The Chrysler New Yorker was a premium automobile model by the Chrysler Corporation from 1946–1996, serving for several years as the brand's flagship model. A trim level named the "New York Special" first appeared in 1938. Until its discontinuation in 1996, the New Yorker had made its mark as the longest running American car nameplate.
The New Yorker name helped define the Chrysler brand as a maker of upscale models priced and equipped above mainstream brands like Ford, Chevrolet/Pontiac, and Dodge/Plymouth, but below full luxury brands like Cadillac, Lincoln and Packard. During the New Yorker's tenure, it competed against models from Buick, Oldsmobile and Mercury.
The New York Special model was originally introduced as a distinct sub-series of the 1938 Chrysler Imperial. It was available in 1938 as a 4-door sedan with a 323 CID Straight-8 and a generous amount of comfort and space to the passengers. For 1939, it was expanded with 2 more coupe versions and a 2-door sedan. The first convertibles were introduced with the all-new body-design of the 1940 models.
1940 also saw the introduction of Fluid Drive, a fluid coupling between the engine and the clutch. The only transmission available was the basic three speed manual.
Completely new bodies were introduced for 1941, with the business coupe now being of the three window design. Another new model was the Town Sedan with the rear doors having the hinges at the forward edge of the doors. This year, the Vacamatic was made available, although unlike the version sold on six-cylinder models, the Saratoga/New Yorker version was a three speed transmission with overdrive.
With America entering World War II on 7 December 1941, all automobile production came to an end at the beginning of February, 1942. Thus, the 1942 model year was roughly half the normal length.
Chrysler would produce and experiment with engines for tanks and aircraft during World War II. One post-war application of this would lead to the creation of the first generation Hemi of the 1950s.
After the war, the New Yorker became a separate series.
Unlike most car companies, Chrysler did not make major changes with each model year from 1946 through 1948. Thus models for 1946 through 1948 Chryslers have the same basic appearance, noted for their 'harmonica' grille, based on the body introduced with the 1941 models. 1947 saw a minor redesign in tires, trim, and instrument panel, while the first 1948s were just 1947s with no visible changes.
Postwar Chryslers continued to offer Fluid Drive, with the New Yorker now offering the true four speed semi-automatic transmission.
The 1949 New Yorker used Chrysler Corporation's new postwar body also shared by Dodge and DeSoto with ponton, three-box styling. The engine continued to be the 323.5-cid straight eight coupled to Fluid Drive and the Prestomatic four-speed semi-automatic. Body styles were reduced to club coupe, 4-door sedan and convertible. Wheelbase on the New Yorker was increased to 131.5 in (3,340 mm) from the 127.5 in (3,240 mm) frame introduced in 1941.
The 1950 New Yorker was the more deluxe of the regular eight-cylinder Chryslers (Saratoga being the eight with plainer trim) with cloth upholstery available in (unusual for 1950) several colors, 135 hp (101 kW) Spitfire straight-eight engine and roomy interior featuring "chair height" seats. The "Prestomatic" fluid drive transmission had two forward ranges, each with two speeds. In normal driving, high range was engaged using the clutch. The car could then be driven without using the clutch (unless reverse or low range was required); at any speed above 13 mph (21 km/h), the driver released the accelerator and the transmission shifted into the higher gear of the range with a slight "clunk". When the car came to a stop, the lower gear was again engaged.
The big news for 1950 was the two-door hardtop, or Special Club Coupe as Chrysler called it, in the New Yorker series. The model was called the Newport in sales literature. Also, Chrysler added foam rubber padding on the dashboard for safety.
Chrysler introduces the 180 hp (130 kW) FirePower Hemi engine. The engine becomes a popular choice among hot rodders and racers alike, a trend that continues to thrive today with its namesake second generation model. The FirePower Hemi equipped cars could accelerate 0 to 60 mph in 10 seconds, faster than the Oldsmobile 88 Rocket engine of that time.
The New Yorker also offered Fluid Torque Drive, a true torque converter, in place of Fluid Drive. Cars with Fluid Torque Drive came only with Fluid Matic semi-automatic transmission and had a gear selector quadrant on the steering column. Power steering, an industry first, appeared as an option on Chrysler cars with the Hemi engine. It was sold under the name Hydraguide.
