By on January 3, 2022

We return once more to Imperial today and find ourselves in 1967. The earlier portion of the Sixties was a turbulent time for Imperial, as the D-body soldiered on from 1957 through 1966 model years as the Imperial marque’s second-generation car. In 1967, Imperial’s lead designer Elwood Engel managed Imperial’s transition to a new shared platform. Say hello to C.

The flagship luxury Imperial no longer resided on its own special body-on-frame platform, as it migrated to Chrysler’s largest C-body for 1967. While the C platform was a unibody and certainly more modern than the outgoing D-body, the latter had long been known for granite-like strength and garnered Imperial its reputation as the driver’s luxury car of choice. Chrysler felt after the rest of its lineup made the switch to unibody for 1960 that it had enough engineering experience to switch Imperial over, too. The D-body was also fairly ancient by 1966, and Chrysler had introduced the modern C-body for its cars in 1965.

Imperial shared the C-body with all of Chrysler’s large cars of the period: Town & Country, Newport, 300, and New Yorker. While it was a new product direction for Imperial as a brand, it was certainly not the first time Chrysler’s flagship shared a platform with New Yorker and company. Recall that through the Forties and Fifties Imperial was essentially a trim variant of the largest Chryslers after it fell from its coach-built beginnings. The separation of the Imperial brand in 1955 was intended to put an end to sharing and similarity. Alas, money was tight, and sales no longer justified a unique platform for a single model.

Imperial’s wheelbase shrank by two inches to 127 with its swap to the C-body. Other dimensions withered too: Overall length was 224.7 inches, down from 227.8 the year prior. Width fared better, as shoulder-pad wearing occupants made do with 79.6 inches of overall width instead of 80. Overall height increased against the long and low grain of the era, from 55.8 to 56.7 inches. Imperial was still longer than any Chrysler, with its luxury-enhancing inches added out in front of the wheels. A comparable New Yorker in 1967 was just 218.2 inches long. The new platform helped reel in the Imperials heft, as the 1967 model topped out at 5,200 pounds over the D-body’s chunky 5,500. If either of those figures sounds outlandish for a passenger car, remember the current Cadillac Escalade weighs between 5,600 and 5,800 pounds.

Production moved with the new model, from Warren Avenue Assembly (Detroit) where it had been since 1963, and back to Jefferson Avenue Assembly, Imperial’s more historic production location. Imperials were also built at Belvidere Assembly in Belvidere, Illinois. It was the first time a production Imperial was built outside the Detroit metro area.

Imperial returned with four body styles, one more than in 1966. On offer were the two-door hardtop coupe and convertible, four-door hardtop, and the returning band member not seen since 1960: A most basic four-door sedan. Series nomenclature this year was CY1 (M, H) as Imperial lacked a “base” model designation once again, though there was a base Imperial without a secondary trim name attached. Mid-level trim was the Crown, and again flagship was LeBaron. Though it had a shared platform, Imperial had its own body panels and was not a badge swap of the New Yorker.

Elwood Engel continued the general Continental-like styling direction he’d established on the Imperial’s Exner-free rework in 1964. The most notable throwback was the full-width grille up front, with quad integrated headlamps that lost their housing of the prior year. Block lettering at the front returned to Imperial, now within the grille instead of atop it. The leading chrome strip along the hood and body side that was present on Imperial for years disappeared, as body chrome moved low on the door. Hard slab-sided body lines grew softer and headed toward the fuselage design that would Define Chrysler for much of the Seventies. Wheels were not as deeply inset into the body, as late Sixties cars moved away from “bathtub on piano wheels” setups. Door handles became push button and grab handle design, and were no longer flush like the prior year. Wrap-around windshields, a detail of the past, were gone, and the roof treatment was a bit thinner and more glassy. Also gone was the faux continental kit bulge at the trunk. The Imperial’s new rear end was much less rocket inspired and went for a horizontal slats look with a grille that mimicked the front. Carried over was the large imperial logo in the center of the rear, which functioned as a fuel door.

Interior styling wasn’t far removed from the year prior. The dash was still sweeping and horizontal, though now was angled away from front passengers instead of towards them. Dials and controls were all horizontal in design, with buttons and switches that were more integrated into the dash rather than on separate pods near the driver. Vents became integrated into the dash instead of mounted underneath. The steering wheel was exactly the same as in 1966.

