Last month’s article described the beginning of Chrysler through the 1950’s. Here’s a new look at how the products from the 1960’s through today have further shaped the brand to take on the next century.
The 1960’s were all about style and speed. Vehicles like the 300 J, and new vehicles like the New Yorker and the Newport line, helped Chrysler stand out and expand its customer base to include both affordable luxury- and performance-seeking drivers. One of the biggest changes Chrysler made was moving to a unibody construction that made Chrysler vehicles safer, lighter and able to achieve better fuel economy. Chrysler also tested new technology, including 50 gas turbine cars in 1962, and unveiled a non-letter 300 for the first time.
The next year, Chrysler again changed the auto industry by offering a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Other highlights included a rear wiper/washer for Chrysler wagons, and new “fuselage styled” Chrysler vehicles that were even larger than the models they replaced.
The 1970’s brought stricter safety and emissions rules, and the demand for less expensive vehicles increased. In 1973, all Chrysler vehicles had a slew of standard features that were advanced at the time, including an electronic ignition, five-mph front crash bumpers, two-and-a-half-mph rear crash bumpers and an anti-theft system. The oil embargo also caused a shift to smaller, more efficient vehicles, too.
In 1975, actor Ricardo Montalbán became the pitchman for the new Chrysler Cordova “personal luxury coupe.” An interesting piece of technology that also debuted in 1975 was the “fuel pacer,” which warned drivers when they depressed the accelerator too hard. Moving forward, Chrysler had a joint effort with Calspan in 1977 and developed a Research Safety vehicle that featured run-flat tires, a driver’s side airbag, reinforced body structure and other elements. In 1978 Lee Iacocca became the president of Chrysler Corporation, and he famously steered Chrysler through the financial difficulties the company faced in the 1980’s.
The 80’s were important years. In the early 80’s, the Chrysler Imperial became one of the most impressive vehicles with stand out styling cues like knife-edge fenders and hidden headlamps. The K-car platform was also introduced. Other vehicles that made their debuts were the LeBaron Town & Country “woody” wagon, and the first convertible in nearly a decade – the LeBaron Convertible.
The biggest news of the decade was Chrysler’s introduction, in 1984, of a new vehicle segment: the minivan. It was the first van that would both fit in the average garage and allow easy access for drivers and passengers.
In the 90’s, Chrysler displayed its commitment to safety by including a driver’s side airbag as standard equipment. The Town & Country minivan again changed the automotive landscape as the first luxury minivan––with an elegant design and an impressive list of standard and available features––leading to more than 275 awards. Chrysler continued to dominate the minivan segment it created with 75 minivan and industry innovations like a second sliding door and “Easy-Out” roller seats. Other highlights included the Concorde sedan, with its unique size and cab forward design, and the return, in 1999, of the 300 nameplate, which led to a “Car of the Year” award.
Stay tuned for the final installment next month, and see how the vehicles of the 2000’s continue to shape the Chrysler brand.
This article is presented by Perkins Motors in Colorado Springs, Colorado.