A station wagon was offered for 1951, with only 251 built. Its 131.5 in (3,340 mm) wheelbase is the longest wheelbase ever used on a station wagon.
Small redesign on taillights with the backup lights in the lower section. Last year for the 131.5 in (3,340 mm) wheelbase chassis for the New Yorker.
A less bulky look with the wheelbase reduced to 125.5 in (3,190 mm), a one-piece curved windshield and rear fenders integrated into the body. Wire wheels were now an option. The Saratoga of 1952 became the New Yorker for 1953 while the former New Yorker was now the New Yorker DeLuxe. The convertible and Newport hardtop were available only in the New Yorker DeLuxe while the base New Yorker offered a long wheelbase sedan and a Town & Country wagon. The convertible was New Yorker's costliest model on the 125.5 in (3,190 mm) chassis for 1953 at $3,980 with only 950 built. Also new was exterior pull handles.
The 1954 was a premium version of a standard 1950s size body. Chrysler's interest in six cylinder vehicles began to wane in favor of the popular FirePower Hemi V8. The New Yorker was priced a little more affordable at $3,230 for the standard and $3,400 for the DeLuxe.
The standard model had a mild 195 hp (145 kW) output while the DeLuxe was used as a testbed of the engine's capabilities by outputting 235 hp (175 kW). (Such power was unheard of in 1954 from its competitors.)
Although introduced very late in the 1953 model year, all 1954 New Yorkers were available with the new two speed Powerflite automatic transmission. Fluid Torque Drive and Fluid Matic were dropped.
1954 was the last year the long wheelbase sedan was offered by Chrysler.
In 1955, Chrysler did away with the out of fashion high roofline designs of K.T. Keller and came out with a new sedan that borrowed styling cues from Virgil Exner's custom 1952 Imperial Parade Phaeton. The hemi engine produces 250 hp (190 kW) this year. The result would become an ongoing trend for increasing engine output throughout the next two decades with Chrysler and its rival competitors. The Powerflite transmission was controlled by a lever on the instrument panel.
The series was called New Yorker DeLuxe with the base New Yorker dropped. The club coupe was dropped being replaced by the Newport two-door hardtop. A new higher priced St.Regis two-door hardtop filled the spot of the former Newport. The sedan, convertible and Town & Country wagon were still offered.
In 1956, Chrysler christened this model year "PowerStyle" and it was one of the design works of Virgil Exner. The New Yorker gained a new mesh grille, leather seats, pushbutton PowerFlite selector, and a V8 with 280 hp (210 kW).
The St. Regis two-door hardtop gave a unique three-tone paint job for a higher price and the Town and Country Wagon model was Chrysler's most expensive vehicle of 1956 at US$4,523. This was the first year for the New Yorker 4-door pillarless hardtop. Only 921 convertibles were made.
This year, Chrysler cars were redesigned with Virgil Exner's "Forward Look" at the cost of $300 million. The 1957 New Yorker had a powerful 392 cu in (6.4 L) Hemi V8 engine rated at 325 hp (242 kW). This stylish car sold well with 10,948 built, but only 1,049 convertible models. The 1957 models also came with the TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic transmission and a Torsion bar suspension called Torsion-Aire that gave smoother handling and ride quality to the car. The New Yorker also sported fins that swept up from just behind the front doors.
Early model year production had single headlamps with quad headlamps optional where state regulations permitted them. The single headlamps were dropped later in the year.
Forward Look remains intact but with new body-side trim, shrunken taillights and 345 hp (257 kW). The convertible model was still available, with only 666 made and only 15 working convertibles are known to still exist in 2008. Sales were steady, but decreased from last year due to The Recession of 1958. The car's reputation was also tainted due to rust problems caused by rushed production and testing.
The biggest news from Chrysler in 1958 was the introduction of a cruise control system called "Auto-Pilot"
The New Yorkers this year had a new 413 cu in (6.8 L) 350 hp (260 kW) V8, new tailfins, new front end, and no Hemi. The FirePower Hemi ended production and was replaced by the less expensive and lighter wedge head engine. The Hemi would never return to the New Yorker and slowly ended its image as a performance car and re-branded it as a luxury car. The Hemi engine itself would not return to Mopar cars until 1964 with the second generation 426 Hemi.
