By on January 21, 2010

bad ass Imperial

Enough with these pathetic little Briggs and Stratton powered sidewalk toys like the Rabbit and Starlet! We need us a real car to counterbalance that axis of Cozy Coupes. Hell, this Imperial weighs a half a ton more than both of them together. Its 7.2 liter engine is almost three times as big as their egg beaters combined. And its got enough torque to twist those little tin cans into shreds. This baby rocks, even if it is to a song that abruptly played out the year of its birth. Yes, this Imperial was born under a bad sign: the crescent moon. And it marks the end of the road for Chrysler’s pride and joy, save some pathetic efforts to revive it. But Chrysler’s loss is our gain today, because it isn’t every day we stumble onto one of these bitchin’ waterfall-grilled monstrosities with big twin exhausts to rumble our memories and fantasies far away to another time and place…

no, this is the bad ass end

I’m going to call this the coolest big sled since finding the hot-rod ’50 Caddy coupe. They have a lot in common too; they’re the beginning and end of the whole crazy and uniquely-American idea: the biggest, meanest luxury coupe with the biggest, baddest motor in the house. I know; Caddy and Lincoln were still at the game with big rigs in ’74, but which of the three would you pick to put mag wheels on and hang a couple of big exhaust pipes out the ass end? I thought so. For whatever reason, and wherever your loyalties to the Big Three lay, the big Chryslers were the only ones that still could pull this sort of stunt off in 1974.

airflow redoux

Was it the styling, or what was under the skin? The return of the waterfall grille was a bold and distinctive step, even if it was a reprise of that divine sales flop, the Airflow.  The rest of Chrysler’s new look wasn’t exactly original either; it looks like a slightly warmed over ’69 Buick Electra except for that outrageous front end. The stunning and original fuselage styling of ’69-’73 was worn out, as were Chrysler’s creative juices. The crap that came out of Highland Park from here on out was nothing but the result of death rattles moving the hands of the designers. That is, until Lido showed up and taught them to fold, spindle and mutilate a simple box in more ways than had ever been…; well “imagined” is too flattering a word. That resulted in zombie Imperials that still haunt our nightmares.

Corinth gave its best hides for this

Yes, the Arabs put a kibosh on this barge that Cleopatra would have been proud to float down the Nile on. And her tush would have been sitting pretty on all those acres of gen-u-ine Corinthian leather. The 440’s blubbering dual exhausts didn’t even need to be submerged under water to sound like an old Chris Craft speed boat. They don’t call these barges for nothing.

two big pipes hidden in the dark under that bumper

No, it wasn’t the styling alone. Chrysler’s big unibodies were always the eating-disordered unpopular sister of the big luxury three. A ’74 Lincoln had a good 600 pounds on this Le Baron (oh God, was that name ever dragged through the mud by Lido’s Kars). Does anyone still know what Le Baron once was? The builders of the finest coach-built custom bodies in the land, like this Duesenberg. All things must pass. Well, this Le Baron isn’t exactly a Duesey, but it’s a lot closer to it in spirit than what followed all to soon. Just for good measure, here’s the tracks this ’74 was following.

end of the road

But the tracks ended here; well, technically the following year in ’75. If you can tell the difference between the two, you should be writing this. Less than 4k of these coupes were made in ’74; even fewer the year after. Then it was over, for Chrysler’s perpetual wild goose chase for Cadillac gold. Since breaking away from the Chrysler brand in ’55, it managed to beat Lincoln just twice, in ’59 and ’60. But the brilliant ’61 Lincoln showed its trim little taillights to the Imperial, and never looked back. Twenty-one years of true Imperials, and every single one a memorable one. That’s more than I can say for its competition. Nothing like going out in style at the top, big time.

the imperial barge

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71 Comments on “Curbside Classic: The Last Cool And Real Imperial – 1974 Imperial LeBaron Coupe...”

  • avatar

    …this barge needs some whitewalls, stock wheel covers and a driver’s door panel ASAP, and also, the Imperial’s white, tufted leather is the most pimp-tastic seating in any 70’s ride.

    man, makes me miss my old beater ’76 Sedan de Ville I had in the mid-80’s after high school. Sweeeet bronze metallic with a white top and bronze/tan striped velour interior. There’s nothing smoother, nothing cushier, nothing as shockingly thirsty as these 70’s dinosaurs…hope a few of them get saved for posterity.

    • 0 avatar

      While I’m glad this car has survived to serve as living evidence of just how eff’d up our auto manufacturers had become by the late 70s, I can testify- having driven the MIL’s Chrysler New Yorker twin to this behemoth from San Diego to El Paso and back- that cars like this were useless and worthless to the general motoring public. From the astonishing 4 to 6 mpg on the road to the refrigerator sized doors to the plush but cramped interiors, these cars can only be described as a bad joke. And the joke was on us- the motoring public.

