By on March 22, 2015

It was the late 1970s. Following the oil crisis in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Japanese automakers were able to go from having a foothold on the west coast to being major players in the domestic American market. In 1976, Honda introduced the first generation Accord, a revolutionary package that combined outstanding fuel economy, front wheel drive, reliability, practicality, sprightly performance and a standard equipment list that included a stereo and air conditioning. At the time, Chrysler was headed by Lee Iacocca and in a changing automotive world, for some reason Iacocca decided that what Chrysler needed was a large personal luxury car. Burton Bouwkamp, who was director of body engineering for Chrysler at the time, recalled his boss barking “Where the hell is our Cadillac/Lincoln entry?” The result was the 1981-83 Chrysler Imperial, the last V8 powered Imperial to be produced.

The decision was made to use the company’s B-body platform, originally developed for the Plymouth Belvedere and Dodge Coronet. That what was formerly an intermediate sized mass market middle class car was turned into a luxury car indicates the kind of wrenching upheavals the auto industry went through in the 1970s. By then the B-body had morphed into the Chrysler Cordoba (itself originally planned as a Plymouth) and Dodge Mirada. A design by Steven N. Bollinger from 1977 for a Chrysler with a formal grille and bustle back rear end named the La Scala was pulled down from the shelf and that became the 1981 Imperial. Bustle backed personal luxury cars were big in Detroit in the mid to late 1970s, with Cadillac and Lincoln both offering cars with that styling feature.

Though it was based on the Cordoba, the Imperial was not a case of badge engineering, having unique sheet metal and it’s own interior and instrument panel, an early Detroit experiment with electronic dashboards. Heavier gauge steel was used for some panels and the Imperial got more sound proofing than the Cordoba. Another use of electronics was the fact that the 318 cubic inch V8 powering the Imperial had Chrysler’s first modern electronic fuel injection system (the company experimented with fuel injection back in the 1950s, making it available as an option). Each Imperial, when assembled, also underwent a rigid post-production inspection and quality control check that included a five and a half mile test drive. Other QC checks done on every Imperial also included  a high pressure leak test, electronics check, underbody bolt torque inspection, hot engine testing and front end alignment. The Imperial also came with Chrysler’s best warranty, bumper to bumper for 30,000 miles or two years. They were warrantied against rust for three years. Those short terms seem quaint today when low cost Korean cars come with 100,000 mile warranties but consumers had lower expectations then.

Each imperial also came with a Mark Cross gift set including an umbrella, leather bound folder, a gold and leather key fob and a spare uncut ignition key made with Cartier crystal. A power moonroof was the only option, though customers could choose from wire spoke hubcaps or cast aluminum wheels, and between a cassette player, 8-track unit, or a CB radio. Standard equipment included thermostatic climate control, a built in garage door opener, electrically heated and adjusted rear view mirrors, the aforementioned electronic instrument cluster, power trunk release, 500 amp battery, rear window defroster, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-beam map/dome lights, cruise control, power windows and locks, the extra sound insulation, and a 30-watt stereo.

The electronic dash was Chrysler’s own, designed in their Hunstville, Alabama plant that dated to Chrysler’s participation in the U.S. space program. While the display used some fluorescent tubes, the indicators for washer fluid, oil pressure, engine temperature, door ajar, alternator and brake problems were normal incandescent light bulbs, so the system also included a test for bad bulbs.

digidash_chryslerlebaron81

The 1991-93 Imperial also featured an early example of a range indicator and microprocessors controlled displays for speed, time, distance, fuel level and transmission gear. Moving past mere buzzers as warnings, the Imperial featured a spectrum of chimes, beeps and tones to remind drivers about seat belts, or headlights and ignition keys left on.