This year had unibody construction, Ram Induction and the new RB engine had an output of 350 hp (260 kW). This was the last year for the New Yorker convertible, of which 556 were built.
The New Yorker entered 1961 with a new grille, slanted headlights, a continental kit on the trunk lid, and a 413 CID Golden Lion V-8. This is the last of the "Forward Look" models. Chrysler built 2,541 New Yorker two-door hardtops this year, the last until 1964 in Canada and 1965 in the U.S.
The classic Chrysler fins that made the car unique no longer existed and now only 4-door models were offered in wagon, sedan, and hardtop models. The finless car was considered "bizarre" by many critics and sales were slow compared to its entry level sister car, the Newport which was identical in body style and offered a convertible model. The New Yorker was the last Chrysler to have a 126 in (3,200 mm) wheelbase.
The 413 RB had a 4.1875 in (106 mm) bore and was used from 1959-1965 in cars. During that period, it powered all Chrysler New Yorker and Imperial models, and was also available on the lesser Chryslers, as well Dodge's Polara and Monaco, and the Plymouth Fury as an alternative to the 383-cubic-inch B series engine and/or the 318 Poly. With a compression ratio of 10:1, it developed 340 brake horsepower in 1X4-Bbl trim.
Chrysler got a boost in sales in 1963 with the introduction of a 5-year/50,000-mile warranty, a business practice that was unheard of by its competitors in the 1960s. The New Yorker used Chrysler's completely redesigned body with only the windshield showing traces of the previous Forward Look designs. A new, more luxurious Salon four-door hardtop was added at midyear as a trim package. Engine output is 340 hp (250 kW) and the wheelbase is now 122 in (3,100 mm).
Changes for 1964 included a new grille, larger rear window and small tailfins giving the car a boxier look from the side. Canadians were given the choice of a new two-door hardtop, while Americans got the Salon option on the four-door hardtop.
Elwood Engel redesigned the New Yorker with styling cues from his 1961 Lincoln Continental — square side view with chrome trim along the top edges of the fenders. The options were: a 413 CID V8, dual pipe exhaust and power options (A/C, windows, antenna and steering). The engine itself put out 375 hp (280 kW) and was phased out for the 440 Firepower next model year.
Factory options for 1965 included a 350 hp 413 ci Firepower engine, vinyl rear roof pillar insert, Tilt 'N Telescopic steering wheel and standard power options.
For 1965, the 4-door sedan used the six-window Town Sedan style which also used by the 1965 Chrysler Newport and Dodge Custom 880. The two-door hardtop was now sold in the U.S. Wheelbase of New Yorker models, except the wagon, was 124 in (3,100 mm). The Town & Country wagon was on the Dodge's 121 in (3,100 mm) wheelbase as all C body wagons shared the same basic body.
For 1966, the Chrysler New Yorker adopted the new 440-cid V8 engine. Styling changes included a new grille, taillamps and revised side trim. The Town & Country wagon was dropped as the model was now marketed as a series on its own.
Overall, 1966 was a good sales year for Chrysler with a steady increase in production and sales.
1967 brought sheetmetal redesign below the belt line with wraparound parking lights at the front and taillights at the rear. A new fasttop design for the two-door hardtop replaced the more formal look of 1965-1966. The four-door sedan reverted to the four window style as used on the Newport sedan.
Sales slumped 20%, the company's lowest in five years due to an economic slump this year.
Changes included new front and rear treatments. Although the Newport and 300 four-door hardtops received a new, sportier roofline shared with Dodge and Plymouth, the New Yorker continued with the roofline first introduced for 1965.
Sales rebounded with the year setting a record at 263,266 cars built.
Chrysler big C bodies received a major reworking with curved sides and a higher belt line. Underneath the new look were the underpinnings of 1965. The new look was called "Fuselage Styling" and was not received as warmly as the 1968 models. The two-door hardtop received a new look harking back to the club coupes of the 1940s.
The 1970 Chryslers received minor styling changes to the grille, taillamps and trim. The small vent windows on the front doors were dropped on the two-door hardtops.
Due to sales that were less than expected, the facelift scheduled for 1971 was put off until 1972. Thus the 1971 models received new grilles and revised taillamps, changes that took a sharp eye to note. Ventless front-door windows on the four-door sedan and hardtop were new this year.