The incredibly rare Ghia-built Imperial Limousine was no more and moved to a more practical type of construction and location. Chrysler hired the Ambruster-Stageway company to build its Imperial limousines. A name change meant the special limo was now called Imperial LeBaron Limousine; the historic Crown Imperial name was dropped. Based in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Ambruster was a company famous for making six-door limos used for airport transportation, and other very long commercial vehicles. For limousine orders, Ambruster added 36 inches to Imperial, most of which went to the car’s midsection. There was also a short extension between the rear door and wheel well. Middle row passengers faced the rear in the 1967 Limousine, unlike prior limos that used a jump seat setup. Between the rows was a sideboard for drinks. The resulting 260.7-inch car was longer than a Ghia car ever reached, and for marketing purposes was also longer than a Cadillac Series 75.

A new option to Imperial this year was Mobile Director, available only on the Imperial Crown coupe. The executive option allowed the front passenger seat to face the rear, where a table and desk lamp folded over the back seat. The general idea was an executive could work facing the rear while his driver headed toward the office. Said executive would sit in the back seat if he had a secretary with him, who could do work in the rear-facing front seat. The unusual option package cost $317.60 in 1968, or $2,558 adjusted. It was so pricy that only 81 Crown Coupes were fitted with Mobile Director, and the option was dropped after 1968.

Carried over from 1966 was the new Wedge V8, the 440 (7.2L). The big-block was paired to the same three-speed TorqueFlite A727 as before. In other engineering news, power brakes with front discs were standard. No longer standard was dual exhaust, which was only offered with the TNT engine package. TNT added 15 horsepower to the 440 via twin inlets on the air cleaner.

The new platform and redesign improved Imperial’s sales in 1967 by about 28 percent, as Chrysler sold 17,614. By 1968 Chrysler was winding down its first generation of the C-body. Aside from Imperial, its C cars had been on sale since 1965, and Chrysler was preparing to head a new styling direction. For 1968 the Imperial’s series was renamed DY1 (M, H), and little was changed from the model’s debut year. Bumpers retained their battering ram detailing, which extended into revised corner lamps that wore the grille’s slatted design. The resulting look was more modern and streamlined than 1967, with a simpler and larger grille design that was split down the middle but only by a small trim strip. Buyers of 1968 went without a proud hood ornament, as the Imperial fowl moved into the middle of the grille. The rear-eagle fuel door was now made of metal instead of plastic. The base model unlabeled Imperial ended as a single-year offering, as it was canceled and the four-door pillared sedan became a Crown instead. Customers who wanted an Imperial convertible bought in during 1968, as the model was about to fall by the wayside forever.

Sales dropped as customers anticipated fuselage looks the following year, to 15,361. Of that figure, 1,887 were base Crown sedans, and 8,492 were Crown hardtops. The unpopular Crown convertible sold only 474 examples in its final outing, while the top-tier LeBaron four-door sold 1,852. Pricing for a base sedan was $5,653 ($46,077 adj.), and it was a small step up to the Crown hardtop at $6,114 ($49,835 adj.). Crown coupes asked $5,721($46,631 adj.), while a convertible was much more dear at $6,522 ($53,160 adj.). The LeBaron made no apologies for its $6,939 ($56,559 adj.) ask.

By 1968 the early Sixties Continental styling of the Imperial looked very upright and conservative among other large car competitors that had gone longer, lower, and wider over the decade. The following year saw an all-new Imperial once more, as Chrysler introduced its enormous Fuselage Look Imperials of 1969. More on that in Part XII.

[Images: Imperial]

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39 Comments on “Rare Rides Icons: The History of Imperial, More Than Just a Car (Part XI)...”


  • avatar
    Jeff_M

    I’m enjoying this series on one of my favorite domestic luxury cars. Well done.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Also enjoy this series and have learned a lot more about Imperial.

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    Fantastic article, Corey!! Lots and lots of information I didn’t know about Imperial (my favorite luxury marque from this era). Keep it up , there’s a long way to go still to get to the bitter end….

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    After reading this series Imperial had more luxury than the Cadillac and Lincoln at the time. I can see why Jackie O preferred the Imperial over the Lincoln Continental. This is a car much ahead of its time with features that were offered decades later on other cars.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      As a kid in the ’70s, this looked very out of date, the kind of thing to be driven by an old codger in a plaid sweater, smoking a smelly cigar, who thought he was the most admired and successful gentleman around. The old guy was as much of as a has-been as his oversized luxobarge.