  • avatar

    In my college days, my girlfriend was a barmaid. This came in quite handy. She worked the afternoon shift in a BC Beerhall. I worked all summer at a Mazda store doing whatever. The bus stop home was just outside the bar, and barmaid girfriend meant free beer all night!
    But I digress. My honey had the same car as in the piece here. What a barge but at least it was a cool barge. Huge and heavy, it handled like a yacht alright. The 440 had torque to burn but it also burned gas at a prodigious rate. I have never, before or since, experienced anything like it. It actually handled reasonably well, way better than a Caddy of the era.
    Of course, the back seat was the best feature!

  • avatar

    Looks the same as the New Yorker to me:

  • avatar

    IMO, the fuselage Chryslers were the best.  ’69, ’72 and ’73 are the finest years for the Imperial in that idiom.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. Despite being the size of aircraft carriers, that body style looked great. The coupes had a bit of a ‘shrunken head’ thing going on, but even that was only off putting in direct profile. American car design really peaked in the late 60s (…and bear in mind, when model cycles were longer, and cars were drafted entirely by hand, it took years and years to design a new car).

    • 0 avatar

      Oddly enough, it did not take all that much longer to design a car back then than it does now … from the small GM annual refreshes … to how fast Mustang came to market (and the Mustang launched a decade before this beast.)

      Size doesn’t really play much of a matter in development time. There are differences in BOF v unitized development timelines but even these are not significant.

      Whether called Concept-to-Customer, World Class Timing, or Global Product Development System, and depending on how you define the start and finish of the process, I would guess today’s timing (design and development assisted by CAD/CAE/CAM/PIM with a lot being done by the supply base)against those old days (when there were buildings filled with armies of engineers and designers crawling around upon, and stroking lines with pencils on, large sheets of vellum paper, designing almost every little last thing that went into the car to be tested and made in house) that the overall development time has probably been reduced by 25% from about 4 years to 3… remember, the complexity of the vehicles has also increased.

      What has really happened in the last 30 years is that more complex vehicles can be developed faster, better, with less physical testing and cost and with fewer people on the development team.

      Add the internet to the C3P computer design tools, and it does become possible for companies to do global development … looking back, for instance, to the 80’s, consider Horizon (Chrysler in US & Talbot in Europe), or Escort (this “world car” was in name only, and had about 12 parts which were common between NAAO and EAO versions, Horizin was not much better, despite both companies having rigorous change control processes with non-commonality approvals being made on the Chief Engineer Grade Level).

      Each of these early attempts were comprimised by language limitations (not enough English-capability in Europe, even less French/German ability in US) even after the language barrier was overcome the Contour/Mondeo was comprimised by limitations inherent in the primative internet.

  • avatar

    I love the big Detroit iron from this era. They were a giant screw you to the oil embargo and early 70s versions of these giants probably inspired the Doobies to write Rockin Down the Highway. They were the perfect ride for the song.

  • avatar

    Outstanding article Paul.  You are really on your game today.

    I now have a new candidate for favorite line:
    “…with big twin exhausts to rumble our memories and fantasies far away to another time and place…”

    Your reference to Chris Craft reminds me of an another old favorite:
    ” … it had that Chris Craft V8 rumble, much beloved of small boys and x small boys.”
    Penned by DED JR. testing a 1965 Riviera Gran Sport.  (I think)

    A friend’s grandfather had a 1957 Imperial 4 door (post) sedan … in dark gray.  That car has always been my image of Imperial (the brand), and the ’57 always my favorite year.

  • avatar

    boyphenom666: The YouTube video is misdated; that is a 1976 Chrysler New Yorker. When the Imperial was canceled after the 1975 model year, its front and rear ends were simply grafted onto the existing 1974-75 New Yorker and relabeled accordingly. (The 1976 Newport similarly gained the 1974-75 New Yorker’s front- and rear-end designs.) This is why the 1976-78 New Yorker looks just like the 1974-75 Imperial (except for the Imperial’s smaller rear window). At the same time the New Yorker began offering Imperial-style tufted seats in cloth, as shown in the video, or leather.
    My family owned a new ’77 New Yorker 4-door hardtop for a few years; unfortunately it was a real dog, with a 440 engine badly strangled by the emissions controls of the day. It was our only Chrysler product and our last traditional big American car – the idea was a lot better than the execution in this case.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it’s more accurate to say that the 1976 New Yorker WAS the previous Imperial, rebadged.  It wasn’t that they grafted the Imperial front end onto the New Yorker, they simply removed the Imperial badges and stuck New Yorker (Brougham) badges onto the thing.
      My in-laws had a ’77 New Yorker Brougham.  My father-in-law had always owned GM products — big Pontiacs and Buicks — but refused to buy the downsized versions.  You’re soooo right about the strangled “Lean Burn” 440 engine.  Damn thing could barely keep up with its own shadow.