For 1972, Engine power dropped to meet stricter emissions standards and rising gas prices. Chryslers received a new 'split grille' somewhat similar to the Dodge Chargers of 1971-1974. This would be the last year for the 'loop'-style front bumpers on Chryslers.
The final year for the distinctive Chrysler "Fuselage Styling".
The so-called "fuselage" styling featured on all full size Chrysler products remained relatively unchanged until the introduction of the 1974 models which featured a far more massive slab sided effect. These 1974 models timed to coincide precisely with the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, and were a significant part of Chrysler's economic woes in the late 1970s. The 1974 models were the last full-size models Chrysler designed from the ground up, as the short lived 1979-81 R-bodies were stretched versions of the old mid-sized B-bodies. Chrysler, as the corporation's only division without a smaller "personal" size model, suffered worse than most, stimulating the introduction of the new Chrysler Cordoba, and later LeBaron models. A digital clock was optional.
In 1976, the New Yorker inherited the front and rear end styling of the discontinued Imperial, and its interiors as well. The Imperial styling gave the New Yorker an unforeseen boost in sales, as the car looked distinctly different from the lower priced Newport. The styling cues formerly used on the 1974 and 1975 New Yorkers in turn were passed on to the base Chrysler Newport. It is interesting to note that Chrysler was the only "upscale" model to never recover its full size model sales to pre-energy crisis levels. Oldsmobile, Buick, & Cadillac eclipsed their old records in 1976, the last year before their downsizing, and continued to sell extremely well until the next gas crisis in 1979. Ford's Lincoln-Mercury benefited from any backlash from GM downsizing and set new records in 1977-78. Sales of the Newport and New Yorker continued to decline. The full size Chrysler line remained virtually unchanged until the advent of the downsized 1979 models.
The Chrysler Fifth Avenue began as a submodel of the New Yorker in 1979, after the nameplate was shifted to the Chrysler R platform. The R-body series was a "Pillared Hardtop". The NYR now used the 318 V8 ;the 360 engine was optional through 1980. While shorter and much lighter than the previous generation, these cars still had a big car look and ride. Hidden headlamps and full-width taillights distinguished it from its R-body siblings Newport, St. Regis and Gran Fury. A Fifth Avenue "Limited Edition" was offered mid-1980 and included a stainless steel roof cap and smaller rear window. Other than exterior colors and fabrics there were virtually no changes. A bold new grille, with simple vertical ribs, appeared for 1981. The example in the accompanying photo, shown with its headlamp-concealing doors in the open position, is a 1981 New Yorker Fifth Avenue with the optional alloy road wheels and power moon roof.
In an effort of downsizing, the 1982 Chrysler New Yorker (and the Fifth Avenue trim) moved to the corporate M-body. In turn, the Chrysler LeBaron, which had previously used the M-body, moved to the compact K-body this year. The 1982 New Yorker was not a completely new vehicle. It was essentially a restyled and upgraded version of the LeBaron which had been produced since 1977. This M-body New Yorker used Chrysler's slant 6 engine. The 318 in³ engine was optional.
The 1982 New Yorker was available in two models: Base and Fifth Avenue trim. Both used the formal roof treatment. The Fifth Avenue package gave buyers pillowed leather seats, base Models had cloth seats. This car became the Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue for 1983 and for 1984 the "New Yorker" prefix was dropped altogether.
In 1983, the New Yorker name was used on two different models. The M-body car was now the "New Yorker Fifth Avenue," a name which changed to simply "Fifth Avenue" from 1984 to 1989. The other was an all new K-car based New Yorker, which used the front-wheel drive Chrysler E platform, the beginning of the extended K-car years. The E-platform New Yorker came with state-of-the-art 1980s technology, including a digital dashboard and Electronic Voice Alert, which spoke notifications such as "A door is ajar"; "Please fasten your seat belts"; "Don't forget your keys" and even said "Thank you" when you fastened your seat belt, closed the door tightly or removed the key from the ignition switch. Also, it ominously said, "Your engine oil pressure is low - prompt service is required" when the oil pressure dropped, especially in curves when the oil level was low. Among other standard features was a Landau vinyl roof, complete with electroluminescent opera lamps. It was the only Chrysler New Yorker generation with an inline-four engine.