Chrysler redesigned it's cars in 1969 in a style called "fuselage" styling. In fuselage styling, the roofline of the cars blended smoothly into the lower side of the car. This styling is still used in the cars of today. The basic design was carried on into 1973 with relatively minor styling changes. The 1973 models are the last of the series since 1974 saw the next redesign of the Chrysler line-up. The 1973 model had to incorporate the federally mandated 5 mph bumpers and appears to be a "transitional" model between the wrap around bumpers of the 1969 to 1972 models and the square bumper 1974 models.
When these 1973 Chryslers first came out, I immediately took a dislike to them. The front end styling isn't that bad, and neither is the rear, but to me, they just didn't seem to look good together. It appear to be a car cobbled together to meet a mandate. I don't know if it actually was, but it sure looks that way to me. The rear end of the 1972 and 1973 Chryslers were nearly identical.
You can say what you want about a 1973 Chrysler, but if you want to sum up the car, you could just say "big". The car was 19 foot 3 inches long and over 6 and a half feet wide. The station wagons weigh about 5200 pounds. This is powered by a big 440 cu, in. engine, which was the only engine available in a New Yorker or a Town & Country wagon. The Newport models came with a standard 400 cu.in. monster. There's plenty of head room and leg room in the back seat of a New Yorker. Four people can comfortably sit in the back seat and we know from experience, that the Town & Country wagon can transport 15 people ....thought some of them are NOT so comfortable!
There was a gas crunch during these years and a heavy, gas guzzling full size car became unpopular. Suddenly, Toyotas, Datsuns (Nissan), and Volkswagen Beetles became all the rage. As a consequence, there were not that many 1973 Chryslers sold. From personal experience, I also know that Chryslers of this era were full of workmanship problems. Although they are basically designed well, they appeared to be "thrown" together by a bunch of apathetic workers and the fit and finish of the cars left much to be desired. The side trim on my father's 1972 Town & Country wagon appeared to be put on by a half-blind drunken moron. The right rear window when cranked down for the first time, never came back up …until the dealer fixed it. The station wagons were not properly coated in unseen areas and as a consequence, the cars rusted quickly. The 1973 models, however, seemed to hold up better that the previous years. Another problem that plagued cars in 1973, was something called "driveabilty" problems. With the federally mandated emissions standards firmly in place, the car manufacturers scrambled to come up with cars that could meet the standards. Their efforts resulted in very poor engine performance. Stalling and running on and hesitation, poor power were all complaints about these models. I have been driving these cars since 1972 and have never been able to get one to run perfect, though I seem to have been able to get them to run better than the dealers were allowed to do (by law). When my 1973 Chrysler Town & Country was new, it was back to the dealer countless times for the same complaints …poor power, hesitation …hard to start. Most of the problems caused by the poor design of the emissions equipment. Over the years, the cheap plastic parts of the emissions equipment fell apart and rotted off, causing more and more trouble. Eventually, the pollution controls all fell apart and no replacements were available …so the car runs pretty good now!
The 1973 Chryslers were real land yachts. Their handling could be described as "boat like". A quick input to the steering wheel brings no immediate reaction from the car. In fact, if you turn the wheel quickly from side to side, the car will not veer at all from it's straight ahead course. These cars are impervious to side winds and road irregularities, especially when outfitted with radial ply tires. They are best suited to turnpike driving where the road is straight and the speeds are fast. You can drive one comfortably for hours. In city driving, they are a nightmare to park, but a joy to drive, because their large stature and somewhat stately and aggressive look keep oncoming drivers out of your path. They look like a car that you would not want to be hit by, so people stay out of the way. Gas mileage is dismal by today's standards and the 440 engine will deliver only about 15 to 16 mpg on the highway, and about 10 mpg in the city. Aggressive use of the gas pedal can drop the gas mileage down to about 7 mpg. The power, however, is incredible for such a large car and hill climbing and highway passing are a breeze. You can reach 60 mile per hour in about 8.5 seconds. Top speed is about 120 mph.
The 1973 Town & Country wagon was not a popular car, and few of them were made. There don't seem to be very many in existence any more. It was about the largest station wagon ever made. It rode on a 122 inch wheelbase which was 2 inches shorter than the New Yorker sedan. The 122 inch wheelbase was shared with full-sized Plymouth models. One unique feature of a 1973 or 1972 Town & Country wagon was the fender skirts that were standard equipment. They were made of fiberglass and clipped to the wheel opening with an easy to use lever.
The Chrysler Town & Country wagon was built to be a luxury wagon with premium upholstery, padding, sound deadening and carpeting. A built in roof air deflector did an excellent job of keeping the rear window clean in sloppy weather. Simulated rosewood woodgrain panelling was standard equipment as was the 440 cu. in. engine with 4 bbl carb. The Town & Country carry 9 passengers, or 1200 pounds of cargo, and could tow 7000 pounds of trailer.
As you can see from the picture above, there is still on 1973 Town & Country station wagon being used to tow a trailer (in summer of 2002). The picture above was taken at the Outer Banks of N. Carolina, after towing a 4500 pound Airstream trailer from western Pennslyvania. This car experienced no problems on this trip until the alternator died in the driveway, 5 feet from where I wanted to park it when we got home!
The low compression engines of the 1972 and later Chrysler 440 engines are ideally suited for towing with todays fuel. They run happily through the flat lands on 87 octane fuel. In the hills, a switch to 89 octane makes them less likely to ping as the engine heats up while struggling up the hills. The springs of a Town & Country are too soft for a heavy hitch weight, so you have to use a weight equalizer hitch. The disc brakes work well, but trailer brakes are also necessary. An auxiliary transmission cooler is a wise addition. A Chrysler 440 engine can tow a lot of weight up a hill at a good speed, and the acceleration is impressive for an old beast. However, don't expect to get more than about 10 miles per gallon while towing ....and if you push it, maybe as low as 8 miles per gallon.
Here's another nice example of a 1973 Town & Country wagon at this site.
Inside the Town & Country was huge. There was 113.2 cubic feet of space. The load platform inside the car was a full 4 by 8 feet in size with the rear seats down flat and the tailgate closed. You could carry a 4 by 8 sheet of plywood or drywall flat on the floor. The tailgate itself was called a 3-way tailgate. It could be 1. opened sideways like a door with the glass up or 2. sideways with the glass down, or 3. downwards like a gate. The door and hinge mechanism were very heavy and sturdy and was a trouble free arrangement unlike the clamshell tailgate mechanism used on GM products. (See Clamshell tailgates)
Driving a Town & Country wagon is an experience. The car is too long to see out of. When you look out the back window, you can not see the ground for about 100 feet. This makes parking a chore. Handling is good if you are going in a straight line. This car definitely wants to go straight. It protests any deviation from straight ahead. This is not so great on a twisty road, but it is a very stable car while towing a trailer or in a severe cross-wind. The engine is powerful and can get the over-stuffed wagon up to 60 miles per hour in less than 9 seconds. The 1973 Town & Country wagon can tow a 4000 pound trailer up a 10 percent grade faster than a 4 cylinder 1986 Dodge minivan can get up the same hill with no load at all. When driving down the street, the car is so huge and intimidating that it is almost gauranteed that nobody will pull out in front of you, cut you off, or attempt to beat you through and intersection!