By on July 3, 2018

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.


Image: 1955 Imperial Coupe

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.

1981 Chrysler Imperial, Image:

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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49 Comments on “QOTD: Model Gone Missing?...”

  • avatar

    Lincoln Mark VII/VIII/*Insert roman numerals here* (just make it a PLC)

    Chevrolet Monte Carlo (FWD to differentiate from Camaro)

    Dodge Viper (Add true “compromise” models so it actually makes money, but keep the crazy top tier variants.)

    Jeep Comanche (Renegade-based mini pickup!)

    RamCharger (Two door sporty CUV)

  • avatar

    The 1958 Imperial Crown Southampton was my favorite. Big, brash, and tail fins! FCA would be hard pressed to get a foothold in the full size luxury SUV segment, is the Grand Cherokee in that group? The Imperial was up there with Caddy and Lincoln, not Jeep. The Imperial nameplate probably doesn’t mean much to people under a certain age either. Maybe they should aim for the return of the Newport or New Yorker.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a ’65 Imperial convertible sitting outside the shop I run that was used in LBJ’s inauguration parade. Nobody knows what it is. Most think it is a Cadillac. Even its owner calls it a Chrysler. He wants me to restore it. Doing a decent job would be deep into six figures. Maybe it could turn out as nice as this car, which was a no-sale after being bid to $14K on Bring a Trailer. Acura Integras command more.

      • 0 avatar

        The Mad Men car sold for less than $24K, and most say it got a bump from being on the show.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a great diecast model of a ’61 Crown convertible in my collection, sandwiched between a ’61 Continental convertible and a ’63 Chrysler Turbine.

      Still, my favorite Imperial has gotta be this ’64:×715+0+56/resize/800×450!/format/jpg/quality/85/

      Red with white leather. Lord have mercy. Besides, any car cool enough to be driven by Don Draper works for me.

    • 0 avatar

      New Yorker would do well for a fully-loaded trim level of the 300 (300 New Yorker).

  • avatar

    I actually just saw an ’81-’83 gen Imperial near 38th st in Indy yesterday (that area carries a certain connotation to locals), in excellent original condition. I know it’s archetypal malaise era junk in most peoples’ minds, but they have really grown on me, I think they have some very strong distinctive lines to them.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Just this weekend saw a Sinatra Imperial. May even have been the special edition as it was the light blue with what appeared to be a blue interior, both colours meant to match The Chairman of the Boards eyes.

    And wasn’t Imperial a totally separate marque/name plate for a number of decades. Perched higher in the corporate hierarchy than Chryslers.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    How about lifted 4-door Dune Beetle, on VW’s MEB platform with electric RWD?

  • avatar

    How about a new International Harvester Travelall that is actually a two-seat, rear-wheel-drive convertible with a naturally aspirated inline six cylinder engine and a manual transmission? Now that Jaguar makes Travelalls, it would be neat if someone went back to making the cars that Jaguar did best. Or how about making a car that’s fun to drive, tasteful, and high quality and then calling it a BMW? That would be awesomely retro!

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Chevy can keep that new Blazer thing, let GMC bring back the Jimmy as a BOF SUV based on the Colorado/Canyon.

  • avatar

    Where to begin…
    Flying Cloud
    Gentleman Jim
    Road Runner
    Twin Six

  • avatar

    Bring back
    Hudson Hornet
    For no good reason. I just like the names

  • avatar

    Well, for me, nothing, if it couldn’t remain similar to the original body style. These days, it seems like any new release of a model is just another CUV.

    The nameplates of the cars I’d want resurrected just don’t belong on another CVT-laden blob of a CUV.

    On the other hand, if Chrysler got a hold of the Model S (or Tesla as a whole, in its infancy) and made a few modifications, including the complete removal of the electric drivetrain in favor of RWD with a 3.6, changing the hatch to a trunk and a implementing a more conventional interior without the giant tablet in the dash, they’d have a modern-day LH and it would finally get the RWD it never had. I’d be okay with that and I’d be first in line to buy it.

  • avatar

    The body style is almost demanded by the style of the vehicle originally carrying that name. The Mustang II actually did evoke the look of the original ‘64.5 model, as did the 2005 Mustang, coming off that so-not-a-Mustang fox body. The Camaro has managed to regain its earlier generations after the 80’s and 90’s versions that just didn’t fit the name. The Aspen shared the same basic body plan as the Dart before it but at least the body was enough different that the name change made sense. The newer Aspen? No connection at all to the older version, which I am pretty sure is why it died.

