Chrysler Cars of the 70s & 80s

Updated April 17, 2017

The Chrysler Corporation underwent a series of transitions in the 1970s and 1980s. While debt crippled the company during the late 70s, Chrysler hired Lee Iacocca to serve as President, CEO and later, chairman. Iacocca asked for and got a government bailout of the corporation. This infusion of cash enabled the company to reorganise and test new product lines, including the now-popular minivan concept. Throughout both decades, Chrysler continued to produce cars in a number of categories, some of which continued old product lines, and others that highlighted innovations in design technology.

Luxury Automobiles

First launched in 1939, the Chrysler New Yorker continued its run as the company's flagship luxury car in the 1970s. In the early 80s, Chrysler added the "Fifth Avenue" line to the New Yorker Brand, with both lines offering luxury features and eight-cylinder (V8) engines. During the 1970s, Chrysler also introduced the LeBaron line of two-door coupes and convertibles, which started as a mid-level sedan but acquired luxury options and a sportier look in the 1980s.

High Performance Cars

Chrysler achieved market success in 1975 with the launch of the Chrysler Cordoba (the company's answer to the Dodge Charger). The Cordoba struck a balance between Chrysler's luxury cars and the performance models released by Dodge, as high-end features complimented the Cordoba's powerful engines. After the success of Chrysler's front-wheel drive compacts, the company released smaller performance cars in the 1980s, including the Chrysler Conquest. This coupe, built on the design of the Dodge Daytona, ran on a four-cylinder turbocharged engine. Chrysler also produced the Laser in the mid-1980s, which was built on the same platform as the Conquest but offered luxury features and styling, such as leather seats and digital readouts on the dashboard.

Sedans and Coupes

Chrysler continued its sedans and coupes through the 1970s and into the 1980s. The company reengineered the Newport line from its 1960s design, and buyers could purchase Newports in either coupe or sedan models. Both of these models ran on large, V8 engines that caused sales to fare poorly during the gas crunch of the 1970s. Chrysler introduced the LeBaron in the late 1970s, first offering it as a sedan or coupe (similar to the midsized Dodge Diplomat) before reintroducing it as a more upmarket line in the 1980s.

Minivans and Estate Cars

When Chrysler hired Lee Iacocca in the late 1970s, he began to develop the "Mini-max" concept for a "garageable van," a design allegedly rejected by his former employers at Ford Motors. After releasing the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager (both brands owned by Chrysler), the company launched the Chrysler Voyager and then the Town and Country minivan toward the end of the 1980s. Chrysler also produced two lines of estate cars during the late 1970s and 1980s, originally offering the LeBaron as a wagon (before changing that model to a luxury concept) and selling the Town and Country line as a wagon before rechristening it as a minivan in 1990.

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About the Author

Since 2005, James Rutter has worked as a freelance journalist for print and Internet publications, including the “News of Delaware County,” “Main Line Times” and Broad Street Review. As a former chemist, college professor and competitive weightlifter, he writes about science, education and exercise. Rutter earned a B.A. in philosophy and biology from Albright College and studied philosophy and cognitive science at Temple University.