In 1962, Chrysler fielded what Exner called the "plucked chickens": basically '61s shorn of fins. The 1963-64s had "the crisp, clean custom look" -- chiseled but chunky. For 1965 came Engel's smooth, squarish bodies with fenders edged in bright metal, one of his signatures.
Among the finless '62s was a new four-model group of "non-letter" 300s: convertible, hardtop coupe, and four-doors with and without B-pillars. All carried the same engine as the now-departed Windsor and could be optioned with sporty features like center console and front bucket seats. Save the pillared sedan (only 1801 built, all for export), these Chrysler 300s were quite popular at prices in the $3300-$3800 range. But they hurt that year's 300H, which cost $1600-$1800 more yet looked almost the same. As a result, letter-series volume dropped from about 1600 for '61 to just 558.
Chrysler's New Yorker was downgraded to the junior 122-inch wheelbase for 1963-64, becoming the same general size as the less-costly Chryslers, yet sales were strong in both years. Arriving as 1963 "spring specials" were a 300 Pace Setter hardtop and convertible and the New Yorker Salon hardtop sedan. The former, commemorating Chrysler's selection as pace car for that year's Indianapolis 500, was identified by crossed checkered-flag emblems and special trim.
The Salon came with such standard luxuries as air conditioning; AM/FM radio; "Auto Pilot" speed control; power brakes, steering, seats, and windows; TorqueFlite; and color-keyed wheel covers and vinyl roof. Minus the Pace Setters, this lineup repeated for '64 with largely untouched engines and styling.
The 1963-64 300J/300K (the letter "I" was skipped to avoid confusion with the number "1") were big, solid performance cars in the letter-series tradition. The J came only as a hardtop; the convertible was reinstated with the K. Just 400 Js were built in all, a record low for Chrysler's limited edition, but the K saw a healthy 3600-plus. All ran 413s with 360/390 bhp, down slightly from 300H ratings. The last of the true letter-series cars was the 300L of 1965. It saw 2845 copies, including a mere 440 convertibles. None of these were quite the stormers that previous 300s were, but they remained the most roadable Chryslers and among the best handling of all big Detroiters. Sales lost to the non-letter 300s is what killed them, of course.
Chrysler did very well for 1965, selling over 125,000 Newports, nearly 30,000 non-letter 300s and almost 50,000 New Yorkers. Things were even better for '66: the 300 nearly doubled and Newport climbed by 42,000 units.
The post-1964 Engel Chryslers were shorter than their Exner forebears but just as spacious inside. Wheelbase was 124 inches for all models except wagons (121 through '66, then 122 inches). Expanding the '67 line were the Newport Custom two- and four-door hardtops and four-door sedan. Tagged some $200 above comparable standard Newports, Customs were trumpeted as "a giant step in luxury, a tiny step in price."
Deluxe interiors were the big attraction: jacquard cloth and textured vinyl, plus pull-down center armrests. Like other '67 Chryslers, the Custom dash sprouted no fewer than eight toggle switches, three thumbwheels, 16 pushbuttons, three sliding levers, and 12 other assorted controls. Vinyl-covered lift handles appeared on Custom trunklids, and there were "over 1000 chrome accents along the sides, plus 15 gold crown medallions."
Meanwhile, the luxurious New Yorker Town & Country wagon disappeared after 1965 (sales had been slow for years), but six- and nine-passenger Newport wagons continued through '68, after which T&C became a separate wagon series. All typically came with vinyl upholstery instead of the cloth-and-vinyl of Newport sedans.
Spring 1968 brought the interesting $126 "Sportsgrain" option: wagon-type simulated-wood side paneling for the Newport convertible and hardtop coupe. It didn't catch on and thus was dropped after '69. Sportsgrain convertibles must be rare indeed, as Chrysler built only 2847 total ragtop Newports for '68. More popular that year were the added Newport Special two- and four-door hardtops with a turquoise color scheme, later extended to 300s.
Engine choices for '65 involved 270- and 315-bhp 383s for Newport and 300, a 413 with 340 or 360 bhp for New Yorker and 300L. The more-potent 383 gained 10 horses for '66, when a huge 440 big-block arrived as standard New Yorker fare, rated at 350 bhp. The 300s adopted it for 1967, when a 375-hp version was added. The 440s stood pat for 1968-69, but the 383s were retuned to 290 and 330 bhp, this despite the advent of federal emissions standards.
These moves and the conservative Engel styling paid off in vastly higher volume: 206,000-plus for '65, nearly 265,000 the following year. Though sales dipped to some 219,000 for '67, Chrysler ran 10th in industry output in each of these years, then claimed ninth with 1968 production that just topped the '66 record.
The all-new "fuselage-styled" '69s did almost as well. If not the most beautiful Chryslers of the decade, they were at least handsome with their great looping bumper/grille combinations, fulsome bodysides, and low rooflines. Despite remaining on the 124-inch wheelbase, all models were bigger than ever: almost 225 inches long and nearly 80 inches wide -- about as big as American cars would ever get.
For more on the amazing Chrysler, old and new, see:
- Chrysler New Car Reviews and Prices
- Chrysler Used Car Reviews and Prices