By on August 3, 2018

It started off casually enough, in the luxury Slack chat environment of TTAC just a day or so ago. Amidst a conversation about large Chryslers of the early ’70s, TTAC’s Steph Willems declared he wasn’t sure which fuselage-design Chrysler product he’d choose to take home.

Let’s see if we can’t venture some opinions on this topic.

Chrysler’s C-body resided under a multitude of vehicles with Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, and Imperial badges on their exteriors. A flexible platform, wheelbases varied from a svelte 119 inches up to a long 127 inches. We’ll start with the smallest and work our way upward, though the Polara you see up there is not an option. Oh, and ’71 was the last year before emissions regulations started their stranglehold — you’re welcome.

Plymouth Fury III

Riding on the 120-inch version of the platform, the Fury model was the most flexible of our tri0 with regard to options and engines, even carrying a Slant-6 at one point. The fifth-generation Fury debuted for 1969, becoming more rounded with each passing year. Our selection today is a Fury III in four-door hardtop format. We’ve opted for all the newest luxury items, including stereo with cassette recorder, and integrated headlamp washers. The 320 horsepower, 440 cubic inch V8 is present as well.

Dodge Monaco

Stepping up to a 122-inch wheelbase model, the Dodge Monaco name was a bit younger than the Fury. In its second generation for 1969, the model was significantly revised for 1970, and revised again to a lesser extent for ’71, featuring a new grille and rear lighting treatments. Today’s Monaco option is a two-door hardtop with bucket seats, and the same stereo setup as in the Fury. Dog not included, but the 440 is (smaller V8s were available).

Imperial LeBaron

Grandest of the grand, the 127-inch wheelbase supported the Imperial LeBaron. Officially still a separate marque through 1975, the Imperial was in its fourth generation for 1969. Minor cosmetic alterations (read: less trim) in 1970 led the way for some rebranding in 1971. The Imperial Eagle at the front was replaced by block lettering, and the rear end hinted at what was to come, reading “IMPERIAL by Chrysler.” Sporty bucket seats have no place in Imperial, but a bench works nicely. A first for production cars, ABS was available this year — an option we’ve selected. Such a car as Imperial could only do with the 440 V8, so there were no other engine choices.

Small, bigger, biggest, and 7.2 liters of V8. Which one goes home with the buy?

[Images: Chrysler]

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69 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: A Chrysler Fuselage Trio From 1971...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Drive: The Fury, just like a great many police forces did throughout the early to mid ’70s. Furys of this era could be easily distinguished by their ‘running lights’ which were uniquely situated.
    Buy: The Imperial. Even if for only for that magnificent model name. But imagine taking one of these beauties in mint condition out for a drive today. It would surely draw a crowd.
    Burn: Reluctantly and only because it is required by the rules, the Dodge. I believe that Monacos of this era had ‘hide away’ headlights (sorry too busy to check, so I might be corrected). The Kitchener-Waterloo P.D. was widely derided for buying some of these rather than the more prosaic Fury.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      This is from memory but I’m pretty sure of myself:
      Headlamp doors (standard on all Imperials 1969-75) were also standard on the following full-size fuselage cars, and not available optionally on other models:
      Chrysler 300: 1968-71 (final year of model)
      Dodge Monaco: 1972-73
      Plymouth Sport Fury: 1970-71 (final year of model)
      Plymouth Gran Fury: 1970-72

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        Sorry, I know 1968 wasn’t a fuselage year (but the ’68 Chrysler 300 front end still looked pretty cool – amazing that they went to the expense of a whole different front end, including bumper).

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Worth a viewing and a reading of the description: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7TuTqr-dgI.

      And demonstrating the automatic headlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3W8IsQN7AM

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I love them all – qualifier I want full instrumentation on each one, back in the 60s/70s Chrysler generally did that better than most.

    Buy Imperial – you won’t see one in every country club parking lot.

    Drive Fury III – 4 doors makes family life easier.

