With a name that brings to mind images of an upscale street in the heart of New York City, the Chrysler Fifth Avenue was an up-market sub-model of the R-body Chrysler New Yorker sedan in 1979. This was during a time when the Chrysler was smaller than its maximum size in the mid 1970s, and was still V8-powered and featured rear wheel drive. The R-body was quite a bit longer than its downsized GM and Ford competitors and it rode on a 118.5-inch wheelbase.
Available by custom order, the New Yorker Fifth Avenue Edition package came complete with two-tone beige with matching leather interior. It also featured a standard landau vinyl roof and unique opera windows that opened with the rear doors. Thoroughly color-keyed, even the bumper rub strips were beige. This body was produced for three years though additional Fifth Avenue colors were added for 1980 and 1981. Today, the R-body New Yorkers and Fifth Avenues are considered to be one of the most attractive of all Chryslers. The production of the R-body New Yorker was low, and the Fifth Avenue was around 25% of these. Around 14 of these models were stretched into limousines and were provided for use during the 1980 winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.
A Fifth Avenue package was introduced by ASC for the Chrysler LeBaron in 1980, which shared its Chrysler M Platform with the Dodge Diplomat. This was a very rare option package that was produced on 654 LeBarons for 1980 and it included many of the exterior features found on the New Yorker Fifth Avenue in a much more concise package.
The New Yorker was downsized once again 1982 and became a mid-sized car, while the R-body taken out of production and LeBaron name reassigned to the Chrysler K platform. Still available as a $1,244 option package, the Fifth Avenue was adapted from the previous LeBaron's package. This package came with a distinctive vinyl roof; a rear fascia adapted from the Dodge Diplomat and electro-luminescent opera lamps. On the inside of the vehicle were button-tufted, pillow-soft seats covered in either 'Corinthian leather' or 'Kimberely velvet' which were choices that would continue throughout the vehicles run. The carpet was also much lusher in comparison to the base New Yorker, Diplomat and Gran Fury, and the interior feature more chrome trim.
The Fifth Avenue option also featured illuminated entry, power door locks, power 6-way driver's seat, AM/FM stereo with a rear amplifier, remote trunk release, power antenna, full undercoating, dual side mirrors, tape stripes, locking wheel covers, passenger vanity mirror and a standard 5.2L V8 engine.
1982 was the final year for the optional AM/FM 8-track stereo and AM/FM stereo with integrated CB. The main differences between a Fifth Avenue Edition New Yorker from a regular New Yorker can be found in the opera lights, hood stripes, and Fifth Avenue Edition badges on the rear door window filler panels.
The New Yorker and the Fifth Avenue branched out even further in 1983. The New Yorker was downsized once again and morphed into a front-wheel drive car equipped with a four-cylinder engine using Chrysler's then-new E-body, an extension of the K-car platform. The M-body vehicle was no dubbed New Yorker Fifth Avenue. This was the final year that the M-bodies were made in Canada, and also the final year for the optional 'Chronometer' glovebox-mounted clock, all analog tuned radios, the 225 Slant-six engine and chrome-trimmed pedals.
1984 marked the change in the name, and the car was simply call Fifth Avenue, a name that would for six advantageous years. Until the Chrysler 300 was revived for 2005, the Fifth Avenue would prove to be the last V8-powered, rear wheel drive Chrysler vehicle. From this year until 1989 all Fifth Avenues were powered by a 5.2 L V8 engine with either a two barrel carburetor making 140 hp or a four barrel rated at 170 hp, joined to Chrysler's well-known Torqueflite three speed automatic transmission. The Fifth Avenue was the largest Chrysler model available and sales took off, especially during 1985 until 1986, when over 100,000 models were made each year. Outselling the Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury, a large majority of its sales went to private customers, even despites its higher price tag. This was a pleasant surprise to Chrysler.
Some of the changes to the Fifth Avenue for the 1984 year were the New Yorker badge on the trunklid replaced by the Fifth Avenue badge. The badge also continued on the rear doors and a new steering wheel was added. The silver wipers on the Fifth Avenue were replaced with black ones, and the engine blocks were now painted black instead of light blue. For the 1985 year new black gearshift knobs were introduced and the turn signal lever was now also black. For 1986, Fifth Avenue models with two-two paint had lower roof lines. Also new for this year were new style ignition key and center high-mounted stop lamp. For the following year a new steering wheel was added, and it was the final year for optional alloy wheels, two-tone paint and rear stereo amplifier. This was also the final year for 17-ounce deep-pile carpeting and the last year the radio, climate control panels and headlight switch panels were silver.
For 1988 the Fifth Avenue received a newly restyled vinyl roof with the lower edge of sail panel covering extended below chrome window sill moldings. The 'Fifth Avenue Edition' badge was replaced by a crystal Pentastar surrounded by a gold wreath. The Driver's side seat received a manual recliner and front headrests were more cushioned. The door panels were restyled and new power mirrors became standard. The passenger side dash vents were interior color-keyed instead of the previous black with chrome trim. Also new this year was an overhead console with map lamps, compass/temperature display and sunglass storage. In May a driver's side airbag and padded knee bolster below the instrument panel became optional. The following year the driver's side airbag became standard and the Fifth Avenue was one of the only cars that offered an airbag with a tilt steering wheel. Between 1982 and 1988 around 60 Fifth Avenue's were stretched into limousines by various coach companies.
The final Fifth Avenue series, the second generation was debuted in 1990. This generation had an overall length of 198.6 inches and a width of 68.9 inches. The Fifth Avenue became a model of the New Yorker this year, and the earlier relation between the two vehicles returned, though the New Yorker Fifth Avenue used a slightly longer chassis. The second generation Fifth Avenue was classified as a full-size model this time, even though it was smaller than the first generation.
This year brought the return of the hidden headlamps which when they were off they were concealed behind retractable metal covers. This was the first time they had been available since the 1981 R-body New Yorker Fifth Avenue. Chrysler's new 3.3-liter V6 engine was standard and the only choice for this year and it was mated with the company's A-604 four-speed electronic automatic transaxle. Starting in 1991, a much larger 3.8-liter V6 became optional. It still delivered the same 147 horsepower as the 3.3, but with more torque.
The seats which had become famous in the Fifth Avenue, long distinguished for their button-tufted appearance and sofa-like comfort, continued to be offered with their customer's choice of leather or velour. The former Corinthian leather was replaced with that of the Mark Cross company. Leather-equipped vehicles featured the Mark Cross logo on the seats, and an emblem was attached externally on the brushed aluminum band ahead of the rear door opera windows.
The Fifth Avenue very closely resembled the newly-revived Chrysler Imperial, though some much-needed distinction was provided between the vehicles. The Fifth Avenue received restyled, rounded-off front and rear ends in 1992, and the Imperial continued in its original crisply-lined form.
For 1990 the Chrysler Fifth Avenue was base priced at $21,020, and down to $20,875 in 1992 and $22,048 for its final year, 1993. At the end of the 1993 model year the Firth Avenue name was discontinued and the New Yorker was replaced. It was originally replaced by the Chrysler Concorde, and the redesigned, longer and more aerodynamic into the 1994 New Yorker.By Jessica Donaldson