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In Cordoba, I have what I need

After mentioning the Chrysler Cordoba in the Ford Thunderbird Car Lust today, I would be remiss if I did not post the one most famous thing about the Cordoba--the Ricardo Montalban commerical.

This is, of course, a classic commercial. Below the commercial, a quick run-down of what I love about it:

0:02 - Montalban's lapels are simply prodigious. And it's great how he picks up the Cordoba keys and then mulls for a half-second, presumably regarding his need--no, his passionate desire--to once again drive his Cordoba.

0:03 - "I know my own needs ... and what I need from an automobile I know I get from this new ... Cordoba." Great lines, flawlessly delivered. I don't mean that sarcastically. I think that's a great, slightly mysterious opening for a car commercial.

0:08 - The first view of the Cordoba, sitting elegantly in front of Montalban's Spanish-style house. The Cordoba wasn't a beautiful car--it tended on the slightly overwrought side, but was cleaner than its competitors. It's never been atop my used-car buying list, but I did briefly consider buying one a few years ago.

0:11 - Okay, cue up the hilariously paradoxical claims.

"I could ask for nothing beyond ... the quality of Cordoba's workmanship ..."

At this point in the commercial, anybody who has driven a mid-1970s Chrysler is laughing so hard that they're fighting just to draw breath.

" ... the tastefulness of its appearance ..."

I like Cordobas, but this is a near-criminal stretching of the meaning of "tastefulness." if the Cordoba is tasteful, what exactly constitutes tacky? A car entirely encased in bright red vinyl?

0:17 - "I request nothing beyond the luxury of seats available even in soft Corinthian leather ..."

Montalban was an acclaimed actor, so maybe it's a bit sad that he's as famous for this line as he is for any of his other work. But he pulls it off beautifully. "Corinthian" leather was just run-of-the-mill Chrysler leather; the term was coined by the marketing department. But when Montalban describes the luxury of Corinthian leather, he's very convincing; I start to wish my car had Corinthian leather too. Too bad his car apparently has velour cloth seats. In his case, he "requests nothing beyond" the availability of Corinthian leather. To Montalban, that is true luxury.

0:26 - "Yet, it is on the highway where Cordoba best answers my demands."

For the next 15 seconds, spicy flamenco music ensues, while Montalban--with a dignified smile fixed on his face--guides the Cordoba placidly along a pretty highway. But pretty obviously, Montalban doesn't actually demand much of his cars; not only was he just puttering along, but anybody who has driven a Cordoba (or, to be fair, its personal luxury competitors) knows that its weakest point is in its driving dynamics.

0:42 - Montalban's summation--"I have much more in this small Chrysler than great comfort at a most pleasant price. I have great confidence for which there can be no price."

Montalban's delivery is so strong that I find myself nodding along with this until my brain tries to process the words. Wait, what?

0:44 - Yes, Montalban refers to the Cordoba as "this small Chrysler"--a tagline repeated visually as the commercial fades out. This was when Detroit was scrambling to downsize its dinosaurs to compete in an age that increasingly demanded efficiency. It was a mild but not ludicrous stretch to describe the Cordoba as small in 1975; but today the line is hilarious.

0:54 - "In Cordoba, I have what I need."

Bravo. This is obviously an easy commercial to ridicule, but given the era, the limitations of the Cordoba and the need to advertise it, this ad is pitch-perfect. It's a great summary of the appeal of the personal luxury coupe market during its heyday in the 1970s, and Montalban did a fantastic job selling it. This ad's continued fame even 33 years after its release is testament to its staying power.

In fact, it's so famous, that two fans have put together clips overlaying the sound over video from Montalban's excellent performance as the villain Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. I'm embedding the superior of the two videos below. I think it's irresistible, and I love the idea of that movie taking a brief minute-long break in the middle of the action to express Khan's inexplicable fondness for Corinthian leather. The USS Cordoba--that's genius.

--Chris H.


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"The Cordoba wasn't a beautiful car" -- true enough, but it wasn't an ugly one, either. If you're going to make me drive a 1970s "personal luxury" coupe, I'd rather be seen in this one. The bling is relatively restrained, the tunneled headlights and modest stand-up grille actually look kind of nice (which is why Kia Xeroxed the Cordoba's front elevation drawing and used it for the Amanti), and the interior colors weren't too garish.