At a MSRP of $20,988, it was the most expensive production car offered by an American automaker in 1981. However, even at that price, it was a money loser. Some say that each Imperial sold ended up costing Chrysler $10,000 in warranty costs. As was the case with a lot of 1980s vintage electronics, the fuel injection system was not reliable. Complaints and lawsuits followed. Eventually Chrysler supplied dealers with a carburetor kit to replace the EFI. One complainant was apparently Iacocca’s buddy Frank Sinatra, for whom a signature model of the Imperial was made. The way the story goes, Sinatra was driving, perhaps to Vegas, in the car and high voltage transmission lines running next to the highway started to interfere with the fuel injection system. Just 278 of the Frank Sinatra Edition Imperials were made, reflective of the regular model’s lack of success, with less than 13,000 sold over the three years it was offered.

Our colleague Murilee Martin spotted one of the FS Imperials at a San Francisco area junkyard not long ago. While it still had its Glacier Blue paint (to match Ol’ Blue Eyes’ blue eyes), platinum colored carpet, sky blue upholstery, Frank Sinatra emblems, and a custom console for holding the 10 Frank Sinatra audio cassettes that came with the car, the cassettes and their bespoke leather carrying case were gone.

1981ImperialAd04

In time, Iacocca would disclaim that the last real Imperial was his idea, having hired in at Chrysler in 1979, only 18 months before the model’s introduction. He said the car was former CEO John Riccardo’s idea. Iacocca, though, midwifed the Imperial and linked his and his buddy Frank Sinatra’s reputations to the car. J.P. Cavanaugh over at Curbside Classics thinks the embarrassing failure of the last RWD Imperial is the reason why Iacocca and Chrysler spent much of the next two decades churning out low risk variants of the K-car, including the 1990-93 Imperial. They even made a stretch limo on the K platform.

The 1983 Chrysler Imperial pictured here was photographed at the 2014 Sloan Museum Auto Fair in Flint, Michigan. The owner wasn’t near the car so I couldn’t check on it’s originality, but based on the dealer stickers that are still on the rear valence, my guess is that it’s a pristine survivor, not a restoration. It’s a great looking car (well, for the era) that didn’t give up anything to Cadillac and Lincoln in the looks department, even if its iffy electronics make it a poster child for the malaise era.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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96 Comments on “The Last Emperor: 1983 Chrysler Imperial...”


  • avatar
    anti121hero

    Nice read and sweet car! I’ve always liked the styling of these. The hood, that wierd rear end, one of the last hurrah for rwd chrysler before the k took over

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Funny how cars whose styling was unloved during production swing around to have a classic appearance. The ’62 Dadge Dart was considered an ugly ducking, but now makes a classic street rod.

      http://www.cruisenewsonline.com/SoutheastNationalsNSRATampa2010/1962DodgeDart.jpg

      • 0 avatar

        I love red Dart in Stanley Cramer’s “Its a mad mad mad world”. This movie made an indelible impression on me when I was a kid in 60s and watched it for the first time in theater, because of American cars and car chases. Now I own this movie on Blue-ray and watch it once in a while. It is so funny. I love what American idealism and optimism of 60s before Vietnam war, at least in movies. There was something superior in USA compared to all other countries. Now it is turning into just another country.

        http://www.imcdb.org/vehicle_6490-Dodge-Dart-440-1962.html

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          The Cars and Jonathan Winters tearing up that gas station. I think of that movie every time I drink an Old Fashioned though which is fairly frequently so I suppose it made an impression on me as well.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            I loved Uncle Miltie being harassed by Ethel Merman at the (square) wheel of the Imperial convertible, and Phil Silvers in that ”47 Ford convertible.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    It’s hard to believe that anything about this car was ever considered desirable by anyone. I was in my early 20s when this car came out it was pretty much a joke amongst my peers. The “Frank Sinatra Edition” just sealed the eye-roll to the fact that this car’s time had passed long before

