The Newport was a name used by the Chrysler division of the Chrysler Corporation as both a hardtop body designation and also for its lowest priced model between 1961 and 1981. Chrysler first used the Newport name on a 1940 showcar of which five vehicles were produced.
The first Newport, known as the Chrysler Newport Phaeton, was produced in 1940-1941, and was a low-production dual-cowl Phaeton that used an L-head straight-8 engine coupled to a 3-speed manual transmission. The Newport was based upon the Chrysler New Yorker of the time, and designed by LeBaron / Briggs Manufacturing Company designer Ralph Roberts. Only six were built. Actress Lana Turner owned a Newport Phaeton, as did Chrysler founder Walter Chrysler, who used it as a personal car. Five are known to exist today.
The Newport Phaeton served as the pace car for the 1941 Indianapolis 500 race. This pace car, chassis number C7807503, was the only one that did not have hide-away headlights and was the personal property of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. after the race.
The Newport name was used in 1950; to designate the 2-door hardtop body style in Chrysler's lineup. Each Chrysler series, the Windsor, Saratoga and the New Yorker received a hardtop Newport model. The redesigned 1949 Chrysler Town and Country was first proposed as a hardtop, however the body style only appeared in the model's final year in 1950. In 1950, Chrysler added a padded dash made out of foam rubber.
Chrysler revived the Newport name for their new, full-size entry-level model for 1961. At a base price of US$2,964, the Newport was intended to fill the price gap between Chrysler and Dodge that was created when DeSoto was discontinued. While the Newport was successful and comprised the bulk of Chrysler production, the base Newport sedans were detrimmed versions of Chrysler's traditional upmarket models, featuring small hubcaps instead of full-wheel covers, plain interiors and a minimal amount of exterior trim. The perception of an inexpensive Chrysler hurt the marque in the long run by cheapening the brand's cachet.
In 1961, the Newport was available as a 2-door convertible, 2-door hardtop, 4-door sedan, 4-door hardtop and 4-door station wagon. The base engine for the Newport was the 361 cu in (5.9 L) V8 engine rated at 265 hp (198 kW), most were equipped with this. Optional was the 413 and the 383, however the 383 was mostly used in the Town and Country station wagons. All Newports could have been ordered with the 413 either single 4 bbl carb or dual 4 bbl carbs and most of the 300 letter car options, except the four bucket seats, center consol and tach. 1962 Chryslers continued to use the 1961 body, but were shorn of their trademark tailfins.
The Newport was restyled alongside the New Yorker and Chrysler 300 for 1963, with this body style continuing for 1964.
Sometimes known as the "lost years", 1963 and 1964 Chryslers were the result of instabilities within the design team. And although the 1963 model was a restyle, without tailfins, 1964 saw the return of small, chrome-topped fins.
For 1965, the Newport was redesigned on the then-new Chrysler C platform, shared with the 300 and New Yorker, along with the Dodge Polara and Plymouth Fury. Styling mimmicked the square lines of the Lincoln Continental and the 1964 Imperial while wheelbases increased two inches to '124 (wagons continued on the '122-inch wheelbase). All bodystyles were carried over from 1964 including the pillared four-door sedan, four-door hardtop sedan, two-door hardtop coupe and convertible, along with the station wagon, which was renamed the Chrysler Town and Country and became a separate series. A new bodystyle for 1965 (shared with other Chryslers and Dodge Polaras) was a six-window Town Sedan that included a small side-window in the pillar similar to the three-window design of 1950s cars that would return in the 1970s.
The standard engine for the 1965 Newport was the 383 cubic-inch V8 with two-barrel carburetor and 270 horsepower, designed for use of regular gasoline of 92-94 Research octane. Optionally available at extra cost was the 383 with four-barrel carburetion and 315 horsepower with higher compression and required premium fuel of 98-100 Research octane. The standard transmission was a three-speed column shift manual and optionally available was the three-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission, now featuring a column-mounted shifter replacing the pushbuttons of previous years as was the case with all 1965 Chrysler Corporation cars and trucks.
Interiors featured padded instrument panels, full carpeting and choices of cloth-and-vinyl or all-vinyl bench seats and notchback bench seats with armrest. Newport coupes and convertibles were also offered with optional bucket seats with either a center console and floor shifter or an armrest and center cushion.
The 1966 Newport received new grille work and revised taillights but was otherwise changed very little from 1965. Engine offerings were revised with the 270-horsepower 383 two-barrel continuing as standard equipment while the four-barrel 383 received a 10-horsepower increase to 325. New this year was Chrysler's 440 cubic-inch V8, for which Newport buyers could get the high-output TNT version with four-barrel carburetor, dual exhausts and dual-snorkel air cleaner that was rated at 365 horsepower, about 15 more horsepower than the standard 440 four-barrel that was the base engine in the New Yorker and Imperial, and optional on the Chrysler 300 as well as Dodge Polaras and Monacos, and Plymouth Furys. For 1967, the Newport and other Chryslers received new sheetmetal but retained the basic 1965 bodyshell. Two-door hardtops received a new angular semi-fastback roofline featuring reverse-slant side windows while the rooflines of four-door pillared and hardtop sedans, and station wagons were unchanged. The slow-selling six-window Town Sedan was dropped this year. Engines were unchanged except for the 440 TNT being bumped up to 375 horsepower. New to the Newport line for 1967 was a more luxurious Newport Custom series available in four-door pillared and hardtop sedans, along with the two-door hardtop.
