The Chrysler Cordoba: Like a '60s muscle car, but not | Low-Buck Tech

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By Guest Writer
Sep 1, 2022 | Chrysler, 24 Hours of Lemons, Low-Buck Tech, Cordoba | Posted in News and Notes | From the Aug. 2022 issue | Never miss an article

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Story by Eric Rood

The 24 Hours of Lemons allows real people to live out their (slightly tempered) racing dreams. But if you want to race a classic American muscle car–think early V8 power and rear-wheel drive–how do you start such a build for hundreds and not thousands? 

Jim Sayre of Valve Tap Racing followed the Mopar muscle car pedigree to its logical (and chronological) end: a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba. While you’re all replaying Ricardo Montalbán’s famous “rich Corinthian leather” pitch in your heads, consider the following the final Chrysler B-body checks for muscle car cred:

  • Two-door version of a big(ger) sedan? Check. The iconic Charger and Road Runner muscle cars were basically the coupe versions of the Coronet and Belvedere. The Cordoba? It’s just a Dodge Monaco coupe.
  • Relatively cheap? Check. Adjusted for inflation, a new Cordoba started at about $22,700. That’ll buy you a rental-grade, unsold 2019 Dodge Journey right now.
  • Big V8? Check. Jim’s Cordoba is powered by Mopar’s final passenger car big block, the sometimes reviled Chrysler 400. Sure, there are some points against it. That 400 makes a stout 190-ish horsepower due to its Malaise Era emissions equipment–though Jim smartly tossed out the notorious Lean Burn system–and the rear end is geared to a theoretical top speed of about 336 mph. 

Setting all that aside, if you lower your standards a bit, the general layout of a Cordoba is very similar to a 1968 Charger R/T’s, which means classic muscle car handling (poor) and braking (also poor). 

All the same, the Torqueflite transmission is robust, and the big, strangled 400 seems not to make enough power to hurt itself. The Cordoba is easy to drive and predictable–if unspectacular–which is great for Jim, who just wanted a car his family and he could race with some of his old Mopar friends. And crucially, it looks spectacular on a race track.

While you might not find a Mercury Cyclone or Pontiac GTO, complete the Lemons analogy instead with a Mercury Montego MX or a Pontiac LeMans Coupe GT.

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Comments
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06HHR (Forum Supporter)
06HHR (Forum Supporter) Dork
6/29/22 1:02 p.m.

My grandfather had a 76, Brown with Tan interior and vinyl top.  Was no match for my aunt's Cuda in a straight line but it was way more comfy..  He was a Mopar Man, retired from Ma Mopar after 30 years.  The Cordoba was his retirement car.

Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos)
Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/29/22 2:47 p.m.

RICH CORINTHIAN LEATHER!!!!1111

 

TheTallOne17
TheTallOne17 Reader
6/29/22 2:58 p.m.
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
6/29/22 2:58 p.m.
dean1484
dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/29/22 3:03 p.m.

I noted in the video that he refers to it as a "Small Chrysler ".  That made me chuckle!!!

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
6/29/22 4:14 p.m.

In reply to dean1484 :

Our peculiar habit of stuffing our corpulent bodies into tiny shoeboxes on wheels had yet to manifest itself.  Many cars we think of as large today were, in their time, sold as "personal size" cars.

https://bestride.com/news/top-10-personal-luxury-coupes-of-the-1960s-and-1970s

06HHR (Forum Supporter)
06HHR (Forum Supporter) Dork
6/29/22 4:22 p.m.

They were small "ish" compared to their earlier bredren..  This is what my Grandpa's Cordoba replaced, 1972 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham. That thing had it's own zip code.

ddavidv
ddavidv UltimaDork
6/30/22 7:16 a.m.

Having spent many hours riding around with a friend in his 400 ci Cordoba, I can tell you they were absolutely faster than you'd expect. Not fast like a built Camaro, but fast compared to most of the emissions-laden junk we stop light raced in the 1980s. Remove the Lean Burn system and add some exhaust and a cam, and Bob's your uncle.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
6/30/22 7:26 a.m.

Richard Petty's last Mopar race car was a Dodge Magnum, which was a sister car to the Cordoba, so there's sort of a race heritage...

stroker
stroker PowerDork
6/30/22 9:54 a.m.

I had a Magnum with a 400 big block.  Ended up donating it to charity.  Wish I hadn't, now, but gas was comparatively cheap then...

Aaron_King
Aaron_King PowerDork
6/30/22 11:42 a.m.

I was given a Magnum with a 360, I think.  At the time I really didn't like it, too big, too metallic brown, automatic.  But looking back on it now, and if the internet had been around to show how to mess with it, I would take it back.

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
6/30/22 12:21 p.m.
06HHR (Forum Supporter) said:

They were small "ish" compared to their earlier bredren..  This is what my Grandpa's Cordoba replaced, 1972 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham. That thing had it's own zip code.

I think I would rather have this one. Think of how much you could haul in that trunk.

MotorsportsGordon
MotorsportsGordon Dork
7/4/22 4:19 p.m.

In 1979 they made a Chrysler 300 off the Córdoba. Came with a 195 hp 360. 

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ SuperDork
7/4/22 5:05 p.m.
ddavidv said:

Having spent many hours riding around with a friend in his 400 ci Cordoba, I can tell you they were absolutely faster than you'd expect. Not fast like a built Camaro, but fast compared to most of the emissions-laden junk we stop light raced in the 1980s. Remove the Lean Burn system and add some exhaust and a cam, and Bob's your uncle.

