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Old 01-16-2007, 10:38 AM   #1
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Smile 1980 Chrysler Cordoba: the most reliable vehicle I've owned

The best in reliablity, decent craftmanship, parts are easy to get and dirt cheap.

Terrible gas mileage in winter, hard to park, endangers other people somewhat...

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How I Got My Chrysler Cordoba:
I got my drivers licence on June 1st, 2002. Ironically, just hours of achieving my licence, I got my first car, a 1986 Oldsmobile 88 for $500. That car was great, but the engine's main bearing went at about 240,000km in August of 2002. The cost of repair was too much for my family's liking so we sold it for $150 to some guy who wanted the transmission.

Soon after selling the Olds', my close friend bought his first car (a 1994 Geo metro GSI). I didn't like the fact that my friend had a car and I didn't, so I was really anxious about getting myself another car that I could drive immediately; not one that needed repairs.

August 14, 2002. My dad comes home after work and whips out that day's newspaper. We read the classifieds and my dad and I start car searching. Seconds into reading the all the ads, I find an interesting classified:


I immediately get excited. My dad was always pointing out this one vehicle parked near my school whenever he dropped me off for class. It was a 1982 Chrysler Cordoba with a fake convertible top. He would always say things like: "If we could find one of those in good condition, it would be a great car for you" or "Wow, there's not too many of those around anymore". I liked the looks of the car parked on the street and now here's one staring me in the face in the newspaper.

Suddenly my dad wasn't really interested in the car and said that it was too big and hard on gas. Still, I was excited. I really wanted a car that day.

So, reluctantly, my dad calls the phone number expecting that there would be something horribly wrong with the car. There is a long discussion and when my dad hangs up he says: "Fine, we'll look at the car, but just to look okay?".

My dad, ten year old sister, and I travel to this 60-year-old guy's house where this brown beast of a car is parked on the street.

I immediately fell in love with it. It was so cool! the car was in great condition for being 22 years old. The brown paint was still glossy with some small spot rust in isolated areas, there were brand new tires on it, and the whole car was very complete with all the trim fixings intact.

The man selling it told us a convincing (but not known if true) story about his elderly neighbour owning the car and driving it in the city only during the summer months. The neighbor died 3 years before, and his son had been driving it all year round since.

Anyway, the seller got the car started on the 2nd try after pumping the gas three times per turnover. The 318 ran really quiet. I've heard the same engine type in other chrysler cars and they were squeaky and down right noisy. This car's engine was running pristine.

After talking about the car for a while, my dad test drove it while I sat in the passanger seat and my sister in the back. My sister kept on saying things like: "this car is SOOO old!" and "EEEEW! Why do you like this car?".

My dad was amazing himself as he drove the 4000lb car. He kept saying: "Wow, this car is solid. There would be a whole bunch rattling going on as we go over these bumps on the road" and "Wow, the engine is dead quiet now it's warmed up".

He was right. I could barely hear any engine or road noise. I could actually hear the gears turing and shifting in the automatic transmission. It almost sounded like an electric car! Overall, the first driving experience was very memorable.

After about ten minutes of test driving, we return to the guy's house. We bought it that same day for $1,250 Canadian.

Attachment 158

My Personal Experience:
Once owning the car, I couldn't believe how much attention it got. Everybody was always saying "It's so cool" to "it's so ugly". The car is definitely unique. Although the styling is dated compared to today's standards, all Cordobas were very good looking vehicles in their time.

During August and September, I got avearge gas mileage of 16 miles per imperial gallon in the city and about 22 on the highway (going 90 km/h); not terrible considering the vehicle has a 5.2L V8. However, the gas mileage lowers at an alarming rate as the temperature goes down. Here in Saskatchewan Canada, where the temperature goes as far down as -30 degrees Fahrenheit, The Cordoba gets to a horrific 7 miles per gallon.

The car's handling is great even though it has a long wheel base, however, I think it was partly due to the new all-season tires that made it handle so well. 90 degree turns were handled with little protest from the tires at 30 mph. Even it wet weather, the car grips the road like a champ.

The steering is absolutely effortless. I often become lazy and can go around corners with my thumbs turning the wheel near my lap. An average car needs their steering wheel turned about 1.5 times to go from straight to a full turning position. My cordoba takes about 2 turns. This may throw off some people at first because it takes more turns to steer the car, thus giving a sensation of driving like "a boat". It seems like a slow reaction time for the car to steer in a certain direction, but let me assure you, the steering is not loose or troublesome.

Acceleration is weird in this car. It takes about 14 seconds for the 120 horsepower 2 barrel carbeurated V8 engine to move this 2 ton beast from 0-100km/h. From 0-40km/h, the accereration is slow as the first gear has very "wide" gear ratio. Then it really takes off at about 45km/h to top speed. If the gas is floored, the first gear only shifts to second at 80km/h! Then it shifts to third at about 120km/h. These gearshifts may sound weird, but can be really cool if you know how to use them...

