Home » That Sleeper Chrysler Cordoba You’ve Been Dreaming About Is Only Some Mods Away: COTD

That Sleeper Chrysler Cordoba You’ve Been Dreaming About Is Only Some Mods Away: COTD

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Malaise Era cars get a bad rap from many car enthusiasts. Indeed, a lot of it was deserved, from some uninspired designs to laughable quality. Oh, and don’t forget V8s that made power easily eclipsed by even some of the cheapest crossovers today. But there’s a thing about old Malaise Era cars: they make great sleepers.

On Friday, Jason wrote a Glorious Garbage about the 1975 Plymouth Road Runner, a car that rode on a high of 335 HP, just to get smacked down to 145 HP in the Malaise Era. Now, in fairness to the Road Runner, that 335 HP number was gross horsepower, which was measured with the engine on a stand and not connected to anything. SAE net horsepower, which made its debut in 1971, is more accurate, measuring output after the engine gets loaded down with the accessories it needs to operate in a car. Net horsepower isn’t what you’ll get at the wheels, but it’s closer to reality than gross HP was.

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Anyway, accounting for the change from gross HP to net HP, the Road Runner was downgraded to 250 HP. That’s a huge hit, but it could have been worse. So, the fact that the 1975 model made just 145 lethargic ponies with its 318 cubic inch V8 couldn’t be blamed entirely on gross-to-net ratings.

A 1970s piece of American iron making just 145 coughing horsepower sounds like a bleak experience, but Cam.man67 says hold on, there’s potential there:

My favorite thing about malaise-era cars, particularly Mopars, is that, while yes, they were slow, inefficient, and ill-handling stock, it really didn’t take much to wake ‘em up. Yeah, that 318 maybe made 145hp from the factory, but those engines had (and have) an astronomical aftermarket for speed parts. It’s really not difficult to double or even triple the engine output for (even in modern dollars) not much more than a grand. Suspension-wise, there were good options then for handling upgrades, and now whole pro-touring drop-in suspensions are available. In some ways, Malaise Mopars make better bases for hot rodding because they’ll never reach the collectibility status of, say, a big-block ‘69 Charger.

To back Cam.man67 up here, for an example of what you can do with choked-out V8s, look no further than the one-off Duntov GT we wrote about early this year.

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CCC Engineering via Cadillac Forums

That lovely unit started life as a Cadillac Brougham with a 5.0-liter V8 making a casual 140 horses. Jim Jones of then Traco Engineering took another lazy engine, the 205 HP 5.7-liter V8 from a Corvette, and turned the taps up to 370 HP. That engine then found a home in the Brougham, turning it into a Malaise Hot Rod.

So, don’t discount those Malaise Era cars, there’s potential in them! TriangleRAD has the right idea:

Now you’ve got me thinking about a sleeper Cordoba or Mirada….

For one more COTD nom today, let’s look at the street legal Maserati MC12 Matt wrote about earlier. That car participated in this year’s Gold Rush Rally with Team Loan Sharks. I’m giving a nod to SquareTaillight2002 for making me laugh so hard I erupted into a coughing fit:

When I saw the name Team Loan Sharks, I assumed that Scott Tucker was out of prison.

For some context, in 2017, Tucker was sentenced to 16 years behind bars on racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering charges. As I wrote in 2021, Tucker’s AMG Capital Management targeted people with low credit ratings to get into predatory loans with illegally-high interest rates. The gains from the business were used to fund a racing team and to compete at Le Mans.

Deep cut, SquareTaillight2002! Have a great evening, everyone!

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Mike Schierenberg
Mike Schierenberg
11 months ago

My first car at 16 yrs old was a used 1977 Cordoba. Forty years later I still have it. It’s in better condition than 40 years ago, 500hp 440ci, with an additional 200hp shot of nitrous a button away. My personalized license plates has always been “Slepr1”.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
11 months ago

Hell yeah

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
11 months ago

Behold the glory that is the Hemirada

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
11 months ago

I want to put a Viper engine into a 1981 Imperial.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
11 months ago

Now you’ve got me thinking about a sleeper Cordoba or Mirada….

There’s a reason (besides space) that I’m not allowed to own nearly any car made between 1972 and 1984.