      The convertible is beautiful, though… it’s a different creature entirely.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        You must mean after the GM downsizing took hold. Up until then the luxobarge market and the desire for them was still quite strong. Check out the sale figures for fullsize Lincolns and Cadillacs and for the extra large luxury PLCs’ during the early and mid 1970’s.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “The executive option allowed the front passenger seat to face the rear, where a table and desk lamp folded over the back seat.”

    Perfect for the executive / secretary duo who want to die together if there’s a wreck!

    Great series, Corey…and I like this series of Imperial as well. The dark days were coming, though.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The darkest day for Imperial was the K car variant which was even darker than the 1981-83 2 door Imperial with the crystal hood ornament and the troublesome fuel injection.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      Crystal hood ornament only for ’81-82; they cheaped out and used plastic for 1983.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I have a definite soft spot for that ’81-83 model. The K-car variant was just awful.

      • 0 avatar

        The 81 would’ve really been something had it been executed properly.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeff S

          “Had the fuel injection system worked properly, the car may have been a boon to Chrysler’s balance sheets; at $20,988 (list) it was the most expensive standard production car made by an American automaker in 1981. The power moonroof added $1,044.” https://www.allpar.com/threads/1981-to-1983-imperial-cars-cordoba-based-luxury.228289/

          • 0 avatar

            They were nuts to ask more than Eldorado for it with that lack of PLC recognition.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            The 81-83 was according to many an attempt to take on a Lincoln style front end to a Seville style backend and call it a luxury vehicle. The instrument panel was also ‘lacking’. I do remember the Sinatra commercials. The original Cordoba was a ‘looker’, the Chrysler name at that point still had some prestige and therefore it was a sales success. However Chrysler soon became just another marque and the restyling of the Cordoba with the stacked rectangular headlights seemed to ‘cheapen’ its looks.

  • avatar
    MitchConner

    Would love to do a massive burnout in one of those fender skirted beauties. Some donuts, too. 10 bucks says a Rockford turn gets a hubcap to fly off.

    And if you stall it — oh that lovely Chrysler er-er-er starter motor sound followed by the equally lovely fa-whoom as massive clouds of unburnt fuel blast through the duals from stomping on the gas as if a lit cigarette butt was on the accelerator.

    As for that rear facing seat option, when Lynn Townsend brought one of those home, Mrs. Townsend looked at him, then at the seat, then remembered what his secretary looked like in a mini-skirt. Whereupon she informed her husband that if she ever saw one of those seats again the carving fork their cook Emile used to serve their Sunday prime rib would be embedded in his forehead.

  • avatar

    I owned that frame-in a Plymouth Fury version. All options, dual exhaust, Commando V8. It was clearly some old guy’s last car but when I got it was a 10 year old guzzler. It had the most interior you could get short of the actual Imperial, and the engine was a draw. The frame…is just epic, and how many cars did it underpin ? This particular Chryco frame is peak big cars are luxury cars Detroit think. There is no better way to be suspended at 75 mph as you roam the American interior. The six foot front bench. A/C like off a glacier. Just bring unlimited gas money and don’t say “turn”. The last GM Impala frame had this feel too.

    My grandfather was an Imperial man, until they stopped making them by hand, and drove New Yorkers in their baroque majesty.

    The closest I’ve come since is driving an F150.

    • 0 avatar
      BobinPgh

      They had the 1967 Plymouth Fury on Mythbusters to see if a tissue box could kill Buster. I don’t know what the answer was but when they were done with the Fury, the driveshaft had gone through the trunk.

  • avatar
    MichaelBug

    I’m also loving the Imperial series. Two of my favorite diecast models of all time are both Imperials…Corgi’s 1965 convertible (which included a set of golf clubs in the trunk!) and Lone Star’s “Impy Roadmaster” line version of a 1962 hardtop.

    I also have an early childhood memory (around the age of 5 or 6, in 1972 or 1973) playing with the transmission push buttons on a neighbor’s 63 Imperial. I only got caught one night when I ended up leaving the car’s lights on and running down the battery!