Example: Your traveling at 50km/h (which is the speed limit in most Canadian cities) and some dork with...oh let's say...a 1982 Toyota Tercel 4 door who is travelling beside you *attemps* to show off his *special* car by full throttling it briefly. Then I, (taking advantage of the opportunity to show off my 'Doba), floor the gas so the engine unleashes it's second barrel carbeurator as well as simultaniously shifting down to first gear at high rpm, leave the Tercel in the dust...or shall I say exaust? The expression on the other driver's face is priceless.

It's also good for passing other vehicles on the highway. Travelling 100km/h, flooring the pedal causes the same reaction, only the engine shifts from third to second gear. Going uphill is effortless for this car if I manually press the gas, but the cruise control doesn't really do a good job. Going up a valley hill starting at 100km/h with the cruise control on will slow the car to 70km/h. It's not that the car doesn't have power, it's the cruise control that doesn't put any effort into it. The car doesn't even need to shift down from 3rd gear to go uphill.

I also should add that flooring this vehicle does not harm it at all. Actually it's beneficial for it because it removes deposits from the engine's intake which improves performance and gas mileage.

The top speed of my car is pretty bad. It seems to max out at 133km/h. I don't know why (other 318 engines allegedly propel other chrysler cars such as Diplomats and Fifth Avenues to speeds over 200km/h) but it doesn't really concern me as I shouldn't be going that speed anyway.

After all that said, this car is certainly not a hot performer. It has a bad power to weight ratio. The Geo Metro I was talking about earlier looses me constantly.

Braking this car to a stop can be tricky in an emergency situation. It sometimes seems to take forever, again because of its weight.

Starting the car is simple. I had mentioned before that the seller of the car took 2 times to start it after pumping the gas 3 times. In conditions that aren't too cold, the car's accelerator pedal needs to be pumped only once and then the car will start on the 1st try guaranteed. The car sounds like a propeller plane trying to start. It's kind of cool.

Attachment 160

My Cordoba has pretty standard interior options. I have plain fabric-like bench seats that do become uncomfortable after about an hour or two of driving. The guages are analog circular shaped and are deeply inbedded into the dash; much like many 70s cars. The car is wide with average interior space. Actually, the interior only takes up about 1/3 of the car. The other 2/3 consist of the trunk and engine compartments! The front seat has ample room, but the rear seat has limited head and leg room; over par for family standards. The rear seat is suitable for large people, but they will be cramped as the car has about 1 foot of legroom in the back. My car is able to carry 6 people.

The car I drive doesn't have a padded roof, so there is lots of windows; great for shoulder checking. I have a CD player with aftermarket speakers in my car, so the music played in it sound pretty darn good (I'm not a big fan of subwoofers and other audio crap other teenagers are into).

Safety Features:
Back in 1980, The car got a three star safety rating for the driver and a four star safety rating for the passanger. However, because the car weighs 4000 pounds it pulverizes everything in its path. Unfortuanately if I were to drive the Cordoba into My 97 Geo Metro, the driver in the Metro would have 8 times more of a chance of dying in that crash.

Attachment 159

Winter Driving:
Winter driving isn't too terrible in this car as long as I have a couple of 20kg bags of salt in the 15 cubic foot trunk. I only got stuck once in my ownership (the snow was over one foot deep on the street). It will fishtail and spin out if too aggressive on winter roads. Braking on winter roads require obsenely large following distances. My car also tends to swerve to the right when the wheels are locked on an icy road.

Work Done To My Car:
I can't even express how reliable this car is. It has only left me stranded once because I floored it on a highway onramp and the car shifted to first at 60km/h. That caused one of the radiator hoses to rupture and spew steam everywhere. I only had to repair the hose and fill up the radiator with coolant and it was as good as new. When I first got the car thare were a few things that needed to be repaired like a coolant leak, new brake pads, and new plugs. I had to get my air intake cleaned because the last person that drove the car (maybe that 60 year old guy was right when he said his neighbour drove it in the city?) drove it very pansy-like and and a build up of carbon deposits caused the intake to be almost 100% clogged. The mechanic said he had to chip the particles with a screwdriver! Other than that and regular oil changes, my car has had no trouble other than the occasional stall if taking a turn too quick. Repair costs for all those things were really cheap. Actually, all the parts are cheap. A new air filter only costs $4 for this thing!

My Car Accidents:
Yes, it's true. I am 17 years old and like many other *inexperienced* drivers I have gotten into a few accidents; three to be exact---two of them my fault. Read about how my car has stood up to the abuse...or shall I say the abuse of others!

Accident #1:
This accident was dumb. The friend I was telling you about in the beginning of my review that drove a Geo Metro GSI and I got into a a really corny accident. I wouldn't even consider it to be an accident because technically our cars didn't even touch each other. To make a long story short, we were fooling around in a gravel parking lot and I spun my tires kicking up gravel on the Geo. I caused 2 large stone chips on his windshield and countless others on the paint and...well...let's just say the WHOLE car. In the end there was $1500 worth of damage done. The moral? Don't spin the tires of a rear wheel drive Cordoba directly behind an inocent car.

