Find of the Week: 1986 Chrysler New Yorker

Forget self-driving cars, we've got something much cooler. It's a talking car. The Find of the Week is a classic luxury sedan, the kind that no automaker really does today – one that values plush over sport and comfort over hypothetical lap times. It'll also talk to you, should you do something it doesn't think you should be doing. And then thank you for listening. It's a 1986 Chrysler New Yorker.

New Yorker was one of Chrysler's longest-lived nameplates (and one of the longest-lived of any automaker). It first showed up as the New York Special, a car based on the Imperial but sitting just below that model. It was, other than the Imperial, the only eight-cylinder Chrysler offered that year. For 1940, the name was shortened and the car gained more distinct bodywork that separated it from the Imperial a little bit more.

Post-war, the car diverged from the Imperial almost completely, becoming a Chrysler competitor to the likes of Buick and Mercury. It may have stayed out of the spotlight, but look at New Yorkers through the 1950s and 1960s and it's easy to see that they're taking much from other, better-remembered models like the 300 letter cars.

In the 1980s, the auto market had changed vastly compared to the opulence of earlier decades. Cars were massively downsized, and Chrysler was still reeling from 1979's near-bankruptcy. The automaker used the loans they received to bring the K-platform to market, and then started to build nearly its entire lineup on platforms derived from that life-saving architecture.

That meant that in 1983 there were two different New Yorker models. The old one (well, introduced for 1982) was based on a rear-drive Chrysler platform and offered an inline-six and a V8, while the new one was based on a new front-drive platform and came with a variety of four-cylinder engines. To avoid the confusion, the old car was the New Yorker Fifth Avenue for 1983, and just Fifth Avenue from 1984 onward.

The new car was K-car based, but much larger and more fitting of the luxury brand name. This was the company flagship which meant that it was loaded with everything that said luxury in the mid-1980s. Vinyl landau top with electric opera lamps? You'd better believe it. Pillowed velour seats all around? It had those with matching velour on the doors and fake wood from the finest faux-trees that could be found.

It was a strange mix from a time of automotive transition. Look at the interior and it's easy to mistake the New Yorker for a vehicle from the 1960s, though it's maybe a touch narrow inside by those standards. But look at the dashboard and all of the gauges are digital. High tech even for the early 1980s, though digital gauges would soon be found in scores of mid-luxury cars.

The real high point of this car's futuristic interior, though, was that it could talk. A host of preset messages, using the same chip as a Speak 'N Spell, could tell you things like "a door is ajar," remind you not to forget your keys, let you know your headlights were on, and even thank you for responding to the messages. For the 1980s, this was way more impressive than Siri or Alexa are today. Though Chrysler quickly added a switch to let you shut the voices off. Cars sold in Canada were even bilingual, ordering you around in both English and French.

There were multiple four-cylinder engines offered over the years in this car, which had as much room inside as the rear-drive cars it replaced, but with much-improved fuel economy. This particular one is equipped with the best of the engine choices. Chrysler's 2.2L turbo four added boost to raise output from a piddling 93 hp to a much more luxury-car-worthy 142 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque.

This one, for sale in Oliver, BC, looks to be a great example of a car we haven't seen in years. It's currently owned by a Chrysler Turbo collector who is looking to thin the herd. It has all of the power options including seats, windows, and mirrors; and it's recently had a timing belt service.

The Chrysler New Yorker might not be at the top of the list when you think of 1980s classics, but this car, and the era it represented for the company that made it, was a big part of that decade. It's as stylish as any big three vehicle to come from the decade, and you're not likely to see another one should you take it to your local car show. Which makes it pretty cool in our books.

This one speaks to us 9/18/2019 11:00:00 AM