QOTD: Model Gone Missing?
As we told you yesterday, Volkswagen’s kiboshed plan for a next-generation Beetle isn’t as final as initially thought. Seems there’s still some people — CEO Herbert Diess most of all — who wish to see the model return, if for nothing else than “emotional” appeal. If it does, it won’t appear with gasoline propulsion and two side doors.
To return, first the model needs to die. Which, in the United States, anyway, is something the Beetle has done before. Many other nameplates have met an untimely, or perhaps very timely end. No longer right for their day and age, automakers lost interest and left some to wither on the vine; others met a quick death out of financial necessity.
The Beetle’s not alone in having many lives. Other nameplates disappeared, only to return again on a vastly different vehicle. Think of the Aspen. Pacifica. Eclipse (Cross!). Blazer. Which nameplate do you feel deserves a second (or third, or fourth) chance at life, just not in its original bodystyle?
There’s plenty of names to choose from, each carrying its own unique heritage and appeal. I’ll tell you my choice — it’s perhaps the most recycled model name in history.
Depending on your age or area of interest, the name Imperial conjures up a slew of vehicles spanning 80 years. There’s no doubt it has legs. Bowing on the successful high-end-but-not-unattainable luxury car launched in 1926, the Imperial name graced coupes and sedans for an uninterrupted half century. It became its own marque from the mid-1950s to mid-1970s — a not entirely successful gambit that continued with the short-lived 1981-1983 personal luxury coupe so beloved by Frank Sinatra.
The Imperial name returned to the Chrysler fold from 1990 to 1993, affixed to the last of the landau era big sedans. Proving you could stretch the K-car platform to near infinity, this front-drive Imperial offered an alternative to Lincoln’s Continental and Cadillac’s deVille — familiar territory, as the Imperial was always mean as an alternative to Chrysler’s established domestic luxury rivals.
DaimlerChrysler saw fit to give the name one last go-around in 2006, launching the Imperial concept at that year’s Detroit auto show. Sporting suicide doors, a hulking, Bentley-esque profile, and a face only a mother could love, the 2006 Imperial one-off hailed from a not-too-distant time when a high-end large car from a domestic manufacturer wasn’t seen as a foolish thing. Chrysler’s newly launched 300 had shown Americans wanted big, brash, rear-drive cars, and the Imperial was floated as the new pinnacle of the range. Alas, it never reached production. After that? Imperial faded from the automotive lexicon, seemingly for good.
There’s no doubt that “Imperial” has no future in the passenger car realm. Sad to say, but utility tops elegance in today’s world. So, an SUV it must be. But for a utility vehicle to prove worthy to the name, it first must be big. Grand. Regal (wait, scratch that word). My plan for the Imperial’s return involves a Chrysler version of the upcoming Jeep Wagoneer or Grand Wagoneer — a full-size, body-on-frame SUV riding atop the Ram 1500 platform.
Jeep might not like the idea of a Ram-based Imperial muscling in on its turf, but this is my fantasy, not theirs. The new Imperial would give the shrunken and stagnant Chrysler brand something big and flashy to show off. Something to aspire to for fans of large American opulence. Like the Wagoneers, it would go head-to-head with the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, and GMC Yukon Denali.
Imperial was always meant to be a dignified resident of the domestic top tier. Now that the market’s moved from sedans to SUVs, it only seems fitting that the name reappear on a BOF vehicle with three rows and a liftgate.
What old name/new bodystyle combo do you have in mind?
[Images: Murilee Martin, Corey Lewis]
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