    So what name deserves a new body? How about putting the Impala back onto a proper full-sized car. The Caprice was an upper trim package on the Impala body during its last years but at least you knew the Impala was an Impala, not some mid-sized “import” carrying the Impala name. Barracuda needs to return… as a Barracuda, not a sedan. Bronco needs to return as a Bronco, not a generic-looking CUV.

    Cars names were what made those cars what they were; they were an identity. Now?…

  • avatar

    Model names are just a marketing technique, attaching virtue signalling symbology to industrial transportation products, which is then reinforced by conditioning in the form of advertising. To take it as seriously as does this article seems rather, um, shallow.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right, but it is effective conditioning and marketing.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, everyone who feels any emotional connection to a car is just a Neanderthal.

      Talk about virtue signalling, if you made one post without an “I’m better than all of you” attitude, I believe the world would fall off its axis.

    • 0 avatar

      I find it interesting that your name is “brandloyalty”, and then your response is related to model names just being marketing techniques.

      Yes. yes it is marketing. So are brand names, product names, etc.

      Why do people buy “pepsi” instead of “smiths cola”? well because they know they like Pepsi, and they’ve never tried smiths cola. I found “Big K diet Cola” to actually be the best diet cola… but most people seem to choose Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi.

      Too bad.

      You need to take it seriously, because that is how people make decisions. 99% of people when going to the grocery store to buy diet cola, are going to choose coke or pepsi or whatever is cheapest. Very few if any are going to go to the store, buy one of every cola that is there, taste test them all, create an objective opinion, and then purchase the one they like the most. Does that mean most people are crazy? maybe maybe not, who cares- but lets be objective. if that is how people behave, then well… lets accept that as how people behave instead of whining about it.

      As my marketing professor used to always say, “It doesn’t matter what it is… it only matters what people think it is”. I always loved that. If I invented “BrandLoyalty soda” and it is the BEST SODA IN THE WORLD, but no one knew it, and everyone thought coke and Pepsi were the best sodas in the world, as frustrating as it is, Coke and Pepsi would outsell me 1000000 to 1.

      It is a shame that there are so many GREAT products in the world that due to a lack of marketing prowess, flop and go out of business. Its also a shame that there are so many AWFUL products in the world that due to great marketing prowess are super successful. Seriously, Starbucks coffee is not a good value for the dollar..

      But this is the world we live in, and it might not be the ideal world for you , but it is the world we live in. Its not shallow to accept and analyze the world in which we live…

      Plus this article is just having some fun, so join in!

    • 0 avatar

      The subtle and not so subtle change in responses from general commentary about the car business, to personal criticism, is a violation of the site’s posting requirements. Time for the moderators to show whether they are serious about protecting worthy discussion.

      • 0 avatar

        You mean protecting your ability to look down your nose at the rest of us without any retort.

        You want the moderators to silence those who refuse to bow to your greatness? Good luck with that.

        • 0 avatar

          “Model names are just a marketing technique, attaching virtue signalling symbology to industrial transportation products, which is then reinforced by conditioning in the form of advertising. To take it as seriously as does this article seems rather, um, shallow.”

          No surprise that you took this as a personal slight. Anyone compelled to prolifically post virtue signalling comments that amount to “look at me”, as you do, must have a very fragile ego indeed.

  • avatar

    I’m partial to the Fury, perhaps the BelAir as well.

    Bring back two-tones.

    • 0 avatar

      Why stop at two? My aunt had a Ford with black sides, aqua hood and trunklid, and a white roof. It was in the 1950s, of course. She never waxed the enamel paint – she washed it with Spic’n’Span and hosed it off. She wanted dark green, light green, and white, but the dealer wouldn’t order it.

    • 0 avatar

      The Plymouth Fury was one of my favorite police cars. 440 c.i. with a four barrel and a bench seat that could hold a large box of donuts. They could really set up a roadblock back then too.

  • avatar

    Since sedans are dying a slow painful death, I see two different paths.

    Rename all the sedans after historical names for one last go around… Instead of Impala LS/LT/Premiere etc we get Biscayne, BelAir, Impala. Give us a limited edition Taurus Galaxie and rename the Flex as Country Squire.

