During the first half of the 1950s, the 1951-1954 Chrysler New Yorker was either the most popular (1953-1954) model in the line or a close second (1951-1952) to the ubiquitous, lower priced Chrysler Windsor.
Its popularity had certainly as much to do with its engineering as its styling, maybe more so considering its boxy lines. At the heart of that engineering was the new Chrysler 331 V-8 with hemispherical-head combustion chambers: the fabled "Hemi."
The purpose of the hemi heads on the 1951-1954 Chrysler New Yorker was to achieve exceptional volumetric efficiency and truly outstanding performance, while relying on a lower compression ratio that could allow the use of lower-octane fuels than comparably sized non-hemis -- or, conversely, producing a lot more power than comparably sized non-hemis of the same or even higher compression.
This the hemi proved, in competition as wide-ranging as the Mexican Road Race and at National Hot Rod Association dragstrips, Le Mans, and the stock car oval tracks. It was expensive to build, and Chrysler several times abandoned it. In the early 1950s, though, the hemi reigned supreme among V-8s.
Also new in 1951 for the Chrysler New Yorker were two further permutations of Chrysler's old Fluid Drive: Fluid-Matic (standard on New Yorker) and Fluid-Torque ($167 option). Fluid-Matic was simply the original, fluid-coupling four-speed Fluid Drive; Fluid-Torque adopted a torque converter mounted ahead of the clutch. The clutch pedal was used to select high or low shift ranges; within the ranges you "shifted" by lifting your foot from the accelerator pedal.
The 1949-1952 "new" Chrysler products were boxy and practical -- but not svelte. And although much was done to improve them in 1953, their looks cost Chrysler a lot of sales. In 1954, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac all rushed past Plymouth in the production race, while Chrysler output skidded from 170,000 units to barely 100,000.
Later on, Chrysler would ask the man-in-the-street, "What do you think about when you think about Chrysler?" The answers the pollsters bothered to record almost always were, "Engineering." As far as the public was concerned, that was all Chrysler had going for it in this period.
Relatively few buyers realized that the 1951-1954 Chrysler New Yorker was also beautifully built, almost impervious to rust, and would last a couple hundred thousand miles with minimal maintenance. But these qualities did not seem very important until the 1960s (by which time Chrysler had lost them).
Keep reading to learn more about the 1951-1954 Chrysler New Yorker, including how Chrysler capitalized on the New Yorker's success.
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The 1951, 1952, 1953, and 1954 Chrysler New Yorker introduced stylistic changes as well. For example, the broad chromium smiles of the 1949-1950 models were cleaned away with a neat, three-bar grille for 1951-1952.
There were no significant changes between the 1951 and 1952 Chrysler New Yorker models (the only obvious difference was the incorporation of backup lights into the tail lamp assembly of the 1952s), and Chrysler didn't even keep separate production records for those two years. The reason was the Korean conflict, which many feared would stop civilian car production dead, but didn't.
The 1951-1952 Saratoga, hemi-powered on the shorter Windsor chassis, was the hottest Chrysler and a notable stock-car racer, but for young upwardly-mobile professional people (you didn't abbreviate that in those days), the posh Chrysler New Yorker was the favored choice. Chrysler realized this, offering the hemi V-8 New Yorker for not that much more than the six-cylinder Windsor; in 1953 the difference between the (ex-Saratoga) Windsor Deluxe and New Yorker sedans was only $550.
Chrysler tried different body mixes each year. For 1951 the Chrysler New Yorker could be ordered as a sedan, club coupe, Newport hardtop, convertible, or Town & Country wagon. For 1952, with Korean-caused production cutbacks, all but the sedan, Newport, and convertible were scrubbed.
During 1953-1954 the Chrysler New Yorker line split into a standard and Deluxe series, with a full ration of sedans, coupes, and Newports, but the wagon and long sedans came only in the standard series and the convertible only as a Deluxe. Of course, the lion's share of sales each year went to four-door sedans, and some of the production figures for other models were astonishingly low.
You can bet that Chrysler collectors are on the watch for 1951-1954 Chrysler New Yorker convertibles, though the scarcity of eight-passenger long-wheelbase sedans, wagons, and the standard 1954 Newport is worth bearing in mind if you hanker to own one of these big, hefty highway cruisers.
Check out the specifications of the 1951-1954 Chrysler New Yorker on the following page.
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1951, 1952, 1953, 1954 Chrysler New Yorker Specifications
The 1951, 1952, 1953, and 1954 Chrysler New Yorkers were notable for their engineering advances, though the car's dowdy styling dissuaded too many buyers for the line to be a true success. See the specifications of the 1951-1954 Chrysler New Yorker below.
Engines: ohv V-8, 331.1 cid (3.81 × 3.63); 1951-1953 180 bhp; 1954 New Yorker 195 bhp; New Yorker Deluxe 235 bhp
Transmission: 1951-1953 Fluid-Matic, Fluid-Torque optional; 1954 Powerflite automatic
Suspension, front: independent, coil springs, tube shocks
Suspension, rear: live axle, leaf springs, tube shocks
Brakes: front/rear drums (Ausco-Lambert discs optional, $400)
Wheelbase (in.): 1951-1952, 131.5; 1953-1954, 125.5; 1953-1954, 139.5
Weight (lbs): 3,950-4,500
Top speed (mph): 110-115
0-60 mph (sec): 10.0-12.0