The 1968 Newport received only a minor facelift from its 1967 counterpart including new grilles and taillights. All bodystyles were carried over on both the base Newport and Newport Custom lines. Under the hood, the standard 383 two-barrel V8 received a 20-horsepower increase to 290, while the four-barrel 383 was jacked up from 325 to 330 horsepower, and the 440 TNT was unchanged at 375 horses.
A mid-year offering on the Newport hardtop coupe and convertible was the Sportsgrain option similar to the woodgrain trim on the Town and Country station wagons of this period. The Sportsgrain Newport was intended to bring back the spirit of the late 1940s Town and Country convertibles but amounted to little more than a fancied-up Newport as there were no other modifications and interior trims were the same as standard Newports. Production of the 1968 Sportsgrain Newports amounted to 965 hardtops and 175 convertibles. Sportsgrain was back for the redesigned 1969 Newport 2-Door Hardtop and Convertible, however, orders for the option were so tiny that Chrysler never released the numbers of 1969 Newports so equipped.
Mercury tried a similar approach to the Sportsgrain Newport in 1968 by offering woodgrain "Yacht Paneling" as an option on its Park Lane coupes and convertibles, which also didn't garner much buyer interest.
The Newport was completely redesigned again for 1969, and featured the distinctive "Fuselage Styling" that would become symbolic of Chrysler's full-size cars until the end of the 1973 model year. Although retaining the same 124 in (3,150 mm) wheelbase that it shared with the premium New Yorker, this generation Newport was longer, lower, wider, and several hundred pounds heavier than 1965-1968 Newports.
Although still offered in 2-door and 4-door hardtop, 2-door convertible, and 4-door sedan models, station wagons were no longer part of the Newport series, as the Town & Country became a separate model outright. Newport convertibles were discontinued after 1970, following a drop in sales of 48% that year, to only 1,124 units; total sales were off close to 30%, at 110,292, despite the restyling.
Available in 2- and 4-door hardtops and 4-door sedans, the Newport Custom would still be offered as the top-line Newport through the entire 1969-1973 design cycle. First appearing in 1971, the Newport Royal was an entry-level model in the Newport Series. It borrowed the name of the entry-level Chrysler from 1937-50; the Royal name was dropped in 1972, and disappeared for good.
In 1971, the Royal came standard with the 255 hp (190 kW) 360 cu in (5.9 l) V8, with optional 275 hp (205 kW) or 300 hp (220 kW) 383 cu in (6.28 l) engines, but not the 440 cu in (7.2 l); the Custom was standard with the 275 hp (205 kW) 383 cu in (6.28 l) V8, and the 300 hp (220 kW) 383 cu in (6.28 l) or 335 hp (250 kW) 440 cu in (7.2 l) V8s as options. For 1972, the Royal came standard with the 175 hp (130 kW) 360 cu in (5.9 l) V8, with larger-displacement engines unavailable, while the Custom was standard with the 190 hp (140 kW) 400 cu in (6.6 l) V8, and the 225 hp (168 kW) single- and 245 hp (183 kW) dual-exhaust 440 cu in (7.2 l) V8s were optional, at US$122 & US$157, respectively. Power output would steadily decrease on all engines during this generation due to stricter emissions standards and rising fuel prices.
The Newport was redesigned for the 1974 model year, along with all other full-size C-body cars. This generation shed the sweeping "fuselage" styling, in favor of more crisper, slab-sided styling. Despite losing several inches in length, 1974-1978 Newports were some of the heaviest cars ever produced by Chrysler, something very unfortunate, as their introduction coincided with the 1973 OPEC oil embargo. As a result, sales of all full-size cars plummeted. The Chrysler Corporation was especially hit hard by this, as no smaller cars were sold under the Chrysler brand.
Production of the C-body Newport ended in 1978 along with the Chrysler New Yorker. Related Dodge and Plymouth C-body cars, as well as C-body Chrysler Town & Country station wagons had all been dropped the previous year. The 1978 Newport offered the American car industry's last true two-door and four-door hardtops.
In 1979, a new downsized Newport appeared on the Chrysler R platform, a derivative of the circa 1962 Chrysler B platform. This reduced model availability to a single "pillared hardtop" 4-door sedan. Whereas GM and Ford had downsized their big cars by engineering smaller bodies around more spacious passenger accommodations, Chrysler took a different approach. The idea was to modify the existing Chrysler B platform but to retain as much of the traditional full-size look and feel as possible, while at the same time improve fuel efficiency through a number of weight saving measures and drop the 400 and 440 cid engines. This creative approach produced an attractive car, though some of the weight-saving measures proved to be more trouble than they were worth. Examples include plastic brake wheel-cylinder pistons, which tended to swell and bind up the brakes after a couple years in service. Chrome-plated aluminum bumpers were another innovation, but were replaced in 1980 with a "new, stronger steel rear bumper" due to apparently inadequate strength.
Initial 1979 sales were strong, but Chrysler's unsteady financial condition, combined with tightening oil and gasoline supplies hurt sales of the redesigned vehicle, and all of the R-body models were discontinued after a short run of 1981 models, as Chrysler began its shift toward smaller front-wheel drive cars.