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The History of the Chrysler Cordoba, Rich Corinthian Leather, and Ricardo Montalbán

A garish ode to '70s personal luxury coupes is survived by Ricardo's crooning.

During the late Seventies, my neighbor's father drove a Chrysler Cordoba. His coupe wore the popular Cadet Blue Metallic paint and a white Landau vinyl roof. It was by far the fanciest set of wheels on my block, and all I could hear in my head when it drove by was actor Ricardo Montalbán's voice from a popular commercial of the day, crowing about how the Cordoba came with "soft Corinthian leather." If the leather was half as soft as his rolling delivery, then oh boy . . .

Montalbán was the company's spokesman and appeared in a number of classic commercials and also starred as one of Star Trek's greatest villains of all time. So, anyway, all the kids in the neighborhood were impressed because the Cordoba on the block had Corinthian leather and thought the family was rich. My neighbor's father worked at the local Anheuser-Busch brewery, and owned an in-ground swimming pool with a diving board, so the pay was obviously good, and the Chrysler was his pride and joy. So, what was this big personal luxury coupe's deal beyond Montalbán?

The not-quite-full-size luxury coupe was built from 1975 to 1983, borrowing the Cordoba name from its original use on a trim on the brutish 1970 Chrysler Newport hardtop. Fast-forward to the Cordoba, part deux, which arrived in the mid-70s to distinguish Chrysler from its staider Dodge Charger SE cousin. The two-door coupe was assembled in Ontario, Canada, and was a much-needed best seller for the marque.

Up front, the Chrysler Cordoba had a chrome grille and bumper flanked by round headlights and fog lights that became more rectangular and bland as the model years advanced. Above the grille, it wore a gold Chrysler Cordoba coin as an ornament on its long, shiny hood. In 1977, the Cordoba was available in 18 colors, six of which were variations on brown such as Carmel Tan, Light Chestnut, Coffee Sunfire, Golden Fawn, Inca Gold, and Spanish Gold.

Roof options included a Landau or Halo vinyl roof with opera windows and side lamps or a Crown roof in padded "elk-grain" vinyl that also came with opera windows and an illuminated lamp band on the top. An optional T-bar roof or sunroof with tinted glass were advertised as "convertible treatments" back in the day. The coupes rode on standard 15-inch radials or optional steel-belted white walls with a choice of wire wheel covers or chrome-style "road wheels." There was even an option for a carpeted trunk that included a carpeted spare tire holder. Classy.

Under its runway-long hood, the Cordoba packed a standard Chrysler 400 V-8 engine good for about 175 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. The V-8 was mated to a TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission. This combination indeed moved the Cordoba forward and, with reverse selected, backward, too.

Standard equipment for the interior included Checkmate cloth and a vinyl split-bench seat or plush Verdi velour. But, of course, the genuine Corinthian leather bucket seats with a center console comprised the must-have option of the day. Cordobas also featured a tilt steering wheel with power steering, and other options included air conditioning, power windows and power door locks, a digital clock, CB Radio, and an AM/FM stereo with an 8-track player for your jams.

By the early 1980s, the Chrysler Cordoba became much boxier and lost a lot of its flair. Also, folks didn't care about Corinthian leather anymore, it seemed, and the Cordoba was discontinued in 1983. It lives on mostly in car-nerd circles, where Montalbán's smooth-jazz "Corinthian" leather quip comes up every so often.

Color Options for the 1977 Chrysler Cordoba

  • Burnished Copper
  • Cadet Blue
  • Carmel Tan
  • Claret Red
  • Coffee Sunfire
  • Forest Green Sunfire
  • Formal Black Sunfire
  • Golden Fawn
  • Inca Gold
  • Jade Green
  • Jasmine Yellow
  • Light Chestnut
  • Russet Sunfire
  • Silver Cloud
  • Spanish Gold
  • Spinnaker White
  • Starlight Blue
  • Vintage Red Sunfire