    Burn Dodge Monaco – stylistically it was a sad attempt at a Buick clone.

    • 0 avatar

      I think Dan hit the nail on the head. But I would actually prefer a Sport Fury

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      I would have to reluctantly agree with PrincipalDan. Stylistically I like the Monaco “loop bumper” front end better than the Fury III, but for a daily driver the 4-door is a better choice.

      Wishing that the Fury was a Sport Fury 2-door hardtop instead, or the Monaco was a 4-door hardtop instead. That would alter my choices.

      For the driver choice, I would also request front disc brakes, which were still optional on most C-bodies in 1971 (standard on the Imperial).

    • 0 avatar
      Blackcloud_9

      Total agreement with Dan.
      I love the straight edge styling of these cars, especially the Imperial.
      If I had spare dollars (and spare room in a garage somewhere) I’d hang out at the Mecum Auctions for an Imperial of this vintage to roll across block.

      Although I think this B/D/B is a bit unfair. Who wouldn’t go for the biggest and the best of the trio.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Pass.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Of course we could ask Jake and Elwood. “It’s got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant. It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas.”

    I know, it was a 74 and did not have hideaway headlights.

    • 0 avatar
      StudeDude

      The 1972 refreshed Monaco had hidden headlights. The Blues Brothers had a Polara.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        Not so; they did have a 1974 Dodge Monaco. Both the Fury and Monaco were refreshed again in 1974; my first car was a 1974 Plymouth Fury III with a 360 V-8.

        About ten years ago, I saw a 1974 Fury; the first one I have seen in decades. After remaking to my sons that my first car looked like that, I thought “how can he afford to buy gas for that thing”; mine could only break 10 MPG by being dropped off a cliff.

        Instead of the Imperial, I would have picked the Chrysler 300. A neighbor down the street had a 1970 Hurst 300 in the Spinnaker White trimmed in Satin Tan with leather interior; it was far better looking than the Imperial. It was a carport queen; but I thought it was an awesome looking fuselage Chrysler.

        Other than that; while I had some good times in my Fury, it was hard to see out of — most fuselage body Chryslers had dents along the rocker panels from minor parking accidents. It got poor mileage. It was huge; my Dad taught me to drive in my Fury; and the experience was so bad, he sent my younger sister to driving school instead. It ate ballast resistors. And launched into the midst of the Arab Oil Embargo; it was a disaster for Chrysler.

        The Volare/Aspen that replaced it was smaller; but not any better. The K-Cars we had on the other hand were a revelation by comparison; they had as much interior space; just no huge trunks. I might daily drive a K-Car; but I would not want to drive a fuselage Chrysler except to a neighborhood car show.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    In hierarchic order:

    Imperial>Monaco>Fury

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Somewhere at the bottom of a cardboard box, among other cardboard boxes full of stuff and in storage, I have original factory shop manuals for 1975 Chryslers (thick book for mechanical stuff and thin book for body work). Those Imperials were marvels from a different era…

  • avatar
    ajla

    Mopar published both gross and net engine outputs in ’71. On the 8.8:1 compression version of the 440 it looks like they were all rated 335/460 gross, but net the Dodge was 220/350, Plymouth 250/350, and Imperial 290/???. Not sure if there was any actual difference or just some nuance in how net ratings were calculated.

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    Buy: Imperial
    Drive: Monaco
    Burn: Fury

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    Buy the Monaco and customize it into a station wagon because who would ever be that insane.

    Drive the Fury and long for the station wagon that 6 of us drove from Tucson to LA and back in 1973.

    Burn the Imperial. Add a pad of margarine to help fuel the fire.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      One could buy a 1971 Monaco wagon, just not one based on a 2-door hardtop. If customizing the cars to make them whatever we want is allowed in the rules of this game, I’m changing my answer….

      • 0 avatar
        MartyToo

        I was trying to make a wisecrack about the Dodge Magnum of the new millennium. The Magnum was one of the most weirdly positioned vehicles that I can remember. Just how many of those monsters did Chrysler think they would sell. How many years could it survive? How did its proponents sell it to the bean counters?

