Rare Rides Icons: The History of Imperial, More Than Just a Car (Part XIX)

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.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Imperial, More Than Just a Car (Part XVIII)

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.

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Rare Rides Icons: The History of Imperial, More Than Just a Car (Part XVII)

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.

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Junkyard Find: 1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati

With The General offering a costlier-than- an-S-Class Cadillac built in Turin and Hamtramck (the two assembly lines connected via custom-built 747 freighters) as well as Italianate Buicks and Oldsmobiles in the late 1980s, Lee Iacocca decided to leverage Chrysler’s investment in Maserati to create a K-Car-based Italian sports car: the TC by Maserati. Like the Allanté, Troféo, and Reatta, the TC hasn’t held its value so well over the decades, and I find the occasional example during my junkyard travels. Here’s a crashed ’91 in a yard near Denver, Colorado.

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Abandoned History: Chrysler's Liberty Project, to Saturn or Not to Saturn

In Part V of the Rare Rides series on the Eagle Premier, I mentioned an abandoned project at Chrysler called Liberty. Announced in 1985, Liberty was supposed to be a direct challenge to GM’s recently announced Saturn brand. Or it wasn’t, depending on what day of the week Liberty was addressed.

Chrysler’s PR department and CEO Lee Iacocca seemed at odds on what the Liberty project was, but they were both sure it was very important and it would build something, probably.

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Junkyard Find: 1983 Chrysler New Yorker

When Lee Iacocca’s K-cars finally hit American showrooms for the 1981 model year, the ax that had seemed poised over Chrysler’s neck for much of the late 1970s seemed to pull back. For model year 1983, a stretched version of the K chassis became the basis of such luxurious machines as the Dodge 600, Plymouth Caravelle, and Chrysler E-Class. Just to confuse everybody, the New Yorker line bifurcated that year, with the New Yorker Fifth Avenue remaining on the same platform as the rear-wheel-drive Dodge Diplomat and the regular New Yorker becoming an E-platform sibling to the 600/E-Class/Caravelle. Here’s one of those first-year New Yorkers, found in very clean condition in a Denver-area self-service yard last week.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Dodge 600 Landau Coupe With Five-speed Manual Transmission

Once Lee Iacocca’s front-wheel-drive K-cars brought Chrysler back from near-death and into profitability, the platform became the basis of a sprawling family of K-related relatives. One of the earliest spinoffs was the E Platform, a lengthened K that gave us the Chrysler E-Class/New Yorker, the Plymouth Caravelle, and the Dodge 600. Just to confuse matters, the Dodge 600 coupe remained a true K, sibling to the Dodge Aries.

That’s what we’ve got here, and this Denver 600 coupe has some stories to tell.

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Ace of Base: 2020 Chrysler Voyager

Digging up names from the past is a popular hobby at most car makers, to the point that a few of them would be well served to hire their own archaeologists to smooth out the process. Some are wantonly ditched prematurely in the pursuit of alphanumerics (*ahem* Legend, Vigor *ahem*) while others are relegated to the dustbin of history after being appended to a particularly horrid car.

Others simply slip away into the night like a silent bandit after the shuttering of its brand. Voyager is one of these, with FCA deciding to trot it out again and apply it to entry-level versions of the Pacifica (which, by itself, is a recycled name).

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If You Can Find a Better CEO: Industry Icon, Chrysler Savior Lee Iacocca Dead at 94

It’s seldom spoken of publicly, but every writer keeps in the back of his or her mind an obituary they hope to never pen. In this keyboard jockey’s case, that obit would be the one you’re reading now.

Tuesday night brought word that Lee Iacocca — era-defining auto executive, marketer extraordinaire, outspoken patriot and critic — passed away at the age of 94. Lia Iacocca Assad says her father died of complications from Parkinson’s disease at his Bel-Air, California home, The Washington Post reports.

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Junkyard Find: 1982 Dodge 400 Landau Coupe

Lee Iacocca’s original Chrysler K Platform spawned an incomprehensible tangle of K-related offspring between the 1981 and 1995 model years, but only a few U.S.-market models were true K-Cars: the Chrysler LeBaron, Plymouth Reliant, Dodge Aries, Dodge 600, and Dodge 400.

