-door, Chrysler's elegant giant, the luxurious New Yorker debuted in 1939 as part of the company's C-23 Imperial series of autos, alongside the Imperial and Saratoga. These magnificent cars, designed around a 139.5 inch chassis, made a big impression on car buyers that year. The cars were to become a symbol of American luxury and elegance for a very long time to come.
Initially offered as a coupe or sedan, the New Yorkers were fancy and beautiful luxury cars with two-tone upholstery. The model had a 323.5-cid V-8 engine. Big engines would be a mainstay of this model for many decades.
Largely due to uncertainty about the war in Europe, Chrysler discontinued production on the New Yorkers in 1940. After a few false starts, production finally resumed in 1949, when a padded-top model was added.
THE ELEGANT FIFTIES
The New Yorker came into its own as a top-of-the-line luxury auto in the 1950s with its long wheelbase and monstrous engine. During this decade, the New Yorker was offered as two-door, convertible and station wagon, in addition to the four-door models. The New Yorker St. Regis, first offered in 1955-56 was one of the classiest hardtop American cars.
From 1951 on, the cars featured the hemi-head V-8 engine, which was not a brand-new invention, but had so much power and performance, combined with lower compression (allowing the car to run on lower-octane fuel than most postwar V-8s), that it was a huge hit. These three-speed beasts got increasingly powerful through the 1950s and drag racers claimed that they could trick the engines out to produce titanic amounts of power.
Additions for 1957 included modest fins and the largest engine available in a mainstream production auto: a stroked 1,625cc (392 cu. in.) V-8 with 325-bhp (standard, in some models it went as high as 390-bhp). These models offered the TorqueFlite automatic transmission, which some experts consider to be one of the best automatic transmissions ever offered. The 1957 New Yorker, advertised as the “most glamorous car in a generation,” is regarded as an American classic with lovely stylish touches like subtle chrome and somewhat minimalist (for the time) styling that never went over the top.
In 1958, the engine was increased to 345-bhp standard, and soon thereafter to a big-bore 413 with 350-bhp in 1959. That was, however, the high-water mark for the gargantuan New Yorker engines. The giant engine was discontinued later in 1959 in order to cut costs.
THE STYLISH SIXTIES AND SEVENTIES
The New Yorker's subtle good looks got something of a makeover in the early 1960s, with the addition of big Jetsons-style fins. A spiffy ragtop convertible was also offered. Over the next years, the styling slowly became more subdued and the fins were eliminated altogether by 1964.
In the 1970s, the car was offered with several different engines, but the standard New Yorker engine was a 230/275-bhp 440. The New Yorker Brougham, introduced in 1972 was a top-of-the-line luxury car with chunky 70s good looks and options like opera lights and leather interior. The Brougham was so similar to the Chrysler Imperial that, even at the time, there was a lot of confusion.
My family had a white 1976 New Yorker Brougham in the late 70s. It had white leather interior and fake wood-grain on the dashboard. This was the car that I learned to drive in. For a teenage boy, commanding that sort of a beautiful was an excellent experience. Silky smooth ride and outrageous amounts of power made for a wonderful drive and the elegance of the automobile impressed the friends who rode along. I was never into status symbols, but I could appreciate the beauty and luxury of the car–despite my share of boyhood fender benders, I never so much as dented that New Yorker.
In 1979, the New Yorkers were were both cut down to a 118.5-inch wheelbase in hopes of making a more economical vehicle. The New Yorker Fifth Avenue was also introduced that year. The New Yorkers were not overwhelmingly popular at that time, as the 'lighter' cars were still gas-guzzling, 3,500-pound behemoths.
END OF THE LINE: THE EIGHTIES AND BEYOND
In the early 80's, the New Yorker lost a lot of ground to the similar Chrysler LeBaron. The 1982 New Yorker was re-tooled to be almost indistinguishable from the previous year's LeBaron. Sales of these leaner, meaner New Yorkers were strong throughout the 80s and the Chrysler New Yorker once again enjoyed the limelight as one of the best-loved American luxury cars.
In 1988, the engine was revised to a 3.0 litre, 136-bhp V-6 (microscopic by earlier standards) and all New Yorkers were based around the Chrysler C-body with front wheel drive. The cars were intended to be a sort of twin sister to the Dodge Dynasty. That year, they also trotted out the conservative and elegant New Yorker Landau at about $19,500.
In the 1990s, all Chrysler New Yorkers and Dodge Dynasties were built at Chrysler's plat at Belvedere, Illinois. Unfortunately, the people at Chyrsler decided that the New Yorker line had run its course. It was almost identical with about several other luxury cars and so Chrysler decided to retire this venerable vehicle. The last New Yorkers rolled off the assembly line on 28 May, 1993. Throughout 55 years, the Chrysler New Yorker was a well-known and well-loved car.
Transitional Man adds the following info: "late 70's early 80's cars were lifted from the Aspen/Volare which was itself a stretched Duster. Then they were stretched K-cars."
I had run across this detail in researching this, but it was presented in such a way that I did not quite understand it! Thanks!
A special thank you to Brent Ledgerwood of Dallas Dodge Chrysler Jeep for answering my questions about the New Yorker
Wilson, Quentin, "Classic American Cars" (DK Publishing, New York, 1997).
Lillywhite, David, general ed., “the Encyclopedia of Classic Cars” (De Agostini UK/Thunder Bay Press, San Diego, 2003).
Ruiz, Marco, et al., “One Hundred Years of the Automobile: 1886-1986” (Gallery Books, New York, 1984).
Auto Editors of Consumer Guide "Fifty Years of American Automobiles (Beckman House, New York, 1989).
Many New Yorker pages with pictures: http://www.440magnum-network.com/pages/Chrysler/New_Yorker/index.shtml
Here's the CNY brougham lover's club: http://www.nybclub.org/
Masterlines.com's New Yorker page: http://www.masterliness.com/a/Chrysler.New.Yorker.htm