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.