1986 Chrysler New Yorker Turbo: It talks the talk

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Thomas Klockau

The Chrysler New Yorker had one heck of a long life. For decades it was simply Chrysler’s finest, with the exception of the Imperial. An equivalent to the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, Buick Electra, and Mercury Marquis. Nice. Very nice. But not quite in the Cadillac or Lincoln league, though some folks might dispute that, depending on the model year.

For most of its life it was a rear-wheel-drive, large-and-in-charge, six-passenger land yacht with a V-8. The downsizing that started in the late ’70s changed all that rapidly. Between 1978 and 1983, the New Yorker went from a giant sedan to a large-but-not-giant sedan, to a midsize sedan, and finally, in 1983, to a front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder (GASP!) powered K-car derivative. Ye gods.

Thomas Klockau

Well, times were certainly changing. GM got the ball rolling in 1977 with its newly-trimmed, full-size cars. In 1979, the Chrysler New Yorker, Newport, and Dodge St. Regis were essentially reskinned midsize B-body Monaco/Fury confections, and over at Ford, the new Panther chassis replaced the king-sized ’78 LTD and Marquis sedans, coupes, and wagons.

Thomas Klockau

The R-body Chryslers didn’t exactly set the sales charts on fire, though that could have had more to do with Chrysler’s future existence being in question at the time. The 1981 model year was the last for the R-body, and for 1982 the New Yorker moved to the M-body Chrysler LeBaron/Dodge Diplomat chassis, eventually becoming the Fifth Avenue and lasting all the way to 1989. Gaining a driver’s side airbag in the process, believe it or not.

Thomas Klockau

Nineteen eighty-three was a transitional year. The ’82 M-body New Yorker was still around, but it was now called “New Yorker Fifth Avenue.” Meanwhile, there was a new K-body New Yorker with front-wheel drive—slightly stretched but based heavily on the K car LeBaron and Chrysler E Class. Yes. Chrysler had an E Class before Mercedes-Benz. The ’80s were a pretty wild time.

Thomas Klockau

Another interesting thing about the new New Yorker was that it talked. This was another ’80s fad that bloomed, then disappeared pretty quickly. But at the time it was the future: Modern, cool, and a real talking point (literally).

Thomas Klockau

As the 1983 New Yorker brochure explained, “The standard Electronic Voice Alert System monitors a total of 11 functions and reports on them audibly. It will inform you of such conditions as low fuel or a door ajar. Or it will tell you when ‘all monitored systems are functioning properly.’”

Thomas Klockau

The center console also features something that would gain wide popularity in the years ahead: a slide-out cup holder.

Thomas Klockau

As previously mentioned, in 1983 there was the FWD New Yorker and RWD M-body New Yorker Fifth Avenue. This was naturally confusing, so for ’84 the M-body was renamed simply “Fifth Avenue,” and the K-body was the only New Yorker left standing. In inaugural ’83 it sold for $10,950 (about $31K today), and 33,832 were built.

Thomas Klockau

By 1986, the year of our featured Light Cream example, the price, thanks to 1980s inflation, had bumped up to $13,409 ($34,400), and  51,099 were built. The ’86s rode a 103.3-inch wheelbase, had an overall length of 187.2 inches, and weighed in at 2719 pounds.

Thomas Klockau

Two engines were available. Standard was a 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 100 horsepower at 4800 rpm. But an optional turbo four was also on the menu, with a more respectable 146 hp at 5200 rpm. Turbo models got a nifty chrome-plated “TURBO” badge on the front fenders.

Thomas Klockau

They also received these not-essential-but-still-cool-looking vents on the hood. Somewhat at odds with the New Yorker’s landau top, wire wheels, “crystal” Pentastar stand-up hood ornament and tufted velour or optional Corinthian leather button-tufted interior. But I dig it.

Chrysler

During the car’s entire 1983–88 run, only very minor changes were made to the exterior and interior. And while Chrysler came out with an all-new, larger New Yorker for 1988, the earlier version remained as the “New Yorker Turbo” for one last time.

“Oh John.” “Oh Marcia.” “Your door is ajar.” Chrysler

Maybe they were trying to use up existing sheetmetal and other parts, but the 1988 New Yorker Turbo was basically the same car as the ’86–87, except the turbo engine was now standard and the 2.5-liter four was not available. Only 8805 were built, with a price tage of $17,373 ($41,300) before options.

Thomas Klockau

Barb Manglesdorf, a friend of our neighbors’ back in the ’80s, had one—in an interesting metallic pink champagne color. In 1994, she traded it in for one of the new LH-body Chrysler Concordes, painted white with gunmetal gray lower cladding and with dark gray interior.

Thomas Klockau

As for our featured car, I was coming back from the annual Grape Festival car show in Nauvoo, Illinois, back in 2018 and spotted it at a small used car lot in Fort Madison, Iowa. I’d only seen one or two of these over the past several years, and especially liked this one in its light yellow hue.

Thomas Klockau

It appeared to be in remarkable condition. I am picturing it as a one-owner car, the owner finally had to give up driving, and so his or her pristine ’80s luxury car wound up here. I hope it went to a good home. These are no Duesenbergs or even ’67 Cadillac Sedan de Villes, but they’re cars of their time and place, and they remind me of my childhood years, when K-cars roamed the streets as frequently as Tahoes and Explorers do now.

Thomas Klockau

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