Of these, the 400 has been the hardest for me to find in the self-service wrecking yards I frequent; in fact, this is the first junkyard Dodge 400 I’ve photographed.

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Concentrated Rides: An Imperial Collection

Certain extraordinary circumstances can move a vehicle from the standard Rare Rides classification and into Concentrated Rides. Take today, for instance, where a concerned collector has gathered together 24 Chrysler Imperials in a California desert.

The why here is unclear.

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The Perfect Chrysler Metaphor, Intentional or Not

It was a dark and unexciting night. The setting: my apartment. The time: well, last night.

The hour was was growing late, but going to bed at a normal time on a Friday night — even my definition of a normal time — seemed like an invitation to early onset senility. I’m a human being, dammit, I’m alive, and doing anything — anything — besides refreshing my taxed brain cells seemed like a good plan.

So, a Budweiser was cracked, an old movie was sought out, and my feet soon raised themselves to a comfortable, elevated position. Now, many who aren’t familiar with my history are unaware of a shocking secret — something that could prompt fits of laughter if you’re not ready for the news.

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"If You Can Find a Better Car, Buy It" - Ronald DeLuca, 1980s Chrysler Adman, Dies

His commercials were a sign of the times — desperate, struggling times that suddenly turned prosperous.

In the 1980s, Ronald DeLuca was the hidden face behind an instantly familiar one — Chrysler Corporation chairman Lee Iacocca, who walked into his company’s own commercials to personally pitch front-wheel-drive K-car platform products to a recession-weary America.

DeLuca, the advertising whiz hired by Iacocca to help turn around Chrysler’s late-1970s death plunge, died last week at 91, according to The New York Times. During his tenure DeLuca and Iacocca cranked out a slew of unusually frank, bold commercials that paid off in a big way.

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The Last Emperor: 1983 Chrysler Imperial

Full gallery here

It was the late 1970s. Following the oil crisis in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Japanese automakers were able to go from having a foothold on the west coast to being major players in the domestic American market. In 1976, Honda introduced the first generation Accord, a revolutionary package that combined outstanding fuel economy, front wheel drive, reliability, practicality, sprightly performance and a standard equipment list that included a stereo and air conditioning. At the time, Chrysler was headed by Lee Iacocca and in a changing automotive world, for some reason Iacocca decided that what Chrysler needed was a large personal luxury car. Burton Bouwkamp, who was director of body engineering for Chrysler at the time, recalled his boss barking “Where the hell is our Cadillac/Lincoln entry?” The result was the 1981-83 Chrysler Imperial, the last V8 powered Imperial to be produced.

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Piston Slap: Why So Uncool Minivan?

Josh writes:

What is the deal with minivans? I was thinking the other day that as an outdoor person, minivan’s are perfect. They have lots of room for people and gear, AWD (in some cases), lots of roof space, and better MPG’s than an SUV. But apparently I can’t own one because they’re not cool. I could get a wagon though. Isn’t a minivan just a super-sized wagon?

Will minivans ever be cool to own?

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  • Beachy Asphalt only works to keep the dirt road below it dry, and it is the dry dirt that holds up the asphalt surface to make a smooth road surface. Once the asphalt cracks or a spring wells up and the dirt gets wet, all bets are off. It is usually due to a spring that perennial potholes form. They are very hard to get rid of.
  • JamesG I’m the owner of the featured car that’s currently on EBay. Thanks for such a nice write up on these cars. Mine happens to be in excellent condition and the photos don’t do it justice. The HT4100 isn’t as bad as some made them out to be and they can go 200k miles with proper maintenance. I also own a 79 w/the analog fuel injected 5.7 350 which should have been used through 1985 but ever-increasing CAFE regulations called for more economical power plants which made GM shelve this great motor.
  • Jeff S Adam on Rare Classic Cars recently bought a pristine 71 Kenosha Cadillac.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY-G2dExgXE&ab_channel=RareClassicCars%26AutomotiveHistory
  • Jeff S Wouldn't most of the large suvs in NYC be livery vehicles? If so that would be hurting those who make their living by driving for hire.
  • EBFlex Yes their mass transit is great if you want to be beat within an inch of your life or pushed onto the tracks by some random psycho.