Chrysler by Chrysler CJ
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
When the Chrysler by Chrysler was unveiled before an expectant public in December, 1971
, the company claimed that it was offering the most comprehensively-equipped local prestige car on the market. There was to be no compromising, it said, with the Chrysler - it was to be a "complete" car which didn't need to stoop to competing in the options game because every option was there, as standard equipment, before it even reached the showroom floor.
, however, the philosophy had changed. For the CJ version the Chrysler by Chrysler lowered its social status - and its price - a little by shedding some of its luxury trappings and moving down into the realms of its less lavishly-equipped competition. Chrysler had hoped that its car would establish a new standard for local prestige vehicles, but after fighting hard for 3 years Ford's Fairlane still continued to rule the roost as the top seller in its class.
Judged in its own right, however, the Chrysler was a pretty fair match for its main opposition, the Fairlane and GMH's Statesman. It's only disadvantage was that there was no "economy" version to pull sales from the market sector between Fairmont/Premier/Regal and the higher-priced long-wheelbase models. GMH, and to a lesser extent. Ford, were doing very nicely with their "standard" versions of the Statesman and Fairlane. So the CJ went a little lower, but not to de Ville standards.
There were basically two models available, with either 265 cubic inch six-cylinder or 360 cubic inch eight-cylinder power. Both we trimmed identically and although some of the once-standard gear-like brocade upholstery and power windows was listed as optional, the list of equipment was still very comprehensive. From a company that had established itself as producing cars that were heavily optioned, to the point that many could make their Valiant an individual car (which makes it very hard for today’s collectors in identification and originality) the CJ Chrysler did not allow option of either a front bench seat, nor manual transmission.
Behind the Wheel
Behind the wheel drivers would soon discover the Chrysler flagship was a swift, silent and spacious vehicle. The big 360 cubic inch V8 (the largest used in any locally made car at the time) performed in a discreet and silent manner when being used gently around the city, and could propel the car to cruising speeds without effort. The ride suffered the usual Chrysler tendency toward harshness, but the actual noise level was noticeably lower than in the less prestigious Valiant models. A lot of this was due to the wide-section Dunlop Aquajet radial tyres
fitted, but the extra security provided by their firm road grip negated any disadvantages.
Actually, the driver of the Chrysler by Chrysler got a deal equally as good as his passengers, because in most respects it was a very pleasant car to drive. Only the typical insensitivity of controls like the power steering, and the power disc brakes
took the edge off the balanced feel that the car enjoyed in normal situations. Like other local power steering systems, the Chrysler's was almost completely without "feel" and robbed the driver of any rapport with the car. Of course the power steering was a godsend when parking. The VJ Valiant
range would go on to develop a very good reputation for its handling – and on the Chrysler it was even better, thanks mainly to the additional heavy duty front stabilizer bar, which decreased front end kneel and smoothed out corners taken at speed by controlling weight transfer positively. The switch to oversteer would come on gently, although precision of direction was always soured a little by the power steering setup.
The VJ Valiant
used a redesigned braking system which provided a new low pedal height and, it was claimed, also decreased the amount of pressure required on unassisted systems. It did resist fade under heavy braking, but lacked a progressive action at the crucial stage where lock-up was imminent. Normal, or even very quick stopping was not so much of a problem once you became accustomed to them. Where the Chrysler scored most strongly was in the finish and comfort departments. The interior is trimmed lavishly, the soft, high-quality carpet fitted neatly, the paintwork was deep and smooth and upholstery and trim were carefully stitched and fitted into place. On the CJ the lower fascia was padded and vinyl-covered as was the case on the 1972 Charger SE
, while the cheaper Valiant models switched to the use of a semi-lustre paint finish. All were a big improvement on the matt finish in the VH model.
Instrumentation in the Chrysler was the least-changed of all 1973
models, but the speedometer was switched to km/h calibration – and these were also easier to read than on the Valiant models. The power-adjusted driver's seat helped get a near perfect driving position. The driver was given three controls on the right hand side of the cushion which tilted forwards or backwards, or lowered the whole seat. The only operation requiring the use of any muscle power was the backrest recliner, which was still operated manually. Unfortunately, the front seat passenger had to adjust their seat manually, although they still had their own individual armrest, plus an enormous amount of leg room.
The biggest surprise in the Chrysler is the rear seat accommodation. Given the ultra-thick front seats many presumed, wrongly, that sitting in the back would be a squeeze. But Chrysler made good use of the extra wheelbase inches to ensure it was comfortable for tall adults over long distances – which was quite a rare feat. For those in the back there were also swivelling reading lamps in the rear quarter pillars, large pockets at the back of both front seats, a fold-down centre armrest and old-fashioned door-pulls on each side. It wasn’t the easiest car to see out of at the rear, but at least you had plenty of privacy. Ensuring the rear passengers had plenty of leg room did not come at the cost of less boot space either. The boot remained cavernous – and also got the VIP treatment, with full carpeting and specially-fitted panels (albeit of grey painted cardboard) hiding or protecting the car's sides. The spare even had it's own carpet covering.
Viewed externally, the 1973
Chrysler had a cleanliness of line which we thing was the equal of the competition. The wedge-shape accent brought about by lowering the vinyl covering on the rear quarter pillar served to improve the appearance slightly over the previous model. Otherwise, there really was little to distinguish a CH from a CJ.