  • avatar

    Love these 70s monsters and would love to collect one just to see the stares when I would take it out and drive it several times a month.
    The last of the big Imperials jogs my brain that this car is actually related to the Ford Ranger a few stories down in a small way, they are both the last of their breed in the US and their tooling was long paid off by their respective corporations before being put out to pasture.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Handled like an elephant on in-line skates.
    Consumed enough energy to power some third-world nations.
    Spewed enough pollution to blot out the sun.
    Absolutely HORRID build quality.
    Completely terrible, inefficient and inelegant engineering.
    Cars of this ilk and this generation are an abomination.  They are the reason Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Volkwagen were able to penetrate the market.

    Can’t believe this site, dedicated to the TRUTH about cars, is gushing over this car like it was Elvis in ’55…..

    This car is more Elvis in ’76, a bloated, unhealthy, over-indulgent, shadow of Chrysler American greatness, poised on the precipice (or the toilet seat…pick your metaphor) of auto history.

  • avatar

    No…no…no You got it all wrong Mr Macinnis,  it’s called balance, something TTAC has lacked in the past. Another day of reading the praises of pieces of crap, like Starlets and Rabbits and might need to barf.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 to Mikey!  Personally I much prefer pre-1972 styling, but this Imp still looks a helluva sight better than most cars in the 80s and 90s, when everything looked like a box or a blob.  This is one of the last Great American cars.  The disappearance of REAL fullsize cars is one of the main reasons that pickups and SUVs have become so popular.  That’s the TRUTH!
      I get annoyed whenever I see some K-car derivative emblazoned with “Imperial” or “LeBaron” (or “New Yorker” for that matter).  I’m glad you touched on that topic Paul.  Another great CC!

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on the demise of full size cars coinciding with the rise of the SUV. That’s why I see so many elderly couples driving 2wd Suburbans and Tahoes.

    • 0 avatar

      Whoa Mikey! I think all of them have their place in the automotive universe. Case in point this car is a dream for sure, but it is a very local dream that inhabited only North America. From a global standpoint those little Rabbits reproduced all over the place they laid their little paws on. So I’m guessing much of the world recalls Rabbits (and their kin ’cause I’m not sold on the Rabbit as such a pioneer – see comments in Rabbit post), but sadly had little or no contact w/ any Imperial. Sigh! Our loss I guess.

  • avatar

    Technically the last real Imperial was in 1966, but I understand the point you’re trying to make here.

    • 0 avatar

      When I was little, the 1965s really scared me. They reminded of a robot from a 1930s movie, that was coming to “get me” in my sleep. I still remeber those old early 1970s model on the dealer lot. they seemed sooo handsome to me – the end of the line for the Torsion-Aire fullsize beasts.

    • 0 avatar

      The 1966 was the last Imperial built body-on-frame – moving to the corporate unibody in 1967.

  • avatar

    That must be one of the longest quarter panels ever made.  The wheel skirts are a great touch.  Beautiful!

  • avatar

    Just one word comes to mind.


    • 0 avatar

      Did anyone else notice the missing hood ornament? It was de rigor back then for every punk and his brother to snatch the spring-loaded hood ornaments off of high-end luxury cars, ostensively to use as a medalion on a neck chain. Seems like that sort of thing fell out of vogue after a while but I could be wrong.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I like it, but I also like to watch re-runs of Frank Cannon, P.I.

  • avatar

    I have always loved big 1970’s Chrysler cars. When I was a kid my grandparents owned a 1972 Plymouth Fury sedan and I had a friend whose parents owned a 1973-74 Chrysler Town & Country wagon.

    These 1970’s land yachts may be bloated, inefficient and poor handling, but they have style and a presence that has not been seen in an American sedan in over 30 years. Just compare this 1974 Imperial to Lee Iacocca’s 1991-93 Imperial.[email protected]/3684496810/

  • avatar

    What a great find…I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these, even at a car show.

    If I recall correctly, these had FOUR-WHEEL disc brakes as standard equipment, which was rather radical, for an American car, for that time.

    As others have noted, for 1976, Chrysler took the same car, decontented it a bit (the rear discs were gone, if I recall correctly), cut the price, rebadged it as the New Yorker Brougham, and watched sales increase dramatically. The New Yorker Brougham sold well through 1978, when it was one of the last REALLY big cars available. Along with its cheaper Newport sibling, it was also the last four-door hardtop in production.

    Cadillac easily outsold both Lincoln and Imperial in the 1970s, but, after 1970, it was always lagged behind both of its competitors in appeal – at least in hindsight. GM’s 1971-76 full-size cars always felt very flimsy in their construction – particulary the hardtop sedans.

  • avatar

    The 1977 New Yorker version was owned by an agent of our company. When I visited him, I was always amazed that it had less front legroom than my Audi 100LS. It creaked over every pavement crack, and shimmied over big bumps. Had the structural integrity of a wet paper bag.

    This was not a good car, in my opinion. It replaced some early ’70s Buick with a 455 he owned before. That wobbled, but it was just the suspension, not the body itself.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Is this one of those cars where you lift the hood and the radiator is sitting halfway back to the windshield?

