Also the name of a city in Spain, Cordoba was the name given to an intermediate personal luxury coupe sold by the Chrysler Corporation in North America from 1975 until 1983. The Cordoba was Chrysler's first model produced specifically for the personal luxury market and the original Chrysler branded vehicle that was less than full-size. While other up-market brands were expanding into smaller vehicles in the early 1960's with such models as the Buick Skylark and the Mercury Comet, the Chrysler Company adamantly and very publicly declared that Chrysler vehicles would never get any smaller. (This statement was dismissed within 15 years.)
The Cordoba's emblem was a stylized version of the Argentine Cordoba coin, rather than after the name of the city in Spain. The implication of the emblem was Hispanic, and this theme continued to be carried out with baroque trim on the interior, and using Ricardo Montalban, Mexican movie star, as the vehicles advertising spokesman.
Becoming one of Chrysler's very few genuine hits of the 1970s, the Cordoba was popular while the Chrysler Company itself teetered on bankruptcy. Production itself was over 150,000 annually though and the demand actually exceeded supply for its first couple of years. Nearly half of the Chrysler division production during this period was made up of Cordoba's.
Originally introduced in 1975 as an upscale personal luxury vehicle, the Chrysler Cordoba did well in the personal luxury market at the time that was large and growing. The Cordoba was a twin of the formalized Dodge Charger SE. Considered to be one of Chrysler's better efforts, the Cordoba was sleek, well proportioned and very graceful. Priced to compete with the Chevy Monte Carlo, the Ford Elite and the amazingly successful Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, the Cordoba was originally intended to be a Plymouth, but due to the losses from the newly introduced full-size C-body in 1974, Chrysler instead sought higher profits by marketing the model as a Chrysler.
Originally a B-body, which was just one step in size above the Valiant A-body, the Cordoba was smaller than other Chryslers; which were C and D bodied. Teamed up with semi-elliptical rear springs and a rear anti-sway bar, the suspension used longitudinal front torsion bars with lower trailing links and an anti-sway bar. These provided the large, heavy car with very decent handling. Appearing in 1978 and on most vehicles by 1979, a standard lockup torque converter was added.
The new Cordoba in 1977 included a chrome-plated grille, new tail light lenses, either new body colors, deck lid lock cover and medallion, low-slip torque converter, weight reductions, black and white checked cloth-and-vinyl seat covers and much more. Newly optional were T-tops, color-keyed body-side mouldings, side and deck stripes, and a padded landau roof with an illuminated opera band across the roof and Frenched rear quarter windows.
The original Cordoba design underwent only very minor changes from 1978 through 1979 before a large variety of factors contributed drastically to a decline in sales. For '78 a very modest restyling was underwent to shape the headlights into a stacked configuration, which unfortunately made the Cordoba look very similar to the front end of the 1976-77 Monte Carlo. The restyling also made the Cordoba appear even heavier than its 1975-77 predecessor. In 1978 the Chrysler Cordoba was joined by the Dodge Magnum XE and GT, and by the Dodge Mirada in 1980.
In order to save some weight, the Cordoba underwent a variety of changes. A power sunroof was made option, and only a single model, a two-door hardtop body was available. Now the base engine was the 318 and Lean Bum, and the 360 was optional along with the 400 V8. The wheelbase was at 115 inches.
Unfortunately the weight gain did not bode well for the Cordoba as the Chrysler Corporation was facing financial issues, and the rising gas prices and tightening fuel economy standards hurt the vehicles sales. At the same time, Chrysler's quality reputation was also under the microscope. Cordoba was still popular for a Chrysler in 1978, but with sales having dropped from 160,000 a year, two years running, to a pitiful 112,000, the conclusion was depressing. During its final year in 1979, the original Cordoba featured its high performance once again as it provided the platform for a one-year-only revival of the Chrysler 300 name.
For 1980, and the second generation of the Cordoba, the vehicle was downsized and the new smaller model used the J-platform which dated back to the '76 Plymouth Volare and was teamed up with the newly-named (though very similar) Dodge Mirada. For the 1981 year, Chrysler once again revived the Imperial as a third variant of the J-platform. The famous 225 Slant Six engine was used in the Cordoba and Miranda, which was reliable, but didn't seem to have efficient enough power for these up-market coupes. The 318 V8 was an option, along with the 360 V8 on the Cordoba.
Though not unpleasantly styled, the second-generation Cordoba didn't seem catch the eyes of the consumers as it did when it first debuted, and sales reflected this. The appearance of the Cordoba changed from the rounded look of the first models to a more contemporary, square look, complete with front fins. The smaller Cordoba unfortunately didn't bounce back much likes it competitors had when downsizing is tough on personal luxury markets.
The 1982 model only brought about minor changes that included halogen headlamps along with better rustproofing. This was also the first year for clearcoat paint. Chrysler management finally shut down the Cordoba in 1983 as Chrysler was increasingly concentrating on its compact, front wheel drive models with modern four and six-cylinder engines.
The Chrysler Cordoba today still attracts a bevy of enthusiastic and loyal fans, and some models are considered to be collectibles. The most collectable are the ones with optional four-barrel carburetor and the rare Cordoba-based 300 of 1979.By Jessica Donaldson