Given all of the other things going on, cars from this era had nothing they could do to be exciting or differentiate themselves other than styling. And while it was extremely hit or miss there, you got some true stunners out there. Not many, but they are out there.
For example: the H-bodies are responsible for the late 70’s through late 80’s Camaro and Firebird. The ’75-’79 Cordoba is actually a very handsome car, as is the ’74 Fury. The ’77 New Yorker with the hide-away headlights is peak 2-door land-yacht styling, right up there with the Continental Mark IV. The 1974 LeSabre manages to look fast while being, uh, hahahaha, yeah. And the ’72-’76 Electra still managed to be a looker.

And as a point of fact, every one of these can be turned into absolute monsters. DeKon engineering turned the modest H-body into a 650HP+ monster that not only threw Porsche out on their ear, but completely dominated IMSA, AAGT, and Trans-Am.
You let me loose on a 1977 Buick Skyhawk (H-body) and you’re going to end up with 500HP+ in 2200lbs with a skidpad that requires neck training. ’77 Cordoba, six acres of rich Corinthian leather cossetting you as you leave elevenses longer than the car. (That’s really long.) NOTHING sane can come of letting me loose on these cars.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
11 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

I have owed both a 76 New Yorker Coupe, and a 77 New Yorker Sedan. The coupe was a 440 and was one of the best interstate cruisers I have ever driven… the soft suspension would settle into a slight side to side lope, but it would track dead straight and you could roll down the highway at 90+ in absolute silence with A/C that would frost up the windows. I had the 77 sedan in high school and would regularly carry 7-9 people in it!

Last edited 11 months ago by Rapgomi
Alec Weinstein
Alec Weinstein
11 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

I need to get you in touch with my 350 Monza. Have it down to 2800 or so but want at least *some* semblance of interior, yknow? Factory seats be comfy as hell.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
11 months ago

Malaise Era cars get a bad rap from many car enthusiasts”

That name may be the one part of Jimmy Carter’s legacy that never dies.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
11 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Also being attacked by a rabbit

Chronometric
Chronometric
11 months ago

Thank you for that honor Mercedes. I had a personal experience with Scott Tucker back when he was establishing his racing credentials back in 2008. He was racing a C5 Corvette for the SCCA Championship at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas. My company sold a GPS and accelerometer based data system for race cars. It was easy to install so many driver coaches used them, including Scott’s.

As qualifying progressed through the week, it was clear they needed a little more performance so he found us and wanted to buy a system so he could overlay his laps with Scott’s and help him pick up some lap time. We sold him a full data and video system for a couple thousand bucks and installed it in their car. The team was very accommodating and treated us to first rate food while training them in their palatial RV. But they told us, “Make sure you get paid.” Tucker and Associates were definitely some slippery dudes. We chased their business manager all around the track for 3 days until we finally got a check. It didn’t bounce, BTW.

Since qualifying was over, so was the team’s track time and they still needed to squeeze out some performance so they pulled in some favors and rented Gateway Motorsports Park (now World Wide Technology Raceway), which was closed at the time. They packed up the Corvette and drove 4 1/2 hours away to St. Louis and worked to improve the car.

That weekend, Tucker won the SCCA Championship, earning himself enough credentials to get good rides in Grand Am and IMSA. This eventually led to an invitation to Le Mans where he placed third overall. Shortly thereafter he was in prison for operating a predatory loan empire. I saw his driver coach a few year ago. He congratulated me for being one of the few people who ever got money out of Scott Tucker!

Last edited 11 months ago by Chronometric
Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
11 months ago

This is all true. The Mopar catalog is full of reasonably-priced, 300-400 hp LA engines that will swap right in. I’ll take a 485-horse, in a first-gen Cordoba in GM war bonnet yellow (gold) with white interior, or a Mirada murdered out. A Murderada.

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
11 months ago

My first COTD nomination! Thanks Mercedes!

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
11 months ago

Sleeper and Cordoba are two words I never expected to see together. And the slightest hint of performance associated with a Personal Luxury Car evokes the ubiquitous crime show scene of a massive hood pushing bias-ply tires over while a hubcap springs free to wedge under a parked Pinto

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
11 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Starsky and Hutch alone kept many a used hubcap dealers in business for several years. I also like the way the old seventies full size cars could run up over a curb like it was a mild speed bump. Even today’s CUVs and SUVs can’t hit a curb like that without ruining a $2000 set of 20″ rims and another $1000 of Macpherson struts.

Anoos
Anoos
11 months ago

I forgot there used to be places that sold hubcaps. Thanks for reminding me I’m wicked old.

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