  • avatar

    The Buick wheels are a nice touch.

  • avatar

    My next-door neighbor had one of these when I was in HS. At the time, I thought it was the bitchin’-est ride I’d ever seen.

    My tastes have moved on in most instances, but that thing’s still bitchin’!

  • avatar

    I reference to other posters, it is easy to get all nostalgic about land yachts. They do hearken back to purportedly carefree days (when we weren’t being scared about a nuclear war, that is, or Vietman, stagflation, Watergate, Oil Embargo….) but in fact, the cars were poorly assembled crap. But everything coming out of Detroit was poorly assembled crap. In fact, the only decent cars of the entire decade were GM’s downsized A and B bodies.

    It was this ’70s junk that sunk Detroit and the coup de grace was the FWD ’80s junk. People started buying Toyotas and getting several years of problem free motoring. Sure, a ’73 Corolla would rust to dust in five years but a sled like an Imperial would start to self destruct the day you took it off the lot and remember, ladies and germs, these wonderful machines had a stellar one year warranty. Service managers were trained in the fine art of fobbing off angry clients for a year so they could get retail repairs, which they did aplenty on these horrible monstrosities. Mopar went belly up soon after this rolling abberation and for good reason.

    • 0 avatar

      In all fairness, looking at the past through rose-colored glasses isn’t limited to fans of cars like this. The Curbside Classic article on the VW Rabbit was interesting, but let’s be realistic. The Rabbit was fun to drive and efficient, but the car was also unreliable, rusted like crazy, and did nothing to halt VW’s long-term decline in market share.

      Toyota, Honda and Nissan didn’t initially conquer Detroit; first they rolled over VW, and the Rabbit did nothing to stop their advance.

      These American boats had their faults, and signs of Detroit’s decline in general (and Chrysler’s in particular) were well evident when this Imperial rolled off the assembly line, but the imports of that era weren’t quite ready for prime time. The Europeans were more advanced and more efficient, but they were NOT more reliable. The Audi 100 LS cited by another poster was anything but a paragon of reliability in this country. The Japanese cars were still too small and spartan to really replace the American family sedan (or wagon).

  • avatar

    We had a 1974 Plymouth Gran Fury sedan that was remarkably similar to this Imperial. It had a lot of strengths; excellent body integrity, high-quality interior trim, reasonable handling for such a large car. But the 360-ci engine was strangled by the Corporation’s early attempts to deal with smog controls, and for performance that was not great it returned 12 mpg, whether we were going through mountainous country or on cruise control on the interstate. I really think it needed a valve grind when we sold it with around 60k miles; I talked to other owners of 1974-1980 Mopar cars who found this to be the case. The styling was definitely derivative of earlier GM cars; there were a lot of details that seemed to me to have been stolen from 1971-1972 Buicks and Oldsmobiles, and in fact I had more than one friend mis-identify the car as an Olds or Buick until they got close enough to see the emblems.

  • avatar

    +1 to Mikey and -1 to Mr. Mac Innis

    There were giants in those days and we shall not see their like again in our lifetimes. Those Imperials were among the true great American cars.

    It’s true that the cars of the late 70’s were like washed-up football linemen gone fat and soft and powerless, but the American cars of the 60’s (and earliest 70’s) were truely magic carpet rides. Powerful. Unstoppable. Comfortable. They could eat up miles of American highway effortlessly and do it forever. And, yes, they were even a good place to make love. What more can you ask of a car? Fuel efficiency? Bah! Your priorities are misplaced if you believe that, sir.

    In college in 1972, my friend had use of a 69 Cadillac from his father – the only requirement was to save the gas receipts for his business -That car would seat 6 comfortably, and – if the extras were cute enough – 3 more on laps. I believe you could have fit 2 more in the trunk without great discomfort for them. The car didn’t care. It had plenty of power no matter what the load, and the outside world remained at bay – no road noise, no road bumps. The movable feast. A party on wheels. The Titanic.

    Sure an Audi was more efficient in use of space and materials, but a folding aluminum framed camp chair is more efficient than a leather sofa. They’ve simply not comparable, except at the most basic level.

    One of the reasons that I, crusty old one that I’ve become, am so bitter at the Detroit of today is that the cars of the 60’s were magnificent – more room, more power, more beautiful, and with quality every bit as good – as anything in the world. Dollar for dollar better than anything in the world. Detroit had a 30 point lead, their dinosaurs ruled the world, and yet Detroit managed to squander their supremacy. Fools. Unforgivable fools.

    This Imperial is an example of one of the last of the dinosaurs – one that still walked the earth with pride before they finally realized that the sun had gone cold and that they were doomed. I miss ’em, and we shall not see their likes again.

    /rant off

    • 0 avatar

      “These were giants in those days and we shall not see their like again in our lifetimes.”

      Thank god for that. The only true statement in your entire rant is that these were, indeed, giant.