        • 0 avatar
          BigOldChryslers

          Oh, well sorry I didn’t get the joke since there really was a 1971 Monaco wagon… and it wasn’t insane at the time because wagons were pretty popular before minivans came along.

          I can’t be bothered to lookup the dimensions, but I’d guess the LX-body Magnum wagon would actually be closer in dimensions to the smaller 1971 Coronet wagon.

          Of all the LX-body Mopars, the one that I’d be most likely to buy would be the Magnum. I was disappointed when they discontinued it instead of refreshing it like the other LX cars.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Buy Imperial/Drive Monaco and Fury/Store marches in a dry place for the next installment. Stock up on ballast resistors.

  • avatar
    Funky

    Having both driven and had many rides in a Dodge Polara, I have no comment. Although, to this day I can still smell the odd vinyl-like interior and exhaust, and I can still hear the broken horn beep slightly when hitting bumps when the vehicle was driven on rough roads. And, of course, I remember the 4-80 air conditioning. But, I don’t recall anything particularly redeeming about this type of vehicle besides, possibly, longevity.

    • 0 avatar
      Funky

      Also, I recall, this type of vehicle was banned from the local demolition derby. The reason was that this type of vehicle always won due to its absurdly solid body, and having one was considered to be an unfair advantage.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No these were not banned from demo derbies. That was the 60’s Imperial, the only car to be banned.

        • 0 avatar
          Funky

          Scoutdude; It was a long time ago. My memory might have been tainted. I now feel bad though because I’ve been passing along the “been banned from demolition derby” story for many years (decades) and I’ve had it wrong for all this time. I’ll no longer tell the story (since I had it wrong all this time). For sure, though, my memory of that Dodge isn’t tainted. It’s not the sort of thing one forgets once it’s been a part of one’s life (that car was around for a long time).

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            The 318 had a good reputation in demolition derby lore for being slow to overheat, even after blowing their coolant out a smashed radiator. So there’s that too.

            Dunno if it is true or just hearsay.

          • 0 avatar
            Sub-600

            Early Olds Toronados were popular demo derby cars, put ‘em in reverse and go to town.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          +1 to Scoutdude. Surprisingly to all of us who think of land yachts as synonymous with BOF construction, most post-1960 (or thereabouts) Mopars are unibody. The notable exceptions were the ’57-’66 Imperials, which had a unique D platform. Apparently these are incredibly robust and were the cars that were banned from demolition derbies.

          Not that you can’t have a flimsy BOF vehicle or a strong unibody vehicle, but apparently the Imperial frame was very stout.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Those trunks could comfortably hold two mob informants.

  • avatar
    ernest

    Quick story- back when my brother-in-law was finishing out his Masters @ BYU, they used to drive back to Portland from Salt Lake City once or twice a month. They’d usually leave on a Thursday evening, after dinner. Reason- they had a ’72 Chrysler Imperial that BIL bought on the cheap. He’d hit the road, and it wasn’t long after before the wife and two kids would be sound asleep. Then he’d crack the whip, and that Chrysler would flat fly. They always make it to Pendleton for breakfast. For those of you that know the route, you’d have to average 85ish to make it. Nothing could match those big old Chryslers for comfy long distance rapid transit.

    Sooo… Buy the Imperial. Drive the Fury- same package in a handier take-home size. Forget the Monaco- too aesthetically challenged.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Sorry, I don’t have the heart to burn any of them, so I’ll pass!

    (Addendum: if I had the choice of taking a ’71 300 convertible, I’d burn all three of those in a heartbeat.)