I'm not a hardcore Mopar guy but I seem to remember that the 400 was just a B and not an RB so it had a shorter deck than the other big uns.  But it had a larger bore than even the 440.  I guess the short deck height means that a 440 crank won't clear?  I assume.  Seems you could make a really big un.  

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ SuperDork
7/4/22 5:08 p.m.
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) said:
06HHR (Forum Supporter) said:

They were small "ish" compared to their earlier bredren..  This is what my Grandpa's Cordoba replaced, 1972 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham. That thing had it's own zip code.

I think I would rather have this one. Think of how much you could haul in that trunk.

Just think how many votes you could stuff in the trunk on Election Day 

A 401 CJ said:
ddavidv said:

Having spent many hours riding around with a friend in his 400 ci Cordoba, I can tell you they were absolutely faster than you'd expect. Not fast like a built Camaro, but fast compared to most of the emissions-laden junk we stop light raced in the 1980s. Remove the Lean Burn system and add some exhaust and a cam, and Bob's your uncle.

I'm not a hardcore Mopar guy but I seem to remember that the 400 was just a B and not an RB so it had a shorter deck than the other big uns.  But it had a larger bore than even the 440.  I guess the short deck height means that a 440 crank won't clear?  I assume.  Seems you could make a really big un.  

The mains on the 440 crank have to be turned down to fit the 400 block.  There is a good chance the counterbalance weights and/or the block will need massaging, as well.  This will get you 451 cubes, which isn't all that much, but the lighter block, less reciprocating mass, and more compact size will net quite a few benefits aside from displacement.  Offset grinding the rod journals and using Chevy rods with custom pistons gives even more displacement, but has tradeoffs, as well.

Honestly, the biggest limit for BBM power is in the stock heads.

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/20/22 3:40 p.m.

In reply to Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) :

The one that gets me is the rich Corinthian leather reference...I've laughed about that since i first heard it and still do to this day

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/20/22 3:40 p.m.

In reply to Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) :

The one that gets me is the rich Corinthian leather reference...I've laughed about that since i first heard it and still do to this day

03Panther
03Panther UberDork
7/21/22 1:16 a.m.
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) said:Think of how much you could haul in that trunk.

A friend's phrase was "that trunk would sleep 6 and berkeley 12!!!"

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
7/21/22 7:15 a.m.
Russian Warship, Go Berkeley Yourself said:
A 401 CJ said:
ddavidv said:

Having spent many hours riding around with a friend in his 400 ci Cordoba, I can tell you they were absolutely faster than you'd expect. Not fast like a built Camaro, but fast compared to most of the emissions-laden junk we stop light raced in the 1980s. Remove the Lean Burn system and add some exhaust and a cam, and Bob's your uncle.

I'm not a hardcore Mopar guy but I seem to remember that the 400 was just a B and not an RB so it had a shorter deck than the other big uns.  But it had a larger bore than even the 440.  I guess the short deck height means that a 440 crank won't clear?  I assume.  Seems you could make a really big un.  

The mains on the 440 crank have to be turned down to fit the 400 block.  There is a good chance the counterbalance weights and/or the block will need massaging, as well.  This will get you 451 cubes, which isn't all that much, but the lighter block, less reciprocating mass, and more compact size will net quite a few benefits aside from displacement.  Offset grinding the rod journals and using Chevy rods with custom pistons gives even more displacement, but has tradeoffs, as well.

Honestly, the biggest limit for BBM power is in the stock heads.

You can get a stroker kit these days to turn a 400 into a 512.  A few years ago on the Hot Rod Garage TV show they did a build on a 400 that's in a 1965 Plymouth Fury station wagon, it looked like a relatively cheap way to get a lot of horsepower.

drock25too
drock25too HalfDork
7/21/22 10:07 a.m.

In reply to livinon2wheels :

Years ago I heard a comedian say, how many rich Corinthians does it take to upholster a  Cordoba 

stroker
stroker PowerDork
7/21/22 10:09 a.m.

Seriously, I'd be curious as to how much weight you could pull off something like that...

 

billy69
billy69 New Reader
9/1/22 1:39 p.m.

shameless but i have one for sale!!  harlank@tkstp.com

jb229
jb229 New Reader
9/2/22 8:01 a.m.
Brett_Murphy (Agent of Chaos) said:

RICH CORINTHIAN LEATHER!!!!1111

 

 

CORINTH IS FAMOUS FOR ITS LEATHER

No Time
No Time SuperDork
9/2/22 8:28 a.m.

In reply to 06HHR (Forum Supporter) :

I wonder if you could even open the doors on a car that size when parked in a modern sized parking space. 

That's assuming the rows are spaced wide enough for it to make the swing into the space. 

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/2/22 8:37 a.m.

I had a 78 Cordoba in college. Driving home from the beach, the rear perches for the rear leaf springs rusted out and popped up through the trunk. The rear axle was on the bump stops...and no one noticed. We had a full trunk and she kinda sagged already. I fixed it by lifting the car and sliding some pressure-treated lumber through the perches. She served me for another year, making beer runs and such. Then she became a parade float which ultimately killed her.  She had survived an engine fire put out with saltwater and fixed with electrical tape, but not fraternity float duty. 

06HHR (Forum Supporter)
06HHR (Forum Supporter) Dork
9/2/22 9:57 a.m.

In reply to No Time :

I had problems in compact spaces with my Firebird when I had it back in the aughts, i couldn't imagine parking a 72 New Yorker today.  Those doors go on for miles and miles.

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