The “new” Chrysler Corp. was feeling its oats in the mid ’90s. That confidence shows in the daring “cab-forward” LH cars, particularly the flagship Chrysler LHS. It was an incredibly forward-thinking luxury sedan, yet for all its advancements it retained a feeling of traditionalism without being retro. The New York Times said “They are front-wheel-drive sedans, fast and vast, with huge trunks, and they are today’s incarnation of the old Detroit iron — but immensely better.” Indeed, The Times was so fulsome in its praise that the price for Chrysler stock skyrocketed.
Consider the roofline, a graceful ellipse cribbed from Sir William Lyons of Jaguar who, in turn, had helped himself from the rich pickings at Bugatti and a plethora of continental coachbuilders. The glasshouse is visually integrated with the body via a graceful lowering of the beltline below the top of the hood and deck. The A pillars have a slim appearance, an effect achieved by partially covering them with the windshield. The elliptical theme carries into the lacy “cathedral” alloy wheels. A length of more than 207 in. allowed for a sleek profile. The LHS and New Yorker with which it shared a body didn’t suffer from the “used bar of soap” aesthetic that was so prevalent in 1990s automotive styling.
The LHS was meant to be more athletic than the New Yorker. Fittingly, exterior brightwork was limited to a horizontal rub strip that circled the car at the bumper line. Headlamps and front turn signal and parking lamp lenses were integrated and slightly wrapped into the front fender. A horizontal clear lens bisected the rear of the car, increasing the impression of width and preventing the tail end from looking too slab-like. Taillamp lenses were a simple, natural continuation of the car’s shape.
Interiors were rich looking and cohesive — an interstellar leap forward compared to the rectilinear, somewhat piecemeal cabins of its predecessors. The wood trim may not have been genuine, but it was applied with tasteful restraint. The dashboard curved naturally into the door panels. Instrumentation was clear and easy to read at a glance. A slender center console allowed for wide, comfortable seat bottoms.
As the top offering, the LHS was equipped with nearly every luxury as standard. The driver and front passenger enjoy eight-way power adjustable leather seats. Rear passengers lounged on a contoured leather bench seat with a fold-down armrest. Contemporary testers noted that LHS seat foam felt more comfortable and compliant than that which was used in the New Yorker.
Quality was a priority with the LH cars, and some transmission woes aside, Chrysler largely achieved its goals. Publications praised the car’s freedom from squeaks and rattles.
Innovative manufacturing techniques were employed. Components were assembled on a “pallet.” This was essentially a template that allowed for subassemblies such as drivetrain and brakes to be accurately positioned before being attached to the car. Once components were in place, the entire pallet was hydraulically lifted to meet the body of the car. The system cut worker fatigue and errors. Chrysler also followed a slower-than-normal ramp up to full production to ensure quality.
The 3.5-litre V-6 engine was longitudinally mounted, a layout also used by the Eagle Premier. In fact, Premiers served as chassis development mules for the LH cars. With 214 hp and 221 lb.-ft. of torque, performance was very good for its class with mid-eight-second 0-60-mph times. Traction control was standard. Suspension tuning gave an excellent balance of ride compliance and good handling. The suspension system itself was fully independent using MacPherson struts. Chrysler TV ads said that, with the LHS, road signs for curved roads became invitations, not warnings. Standard anti-lock disc brakes at all wheels completed the package.
Little wonder then that this Metallic Red over Agate/Quartz 1995 LHS caught the fancy of collector John Savage. John has a taste for front-wheel-drive luxury cars.
“My LHS is an absolute dream,” he says. “She drives so smooth with little float, yet firm.” The competent ride and handling characteristics and good driver comfort means John likes to use his LHS for long trips.
According to the original window sticker, the base price was $29,595 and with an additional $97 for metallic paint, $169 for a compact disc player and destination charges of $595, it retailed for $30,456. That’s just over $51,000 of today’s dollars.
Powerful, reasonably economical and thoughtfully designed. The LH cars represent the beginning of the modern era for Chrysler. They were no longer scrambling to meet a moving target of ever-increasing fuel economy, safety and emissions standards. They designed and produced a car that need make no apologies. The odds of seeing an LHS cross the block at Mecum for big money anytime soon are slim. But that doesn’t mean a person should dismiss them as special-interest vehicles. After all, 1995 was a quarter century ago. If there’s a downside, it’s that technology used to make the car perform well also makes it harder to work on. Electronics are complex and the cab-forward design means servicing drivetrain components is difficult when compared with older designs. That said, a good one can be very satisfying to own and drive.
Bryan Raab Davis is the cofounder of the popular Facebook group
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