Marketing Genius: 1977 Chrysler Cordoba

Corey KemendoBy Corey Kemendo

Be honest, I bet you can’t think the words ‘Chrysler Cordoba’ without doing it in Ricardo Montalban’s accent? Or say ‘rich Corinthian leather’ without giving it a Spanish flair? And that is the power of advertising. Dodge couldn’t give away the identical Charger SE compared to this doubloon bedazzled coupe. Find this loaded 1977 Chrysler Cordoba in Houston, TX for $6,500 here on craigslist.

I’m going to argue that this Chrysler, and the 2011 Chrysler 200, had the most successful advertising campaigns in automotive history. Neither car was really anything new. The Cordoba was based on the B-Body platform that debuted in 1962 and was initially suppose to be a Plymouth. The 2011 Chrysler 200 was based on the critically lambasted last generation Chrysler Sebring, a car that was hated all over the world. But because of Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban, and rapper Eminem and the Imported from Detroit campaign, and some classy Chrysler styling cues, both cars were sales’ successes beyond their parent companies wildest dreams. Both cars got people not only talking about Chrysler, but signing the dotted line.

In one year on the market, the Chrysler Cordoba doubled Chrysler’s sales and brought in buyers to the marque that would never have considered a Chrysler before. Advertised as the ‘Small Chrysler’, the new personal luxury coupe was half a ton and a foot smaller than the full sizers, but still a big car. It became the third best selling car in its class, helped by handsome styling, torsion-quiet ride, and decent power. This loaded beauty has nearly every option available. 360 V8 with 4 barrel (minus the Lean Burn), the famous soft Corinthian leather, power everything, AC, urethane road wheels, mileage minder, manual steel sunroof, vinyl Landau roof, and lots more. No wonder many people felt Chrysler was still a worthy competitor to Lincoln and Cadillac when they drove something like this dolled up Cordoba.

Inside and out it looks like this Cordoba has been well maintained and thought to have 60K original miles. Fresh white paint, correct pinstriping, new vinyl roof, tires, battery, and fuel tank means you should be able to hit the next car show like the pictures in the ad suggest. The urethane wheels were a ‘70s exclusive, melding a urethane turbine fascia to a steel wheel, and here give the luxo boat a sporty look. This ‘Doba has the unique bucket seats with separate center armrest and cushion. The dashboard on these B-bodies were known to crack, but here it looks like it is without any splits and the door panels look great as well. Lots of fake wood, embossed metal trim, thick carpet, and lights everywhere helped you create your own rolling Fantasy Island. Does this Cordoba make you want to get out your leisure suit and jam to the Bee Gees? What memories do you have of Ricardo Montalban’s personal luxury coupe?

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Comments

  1. Fred w.

    A friend at the time bought one brand new and I remember thinking he was riding in style. At the same time I despised Aspens and Volares . The Monteban campaign definitely had an influence on me!




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  2. Mark Farnham

    Had a 76′ in college just like this except mine had the gold cloth interior. It was a smooth running car when it started and had the same 360 CI engine.




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  3. glen

    Nice car, I just don’t want a Cordoba that much.




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    • Ken

      Lol. You know? I kind of agree with you. I myself wouldn’t mind really, a Dodge Magnum 79 myself.




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      • glen

        That’s the thing, it’s nice , but what else can I get for the money? Probably something I’d be happier with.




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    • Ken

      Same here




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  4. grant

    “Torsion Quiet?” Huh?




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    • Corey Kemendo Corey Kemendo Staff

      In the 70s, Chrysler marketed their suspension as Torsion Quiet Ride.




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  5. Will
  6. Dave Mc

    There is an interview with Montalban on YouTube with Letterman I believe saying that rich Corinthian pLeather was made up on the spot and didn’t mean anything. Lol




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    • Jim

      Yep. One of the classic marketing moves of all time! It was created by Chrysler’s ad agency. The leather actually came from a factory in New Jersey! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corinthian_leather




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    • Jack Quantrill

      Ricardo, pronounced it “Corinthian Lather “!