    • 0 avatar
      Forgeryfade

      Maybe it is the age difference and not having to be around at the time of this cars conception and failure but I actually think it is one of the better looking cars of the late 70’s malaise era. Cadillac and Lincoln had bustleback designs but those always looked like the trunk was in the process of being cut off from the car and I feel it is a better suited look for a 2 door. I sometimes run into them at local junk yards and have to stop and admire them for being so bold. Had Chrysler not gotten Iaccoca to turn them around it would have likely been their swansong and maybe people would have fought to keep them running.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        In addition to the K-Car being turned into a limo, someone(I haven’t learned what company built it) managed to make a limousine version of this generation Imperial. A photo can be found in the Facebook group ‘Vintage Limousines…’not too far from the top.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          IIRC, Burt Reynolds and Dom Deluise raced an Imperial limo in The Cannonball Run II.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            You are correct sir! It was also in Reynolds’ “Stick,” a mess he made of an Elmore Leonard novel. I’m guessing ole’ Burt had one when he was still the biggest swinging johnson in Hollywood.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      Yup. I remember when these horrible bustle-back cars first hit the streets…Continental, Seville, Imperial. Of the three I hated the Imperial the most because they hired the repulsive Frank Sinatra to hawk the things.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick

        ‘they hired the repulsive Frank Sinatra to hawk the things’ It’s so nice to hear someone else say that.

        • 0 avatar

          A saint he was not, but he was a great singer.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            FS was a “complex person.” Capable of great private kindness and generosity, and public cruelty and vulgarity.

            They say Frank Sinatra wanted everyone at his parties, and everyone wanted Dean Martin at theirs.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I feel like I have to thank Frank Sinatra for Die Hard, somehow.

        • 0 avatar
          skor

          I was born in Jersey City and had a lot of relatives in Hoboken. When I was a boy I talked to a fair number of elderly Hoboken residents who knew Sinatra from back in the day. Almost all of them despised Frank and his mother Dolly.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            From most accounts, Dolly was very aggressive and ahead of her times. Personality-wise, she sounded like my grandmother. I don’t mean that as a compliment.

            While her husband Marty was relatively placid and ran a tavern, Dolly functioned as a ward-heeler and political fixer. She was buddies with gangsters like Dutch Shultz and Longie Zwillman who ran booze through the district during Prohibition, later replaced by the numbers, hookers, drugs, etc. There are also rumors she was the go-to person for help getting back-alley abortions.

            It’s pretty obvious where Frankie’s life-long connections to La Famiglia came from.

    • 0 avatar
      MK

      Man,I hear you.

      Even at the time these were new those bustle back cars (caddy and Chrysler anyway) just looked ridiculous and pointless, and I was a teen who was into cars. At least the imperial didn’t have a fake tire-shaped imprint in the sheet metal though… So there’s that.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick

      We are the same age roughly, and my response and that of my car enthusiast friends, even the Mopar fans, was very similar. It was a bloated, kitschy carcass that despoiled the Imperial name. The dealers HATED them.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      They were no worse than any other malaise metal at the time. And it was 1981 for crying out loud…When I think Sinatra I think of my grandparents (them and a picture I saw of him flying a helicopter with what appeared to be an old fashioned in one hand). And in 1981 my Grandparents were still buying new cars. My Grandfather was a Buick man though but had he been a Mopar man I could see him in this.

      And what the hell is wrong with Sinatra. I mean he doesn’t have the talent of todays notables like Katy Perry or…damn, I can’t even finish that.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    There’s a high concentration of these Imperials in my home town because that’s where they were built, at Windsor Assembly. I have no doubt some of them ended up (were forced) in the hands of Chrysler Canada execs and managers similar to the sales bank tactics they used in the late 70’s. I know a guy who was a district parts and service manager with Chrysler back in the late 70’s and he told me at one point he had 3 late 70’s C-bodies (Newport, New Yorker etc.) assigned to him as field cars.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    If only the fuel injection system hadn’t been so problematic. A fuel injected M-body V8 would have been much more appealing.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Man, I really love these. I want one!

