Somebody gave me a pair of books, a few years back, about Mopar Cop cars, and the 79-81 Newport/St.Regis/Gran Fury came in #2 on the list off all time great cruisers. Surprising, considering the trouble ChryCo. was in at the time.
The 79-81 R-body (Newport/New Yorker/St. Regis/Gran Fury) were designed prior to Lee Iacocca coming on board and prior to the bankruptcy issues Chrysler would face in 1979-1980. What caused Chrysler to go into financial distress were the oil price shocks of both 1974 and 1979. Say what you will about the Ford Pinto and Chevy Vega then later the Chevette but those vehicles helped keep customers in Ford and GM
showrooms for a while... at least initially. In 1974, Chrysler Corp. has no such product; the imported Colts and Crickets weren't that great nor were big sellers. As a result, Chrysler started losing sales.
Had the Omni/Horizon cars not come out in 1978, Chrysler Corp. probably would have been toast a year later.
During the mid-to-late '70s, especially when gas prices were rising, the retail push was towards smaller cars. The CAFE laws that first took effect in 1978 triggered the downsizing trend across all cars sizes.
Police departments, on the other hand, were the exact opposite. They wanted the biggest possible cars with the biggest possible engines. At the time, the R-body was the largest vehicles available and the 360 V8
was the largest cop engine offered in 1980 & 1981 (except in California which was restricted to the 318).
If Iacocca had things his way at Chrysler, all the rear drive cars would have been gone after 1985. The M-body (Gran Fury/Diplomat/Fifth Avenue) lasted 4 years longer much to delight of many police departments.
Back to the Ford Five Hundred. I saw one on display at the Philadelphia Auto Show back in February but there was no floor model available to sit in. Since the styling isn't as wild as the '96-'99 Taurus, it could be a good seller provided that it doesn't have any major quirks or reliability problems later on.
Keep in mind that the market that the vehicle is targeted for (mid-size family sedan) is not interested in anything flashy, they just want a roomy, conservative but stylish sedan that will get them from point A to Point B with little or no fuss.
"TransEastern! You'll feel like you've never left the ground because we treat you like dirt!" SNL Parady ad circa 1981