Eugene Bernshtam’s Classic Car Site: My Blog

Me and My Cordoba

I’d always dreamed about driving a Chrysler Cordoba. Since I was eight years old, I’ve wondered how nice it would be to sit on a car seat with soft Corinthian leather cushioning. Back then, I never really cared if it had a smooth drive or if was fuel-efficient; all I knew back then was that a Cordoba looked cool, and up to now, it still does.

In 1989, when I was old enough to afford my own car, Chrysler had already halted production of the Cordoba. In 1980, the second-generation Cordoba replaced the rich lines of the first generation with a boxy, straightforward styling, and by 1981, it had done away with the round headlights altogether, and it was slightly underpowered for a luxury coupe, which led to the product line getting discontinued.

In the early 1990s, I was driving around in a so-so Dodge Dynasty that I got just so I could drive my kids to school. We had just moved out of the north side of Chicago, where the brownstones are, and into the south side, with the big blues bars and lots of parking space. I remember stepping out in front of the house, where the Dynasty was parked, and wondered why the driveway felt so empty. Not long after that, I found and restored a 1964 Dodge Polara in teal, and it occupied my driveway for most of the 1990s and way into the earlier part of the 2000s.

Some time in 2006, though, land values dropped and my architectural firm was in jeopardy because no one wanted to build houses and office buildings in the Midwest anymore. To keep my firm afloat, I convinced my kids to transfer from Chicago Latin and into Tinley Park High School, a short drive from our house. I also had to let go of my Dodge Polara, and we were left with just one car.

Then, in the middle of 2007, things got better. My firm won part of the contract to design the expansion of the headquarters of a nationwide insurance company. More projects followed: a hotel, a mixed-used building close to the Chicago River, a condominium project in the Loop. Not only was I able to get my Polara back; I actually had enough time to search all over for a 1975 Cordoba, just the way I saw it in the Ricardo Montalban commercial ads.

I found the Cordoba I have right now in an auction website. A seller in California could no longer afford to keep the car in running condition, and I swooped right in with the highest offer. There, I left it with a garage that specializes in old-model Chryslers and told them to do whatever it took to get it back into its old form. And boy, did they surprise me! When I flew back to California to check it out, not only did it have a new suspension, it also had a shiny new hood emblem. And, wonder of wonders – the thickly-cushioned luxury of seats in soft Corinthian leather!

Do I drive my Cordoba all the time? Not exactly. But whenever I feel the itch to drive down the river to St. Louis or farther south, I take my Cordoba with me. It’s a great drive with even nicer seats, and it runs really tight for a 40 year old car.