    …And a set of those cool Cordoba/Mirada wheels for it.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Back in the late 80’s-early 90’s I had a hankering for a Mirada but ended up buying a 81 Monte Carlo that served me well. Those optional aluminum wheels were quite attractive. The aluminum wheels that were offered on the Imperial were the same ones offered on the later M-Body 5th Ave.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick

        I hate Mirade wheels on my 67 Charger…looked waaay better than Magnum 500s.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          Magnum 500s are kinda overrated…but the Shelby versions with “doubled” spokes are super cool.

        • 0 avatar
          snakebit

          Nick, respectfully( and I mean this), you only posted one sentence. How long would it have taken to slow down a little, so that the first and second part of the sentence made sense together? And ‘Mirada’ doesn’t have an ‘e’.

          I want your opinion, but I want to get the meaning once, without going over it again.

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. If these had been a success (in some bizarro world) would Iacocca have given the credit to Riccardo?

    So the basic concept here was, take outdated mechanicals, add some trendy but heavy-handed styling cues and some unreliable electronics to produce a car that is big on the outside but small on the inside, run it thru your indifferent assembly line and then spend a lot more money after assembly doing the QC that wasn’t done the first time, put a really high sticker on it to be sure that you sell very few, give it an extra long (for the time) warranty so that you’ll be sure to have a big warranty expense. And then wonder why you lost money on each one.

    What sort of arrogance did it take for them to think that they could produce a reliable EFI in house? Would it have killed them to license the injection from Bosch or someone who actually knew what they were doing? Retrofitting with carbs is a lovely gesture of surrender – we are clueless and are throwing in the towel.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Would Iacocca have given credit to Riccardo had the Imperial been a success? try googling “Iacocca Mustang”. Spoiler: Hell no.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      Jack, when I read your comment about fuel injection, I was reminded how Honda dealt with its use in the mid 1980s. Their system was working for model year 1984, but they kept it only for home market use the whole model year, to see what bugs would develop in common usage. Once they determined that the system was trouble-fee, they introduced three models of Hondas (Prelude Si, Accord SEi, CRX Si)to the US with it for model year 1985, and then gradually to more exported Honda models. It’s a little sad that Chrysler couldn’t have put more thought into testing the FI system in smaller markets first before rolling it out, albeit on the limited edition Imperial, on a grander scale.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Denver

        On the one hand, cutting edge technology, which tends to be expensive, tends to get rolled out on the most expensive cars first. OTOH, I don’t think a Japanese maker would ever put untested technology in their flagship product. If it failed, the engineers involved would have to kill themselves for having dishonored the name of their employer.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    These were good looking cars for the time. Remember the competition included the stunted Mark VI. Shame they didn’t introduce it with a carburetor but the recession of’82 would likely have doomed it anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      A 1983 Mercedes Benz 300CD Coupe would be my idea of a good looking car for the time. With that said, the 1983 Imperial with the headlight covers, still looks OK.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Somebody find a bernie an old blue eyes with his chromed sig on the dash. There was a lot of noise at the time. All that schmaltz & ballast and it was a dud.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Nice looking example.

    One wonders if the headlights were set uncovered, or had broken.

    Was there a reliable TBI injection unit available aftermarket for ChryCo products of this era? (Too lazy to look on Allpar — I’ll get pulled-in, and spend the afternoon reading stuff on the site if I click over there anyway!)

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    “Other QC checks done on every Imperial also included a high pressure leak test, electronics check, underbody bolt torque inspection, hot engine testing and front end alignment.”

    so the most expensive Chrysler made reasonably sure the wheels were aligned and bolts didn’t fall out right away? Now i wonder why they went bankrupt twice. I mean, at least one model got tested before delivery.

    “At a MSRP of $20,988, it was the most expensive production car offered by an American automaker in 1981. …each Imperial sold ended up costing Chrysler $10,000 in warranty costs.”

