New options for the 1978 Cordoba included forged-aluminum wheels and low-back bucket seats. Engines were given Chrysler's computer-controlled "Electronic Lean Burn System" to achieve lower emissions. As a result, horsepower on the 318 dropped to 140, on the 360 to 155, and on the 400 to 190.
The 1978 Cordoba had stacked dual headlights
flanking mildly revised grillework.
There was another new power option, though: a regular-tune 318, also with 155 bhp, and TorqueFlite gained a lock-up torque converter. And there was a second Cordoba, too, a detrimmed "S" model priced $200 below the regular $5,811 offering.
For all these changes, the 1978 Cordoba was not well received, with sales diving by nearly 60,000 units to 124,825. Part of the problem was that Cordoba wasn't the "small Chrysler" anymore, having been supplanted as such at mid-1977 by a trio of new compact LeBarons.
Though derived from the humble Dodge Aspen/ Plymouth Volare, and duplicated at Dodge as the Diplomat, LeBaron offered a seemingly more prudent alternative to the ostentatious Cordoba. The line even included a snazzy two-door, itself a worthy personal-luxury choice.
By now, Lee lacocca had arrived in Highland Park, and though he would eventually save the day, even he could not effect instant cures for Chrysler's many troubles. As a result, the Cordoba struggled for sales in 1979, saddled by few meaningful changes and an inflation-fueled price hike to $6,337.
The most surprising development that year was the return of the fabled Chrysler 300, in name if not spirit. It took the form of a $2,040 option package exclusive to Cordoba. Included were Spinnaker White paint (an echo of the 1955 original), red-white-and-blue striping, front-fender louvers, aluminum wheels, engine-turned dash applique, and a nostalgic cross-hair grille (with black background) instead of shiny latticework.
Buyers also got bucket seats, "300" quarter-window decals, a firmer "handling" suspension, and a reinstated four-barrel 360 V-8, though it delivered just 195 bhp. Only 3,811 of these pretenders were built, along with 84,204 standard Cordobas. Clearly, the "small Chrysler" had finally come a-cropper.
Cordoba would soldier on, but the much-trumpeted "downsized" 1980 model was merely a restyled LeBaron two-door without the classy distinction of 1975-1979. Though the "300" concept also continued for a few years as the LS, the 400 V-8 was axed and the 360 vanished after 1980. That left the 318 as the sole "power" option, Chrysler's venerable Slant Six having taken over as standard.
Sales slid fast to nowhere: 46,406 for 1980, just 20,295 for '81. After little interim change and 1983 sales of fewer than 14,000, the most popular Chrysler in recent memory was killed off by a "New Chrysler Corporation" staking its future on front-wheel drive, turbos, and minivans.
Is the 1970s Cordoba a future collector car? Well, the decade of disco, Watergate, and Mary Tyler Moore has already slipped into the realm of nostalgia, so there's a chance that at least some buyers might covet the cars one day -- assuming there are any left. Perhaps the Seventies Preservation Society could help? Don't count on it.
Ever wonder about design ideas that didn't make it to final production? See the next page to explore two such Cordoba model ideas.
Our sincere thanks to Allan Kornmiller, former chief designer of Chrysler Corporation's B-Body Studio and Truck Design Office, for his generous assistance in preparing this article. Grateful acknowledgment is also made to author, historian, and Chrysler designer Jeffrey Godshall, and to retired staff designer Jack Crane, currently chief designer at Chrysler's Advanced Packaging Studio.
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