Ricardo Montalban for Chrysler Cordoba (1977)

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For years, Chrysler maintained that they would never sell a smaller car — every Chrysler ever produced had been a full-size car. The 1973 oil crisis — and flagging sales — changed the automaker’s mind.

Ricardo Montalban for Chrysler CordobaIn 1975, they released the Cordoba, with more economical engines and a wheelbase 9 full inches shorter than anything else in the Chrysler lineup. This new entrant into the “personal luxury” auto segment was an instant hit — for the first couple of years, demand outpaced the carmaker’s ability to manufacture them, and they sold over 150,000 in the first year alone.

No doubt helping the sales of the new model were the famous television ads featuring the great Ricardo Montalban, extolling the virtues of the Cordoba’s luxurious interior, including the now-famous “soft Corinthian leather.” Amusingly, while the leather became quite the trademark of the Cordoba, it’s origins were much less exotic than the Greek city of Corinth — apparently most of it came from a supplier just outside Newark, New Jersey.

While the Cordoba was only sold for nine model years, with production ending in 1983 after an unpopular redesign in 1980, it remains an American pop cultural icon — all thanks to a Mexican actor. – AJW

Soft Corinthian leather


Ricardo Montalban for Cordoba (1975)

Ricardo Montalban for Cordoba (1977)

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