    VW purchased their old Chrysler factory along with the UAW workers and in result now has the same warranty cost ratio? Learn from the best…..

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      VW purchased the Westmoreland plant that Chrysler called New Stanton, but it was originally an AMC stamping plant. The Imperial in this article was built in the Windsor, Ontario factory, which FCA still owns.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      Nice nasty union reference – typically ignorant.. I didn’t read in the article that the union designed this POS. and neither have I ever read that the union had input into the later decisions to forgo car development because fleecing the customer on SUVs was a golden egg. Neither did I read anything about unions participating in the massive sub prime credit schemes the big 3 were running. Dumb is as dumb does.

      • 0 avatar
        HerrKaLeun

        I said the even for VW subpar quality is based on the workers they inherited. I wasn’t talking about Chrysler as they had sold that plant.

        I know both unions and management bankrupted the big 2.5.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Herr,

      If you have ever bothered to read the PDI (pre-delivery inspection) manual that came with new cars, it was the DEALER’s responsibility to do all of this stuff (99% of which they never did – all the dealers did was to pull the plastic off of the seats, slap on the wheel covers which were shipped loose in the trunk, and put a gallon of gas in the tank).

      The PDI manual that came with our 1971 Ford factory shop manuals was about 1/4″ thick and I remember reading it as a kid.

      If you have ever toured a US auto assembly plant, you will see the “alignment” that they do which consists of roughly setting the toe-in so the vehicle drives straight while on a vehicle dynamometer – at least this was all they did back in the 1980s.

      So the fact that these cars got all of that stuff done at the factory WAS a big deal, at the time. Because the dealership sure as heck wasn’t going to do it. End result: a higher-quality vehicle delivered to the customer.

  • avatar
    Car-los

    And speaking of Chrysler Imperial, here is another commercial fiasco for Chrysler, only than unlike Iaccoca’s Imperial which managed to combine everything that the market was leaving behind, sadly, this one failed because of the opposite. People were just not ready for it yet :

    http://ayay.co.uk/backgrounds/transport/cars/1934-Chrysler-Imperial-AirFlow-Black-fvl.jpg

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    This survivor is in stellar condition. As car design, it is example of Detroit still competing with Detroit.

    While the extra bling and electronic instrument panel may a proud achievement, it wasn’t about dethrone the old Detroit standbys like the Town Car Signature Series, (see below).

    “http://helicalus.com/images/wallpapers/1981-Lincoln-Town-Car-Coupe-Signature-Series-wallpaper.jpg”

  • avatar
    j3studio

    Ah, the last big Imperial .. I did a blog entry on the 1983 last fall:

    http://eightiescars.com/2014/09/20/1983-imperial/

    Hilariously, while out in my convertible late last year, I saw an early 1980s Imperial rather aggressively carving the back roads in the Philadelphia suburbs near where I live. It does remain utterly distinctive: the alacrity with which the Imperial was moving makes me assume that it had the carburetor conversion.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Wonderful car!!!
    I bought my dad`s 81 and it lasted through my kid`s high school,including graduation parties(???) and two weddings,years apart!
    White with a red interior.The family and friends nicknamed it the ‘pimpmobile’
    Dad had the FI removed(they also had to replace the gas tank!) under warranty so other than brakes and tires it was bulletproof….Unfortunately all thing wear out and I had to let it go. I still have one of the wire wheel covers with the Imperial logo to remember her by.
    I hope to buy another when I retire in a couple years…great ride for a cool old fuck!

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    It’s easy to criticize cars like the early-80’s Imperial. But it was a good-looking American luxury car for the time. And if it seems that, through the lens of 2015 and with 30-plus years of wisdom behind us, that Chrysler’s attempt to do electronic fuel injection smacked of arrogance, one must place themselves into the U.S. auto industry circa 1980.

    License fuel injection from Bosch? That wasn’t going to happen. A major American automaker, particularly one that had been doing heavy electronics for NASA, probably sincerely believed it could get the job done. It wasn’t arrogance. It was genuine pride, even if somewhat misplaced.

