Corinthian Leather

Corinthian Leather

"Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. Do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you're doing is OK." ~ Don Draper, Mad Men

There was nothing particularly special about Corinthian Leather. It was standard upholstery leather produced outside of Newark, New Jersey. And yet, through the power of marketing this humble product obtained an almost legendary status.

Corinthian Leather was introduced in the early seventies in Chrysler's larger Imperial line of cars. The practice of giving common upholstery fanciful names was certainly nothing new. For example, Pontiac had Morrokide in the mid-sixites. In 1974, Chrysler was set to introduce a smaller model of luxury car, called the Cordoba, in response to the oil crisis of the time. Corinthian Leather was included in the Cordoba and a marketing campaign was designed around a charismatic spokesperson named Ricardo Montalbán.

The Cordoba sold well and Corinthian Leather was used in the Le Baron introduced several years later. Montalbán again reprised his role as knowledgable sophisticate, and would do so for another ten years.

For his part, Montalbán's career was suddenly revived and he starred in the network television show Fantasy Island. His ongoing role as Mr,. Rourke, the proprietor of the island, played off of Montalbán's trademark over acting and his ability to turn a since phrase into such a memorable part of the culture.

As a lasting testament to the power of this trope, Dos Equis, a Mexican beer, created the World's Most Interesting Man. This character owes much to Montalbán's performance as the Chrysler spokesperson and serves as a living testament to the power of marketing's ability to take something terribly common and turn it into an object of desire.

The Mini Museum samples comes the driver's seat of a 1976 Chrysler Cordoba.