    Not long after that, my neighbor traded in the Imperial on a 70 Plymouth Duster. What a sad comedown!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Stellantis has announced that after 2023 the Hemi is no more instead there will be a turbo inline 6 which is the last ICE to be developed by Stellantis.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    In case anyone’s interested, Jay Leno did a piece on a very nice example of this series of Imperial.

    youtube.com/watch?v=fMtsCfYZlog&t=400s

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    “Vents became integrated into the dash instead of mounted underneath.” Yes I remember the first time I saw instrument panel vents and controls rather than pulling a lever to open a vent in the footwell. As others have noted Chrysler starters had a distinct sound. And Chrysler during this period built some very ‘sturdy’ transmissions, unlike those they switched to circa 1991. I wonder if these Imperials have the reverse thread lug nuts which Chrysler used for a while? And the ballast resistor issues which seemed endemic in late 1960’s to mid 1970’s Chrysler products?

  • avatar
    BobinPgh

    I notice that the copy for the 1968 Imperial says there is a tape player available. Would that be an 8 track? Problem is, 8 track players look and sound cheap for such an expensive car. We had a Nova with an 8 track, when it would change tracks you felt it through the whole car.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      My mother’s 72 Cadillac Sedan de Ville had a factory stereo with a built in 8 track which was a common option in most cars in the late 60s and early 70s. The clicks between tracks was noticeable but you didn’t feel it through the car. The clicks were more of a annoyance and they were less reliable than cassettes.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      8-Track players were actually a ‘high end’ factory installed option in the early/mid 1970’s. Were considered more driver/auto friendly than a fiddly little cassette that you often had to manually rewind. With the 8-track you just ‘popped it in’ and it played. You could press a button and change the track. The Mark IV ‘Designer Edition’ vehicles had an 8-Track with Quadrophonic sound and came with a sample tape that included Elvis singing ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’. Still remember the remarkable impact of different instruments/voices moving around the interior of the car. And no, there was no discernible noise/impact when it changed tracks. In the Lincoln with the sound off all you could hear at highway speeds was the ticking of the Cartier clock on the instrument panel.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    This is the era I remember most fondly, along with the ’64-’66 models. An aunt and uncle of mine owned a silver ’66 Le Baron four-door, which they later traded for a yellow ’68 Crown Coupe.

    I’m still impressed with the tempered glass headlight covers on the ’65 and ’66 cars, like I was as a kid.

  • avatar
    Danddd

    Corey, this series has been fun to read. Now I see why my father had to have one. He finally bought a white 67 Crown Imperial. When I could legally drive in 1971, I’d attempt burnouts in it. My friends and I drooled over that 440. Thanks for this series.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    My dad’s ’68 Imperial had the optional engine, I remember the twin air intakes and I loved the “tug boat” sound it had at idle, which changed when my dad had a cam put into it about 3 months after he got it to a slight choppy one. It was downright quick after the cam was put in and even with the slight loss of low end torque, it still would easily light up those skinny bias-ply tires. His next car, a Caddy Sedan DeVille, just didn’t have the punch that 440 had, even though it had engine work done to it too. I think the Caddy had some exhaust work done, as it sounded nothing like the identical appearing one a friend’s grandmother drove. Her little head barely was high enough to drive it. She had some booster seat thing made so she didn’t have to look through the wheel. She would tell people she was 5 feet tall. Maybe when she was 16, but by the time I knew her, she was 4’10, tops. She always, always squinted, and looked like she was in pain or a bright light was in her face. She drove that Caddy until she was 92 and began to fall apart like the Caddy did at that point. She sold the car, her house, and moved into her son’s house and went to sleep one night about a year later, and didn’t wake up.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    It should be mentioned that the 67/68 Imperials were touted as all new but one look at a 65 Newport or New Yorker and one can see where the hood, deck lid and roof line came from. Still a good looking car though.

  • avatar
    Old Man Sam

    My garage is honored to provide a home for our 1968 Crown 4 door hardtop. A frost green original capped by the stunning beauty of the original antique green vinyl roof. We bought this car in January 2019 in Illinois, and drove it home to Northern Nevada through the dead of Winter’s ice storms and blizzards. Other than one of the 38 year old tires blowing out, attesting to the reverse lug nut threads, we had no problems and then incredibly comfortable ride home. I love all the looks and comments we get every time we take her out. And I am grateful that this version is a tad shorter then the previous bodies, as we now have 2 inches of clearance front and rear in the garage. Very nice coverage for one of the Great all the time American Automotive masterpieces.

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