Lamborghini proved it could make a luxurious grand touring coupe that a few people were willing to buy instead of a Ferrari with its first-ever production car, the 350GT. Based on the 350GTV prototype that was not actually drivable, the 350GT eventually grew and matured into the very similar 400GT we featured last time.
At its inception, the 400GT was just a 350GT with a larger engine, since the intended roof edits to turn the 2+1 into a 2+2 were not production ready. Lamborghini advertised the 350, 400, and 400 2+2 as three separate models, a fun take on the truth. But after three variations of the original 350 design, it was time for something new. The replacement process was not without drama.
The 350GT was Lamborghini’s first production car, and as we learned in our last entry, was a very rapid adaptation of the 350GTV prototype. And while the GTV was certainly more elegant looking than the GT, the former’s foibles included a hood line that was too low to fit the company’s V12, as well as a general lack of practicality.
Practicality was the word of the day in the 350GT’s development. The 2+1 grand touring coupe brought Ferruccio Lamborghini’s vision to life, as a competitor to the well-established finery from Ferrari. There were just 120 examples of the 350GT produced before its successor joined the ranks. The new car had a larger engine that made more power but looked very similar to its brother. Meet the 400GT.
After Lamborghini’s 350GTV show car debuted in Turin, Ferruccio Lamborghini was very intent on turning the coupe’s good publicity into sales of a real production Lamborghini. But the prototype lacked running gear, an engine that fit under its hood, and there were many other miscellaneous issues. As we learned last time, redesign work began on the GTV’s chassis, engine, and body at a furious pace. That’s where we pick up today.
We return to our coverage of Lamborghini’s front-engine grand touring coupes today, and the story of the company’s first prototype. A teardrop-shaped two-door with sweeping lines and an angular rear, the 350GTV was the first passenger vehicle Ferruccio Lamborghini ever made. His past experience was as a successful businessman and builder of stylish Italian tractors at Lamborghini Trattori.
The high-strung 3.5-liter V12 was completed (albeit in race car specification) and the coupe’s body had been casually assembled by the craftsman of Carrozzeria Sargiotto, who usually made plastic moldings and not cars. Was the next stop the 1963 Turin Auto Show? Nope.
I was reminded the other day (by Facebook) about a particularly beautiful coupe I’d photographed at a local car show in 2014. It had two doors, a big engine in the front, svelte and restrained styling, and a Lamborghini badge on the nose. It’s easy to forget that Lamborghini made elegant grand touring coupes long before it got to the likes of the outrageous Countach or LM002. We start at the beginning, with the company’s very first prototype, the 350GTV.
Today we reach the 22nd and final installment in the Imperial series. In our last edition, we reviewed the development and birth of the final production car to wear the Imperial name: The super-extended K-car platform known as the Y-body. Lee Iacocca was keen on the idea of a full-size luxury sedan for the elderly customer, but Chrysler had neither the resources nor the platform to do it properly. Thus the Y-body appeared, and its angular and pencil-thin shape went on sale in 1990 alongside the similarly lengthened Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue. Speaking of angles, let’s talk about that sweet money-saving clip swap action.
We find ourselves at the final two installments of the long-running Imperial series today. It’s been almost six months since the first Imperial entry, when a new model was dreamt up by Chrysler’s founder as competition for the likes of Pierce-Arrow and Studebaker. The Imperial name outlived most of the Twenties competition it was designed to beat, though along the way it drifted both nearer and further to the original mission. The concluding entrant into the Imperial lineage was definitely the weakest ever. K-car time, commence!
Here we are, the 20th installment of the Imperial series. We’ve covered the Imperial’s inception as a coach-built car for the wealthy, through its Fifties rebirth as an independent brand with hand-built quality that rivaled the best luxury car makers had to offer. From there Imperial’s tale was ups and downs (mostly downs) as Chrysler’s luxury arm continually found itself less independent, and more tied to the New Yorker.
