In the middle 1970s, before Americans went crazy for trucks and truck-shaped vehicles, those who wanted sensible daily transportation that made them look cool increasingly chose snazzy-looking personal luxury coupes based on Detroit’s tried-and-true midsize car platforms. John DeLorean and Pontiac started it all with the big 1962 Grand Prix, and Oldsmobile cashed in the biggest with the Cutlass Supreme of the mid-to-late 1970s… but Chrysler stole a lot of sales from The General with the first-generation Cordoba. Here’s one of those cars, found last winter in a Denver-area boneyard.
Corinthian Leather bucket seats added a steep $208 to the 1977 Cordoba’s $5,368 price tag (that’s $957 and $24,700, respectively), but what kind of Cordoba buyer didn’t want the Corinthian after witnessing Ricardo Montalban’s incredibly suave pitch on television? With air conditioning costing $508 and an AM/FM radio $234, paying another 208 bucks for leather seemed reasonable.
Señor Montalban very eloquently explained the origins of both the name for Corinthian Leather and Chrysler’s not-so-Spanish pronunciation of Cordoba in this 1987 David Letterman show.
If you really wanted to be a serious player in the personal luxury coupe game in 1977, you needed opera lights to go with your padded landau roof. Now that I’ve solved such automotive mysteries as the final three-on-the-tree and four-on-the-floor cars sold in the United States, I’ll need to determine which (non-limousine) car had the final opera lights.
The base engine in the ’77 Cordoba was a 400-cubic-inch (6.5-liter) V8 with the notorious Electronic Lean Burn System, rated at 190 horsepower. That’s what’s in this car. You could also get a 145-horse 318 or (in California) a 155-horse 360. The 400 was a B-series big-block engine, essentially a bored-out 383, but because it came out during the low-compression smog era it never got much respect as a performance engine. With a few simple parts upgrades, this engine can produce 350 horsepower all day long.
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