  • avatar
    someoldfool

    Burn, why? Having had a 71 Charge Dodger (did more dodging than charging) bought new I can attest that the sheetmetal rapidly combined with oxygen on its own. The trunk lid was rotting away after less than 3 years, I was afraid to check the rockers. Traded it in 74.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      My brother bought a pristine 1971 Charger in 1975 or 76? True sad story: the original owner had shipped off to Viet Nam, never came back. The kid’s parents were selling the car, but my brother did get a hell of a deal. By 1978, here in the rust belt, the thing was a rolling tetanus hazard.

      What a shame.

  • avatar
    ernest

    No love for old Mopars?

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    My favorite is not mentioned, presumably left out because of the set of three paradigm that the title demands, is the standard non-Imperial Chrysler. They very much are timeless, clean understated beauties.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Hahahahaha! No need to buy, drive or burn any of them, they mostly all self-destructed

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Actually they lasted much longer than Fords of that generation, at least in the snowbelt. Ford lost a very large class action lawsuit in Canada for premature rusting of their vehicles manufactured in the early/mid 1970’s.

      And the transmission that Chrysler used with their large block V8’s was also the favoured transmission for Aston-Martin. According to what an A-M senior engineer told us in a pub after our tour of the Newport-Pagnell factory, they had ‘scavengers/scouts’ purchase these, re-manufactured/re-built them and used them in a number of their vehicles during the 1980’s and quite probably right through until the early 1990’s.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I have a soft spot for fuselage era 69-73 Mopar since my grandfather and lifelong Mopar owner had a brown 72 Fury III. An uncle of mine had a nice 69 Fury III coupe in a darker emerald green.
    Like full sized Fords of the era I could never understand why the radio was on the left side of the instrument cluster. To keep us young whippersnappers from changing the station?

    Buy: Fury-The sport coupe is the one to buy but the Gran Coupe that was the two door hardtop with the flower pattern vinyl top and hidden headlights was their LTD or Caprice.

    Drive: Imperial-Nice plush ride a cut above the too barge like 71-76 Cadillac.

    Burn: Monaco-very derivative. For a Dodge it should be sportier.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    burning any of these should be punishable by death. Look at these boats!

  • avatar

    Had a 67 Fury II Coupe with 383 Commando V8. Six foot bench seats front and rear. Dual exhaust. Was very sad the day the girlfriend came back upstairs and said “where’d you say you parked the car ?”. Should have taken all the emblems off…oh well. The ultimate road hugging weight and in an age of unlimited gas, perfect…. Was fun to burn all the malaise “fast cars” at stoplights. It was someone’s “last car” and he circled the entire option sheet save the 440.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Was the Dodge Polara the 4dr version of the Monaco? My Grandparents had one, I can just barely remember it – turd brown on gold vinyl. I THINK the Polara is the car they traded in on their first Subaru, an ’80 DL hatchback when the “new” Subarus came out in mid-’79. One heck of a change there!

    As far as buy/burn/drive, I guess I would buy the Dodge for nostalgia, drive the super-luxo Imperial, and burn the Plymouth. Of course, I have no interest in any of these malaise-boats.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    I grew up in Chrysler products from the 60’s to 70’s. I’d burn all of them. Poorly assembled crap is all they were.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Time-warp B/D/B suggestions:

    1971 GM A-bodies: Olds 4-4-2 W30, Chevelle SS, Buick GS 455 Stage whatever-is-most-powerful.

    Ace Of Base 1979 A-bodies: Olds Cutlass Salon Coupe, Chevy Malibu Coupe, Buick Century Coupe (which was also an Aeroback like the Olds, and might have had the turbocharged 3.8 V6 as an option).

    G-body swan song: 1987 Olds Cutlass Classic whatever-the-sportiest-coupe-was, Buick GNX, Chevy Monte Carlo SS (or were only the Olds and Bruick around for ‘87?)

    1980 C-bodies: Olds 98, Buick Electra, Caddy Sedan DeVille.

    1974 Ford PLCs: LTD/Mercury Cougar/Lincoln Mark IV.

    1979 Ford big coupes: LTD/Mercury Marquis/Lincoln Mark V

    1981 Mopar Coupes: Chrysler Córdoba/Dodge Mirada/Chrysler Imperial.

    Last Big GM PLCs: 1985 Olds Toronado/Buick Riviera/Caddy Eldorado. (Or has this been done?)