      “…the American cars of the 60’s (and earliest 70’s) were truely magic carpet rides. Powerful. Unstoppable. Comfortable.”

      Powerful? They better be, given the locomotive engines they were equipped with. Unstoppable? True, because their brakes were crap. Comfortable? Then why is my every memory of a car trip in these beasts blighted by memories of car sickness, courtesy of their horrible seats and even worse suspensions?

      American cars of this era are humiliating embarrassments to our country and the morons who paid actual money for them.

    • 0 avatar

      “Then why is my every memory of a car trip in these beasts blighted by memories of car sickness, courtesy of their horrible seats and even worse suspensions?”

      Because virtually all of the foreign cars of that time would have broken down within the first 100 miles of the trip, and of those that didn’t, you would have suffered deafness from the road noise or severe discomfort from the lousy and completely inadequate HVAC system.

    • 0 avatar

      You must not have any memories of riding in a Mopar, sir. Chryslers had particularly good brakes, and their torsion bar suspension was exceptionally good. Chrysler subframes were rigidly attached to the body until the 1969 restyling, when they were redesigned with rubber insulators. That’s when they acquired the “floaty” ride that is much derided today.

  • avatar

    For a good time, check out the brochure:

    …the interior image on page 14 is classic: the tackiness of a cab driver’s fuzzy seat cover, but OEM! And don’t miss the Vaseline-lensed family in the background – I bet there’s a bottle of ‘ludes with the mom’s name on it stashed away in the glove compartment…

  • avatar

    Holy crap look at that rear overhang! I bet my Roadmaster is positively easy to park compared to that thing. I really don’t understand how anything like that ever got designed, so much wasted space.

    • 0 avatar

      My 66 Chryslers are easier to park than my mom’s 92 Roadmaster for two reasons:
      1. Fender corner peaks are almost at the extreme corners of the car, so it’s easy to gauge how far you are from cars and obstacles. This Imperial is similar in that regard; your Roadmaster is not.
      2. Rear window extends right down to the rear deck, so you can see the whole rear of the car when backing-up. However, that is not true for this Imperial nor your Roadmaster.

      Other than the ingress/egress issues of the Imp being a 2-door, it probably has comparable interior room to your Roadmaster, unless yours is a wagon. I don’t see it being that much different as far as “wasted space”.

  • avatar

    How about the Imperial coupe from around 1980? I think it was based on the midsized (Cordoba) platform. I thought it was a good looking car and to my mind the last of the real Imperials before Chrysler used the name on the K car.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the reason the ’81-’83 gets short shrift in the Imperial world is due primarily to the trouble-prone Lean-Burn 318 engine. Besides being underpowered for the size of the car, the Lean-Burn system was so bad that there was supposedly a Chrysler TSB to replace the entire system with a carburator when they came in for warranty work.

      Now, if Chrysler had stuffed a 440 in there, even with a crappy fuel system, the ’81-’83 Imp would likely be respected more as the real ‘last Imperial’.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah the fuel injection is the weak link. I do not know the accuracy of the figures but I once saw an estimate that claimed Chrysler spent $10,000 per car (parts, labor, ect) switching the majority of the cars built over to a carburetor. Occasionally on eBay you see an Imperial listed proudly proclaiming “original fuel injection” which always makes me think; “Crap, you ought to give me a discount because of that, you idiot.”

  • avatar

    My parents had the 4-door hardtop version of this car. They bought it used from a man who elected to keep his other two cars–a ’65 and a ’66 Sedan deVille. He liked his big cars.

    Having the rear doors hinged on a vertical stub of frame did not provide a rigid sounding door closing. The pronounced under-tuck of the rocker panels made sandblasting them self-induced. But I have never experienced a more luxurious car.

    I borrowed this car from my parents to go to my first job interview in another town. The interview lasted a few hours and when I went to leave, a major snowstorm had been in progress for a while. The drive home, through near-blizzard conditions with firm pillow drifts, was no problem for this beast. Keep the speed up and keep going. The only hiccup was that when I would bust through a drift, snow would blow back in the engine compartment and cause the double-belt driven alternator to lip a bit. The lights would dim slightly to let me know this happened. This car had power everything so it needed a stout alternator.

    This style had a presence that only a few cars could carry. Others IMHO that pulled it off were those ’65 & ’66 Cadillacs and the ’64 Continental.