I've always liked Ricardo Montalban as an actor--enough so that I forgive him for "Fantasy Island." He has the perfect voice to be reading this ad copy.

Does anyone besides me remember the "Bloom County" strip where Penguin Opus is watching "Fantasy Island":
RICARDO (on TV): "Tattoo, my fantasy is for you to drive a new Chrysler Cordoba, with the rich Corinthian leather interior, off the cliffs on the far side of the island."
TATTOO (on TV): "Oooh Boss, I don't like dat fantasy."
OPUS: "I do! I do!"

Cookie the Dog's Owner: ""The Cordoba wasn't a beautiful car" -- true enough, but it wasn't an ugly one, either."

I'd agree with that. Within the tacky excess of the personal luxury coupe class of the 1970s, the Cordoba was pretty classy. The edition in the video is also pretty unadorned--its lines aren't elegant, but they're clean.

It's still a stretch for me to think of it as "tasteful" though.

Cookie the Dog's Owner: "Does anyone besides me remember the "Bloom County" strip where Penguin Opus is watching "Fantasy Island""

You've hit on a hot topic for me. Bloom County is one of the great comic strips of all time--one of my three favorite, along with Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side--and the strip you mention is one reason the Montalban ad is fresh in my psyche.

It's great to see the Cordoba ad again. Truly great acting. They did a nice job on the spot, it shows the car (large enough to be a veritable planetoid!), and yet the camera work is so deft and Montalban's voice so compelling one is completely distracted and placed in some kind of hypnotic state. I have watched the ad several times and I can't quite remember the car... yet I feel a strange compulsion to own one. Man that's great acting.

Opus is god. Bloom County rocks.

I'm laughing so hard I'm crying!

passionate desire...
quality of Cordoba's workmanship...
availability of Corinthian leather...
USS Cordoba...

and finally, Opus: "I do! I do!"

Oh man, I love this place.

I will always remember the Cordoba for two reasons:

1) It was the first car cited by Esquire magazine many years ago as a CCNW: Cool Cars Nobody Wants. Which is rather like this blog.

2) From a Jimmy Buffett song:
I woke up in a strange room
I'd never seen before
Weird paintings on the walls
Mirrors on the ceiling
I bolted for the door

Lookin' for my rent-a-car
Was the Cordoba blue or red?

I rather like the looks of this thing. I don't remember the last time I saw one though. I think it'd look great all pimped out.

Ah, the Cordoba... I had a '76 Fury, which was the Plymouth cousin of the Cordoba (same body type and everything - had the same taillights in that commercial, too). There's a reason Ricardo wasn't going any faster on those curves - he couldn't. I made the mistake of taking my Fury up Mt. Rose Highway to Tahoe once... I swear, feeling that thing try to roll out of EACH and EVERY curve on that highway must've shaved a decade off my life.

Even so, though, I would have to agree - it wasn't pretty, but it was a far sight better than any of its contemporaries. I mean, what would you compare it against? The X-body Skylark? The Oldsmobile Cutlass? There were some real dogs in those days.

I do see the occasional Cordoba running around out here. There aren't a whole lot of them left, but there are still a few to be seen if you pay attention.

The most interesting man in the world assuredly drives a Chrysler Cordoba as well.

You are all right.They are not the most beautiful car in the world but they are far from ugly.The Cordoba is the kind of car that you look at from many different angles.And every angle makes it look like a different car.I own a 1980 Cordoba and this thing is a ship.Not much of a town car but a dream on the highway. The commercial will be known long after the car.

I ran a Cordoba for a few years in the early 90s. Mine had white Corinthian leather seats, the optional console-shifted automatic and, strangely, no AC or power windows.

I know it's the butt of many jokes, but that car had a lot going for it. The leather was really very good: thick, durable, and still soft to the touch. Much better than most Japanese car leather I've experienced.

The ride was soft, but you could also toss the car around once you figured-out the dynamics. The trick was to lift off slightly before turning-in. This would transfer the weight to the front axle, giving you a bunch more grip. You could then balance it through corners using throttle and steering. The car would pivot right around you, and you could nail the throttle as soon as the Chrysler hood emblem pointed at the next straight. It was magic when you got it right, nauseating when you got it wrong.

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