Corinthian leather is a term coined by the advertising agency Bozell in 1974 to describe the leather upholstery used in certain Chrysler luxury vehicles. Although merely a marketing concept, it suggested a premium product, "something rich in quality, rare, and luxurious". In reality, it was the same leather used in most Chryslers, produced by the Radel Leather Manufacturing Company in Newark, New Jersey.
While the term was first used during the marketing campaign for the top-of-the-line 1974 Imperial LeBaron, it is usually associated with the introduction of the 1975 Cordoba, an intermediate-sized personal luxury car. The model's celebrity spokesperson, Ricardo Montalbán, is credited with indelibly linking the two. In promoting the Cordoba he described the thickly-cushioned luxury of seats "available even in fine (alternately, "soft" or "rich") Corinthian leather". Later, in promoting the Chrysler New Yorker in 1988, he again referred to the leather as "rich".
Some sources conflate the term with vinyl used in place of leather for non-seating/non-touch surfaces such as the front seat backs, backs of head rests, and lower parts of door facings. This is a misconception, as such vinyl "trim" was simply an unmentioned part of the automobile's "Corinthian leather" interior package.
Literary scholar Paul Fussell, in his 1991 book BAD – Or, The Dumbing of America, claimed that the name was chosen "because a reference book suggested that Corinthian connotes rich desirability", so as to appeal to people who love luxury, as the people of Ancient Corinth were said to. Fussell then advanced that the love of the Corinthians for luxury was "why Saint Paul selected them to receive one of his loudest moral blasts. He told them, 'It is reported that there is fornication among you...'" Fussell added that whoever came up with the term would have to admit that they "never saw Corinth at all".
In the episode "Drift Problem" of the animated adult show Archer (2009 TV series), Sterling Archer receives a Dodge Challenger for his birthday whose upholstery is "rich Corinthian leather." He then exclaims "Corinth is famous for it's leather!"
- Kiley, Richard (January 15, 2009). "No Such Thing As Corinthian Leather in the Cordoba". Bloomberg Business Week. Bloomberg L.P. Archived from the original on 2010-11-21. Retrieved 2010-09-25.
It’s also worth noting that “rich Corinthian leather” was an invention of a Bozell copywriter...
- Corinthian Leather – The Material with a Surprising Story, Liberty Leather Goods
- Modzelewski, Joe (June 23, 1988). "Loser's corner". The Miami News. Miami, Florida. p. 1A. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
Chrysler admits that an ad agency made the word up ... The Wall Street Journal reports that a lot of the so-called Corinthian leather is produced at a plant outside Newark, N.J.
- "1975 Chrysler Cordoba "Fine Corithian Leather" Ricardo Montalban - "Pride"". YouTube.
- "Famous Chrysler Cordoba Commercial with Ricardo Montalban!!". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 11 February 2022 – via www.youtube.com.
- "Ricardo Montalbán Chrysler Cordoba "Corinthian Leather" (1980)". YouTube.
- Ryan, Joal (January 14, 2009). "Ricardo Montalban, TV's Mr. Roarke, Trek's Khan, Dead at 88". E! Online. E! Entertainment Television, Inc. Archived from the original on 2010-08-21. Retrieved 2010-09-25.
'But does it mean anything?' Letterman asked. 'Nothing,' Montalban conceded.
- Denson, Jon (2010). "The 1976–1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham – "Imperial in all but name"". allpar.com. Allpar LLC. Archived from the original on 2010-05-27. Retrieved 2010-09-25.
In fact, the 1974 Imperial was the first to have rich 'Corinthian Leather,'...
- Fenner, Pat (September 14, 1987). "What is source of car leather?". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, Florida: Times Publishing Company. p. 2.2. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
Corinthian leather is Chrysler's trade name for a blend of leather and vinyl developed for its luxury cars. The combination provides the plush qualities of leather while eliminating the care required by the real thing
- Scott, Vernon (2 September 1985). "Montalban's love affair". United Press International. Retrieved 2015-08-19.
Montalban ... admits Corinthian simply signified the trade name of a domestic manufacturer of leather.
- O'Reilly, Terry. "Words Invented By Marketers". Under the Influence. Canadian Broadcasting Organization. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- Fussell, Paul, (1991). BAD - Or, The Dumbing of America. New York: Simon & Schuster