  • avatar

    I owned a 77 New Yorker. Mine was factory equipped with HD suspension and was one of the best handling big cars I ever owned. Mine was anything but floaty. You want floaty, go with a FoMoCo car of that era. The GMs were floaty too, but not as quiet or as smoooth. And I drove many examples of those big-uns back in the late 70s.
    My biggest complaint with mine was that miserable lean burn system. An early 70s 440 swap would have done wonders for mine. Also, I didn’t like the “wide ratio” Torqueflite as well as the old unit.
    I must also take exception to anyone who questions the structural rigidity of the bodies on these never paid attention. It is odd that the sedans (with pillars) of this series of C body was not very rigid. But the 4 door hardtops (pillarless) were tight, tight cars.
    It is another example of Chrysler’s horrible timing that its all new C body cars hit the market during a terrible recession. The poor Imperial didn’t stand a chance in 1974-75. But as a New Yorker, they sold scads of them.
    My mother bought mine used in about 1982. It was a new car trade at a Chrysler dealer and had 34k on the clock. It is still one of the most beautiful cars I have ever seen. Russet Sunfire Metallic (a reddish burnt orange) with beige vinyl on the roof and beige velour inside. A pretty, pretty car.
    The other problem on these was the electric headlight doors. We learned to open them and unplug them during the winter months, as ice buildup on the bumpers could prevent them from opening or closing, and they would make a terrible racket when they got stuck.
    Another issue on these was the severe tuck-under of the rear quarter panels. That lower surface would get a terrible sand-blasting from the rear tires. I had to repaint mine more than once. The light colored cars showed a lot of rusty lower fenders after a few years.
    All in all, this more than any other is the car I wanted to love, but that kept kicking me. Sort of like the handsome ivy league kid who is an underachieving alcoholic. Worse, I owned the New Yorker right after my little 71 Scamp, that was kind of like Rudy Rudiger (of the Notre Dame Football movie fame). I didn’t expect much from it, but it just worked its heart out for me.
    Anyway, the Imperial today brings back a flood of memories from one of the great love-hate relationships of my life.

  • avatar

    Certainly in 1974 there was no “foreign” car, especially Japanese, that could compete with the Great American Sled while on the Great American Road Trip. But they learned really fast. REALLY fast! Ten years later the Japanese were bring in the Camry and the Accord grew up. They learned to adapt to the American market. Anyway, land yachts were made possible buy gas a fifty cents a gallon when that was gone, so were the yachts. Problem was Mopar didn’t have a replacement ready and lost their market.

    I recently had a Great American Road Trip with a 2010 Camry SE. Seated four and all our luggage comfortably, handled twisty roads and Interstate equally well, rode well, excellent handling, great stereo and A/C. Never went below 80 mph and got 30 mpg.

  • avatar

    Ooooooooooh, those bordello-plush 50-50 seats, with leather as soft as a baby’s ass……..

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    A neighbor of mine’s father owned one identical to this one until at least 1993, it was a 1975 model though. In magnificent shape then, completely original. Neat thing about it, it had a factory digital cluster (where the speedometer would have been in the 1974 model). Came to learn from the owner that this was the first American car ever to have a digital dash. Chrysler must have kept that feature pretty low key though, as being a car buff/walking automotive encyclopedia myself, I had never known about this until then (that was the first, and for many years the only Imperial of that body style that I’d seen). I moved after 1993 and lost track of it. The owner was an elderly gentleman then, so I assume he’s probably deceased by now. Hope his family took care of the car, it was an excellent example. I’d love to own one just like it today.

  • avatar

    Although it’s no-where near my favorite of the land yachts, it is a beaut

  • avatar

    Just a little family car history…..
    My dad was a CADILLAC man for at least 20 years..
    He went up north to visit my brother in Detroit and at a party he was introduced to my big brothers friend who just so happened to be a Chrysler dealer and had brought a new white on white 1982 Imperial to the party.
    I wasn`t there so I will never know what transpired but my mom and dad show up at our house with it the following Monday!
    He traded his 1978 Sedan De ville which was a really good handling Caddy for this???
    This car had the softest carpeting I have ever put my feet kidding!and the carpet was blood red!!!
    Three days later he calls me at work to ask if I would ride with him back to Detroit to take the car BACK!!!!!
    Heck,work sucked so I said sure and we began our trip back…
    about 1 hour north of Columbus,and after questions from me about ‘what do you want to drive’ was always one of these”its just a car” bullshitters that deep down LOVE to been seen in a cool ride!!!
    He decided to turn around.
    My big brother was frantic..his ‘buddy said dads Caddy was already at the auction(lie)
    Well…mom and dad ended up driving the “pimp-mobile” as us kids called it to Mexico and all points out west…
    Dad got a free recall to replace the electronic fuel injection system with a 2-barrel and a new gas tank.
    He sold it to me years later and it got through two graduation party’s and a wedding.
    I finally donated the car to the Salvation Army about 10 years ago……
    Cost of operation….cheap

  • avatar

    This was one of several monster sized 70’s full sizers that made GM’s downsized B and C body cars look small and much more socially responsible at the time. I remember driving a 4 door version of this same car but a 77 New Yorker model and then driving a 403 powered Olds 98. Man what a difference that downsized model made. The 403 actually performed far better than the larger 440 and got above 15 miles per gallon unlike the whale like Chrysler that you were lucky to get 10 and could go around a corner faster than 10 MPH without squealing the tires onto there sidewalls. Ah the memories.