    The same goes for making sure bolts were properly torqued, wheels were properly aligned, electronic displays were tested and giving the car a real test drive before shipping. That sounds so quaint today but standards and expectations were genuinely different – and lower – in those days.

    Chrysler learned from this lesson and focused on the K cars that saved them afterward. Ford came out with its first Taurus a couple of years later. Those two U.S. automakers were the first to recognize that the world was changing and that they had to change as well, even if the evolution took a while. GM didn’t learn until the bankruptcy.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I kind of miss the two-door American full-sized sedan and/or personal luxury coupe. I know it’s not going to happen, but I’d love to see a 21st-century take on a Chevy Monte Carlo, 90’s Ford Thunderbird – or even a 70’s Plymouth Fury two-door. I think the closest we have today is the Dodge Challenger, but that’s too muscle-oriented in my humble opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      The skills needed to fulfill an Army contract for a rocket (very few items produced at a high cost per item) are totally different than those needed to produce and maintain a mass production electronic system. I remember reading elsewhere that a dealer mechanic (you can imagine that in those days dealer techs knew even less about electronics than they do today, nor were diagnostic tools that advanced either – no OBD) saw the service manuals that must have literally been produced by the rocket scientists at Chrysler and immediately exclaimed that the techs would FUBAR this system the first time they touched it.

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      The 21st century take on the personal luxury coupe is the SUV. The Denali trim is as tacky as any 70’s brougham.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’m surprised you could get an 8-track player in these. According to Wiki, retailers stopped selling 8-track tapes in 1982, and they were out of favor for some time before then. Then again, we’re talking Malaise Chrysler, so not too surprising.

    • 0 avatar
      j3studio

      Auto manufacturers were slow to react to the demise of the 8-track. For many years you could choose either a cassette player or an 8-track player. It wasn’t just Chrysler – you could also get an 8-track with a 1983 Cadillac Eldorado and you could still get an 8-track in the 1984 Lincoln Mark VII.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      GM was offering optional 8-track players well into the mid-80’s in their more upscale vehicles. A choice between 8-Track and cassette. If you have an old 8-Track in a car those plug-in cassette converters work well.

    • 0 avatar

      I had an ’06 Ranger that had a tape deck (along with cd). I guess automakers are always behind.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Ironically, I think Lexus was the last to offer a tape player in North America.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          Everything I’ve heard tells me the SC430 was the last car in North America with a cassette player, yeah.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          How is that ironic?

          Lexus caught some flak for this from auto scribes. Why, I’m not exactly sure. It’s not like they were offering it in lieu of a CD player; their stereos had both. And while I’m not sure of the timeline for the industry’s adoption of AUX inputs, I don’t think Lexus lagged in that regard.

          My pet theory is that Lexus knew a lot of its customers listened to audio books. Cassette tapes as a medium remained dominant for audio books for years after CDs had supplanted cassettes for music.

          • 0 avatar
            mkirk

            Because 3 threads above we were bashing GM for offering 8 tracks into the mid 80’s. Perhaps GM knew that many of their clientele were also over the road truckers and as such were ensuring they could still listen to C.W. McCall’s greatest hits in the proper format. Perhaps you are wrong about audio books and the reality is that Lexus Drivers have a secret affinity for 80’s hair bands and the money spent on the Lexus payment means they can’t afford to upgrade to a CD copy of Poison’s greatest hits…hence the tape player.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            Apologies. I must’ve missed the memo instructing us to read all TTAC postings and consider all comment threads in the context of all others.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Correct, on the SC430.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re using Wikipedia to determine how popular 8-tracks where.. that sorta sums it up. Look at today, most new cars still have CD players, but most people haven’t bought a CD in years. I’ve never even put a CD in my current cars player.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I doubt the people buying these stayed on the cutting edge of technology. My grandfather’s last two new cars (late 90’s FWD Mercury Cougar and an ’04 Sable) both had their CD players yanked at the dealer in favor of cassette decks.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Even though the Allpar page alludes to this being based on the B-body, it goes on to say it shared a platform with the Dodge Mirada and 2nd gen Cordoba, both of which are J-bodies. The wheelbase is the same as the Mirada/Cordoba, and the interior looks very similar too, save for various detailing to make the Imperial more upscale.

