1976 Chrysler Cordoba
1976 Chrysler Cordoba. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photo by Bill Vance

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The 1970s were difficult times for the North American auto industry. Not only was there intensified competition from imported cars, there were also two oil crises and increasingly tightening standards for fuel use, safety and emissions. All of these were placing a severe strain on the industry’s engineering capabilities.

The Chrysler Corporation was particularly hard hit. It was caught with a stable of newly redesigned big cars when the first oil crisis struck in late 1973. This oil shock suddenly switched the market to one that demanded smaller, more fuel efficient models.

This and other problems would bring the once mighty corporation to its knees by the end of the decade, forcing its newly hired president Lee Iacocca to go hat in hand to the government begging for loan guarantees.

There was, however, one bright spot for the company: the Chrysler Cordoba. There was also a Dodge Charger SE corporate clone, but the Cordoba made the larger impact.

The Cordoba was what had become known as the “personal luxury coupe,” an upscale, mid-size, two-door hardtop model with a long-hood, short-cabin configuration. It was a category inspired by the successful smaller 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix and 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Chrysler based the Cordoba on its 2,921 mm (115 in.) wheelbase B-body intermediate chassis.

The resulting Cordoba, although far from small at 5,461 mm (215 in.) long, was still shorter than other Chryslers by about 305 mm (12 in.). And at 2,077 kg (4,580 lb), it was no lightweight either. It had Chrysler’s front torsion bar suspension and standard radial tires.

All of this heft took a big engine, and the Cordoba had a choice of three: the standard 5.9-litre (360 cu in.) overhead valve V8, and optional 5.2-litre (318) and 6.5-litre (400) V8s. The only transmission was Chrysler’s well regarded TorqueFlite three-speed automatic.

The 195-horsepower 6.5-litre (400 cu in.) engine, would, according to Car & Driver (8/’76), sprint the Cordoba from zero to 96 km/h (60 mph) in 9.3 seconds, and give it a top speed of 172 km/h (106 mph).

A sign of the times was an acceleration warning light in the left fender-mounted turn signal indicator. If the accelerator was tramped too vigorously, the manifold vacuum activated “Fuel Pacer” light glowed reprovingly at the driver.

While the performance was hardly road ripping, the Cordoba was less about speed than it was about sybaritic luxury and styling panache. Its body was nicely sculpted with a hint of a razor edge motif atop the front fenders. A tasteful rectangular grille was flanked by round parking lights and single round headlamps. Buyers could specify a full vinyl roof, or the “Landau” version with vinyl on the rear half only.

Inside could be found deep pile carpeting, attractive brocade and velour upholstery, optional leather, and simulated wood trim.

Since the Cordoba name was meant to conjure up images of glamorous locales, the Cordoba was adorned with round, gold coloured medallions that were to evoke the image of the ancient Spanish doubloon.

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