Wrapping something old in something new is a time-honored practice for marketing. That’s certainly true for automakers, where the economics of manufacturing simply don’t allow for all new products, every year. True now, true then, and the lineup that Chrysler rolled out fifty years ago was a case in point. The chiseled, conservative styling for 1963 was new, courtesy of designer Elwood Engel. Beneath the skin, though, the cars were largely unchanged from 1962. However, Chrysler showed uncommon confidence in the carry-over. At a time when extended warranties were largely unheard of, the company announced a five year/50,000 mile plan for their 1963 models, and in the process, caught the competition napping.
The New Yorker series was downsized for ’63, trading their former, 126” wheelbase for a 122” platform. To spark some mid-year interest in the new lineup, Chrysler offered two, ‘Spring Specials’. One was the 300 Sport Pace Setter. These cars were replicas of the Chrysler chosen to pace the Indy 500. Some 2,167 Pace Setter replicas were built.
The other special edition was the New Yorker Salon hardtop sedan. Introduced to the public at the 1963 Chicago Auto Show, Chrysler trumpeted their new offering as, “The world’s most complete car”. Salons were indeed loaded with options, and dressed up with model-specific cosmetics, like the distinctive, vinyl covered canopy roof. Highlights from the arm’s-length list of standard luxury equipment included: air conditioning, Auto-Pilot (cruise control), passenger side reclining front seat, Jacquard cloth and leather interior trim, rear compartment reading lamps, speaker, and power pretty much everything. Forty-four luxury items in all, by Chrysler’s count, and the top New Yorker was powered by the 340 horsepower, 413 wedge V-8.
The newly christened flagship of the New Yorker line set sail with a lofty sticker price of $5,860. For comparison, the average price of a new car in 1963 was $3,233; average annual income was $5,807, and the average new home cost was $12,650. Closer to home for Chrysler, the Salon’s sticker price surpassed all but one Imperial model. Technically, the ’63 Imperial was a stand-alone marque, not a Chrysler line. However, a Salon sale at the expense of an Imperial was a bit like putting money into one company pocket, while taking it out of the other.
Regardless, the Salon sold 593 units in its short, initial year; part of a total of 27,960 New Yorkers. Overall, Chrysler’s sales for ’63 (128,937) were almost identical to ’62 (128,921). So too was their status in segment. Chrysler ended both years in 11th place, industry wide; just behind Cadillac, and just ahead of Studebaker.