    • 0 avatar

      By 1978, the once almighty 440 engine had been through enough smogulation that it finally ended car production at a pathetic 195 HP. Yes, you read that right. That 440, when in 1969 in 6-pak form was UNDER rated at 395 HP, whooped everyone’s ass.

      I Have a 76 New Yorker and I rebuilt the 205 hp engine to it’s former glory. Shocks a lot “youngn’s in their ‘stangs and craparos.

      If your mildly interested (or disgusted) in these cars, I have a pathetic lil tribute site at . (And I like to spin the Hit counter)

  • avatar

    Back in 04 I was able to buy a decent shape 74 Eldorado, it was nice to drive and if u never have to worry about the price of gas or where the gas went when u putting benzene into the gas filler cap.
    U feel like the gas just went into a Giant Black hole, every time u step on the gas u actually step on a dozen of fresh eggs or paying to crack those eggs.
    These cars were built when gas was < 50 cents a gal in Canada then or even cheaper in US of A.
    A car with less than 400 cu ins displacement were kind of for the Feeble minds.

    I was living up in Northern BC only 400 miles from Vancouver.
    Driving her thru the Canyon, is a nothing but a pleasant dream as long as not glancing at the gas gauge.

    It was the car with the biggest displacement at the time 500 cubic inches or 8.2 litre. A single cylinder has more displacement than my little Honda CT 90. Piloting the Eldo and the riding the CT 90 both equally have reward u with fun and needed fund on either end of the Spectrum.

    One time I was passing thru the canyon, near Boston Bar, a Gendarme aka Royal Canadian Mounted Police, flashed his gum spinner lights on momentarily, I thought that was the end of my Happy Motoring, lo & behold, he only flipped it on few secs. I just tap on the brakes. I know he was being Generous as decided against my little trip to the La la land.
    For these Land barge to go beyond 55-60 MPH is not exactly difficult.
    One trip costed me $350 for the 400 miles.
    And price of gas werent $1.50 a litre then. Perhaps under a buck, still t hurts.
    I would like to post the car pics sometime.

    Soon after I bought the car the gas price went up another 10 c /litre, I knew the writings were on the wall, her days are pretty well numbered.

    3 yrs ago I sold her to a fine young Gentleman with impeccable taste of fine automobile. He has very little distance to commute.
    At least I had reconcile my life long dream of owning one some day.

  • avatar

    I like this car … for me it is Chrysler funky …

    That said, it is amazing how it is also a poster-boy for Chrysler’s fast-follower design studio from the 1970’s … what a jumble of co-opted design cues … in this car one can see MkIII in the grille and headlamp doors, Lincoln and Grand Marquis in the FF clip, Lincoln/Gr.Mq and GM A/B bodies in the A-pillar, the RR quarter reminds of a slab-sided 68-70 Riviera, RR window reminds of the Electra 225/Eldorado, Trunk lid and below of the Eldo … In the interior, I like how the Saginaw (I think) column is topped with a steering wheel having a centre much like that found on the post 1970 GM vehicles …

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, one more thing, this vehicle pretty much marks the end of the Elwood Engel design era at Chrysler…

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, Chrysler was really into their usual ‘me, too’ styling mode with the seventies’ fullsize cars, beginning with the 1973 Fury and Monaco which looked a lot like last year’s GM fullsize models. Considering what Chrysler would come up with when they went with an original design, I can’t say that, in some cases, Chrysler’s ‘me, too’ styling wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

      Although the 1975 Imperial might be considered the final in the series, it certainly isn’t the best by any means. While maybe not the ‘best’ of the marque, the fuselage-styled 1969-1971 predecessor was still better.

      Bizarrely, not long ago, there was an online Time magazine account of the ’50 worst cars of all time’ and the 1971 Imperial 2-door was included. While certainly not great, it was definitely no worse than anything else built around that time period and it’s the only time I ever saw any Imperial listed as the ‘worst’ automobile of any type.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to disagree with the negative styling comments. I consider this car (up thru the 78 New Yorker) as the best looking big car of the 70s. The 72 Lincoln may have had more “presence”, but the Chrysler was the best marriage of elegance and style. At minimum, it was certainly the most successful conception of the 5 mph bumper which fouled up many a 70s design.

      By 1974-75, Ford and GM were going “baroque” with fat vinyl moldings, coach lights, opera windows and all kind of styling gimmicks. The big Chryslers (particularly the 4 door hardtops) had some unique style for the era. The waterfall grill was beautiful. The swoop of the C pillar was unique. The lower bodyside character line was very reminiscent of past Chryslers, as was the taillight design. The way the rear quarter panel met the top of the taillight was just like the 56 DeSoto. The final big C-body looked like it was moving even when sitting still, particularly from a rear 3/4 view. The car was just graceful.

      All in all, it was one of the cleanest designs around, certainly by 1977 or 78. I should also add that the waterfall grille was one of the last of the chrome plated diecastings to adorn the front of a car. Cadillac had long since gone to stampings.

