Ricardo Montalban, the Chrysler Cordoba, and the Promise of “Soft, Corinthian Leather”

- in Cars

In 1982, Ricardo Montalban solidified himself in Star Trek canon by playing Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

But the Mexican-born actor’s timeless quotability actually started in 1975, when he shilled for Chrysler. Can you say “soft, Corinthian leather,” anyone?

Ricardo Montalban next to the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba
The Chrysler Cordoba was originally used as a name for a special edition 1970 Chrysler Newport Hardtop, but the name returned in 1975 as a standalone model.

By 1977, Ricardo Montalban was internationally famous as Mr. Roarke, the proprietor of Fantasy Island on ABC, a stroke of exceptionally good timing for Chrysler.

1975 Chrysler Cordoba rear end
The name Cordoba could be traced back to a city in Spain, although the car’s emblem (which you can see as a keychain in the video below) was a modified version of the Argentinian Cordoba coin. But it was the leather seating (which was in no way from the Greek city of Corinth) that people remember.

Just to be clear, the leather for these vehicles originated from a supplier outside Newark, NJ. But the Chrysler marketing ploy worked, as the “Corinthian leather” became a highly quotable feature from the Cordoba.

Corinthian Leather - Chrysler Cordoba interior
The Cordoba itself was a fairly fetching vehicle, built in the height of “personal luxury coupes.” Three V8 engines were offered, from a 318 cubic inch, up to a 400 cubic inch block, mated with a TorqueFlite 3-speed A727 automatic transmission.

The model you see here was offered from 1975 to 1979. A second generation ran from 1980 to 1983, but it did not have the same panache and style of this Hispanic-influenced American boulevard cruiser.

1975 Chrysler Cordoba front end
Ricardo Montalban had a successful career as Chrysler’s flagship advertising spokesman for almost 15 years, far exceeding the lifespan of the Cordoba with which he has gone down in history. But people knew this was his personal car. Chrysler knew what they were doing on this ad. People bought the car because Mr. Montalban, said too. He was a very trusted man аnd loved by many.

So let us take a trip down memory lane to remember the Ricardo Montalban’s Chrysler ad that entertained us.

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