Accident #2:
This one was a REAL accident. I woke up on a late October monday morning and had 15 minutes to get to school. Just as I was about to leave the front door, I got a phone call from who? Yes the guy who drives the Metro. He tells me on the phone that he locked his keys in his car and that he needs me to drive him and his 15 year old sister to school. I agree. Ironicly, my dad tells me to not be in a rush and It's not the end of the world if I'm late. Did I listen? NO! Well anyway, I started my car and scraped the frost off my windows. It was really cold that day and I didn't let my car warm up. I started going to my friend's house and the defroster wasn't working in the cold and my windows started frosting up from the inside. Did I stop? NO! I kept driving until my windows were so frosted up that I could only see car's headlights. That's when I heard this sickening crunch on the right side of my car. At first I thought I maybe hit a curb (how did I know? The windows were that frosted!) and kept driving, but my car stalled because that was before I got new plugs and a clean intake. I came out of the car so see if there was any damage on my car. That's when I saw my wheel well trim all messed up. I ran back to the location of the accident and I had hit a parked brand new Cavalier! I had literally rear-ended the car so badly that I had crushed THROUGH it and scraped the whole side of it! In the end I left a note on the windshield and the vedict for my car was about $5 worth of trim for my car (It didn't even dent my car. Got to love pure metal bumpers!) and I swear that that Cavalier was totalled! I was surprised that the owner didn't seem angry on the phone when he called me up for information. The moral? Let a car warm up in cold weather and if the windows fog up, for the love of god, PULL OVER and rev the engine so the windows clear. That accident really scared me afterwards. What if I hit a pedestrian!?

Accident #3:
This was the accident that wasn't my fault. I drove to my best friend's house up in Edmonton Alberta during the Christmas holidays. I was driving with my friend and his friend in the back seat. While going straight, some lady driving a 1985 Dodge Caravan who was in the right lane in front and to the right side of me decided that it would be a great opportunity to attempt to do a U-turn right in front of my car. Bad mistake. I slammed on my brakes, hit her van on the left side and was actually PUSHING her sideways along the street as my tires are screeching along the pavement. My car was so heavy that neither me or my friends barely felt any force inflicted on us during the collision. The lady tried to take advantage of my age and attempted to say that I had *somehow* rear-ended her and that it was my fault. 3 witnesses later, she loses her stance and says she won't report the accident because the massive dent in the side of her van didn't appearantly affect the way it drove. My car, again had no damage other than the fact it josseled up some wiring and made my right headlight dim and signal light slow. After splicing a few wires the lights were fine.

Those 3 examples prove how well built this car is.

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My Cordoba was sold for $500 in the summer of 2005 after being parked for over a year. The vehicle may become a collector item in the near future as there were only about 26,000 of them made in 1980.
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Old 01-16-2007, 11:17 AM   #2
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Awesome review.

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Old 01-16-2007, 01:36 PM   #3
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My second car was a Austin America 4 cylinder automatic. I can't fully express what an awful P.O.S. it was, but I can relate one story:

Two friends and I went to lunch across the river from Cambridge in Allston, Mass. While driving at about 50 mph on Storrow Drive, the tranny suddenly lost all forward gears. It rolled to a stop. Reverse still worked! So I made a U turn in reverse and drove across the the River St. bridge. I just wanted to get it off the highway. My friends were very amused. The cop directing traffic there was NOT amused, but he accepted my explantion, and didn't give me a ticket.

Imported cars could be truly awful in the 1960's.
Capitalism: The cream rises. Socialism: The scum rises.
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Old 01-17-2007, 07:25 PM   #4
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Rich Corinthian Leather

You forgot the best part: Rich Corinthian Leather!

Does anyone remember this guy:

"The Chrysler Cordoba. The only luxury car with rich Corinthian Leather."

At any rate, great article! I think one's first car needs to be as old as the driver and have some personality.

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Old 01-17-2007, 09:40 PM   #5
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Oh yes. Ricardo Maltoban! TV ads stressing the "Rich Corinthian Leather". Those commercials were classics. My car had regular cloth interior with an uncomforable bench seat . I also find it funny that he calls the Cordoba "This small Chrysler". SMALL??? I'd love to travel back in time to the 70s and find out what people would think of a Geo Metro.
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Old 01-20-2007, 03:20 PM   #6
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1977 Cordoba

Back when I first started driving (1989), my brother and I shared a 2 door 1977 Cordoba. It was the dark green color with half of the top covered with white vinyl. Green vinyl interior. It had the 400 4 barrel engine, 3 speed trans. It was a beast- very heavy. We lived out in the country and there was a nice flat wide road that we would test the top speed on- on several occasions we would get it up to about 105mph. It seemed to take about 1.5 miles to get it up that fast. It guzzled gas and was pretty much indestructible. I slid off an icy country road and into a ditch with enough force to bounce off the opposite bank and back onto the road. The bumper was a little muddy, but not bent. I recall getting a written warning from a police officer for spinning out in a gravel parking lot. Ahh the memories- and only about 12-15 mpg... I just shared it with my brother for a few months and then bought a 79 Honda Prelude of my own for $175.

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