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Christopher Rhinehart's 1976 St. Regis Coupe

I fell in love with the New Yorker when I was 15 and my favorite Grandfather bought a brand-new, fully-optioned 1976 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham 4-Door Hardtop in Forest Green Sunfire Metallic with dark green leather interior and a green vinyl roof. My little Swedish Grandfather drove Chryslers and Imperials and we had shared a love of cars, especially big American land yachts, since I was a little boy. He would occasionally let me sit on his lap and pretend to steer as young as four years old. Child seats were unheard of and even seat belts were optional then. When I was five I got in his ‘64 Imperial by myself pretending to drive and by choosing the correct buttons on the push button transmission managed to roll the car out of the driveway and onto the brick street before my little adventure was abruptly terminated. My Mother took me to get my Learner’s Permit after school the day I turned 16. My Grandfather was starting to slow down at that point and he wasn’t really supposed to drive much but he could save face by letting me drive the New Yorker all the time instead of giving in to my Grandmother, who drove what appeared to be a complimentary color-coordinated 1975 Plymouth Gran Fury two-tone green coupe. This arrangement worked for me since I rarely had to ask my parents, who had owned practically every other model year of the Plymouth Fury III, to borrow their cars. One day I was heading west driving the New Yorker into the sunset with my Grandfather quite content as usual in the passenger seat. I braked for a traffic light and the car behind me slammed into the back of the New Yorker. I put the car in park, got out, and immediately started going off on the guy who ran into us; until, that is, I actually saw the completely crumpled front end of his Vega. Upon further inspection, I determined that there was not even a scratch on the bumper of that New Yorker so I turned around, got back in the car, and drove on just as the light turned green. My Grandfather, never one for a lot words, quietly asked me if anything was wrong. I smiled and told him everything was fine. That was not the only time the New Yorker Brougham was hit, or rather, something was hit with the New Yorker Brougham and it was still fine, either. I took my road test in the New Yorker Brougham a couple of months later and passed with a perfect score. People questioned why anyone would choose to take a road test requiring parallel parking in a car nearly 20 feet long yet I found it much easier to maneuver than a smaller car, partly because I could see the top of those cathedral taillights in the mirror, not to mention that just driving it made you feel great, confident that you had really arrived! The design of that car epitomized true total American style and luxury to me back then and it still does today! Later that year I bought my own first car, my late Great Uncle’s 1969 Pontiac Bonneville Brougham 4-door Hardtop that had been mothballed for several years since he died. I enjoyed the convenience of parking in the teacher’s lot because it didn’t seem like a car a 16-year old high school kid would drive. Factory 8-track and every other option including climate control certainly made for a nice ride but in those pre-Febreeze days I never could get rid of that darn cigar smell because Uncle Bill never put the power windows down when he smoked his cigars!

I’ve owned various new and classic cars since then including my 1962 Ford Thunderbird and my daily driver, a 1978 Bonneville Brougham Landau coupe with original factory sunroof. A few years ago I bought and restored a 31 foot 1976 Airstream Excella 500, literally the true Land Yacht, and even then I wanted a New Yorker to tow it but I thought they cost a lot more than they do simply because I liked them so much. After improvements such as a parquet wood floor, all new custom curtains, and a new main awning, I sold the Airstream prior to relocating from Atlanta to Florida. I rewarded myself by buying a 1976 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham coupe, sight unseen, on eBay, from Phil Makowski in Michigan. Phil was great. He answered all my questions and we spoke at length about the car before the bidding ended. He had owned the car for a few years, stored it and taken good care of it but wanted to sell it to someone who would really appreciate the New Yorker. I told him the story about my Grandfather’s New Yorker and how I knew I’d eventually buy one. I really wanted a Brougham coupe but one with a leather interior and a sunroof (and in a color other than white because my other cars are white). I rarely remember seeing many of the coupes or the Town & Country station wagons even when these cars were new. Phil was about to put the car in storage for the winter which suited me since I was moving and starting a new job. In the Spring of 2005 I paid him for storage and transporting the car upon his delivery of it to me in Florida. I removed almost all the chrome and had the car completely repainted in its original vintage red sunfire (burgundy). Phil had bought n.o.s material to redo the St. Regis roof so I had that restored at the same time I had the headliner replaced, also with n.o.s. material. My ’76 New Yorker Brougham Coupe has air-conditioning, auto-speed control, rear window defroster, trunk release, power door locks, power seats – left and right, power windows, power radio antenna, AM/FM/cassette, tilt and telescope steering wheel, power sunroof, tinted glass, illuminated vanity mirror, remote right mirror, chronometer, chrome road wheels, St. Regis roof, and a 400 engine. I’ve just ordered a remanufactured 400 long-block engine with an upgraded camshaft option and a 7yr/70K warranty that will arrive shortly. I will also have the radiator, all of the hoses, the water pump and thermostat replaced as well. I can’t wait to be behind the wheel of my ’76 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham St. Regis Coupe again! I’ve nicknamed this car “The Intimidator”. It’s beyond a “pimped-out ride”, it’s a “gangster car”, as a younger buddy of mine remarked.

In the meantime, I rather unexpectedly bought a 1977 Chrysler Town & Country 8-passenger wagon for myself the weekend after Christmas 2005 in Largo, FL. With just over 66K miles, the Town & Country has Air Temp II Automatic Temperature Control, Light Parchment-colored interior, chronometer, cruise control, tilt and telescope steering wheel, remote control right and left mirrors, door edge protectors, 6-way power seats – left & right, power windows, power doors locks, roof rack, AM/FM/8-track, speed control, and a 440 engine with Lean-Burn. I helped my friend Ed rebuild the carburetor. I replaced the 8-track with a SONY AM/FM/single-disk CD player and 4 new speakers that I installed myself. I am in the process of stripping the wood-grain. I just purchased all the parts to convert the Town & Country to an “Imperial” station wagon including the hood and header, hidden headlights w/headlight motors, the front bumper and bumper shocks, the Imperial hood ornament, Imperial rear key bezel, Imperial rear side marker lights, and a set of 4 chrome Chrysler road wheels that I just installed. I am tinting the windows “limo-black” and not reinstalling the wood-grain. I am probably going to paint the Town & Country Chrysler’s “Inca Gold Metallic”. It is nicknamed “The Yankee Clipper” because I’m a Yankee (“a native New Yorker”), it’s a “land yacht” and it came complete with a St. Petersburg Yacht Club membership sticker for 1992-1993!

Christopher Rhinehart
West Palm Beach