Is it a hot rod? It doesn’t have headers or mag wheels. It’s never been to the drag strip.
But if keeping really cool, historic cars on the road is an integral part of hot rodding, then Gordon Green’s 1963 Chrysler New Yorker certainly qualifies. There aren’t many cars with more history than this one.
Gordon is the great-nephew of Richard B. Russell, Jr., the former Governor of Georgia (1931 – 1933), and the state’s long time U.S. Senator (1933 – 1971). Aside from two guys named Washington and Lincoln, he might have more things named after him than anyone I know, including The Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.
The New Yorker was Senator Russell’s personal car. He purchased it new in 1963 from a Chrysler dealership in Savannah. Gordon still has the bill of sale which shows the total price of $4,969.45.
One part of Senator Russell’s career plays an important role in the history of the New Yorker. While he served as President pro tem of the Senate, one of the privileges the Senator enjoyed was being chauffeured around town in a limousine.
So Mr. Russell didn’t have to drive his Chrysler very much during those years. Which is reflected by the fact that the odometer shows just 41,931 original miles.
And thanks to that, Gordon has a New Yorker that is just about completely showroom stock. He’s had to install a new brake master cylinder. The car has been repainted. And things that wear out have been replaced – tires, brake shoes, fuel filter, and the points, condenser, and spark plug wires.
But with those few exceptions, the car is exactly what Uncle Richard drove off the lot in 1963.
Chrysler produced New Yorker models from 1940 to 1996. At the time it was discontinued, it was one of the longest-running American car nameplates. In today’s lingo, a ‘63 would be considered a sixth generation model, with this version produced from 1960 to 1964.
Gordon’s New Yorker has the standard 413 cubic inch wedge engine – in fact that was the only engine Chrysler offered that year in the New Yorker. Even in stock form, with its Carter four-barrel carb and 10:1 compression ratio, it produces an impressive 340 horsepower and 470 lb⋅ft of torque. Even with that healthy compression ratio, Gordon reports the New Yorker runs just fine on premium pump gas.
It’s a Chrysler, so you can probably guess it’s got a TorqueFlite three-speed automatic driving the solid axle rear-end. The suspension is leaf spring in the back and torsion bars up front. There’s power-assisted drum brakes and 14” wheels at all four corners.
Gordon’s interior is absolutely completely utterly bone stock – but it looks as if it’s been totally refurbished. The seats, carpet, and dashboard are all in excellent condition. There’s a push button shifter to the left of the rounded rectangular (I’ve never seen that before) steering wheel, and a day/night rear view mirror. The radio is AM only, but it does allow for stations to be set with push buttons – and down on the floor, right next to the foot-activated headlight dimmer switch, is another foot-activated switch to change the stations on the radio (never seen that before either).
The car’s exterior looks great with the fresh coat of black paint. Unfortunately, during the repainting process, one of the chrome vents on the driver’s side, and the individual chrome letters that spell out Chrysler on the front edge of the hood, were lost. Hard-to-find trim pieces have now become a regular Christmas gift to Gordon from his brother Russell. So far Russell has located the vent and all but two of the hood’s letters.
Gordon generously let me drive the New Yorker during our visit. It’s got the soft and smooth ride that has American luxury cars of this vintage often referred to as “land yachts.” But the steering, gas, and brakes are tight and responsive, which is remarkable for a car this old. You’re probably not going to win an autocross competition with it, but the car is a joy to drive and ride in.
Gordon may not be hot rodding the Senator’s car in the traditional sense, but in true GHR fashion, he does all the work on it himself. Gordon and I have been friends for over 40 years. I know that he’s not afraid to get gritty working on his automobiles, whether it’s the 1970 4-speed Challenger he had when I first met him, or the Viper he currently has, or his great-uncle’s Chrysler.
Every year the Russells have a family reunion. For many years the car sat in storage at the Russell home while owned by another family member. Even prior to taking ownership of the car in 2013, Gordon would get the New Yorker running once a year just before the family reunion.
Gordon and his wife Barb still drive the New Yorker to the reunion every year and it’s always a big hit with the rest of the family.
I know the Senator is proud that his great-nephew is taking such good care of it.
Click here to see more photos of Gordon’s New Yorker.