The Dodge St. Regis is a full-size Dodge automobile built from 1979 to 1981. The St. Regis was based on Chrysler's rear wheel drive R-body platform, itself based on a modified version of the circa 1971 B-body design that provided the underpinnings for such cars as the Dodge Charger and the Chrysler Cordoba. Engines available included the 225 in³ (3.7 L) straight-6 as well as the 318 in³ (5.2 L) and 360 in³ (5.9 L) V8s. The St. Regis name had originally been used on an uplevel trim package on the 1956 Chrysler New Yorker hardtop coupe, and again on the 1974-78 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham coupe.
Offered only as a four-door sedan, the St. Regis was differentiated from its sister models, the Plymouth Gran Fury, Chrysler Newport, and Chrysler New Yorker by retractable, transparent plastic headlight covers (introduced a year earlier on the 1978 Dodge Magnum).
The new cars (like their 1974–78 predecessors) arrived at precisely the wrong time. A second gas crisis hit the U.S. in 1979, and despite the fact that the St. Regis was somewhat smaller than its predecessor, the Dodge Monaco, it was not much more fuel efficient. Also, under the sheet metal, the St. Regis was by and large the same old B-body that dated back to 1962, and could not compete with the completely new GM B-bodies and Ford's Panther platform vehicles. At the same time, higher interest rates and Chrysler's ongoing corporate and financial problems all combined to keep buyers out of the showrooms. The St. Regis and the other R-body models were dropped midway through the 1981 model year, leaving the Dodge Diplomat, (a mid-size car), to soldier on as the marque's sole "full-sized" model until the introduction of the Dodge Monaco in 1990.
After 1979, the bulk of St. Regis sales were for fleet use. The St. Regis, along with the Plymouth Gran Fury and even the Chrysler Newport, did find a following as a police car during the early 1980s, although it is generally accepted that the cars were not as good – or as fast – as previous Chrysler Corporation "cop cars". Despite this, the 1979 St Regis when equipped with the 360 cu in (E58 option) and 49-state police spec package is considered one of the all-around (a combination of factors such as performance and handling) great police cars of all time. Most of the perception in regards to the St. Regis being slower comes from officers moving out of 440 powered cruisers. Using the same final drive ratio, the Michigan State Police tests found the 79 St. Regis to be a superior performer than the 400 powered 78 Monaco, in all areas except gas mileage, though performance definitely dropped as drive ratio and engine sizes went down.
There was a controversy in 1980 with the police St. Regis. The California Highway Patrol used the St. Regis in 1979 with the 190 hp 360 cu in four-barrel V8 and it was deemed acceptable for patrol use. In 1980 all that was available in California was a 155 hp 318 cu in 4 bbl V8 with the California emissions package, mandated by the California Air Resources Board. Officers began to complain about the underpowered engine and its inability to pace and intercept speeders. Many officers claimed that the car's top speed was below 100 MPH with a lightbar and 65 MPH on a steep mountain grade. This issue was so severe that limited modifications were permitted to the vehicle, such as replacing the muffler with a straight pipe, removing the emission control flap and increasing the timing. In addition, the cars were put on beats to quickly reach the CHP's 70,000-mile sell-off quota; some were even sold outright simply to get rid of these cars, before the mileage limit. Because of this issue, the CHP adapted the Ford Mustang Severe Service Package in 1982 as a pursuit vehicle.
The St. Regis also served as a workhorse on police-based television series in the 1980s, most prominently on Sledge Hammer! and T.J. Hooker.
Although the St. Regis does not hold much collector interest today, fans of Chrysler products sometimes search junkyards for the cars' disc brakes as an upgrade for earlier cars such as the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda. Combined with the small number built, and the fact that a high percentage were destroyed in film and TV work in the 1980s, very few survive today.