But after its sad Seventies cancellation, it was time for an Eighties rebirth under the direction of CEO Lee Iacocca. He was determined to make the best, most exclusive American personal luxury coupe money could buy. To date we’ve learned about the angular bustle back exterior, the J-body Cordoba platform underneath, and the Cordoba-plus leather-lined interior, by Mark Cross. Today we continue with Iacocca’s close personal friend, Frank Sinatra (or ‘FS’ if you’re talking badges.)
We return to our Imperial series again today, and the third installment on the all-new personal luxury coupe Lee Iacocca launched in 1981 to resurrect the historical Imperial name. Unlike every other Imperial to date, the new one was available only in two-door coupe guise. The new car had the dual mission of bringing luxury car credibility back to Chrysler, and grabbing some high margin luxury coupe sales from GM and in particular, Lincoln and the Continental Mark VI. We’ve covered the exterior and the underpinnings, so today we slide into the interior, which is most definitely not covered in Rich Corinthian Leather.
In our most recent installment of our long-running Imperial coverage, the Eighties dawned with a resurrection of the Imperial name and the debut of an exciting new personal luxury coupe. Chrysler’s new chairman Lee Iacocca was determined to recreate the runaway success he’d had at Ford with the Lincoln Continental Mark III. But that meant a simultaneous ask that luxury coupe buyers ignore the very recent financial troubles that plagued the Detroit automaker. And while the exterior of the new Imperial coupe was all bustleback and new angles, its platform and mechanicals were not quite as exciting. Let’s talk about Mirada, Cordoba, and the reliability benefits of electronic fuel injection.
In our last Imperial entry, we found the brand’s run came to an end. In production since 1926 and an independent brand since 1955, the Imperial fizzled out to nothing after 1975. Chrysler closed its luxury Imperial division, and the once proud two- and four-door Imperials were stripped of some standard features and rebranded into the Brougham trim of the New Yorker. The Imperial name had come a long way from its beginnings as a super luxurious coach built car for the wealthy, and ended up as a slightly nicer New Yorker with more formal front and rear clips. But 1975 was not the end of the Imperial’s story, as a particular Chrysler CEO had big Imperial aspirations. To get to that point for Imperial, let’s talk about Ford.
We return to the Imperial story once more today, at a worst-ever moment. The year is 1974, and the future is bleak for the large prestige car. The economy is down, fuel prices are up due to a recent oil crisis, and the market’s trend is toward front-drive vehicles and sedans of a smaller size. What was Chrysler to do with its flagship Imperial in that sort of environment? Kill it off, that’s what.
We return to the Imperial’s saga once again today, at a very low point for the brand. Though the Fuselage Look of 1969 had propped up Imperial’s sales and generated consumer interest, sales were in decline after the ’69s debut. Chrysler put less and less money into its flagship, as parts sharing increased while options and trims did the opposite. There was a second version of the Fuselage Look for 1972 that showed as longer, lower, and heavier than ever before. And though the new metal buoyed sales slightly, the U.S. car market as a whole saw record sales in 1972 and 1973. 1973 was the last such record year for America, and it coincided with the last Fuselage Imperial. Chrysler had a decision to make about its flagship brand.
In our last installment of the Imperial saga, we worked through the earliest years of Chrysler’s Fuselage Look era. The Imperial wore its hefty new styling well, even though it shared more parts and even body panels with Chrysler’s lesser New Yorker. Although the new looks were a sales hit in 1969, customers who wanted a Fuselage Imperial bought one immediately. By 1971 things were much grimmer. Imperial was relegated for the first time to a singular trim: LeBaron. A sign of the times, the brand was no longer advertised separately in marketing materials, but alongside Chrysler’s other offerings as “Imperial by Chrysler.” However, for 1972 it was time for a big update, as Chrysler tried to bump up the Imperial’s seriously sagging sales.
We entered the Fuselage Look era of the Imperial in our last installment, as Chrysler shook off the conservative and upright styling its flagship brand wore prior to 1969. Prices were notably slashed and quality suffered as Imperial shared body panels with its Chrysler siblings, incidents that in previous decades would’ve been out of the question. We pick up in 1970, for the second year of the C-body Fuselage Imperials.