    OR conversely, get rid of all these pickup truck trim names and replace with old sedan names as the trim packages – F150 becomes Ford Custom/500/Galaxie/LTD.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the former is more likely to happen. I can see car names applied to CUV/SUV models – they’re all glorified wagons anyway.

      Even the Navy does that: all the WW2 Essex class carrier names are now being put on LHDs and LHAs, which are the same size as the original Essex straight-deck carriers!

      The new supercarriers are now named after presidents, except for Enterprise, the next carrier now under construction to replace the old Enterprise, thanks to Star Trek fans.

      That makes you wonder: where are the Country Squire/Vistacruiser/Nomad fans when you need them?

      • 0 avatar

        NOT, “thanks to Star Trek fans.” Enterprise is a classic name in the Navy and once a ship distinguishes itself in combat, the name is kept alive in perpetuity. Enterprise has carried now through at least two carriers and several, older and even wooden ships. Not all were the largest or the most noted of their class but the name has served the Navy since 1775.

  • avatar

    I want the trailblazer back based on an off road zr2 colorado( not the international model). Price it below a 4runner (where the old pathfiner/xterra used to exsist) and give it an updated 4.2 I6. They can take my money.

  • avatar

    Chevy Cheyenne as a sporty, 5.3L equipped version of the Colorado. No 4wd, think of it as a midsize version of a Ford Lightning-type concept. Later versions with bigger V-8s. Possible on-road biased AWD. No off-road pretensions. Yep, still a truck like the old Cheyenne, but nothing like it otherwise.

    Chrysler Voyager as a 5 seat midsize crossover, based on Cherokee.

    Chrysler Grand Voyager as a 7 seat version. Based on the Chineese Jeep Grand Commander.

    Ford Courier as a pickup version of Transit Connect. Yes, technically still a truck like the old Courier, but FWD-based. Slots below Ranger. Vulpine gets one as a demonstrator, that he gets to keep of course.

    Aside from the two trucks listed, there are many names I’d like to see back as new versions of what they were, like Honda Prelude based off Accord platform, Ford Aerostar based off the Transit Custom not sold here (splits the difference between Transit Connect and the full size Transit in size), Ford Fairlane as a RWD replacement for Taurus that is based off the CD6 platform, Explorer Sport Trac as a unibody truck based off the next-gen Explorer, and so on.

    • 0 avatar

      I think Porsche killed the chance of a Cheyenne. I know, cayenne and cheyenne are very different, but no way in hack a “big v8, on -road biased awd”. your looking at serious trademark implications.

  • avatar

    3000GT – This name alone could revive mitsubishi.

    Dodge Stealth- SERIOUSLY, is there any better name plate for an electric car than “stealth”?

    Dino – Need more be said?

    IROC-Z – It may have been just a trim, but no one believes it.

    ISETTA – As long as it didn’t stray too far from the original! It could be a great Smart Car competitor… AND while americans laugh at the smart car, its fairly successful internationally.

    Gremlin – It was an awful car, but there is NO WORST CAR IN THE WORLD that somehow makes people smile. Chrysler’s dodge brand really does have awful cars that people seem to love, so it would be very fitting for the brand.

    • 0 avatar

      You’ve been reading too many top 10 worst car lists…. Gremlin was a fine car and served both AMC and it’s customers quite well.

      • 0 avatar

        People just hate the Gremlins because they walked all over BMW 2002s, Alfa GTVs and Datsun 510s in IMSA RS racing. OTOH, they were pretty much little cars made out of big cars by simply squeezing out all the space and leaving behind most of the mass, sort of like 1-series BMWs.

  • avatar

    Time to bring back the Rambler name on a small economy car. Last used in the U.S. almost 50 years ago, at this point nobody under the age of 60 or so remembers the marque’s reputation as a cheap ride for skinflints and spinsters. (If they even know the name at all.)

  • avatar
    R Henry


    The world needs more Pintos.

  • avatar

    This is easy

    Sedan DeVille

    American luxury deserves names not alpha numeric gobbledygook.

  • avatar

    Datsun 510

    • 0 avatar

      Datsun is alive in other countries, but the closest thing we had to a new 510 was the IDx concept. And, Nissan would rather build more FWD/CVT crossovers instead. That is what sells, but its diluting their brand more than they realize.

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