      It is unfortunate that this highly successful car (certainly by Chrysler’s standards of the era) was undone by that miserable lean burn fiasco.

  • avatar

    I drove my girlfriend’s father’s ’74 Imperial for a day (while my new ’74 Fiat X1/9 was in for its first oil change) and I will never forget the feeling. I felt like the captain of a huge yacht, bounding over the asphalt ocean of Orange County, Ca.

    And is that fine, Corinthian leather I spy?

  • avatar

    Two and a half tons, 2 doors, monster mill, dual exhaust…. very similar in concept to the 1967 Buick Riviera I recently owned, an almost mint condition survivor.

    Yes, it was gross excess, yes, mileage was atrocious, and the Riv had an aircraft carrier-deck-like hood and what were reputed to be the longest (and heaviest?) doors ever put on a modern production American automobile, but my oh my, what a wonderful ride!

    Take the unparalleled, gorgeous 2nd generation Riviera styling of
    Bill Mitchell (body shell shared with the original 1966 Toronado) combined with the monsterous torque of the first-year modern Buick big block 430 4-barrel (later evolving into the Hemi-killer Stage 1 455) and add the smoothest boulevard ride this side of a Caddy, and you had what I fondly referred to as a “highway locomotive”.

    What a wonderful (and wonderfully irresponsible) era in American motoring, now viewed with such disdain by pompous greenies. But hey, the future was always going to be bigger, better and brighter back then.

  • avatar

    “now viewed with such disdain by pompous greenies”

    What an idiotic generalization. Realizing that we were unnecessarily fouling our atmosphere with emissions hardly makes anyone pompous. And how exactly do you define a greenie? Someone who doesn’t want to breathe shitty air? Does looking back with dismay on the deleterious impact of tetraethyl lead, once common in fuel, make me a pompous greenie too?

  • avatar

    Aw, lighten up Nick! I think you’ve just made my point about the tiresome righteous indignation of environmentalists.

    Oh, I think I hear Greenpeace calling…..

  • avatar

    I have to confess, that if I had the mechanical skill, or could pay someone with sufficient skill to do it, I’d convert one of these to a 5.9L Cummins Turbodiesel and drive it regularly.

    In a far distant brain cell, I remember an episode of Miami Vice where a psychopathic hooker kills johns in their car and sets fire to them. One of her victims was driving one of these in baby blue.

    I could use those brain cells for more useful information, I guess.

  • avatar

    Go here and do the appropriate search and you will see a 1975 4-dr Imperial for sale in Saskatchewan. Looks to be in v good shape.


  • avatar

    I happen to own a 78 New Yorker Brougham, which is the same car. The difference was that chrysler dropped the 4 wheel disc brakes, and made some of the equipment which was standard on the Imperial optional on the new yorker.
    Motor trend picked this car over the lincoln and caddy in july of 75. They rated the car superior in handling, road feel, materials used in the interior as well as fit and finish, and trunk space. They also praised the car in many other areas. Road test magazine also talks of the car’s superiority in handling over the lincoln and caddy in their august 75 issue.
    These cars go down the highway very well, especially for their size, with none of the pitch and wallowing that most cars from this era are known for. I put about 1,500 miles per year on mine going to car shows and such, these cars are very comfortable on the highway.
    The space inside is cavernous, and the transmission hump is smaller than in the lincolns and caddies as well. The interiors in these cars are made of great materials, and use far less plastic than any camry or accord, sorry, posters. The bottom of the instrument panel is metal. The knobs are even metal, except for the wiper and power antenna switch.
    The car has 118k on it, and has no squeaks or rattles whatsoever. Everything in the interior is intact, and the driver’s door opens and closes perfectly with the original bushings in the hinges. Not many GM cars can make that last claim.
    To the poster that said these cars have crappy brakes, these cars use the exact same brakes as the fullsize 1/2 ton trucks of the 70’s.
    To the poster that made the comment about switching to an earlier motor without lean burn…..they are the same engine. All you have to do, is replace the distributor with one from an earlier engine, as well as the carb. Or you could use an aftermarket distributor and carb.
    I switched mine to an earlier factory electronic unit, and used an edelbrock 750 carb for better driveability, power and mileage. I used an open element air cleaner, and advance the timing a few degrees. The car has excellent throttle response and runs very well on the highway, and with the cruise control set at 65 I manage 14 MPG easily, which is a big improvement over the factory thermoquad/lean burn system.
    I plan to add a gear vendors overdrive to the torqueflite, which should easily add 2-3 mpg. These cars weigh in the vicinity of 5,000 lbs. In the same ballpark as the lincoln and caddy.
    People that bought these cars were luxury car buyers, so I doubt that many ended up buying camrys or accords. Maybe a mercedes or something similar, but not accords or camrys.
    Seems like no matter what type of car is featured here people think the owners went to accords and camrys. BTW thanks for the info on the car for sale, NickR.

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