    Mopar M-bodies: Plymouth Gran Fury/Dodge Diplomat/Chrysler Fifth Avenue (pick the closest year to end-of-production where all three cars were available to the general public).

    Malaise-Era Fords: Granada/Mercury Monarch/Lincoln Versailles (preferably during a year when all three shared the same wheelbase).

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Some very good suggestions. I have some too, but it would just elicit mostly “burn em all” answers.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I was trying to figure out how to do G-body PLCs from, say, 1982: Cutlass Supreme, Monte, GP, Regal. But which one would you leave out? (Same with 1980 B-bodies: which of the four do you omit? I’d tend toward the Pontiac or Buick.)

        • 0 avatar
          MartyToo

          I normally think of the Buick, Olda as different from the Chevy and Pontiac offering. One could easily make a buy, drive burn for Chevy, Pontiac and Beaumont….
          But many here would have to figure out what the hell a Beaumont actually was. It is like Mad Magazine’s Cheviac.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            The Parisienne was a Canadian Pontiac, I know, though I don’t know if it was a rebadged Bonneville (in the States) before 1982. IIRC, when the Bonneville replaced the LeMans sedan on the G-body platform that year, they simply made a “Cheviac” Parisienne for the States by grafting a Pontiac front and rear clip onto a Chevy Capriice. Instant full-size! Put the Pontiac three-spoke steering wheel inside, add a gauge package to the Caprice IP. Donezo!

            Going further back, wasn’t the US Pontiac Grand Ville the Laurentien (sp?) in Canada? (Early ‘70s?)

          • 0 avatar
            MartyToo

            September 1965 Mad Magazine:

            “A Cheviac for GM for 1967?

            General Motors officials reportedly have found a small hole in their present price line which may be filled in ’67 with the introduction of a new car to plug the gap between the Chevrolet Impala (top price $2,980.50) and the standard Pontiac (base price $2,983.75) With Corvair, Chevelle and Chevy II already overlapping nicely to the complete bewilderment of the public, the new line, tentatively labeled Cheviac, appears a natural for the shopping motorist with $2,982.12 1/2 to spend.”

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Sgeffe: Canadian Pontiacs were considerably different from those in the USA. The Pontiac in Canada was a lower priced vehicle and sold extremely well, sometimes outselling Chev.

            Canadian Pontiacs had Pontiac bodies on Chev chassis with Chev engines/drivelines.

            The fullsize Pontiac models in Canada, in descending order were the Parisienne, the Laurentian, and the Strato Chief.

            Later the Parisienne became an ‘entry luxury’ model and for a few years in the 1980’s was available in the USA.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the suggestions! I will add these to my big list of idears.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      The LTD was somewhat different from the Cougar and Mark, and was not generally considered to be a PLC. The Ford PLC would be either the T-Bird on the Gran Torino Elite.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I guess I was going by size, as I remember seeing a couple of ‘73-‘74 LTD coupes with opera windows, and which looked just like the Mark IV in side-profile. I thought that the Cougar was the equivalent. From your stories of family travels in Mark IVs, I thought that might pique your interest.

        But you’re exactly right about the longer T-Bird from that time. (I was trying to come up with the down level Mark V equivalents, and by then, the T-Bird and Cougar were on the intermediate chassis formerly the Torino (and Elite), but couldn’t recall exactly.)

        Was the dashboard and IP identical in the Marks IV and V? It seems like Ford had enough commonality to be able to pull that off back then. (Most obvious was the Fox Mustang and Fairmont with the same dashes, but seeing the Fox T-Bird dash (‘80-‘81) in the LTD/Marquis a few years later was more cognitive dissonance!)

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Buy the Imperial, drive the Dodge, burn the Plymouth, the least attractive of all three.

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