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    • russell spreeman

      Corinthian: “As thin as paper.” The leather of the seats in my Lexus feels like something out of a rich guy’s leather chair in his den in comparison. My Dodge Mirada with that paper-leather totally fails to compare with the Lexus seats.

      Oh, and PLEASE, don’t call this car a ‘Doba. NOBODY would call it that.




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  7. Mark R

    I bought my wife a new Cordoba in the late 70’s. With only 7,000 miles on it she was forced off the freeway when a freight truck driver made a lane change without looking. The car went side over side and end over end; no body panel was undamaged, car totaled, lit on it’s top with engine still running. She survived without a scratch. Cordobas……one tough automobile!




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  8. ATL_Jeff

    My Grandfather bought one of these brand new after his 67 TBird rusted out from under him. It was a POS from day 1. Never ran right when it ran at all. It’s a good thing he lived in NYC because he needed public transit often. He kept the Cordoba 3 or 4 years until the trans got stuck in park and the shift lever broke off in his hand. Had it towed to the dealer and traded it on a green 80 something Dodge Diplomat — which was just as bad. Good memories of bad cars.




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    • Charles G. Van De Sampel

      If it still had the LEAN BURN system that would explain the engine issues. And the Torqueflites problems were the mods that the company made before putting it on the market starting with that year. I bought 77 Dodge Daytona version with the 400ci and lock-up 727, and six months later got a deal on a 75 Daytona with the 360ci. The trans problem was a design issue that if not repaired by the dealership or repair shop led to your grandfathers breaking of the shift lever by trying to force it out of park. You have to understand that the LEAN BURN might have been a Chrysler part, but it was governed over by the Clean Air Act. If any of the sensors failed, especially the ‘air volume’ sensor, it could not be repaired. The complete computer had to be replaced or removed by approved licensed dealership, or you could do it, but it required applying through a dealership for a permit to take it out. That slip of paper covered you when you went to sell the vehicle. Yeah, the overall vehicle had issues, but if you were familiar with any of the Chrysler products, things could be corrected.




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  9. Jack Quantrill

    Quien es mas macho? Ricardo Montalban,o Lloyd Bridges? Si, Lloyd Bridges es muy macho, porque Ricardo Montalban, es un poquito mas macho mas!




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    • Corey Kemendo Corey Kemendo Staff

      Ha, if Lloyd Bridges has been the spokesperson, tough or not, the car wouldn’t have sold nearly as well. Montalban might not have had 100% machismo, but he was well known to both men and women in the late 70s. Lloyd was more 1960s.




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  10. PETER P BAUSYS

    I don’t know how successful the 200 advertising campaign was. I know what a Cordoba was but I don’t know what a 200 is or was. I could look it up but I don’t especially care about today’s cars–the vast majority of them all look the same to me. The front lights on this Cordoba remind me of my 71 RS.




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  11. Mark P

    Google my Chrysler 200 stalls a lot for no reason even at highway speed. A co-worker has one, afraid to drive it. Thousands of complaints 2011 – 2016. Chrysler (Fiat) done nothing about it. Almost as bad as GM not spending 51 cents to fix the ignition key issue that at last count has killed 119 people.




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  12. Pete Kaczmarski

    For me the 1979 Dodge Magnum G.T. is a lot more sportier. In 1980 I owned one with the T-tops and E-58 (Police) package and in 2017 I finally found another.




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  13. russell spreeman

    In the 70’s I went with my non-car-guy buddy to a CP dealer where he intended to order a Fury Sport (the Plymouth low buck version of a Cordoba) with a list of options etc. he wanted. Item after item the salesman just got more and more annoyed. “You don’t WANT that engine. It’s California only and gets about 6 mpg… You don’t WANT that kind of roof. It doesn’t look good on that car. You don’t WANT that color interior with that color exterior. DON’T order those things, just order this package that has them all for half the price.’ He about had steam coming out his ears. Finally he said ‘For what you are going to pay you can just get a Cordoba!’ and that is what my buddy ended up with, something off the lot in fact.




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