    The last B-bodies were sold in 1979 as the Dodge Magnum, 1st gen Cordoba and the Cordoba-based Chrysler 300.

    • 0 avatar
      Tomifobia

      Correct. The J body itself was a derivative of the Aspen/Volare F body.

      Also, the original B body models did not include Coronet, as that name wasn’t in use by Dodge in 1962.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the clarification.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Yep, it’s an F/M/J. The most interesting part about them to me was that in Chrysler fashion, they still used torsion bar front springs, but in these they were mounted transversely instead of longitudinally as was the norm.

      • 0 avatar

        According the Allpar, the transverse torsion bars were taken from the Volare.

        I don’t know how true this is, but I was once told that the primary reason why Chrysler used torsion bars instead of coil springs is that they were easier and cheaper to install at the factory since they allegedly didn’t have to be compressed prior to installation.

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          My first car, a 1974 Fury II, had the torsion bar front suspension, as did the two Volare’s our family owned and I guess Dad’s Dodge truck.

          But I don’t remember any of them behaving on bumps like my wife’s 2006 Durango. A series of small bumps like a grate will send it skirting about like it is “tap dancing”. Awhile back, I cut the inside apex of a curving exit ramp too close and rolled over a drainage grate; it felt it was going to go dancing into the wall. I don’t know if all Durangos do that; or if there is something up with hers. But it can be very un-nerving.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “According the Allpar, the transverse torsion bars were taken from the Volare.”

          Yep, the M and J share a lot with the F Volare/Aspen cars. I suppose that’s a reasonable explanation for the extensive use of torsion bars. Just pop them in, then a guy down the line tightens up a bolt to set ride height and spring tension.

          • 0 avatar

            I’ve read that they changed the letter designation just to separate it from the horrible rust issues with early F body cars.

            -M body owner

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Wouldn’t surprise me, all three look really similar underneath.

            -Former Mopar J body owner.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Old lee looks the business with his child molester stare and comb over….

  • avatar

    This car looked less appalling than its Cadillac and Lincoln counterparts. The digital dash actually made it looked state-of-the-art. I hated the generic rectangular speed odometers of the time.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I didn’t know these were fuel injected. Makes me want to buy one and drop a cross fire injection 350 in so I always have something to work on.

  • avatar
    Sideways

    I remember test-driving one of these back in late ’82 when they were new. My father had decided to purchase a new luxury car and test-drove all of the big names. BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-class, Audi, Jaguar, Cadillac, etc. We even tried Volvo and Peugeot. Dad being a Caddy guy, I figured he’d end up there…but me being a newly-minted “enthusiast”, I hoped he’d get either the BMW or the Jag. None of what we tested really pushed his buttons, though. No smiles behind the wheel, a crucial indicator that Something Was Missing. Finally the Chrysler dealer and the Imperial. He loved everything about it other than the digital dash. Plush ride, traditional American luxury features, good “pep” on the highway. He was ready to sign on the dotted line until I asked if I’d be riding in it. When he said yes, I begged him not to buy it because the back seat was a penalty box. That’s probably what sunk the nameplate in the end; this was a fantastic 2+2 but the back seat wasn’t really suitable for adults.
    He thought about it, then walked over to the New Yorker Fifth Avenue in the same lot. (The rear-drive counterpart to the Dodge Diplomat, not the gussied-up K-car of the same name.) Ugly brick of a car, not much style to my eye or to his. Then we drove it and he was hooked. Real back seat room, supremely comfortable front seats – to this day the best I’ve ever enjoyed over a long haul. He didn’t get to enjoy it for long but it stayed in the family for years after he passed away and I drove it often. Sometimes wished he’d bought the Imperial for himself because I never ended up riding in the back seat while he lived, but Chrysler still made him a very happy man with that New Yorker. I’m sure he smiled often behind the wheel.
    Every once in awhile I find myself looking for an ’83 New Yorker or Imperial on eBay. Miss the man and now that I’m middle-aged it would be nice to have a car that reminds me of his smile.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    “Though based on the Cordoba, the Imperial was not a case of badge engineering, having its own sheet metal…” Except for the front fenders and doors.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Good golly that is an ug… the body styling is an acquired taste.

  • avatar
    Timtoolman

    The best version of the Imperial was the ’75. Those plush seats were the envy of anyone. I believe it won Motor Trend’s King’s Ransom Road Test that year.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice piece, Ronnie.

    FUN FACT: Nixon actually had a K-car limo.

    http://forum.chryslerkcar.com/viewtopic.php?f=42&t=5156

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    This isn’t a common color to see these in. Lots of white and red for these, with the FS blue ones as one’s people “saved” through the years. That being said, it’s had a bad repaint or a replacement on the front clip. Something isn’t right.

    Never had any idea these were the -most- expensive American vehicle at the time. Seems laughable they’d price it over a much more prestigious sedan or coupe from Lincoln.

    I also always thought the rear license plate was in the wrong location. It should have been integrated into the bumper – or SOMETHING besides mounting it way up high there. Spoiled the whole look of the car. These certainly look better with the standard M-body hubcaps than the turbine type wheels they had on them. The sportyness of those didn’t fit with the style of the car at all.

    The lack of badging as a Chrysler might have been a mistake as well. The Imperial as its own badge was long gone by then, and it was hard to tell what this thing was.

    And finally – I was thinking there are cloth versions, leather versions, and Mark Cross cloth and leather versions? I believe I’ve seen some without Mark Cross badging (b-pillar, seats, center arm rest).

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    In fairness to Chrysler, they were also producing the Omni/Horizon twins in the late 70s, which were an excellent answer to the import threat.

    So I’d argue that this Imperial’s creation wasn’t a move ignorant of other market forces (gas prices), but rather an attempt to not cede ground in the luxury market.

    Today, Chrysler has people beating the doors down for Hellcats in a world where gas costs the same as it did then (adjusted for inflation):
    http://www.randomuseless.info/gasprice/gasprice.html.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Much prefer the looks of the same year Eldorado’s. Too bad they were HT 4100’s from 1982 on.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    I love how the enormous rear overhang is instinctively used as a place to store drinks.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    One thing that was useful about the 5-mph bumpers on mid-Seventies cars — they were an excellent storage shelf for impromptu family picnics.

    That was a great feature of our 1975 Buick LeSabre. In fact, it’s the only good one I can remember.

  • avatar

    It taks a special love for that model to enter it in a car show and park it beside a vintage sedan and a street rod.

  • avatar

    This is the first time I have seen one of these. It´s shockingly bad. Generally, I assess a car by the standards of its peers. I am not criticising it because it´s so dated. The equivalent Cadillacs and Lincolns did a much better job of looking pricey and substantial and have a similar period vibe. My dislike is because this vehicle seems to be made of the same cheap material as car costing a quarter of the price only there is more of it from front to back. I can see why Chrysler has struggled. I wouldn´t mind being seen in a Cadillac Fleetwood from the same year. It´s big and American but dignified in its own way. Lincoln´s Town Car and Continentals come second – they seem too much like over-chromed Fords and appear generic . Then there´s this beast, a car that seems to channel Liberace´s incredible lack of taste. No, this is a even I who cherishes quite awful vehicles, could be bothered about. I am glad someone does though. No harm done and it reminds us of the dangers of excess.

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