CHRYSLER Division Automobiles


Chrysler (division) 1925-2015 or FIAT CHRYSLER Automobiles – FCA US LLC

Division of FCA US LLC
Industry Automotive
Founded June 6, 1925; 90 years ago
Founder Walter Chrysler
Headquarters Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S.
Key people
Sergio Marchionne (Chairman and CEO of FCA US LLC)
Products Luxury Cars, Mainstream vehicles
Slogan America’s Import

Chrysler is an American car brand and the longstanding premium marque of automaker FCA US LLC. Before the 2014 creation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles by the merger of Fiat and Chrysler, FCA US was known as Chrysler Group LLC, named after its founder Walter Chrysler.



The Chrysler brand was originally a premium luxury position competing with Cadillac, Packard, and Lincoln. Chrysler was the top brand in the portfolio of what was then known as Chrysler Corporation, led by its top model, the Imperial starting in 1955.

After the corporation decided to spin Imperial off as a separate brand in 1955 to better compete with Cadillac and Lincoln, Chrysler became the corporation’s number two brand, but still offered luxury and near-luxury products. Chrysler’s positioning of the Chrysler brand towards a mid-price brand caused Chrysler to kill DeSoto after 1961 and merge most DeSoto vehicles into the new Chrysler Newport. After the Imperial brand was dropped in 1975, Chrysler once again became the top brand.



Logo of the Chrysler-Plymouth division of the Chrysler Corporation

Chrysler-Plymouth was a division that sold cars with both Chrysler and Plymouth brand names. The Chrysler models emphasized luxury, while the Plymouth cars stood for practicality. The division also sold the high-luxury Imperial brand until 1975. Most Chrysler-Plymouth dealers began offering Jeep vehicles following the demise of Chrysler’s Eagle brand in 1998.

When the Plymouth brand was retired in 2001, Chrysler became a stand-alone division of DaimlerChrysler AG, the company formed by the merger of Chrysler and Daimler-Benz. Recently, however, the Chrysler Group has been making efforts to consolidate the Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep brands into one sales unit, while maintaining separate brand identity.


During the 1980s the Chrysler division expanded its product line and target markets by marketing upscale versions of the Chrysler K platform. The Chrysler brand took on a similar role as Oldsmobile, Buick, or Acura by offering entry-level luxury cars of various types and sizes. After the Plymouth line of cars (which was sold in car dealerships alongside Chrysler) was discontinued in 2001, the Chrysler division marketed everything from economy cars such as the PT Cruiser to the limited production Prowler sports car alongside the brand’s traditional upscale models such as the 300 and LHS.

Following Fiat‘s acquisition of a 20% stake in Chrysler LLC, Fiat set a long-term goal of reviving Chrysler as a full luxury brand to compete again with Cadillac and other luxury brands. The company stated in October 2009 that future plans for Chrysler brand vehicles include closer cooperation and shared development between Chrysler and Lancia, an upscale Italian automaker within the Fiat Group. In 2011, the brand’s winged emblem was modified, eliminating the historic blue ribbon center which dated from the 1930s, replacing it with a blue-backed “Chrysler” nameplate. In May 2014, Fiat-Chrysler announced it would make the brand a mainstream brand with premium features, similar to GM’s Buick, in contrast to earlier statements of moving the full line into the luxury market.

chrysler (2)

Chrysler winged logo (1998 – 2010)

Current Chrysler line-up

The North America Chrysler line-up

Name Year Note
Chrysler 200 2011–present
Chrysler 300 1955-19711979


Chrysler Town & Country 1941-1988 1990–present
Chrysler Pacifica 2017–present Minivanunrelated to SUV

International line-up

Model Years Notes
Chrysler Ypsilon 2011-2015 UK, Ireland, and Japan onlyRebadged Lancia Ypsilon
Chrysler Delta 2011-2014 UK and Ireland onlyRebadged Lancia Delta
Chrysler 300 1999–present select countries
Chrysler Voyager 1988-2015 select countries

Previous models

Model Years
300 letter series 1955–1965
300 1962–1971, 1979
300M 1999–2004
Airstream (1935–1936)
Aspen (2007–2009)
Cirrus (1995–2000)
Concorde (1993–2004)
Conquest (1987–1989)
Cordoba (1975–1983)
Crossfire (2004–2007)
E-Class (1983–1984)
Executive (1983–1986)
Fifth Avenue (1983–1993)
Imperial (1926–1993)
Laser (1984–1986)
LeBaron (1977–1995)
LHS (1994–2001)
Newport (1940–1981)
New Yorker (1939–1996)
Pacifica (2004–2008)
Prowler (2001–2002)
PT Cruiser (2001–2010)
Royal (1937–1950)

Chrysler – Imperial

This article is about the luxury car built by Chrysler up to 1954 and after 1990. For the type of rose, see Rosa ‘Chrysler Imperial’. For Imperial models sold under its own marque between 1955 and 1983, see Imperial (automobile).
Chrysler Imperial
1926 Chrysler Imperial E80 Touring1926 Chrysler Imperial E80 Touring
Manufacturer Chrysler
Production 1926–1954
Body and chassis
Class Full-size luxury car

The Chrysler Imperial, introduced in 1926, was Chrysler‘s top of the line vehicle for much of its history. Models were produced with the Chrysler name until 1954, and again from 1990 to 1993. The company positioned the cars as a prestige marque to rival Cadillac, Lincoln, and Packard According to a feature article in AACA’s magazine The adjective ‘imperial’ according to Webster’s Dictionary means sovereign, supreme, superior or of unusual size or excellence. The word imperial thus justly befits Chrysler’s highest priced quality model


First Generation
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1926 Chrysler Imperial Roadster
Production 1926–1930
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door roadster
2-door coupe
4-door sedan and phaeton
Layout FR layout
Engine 288.6 cu in (4.7 L) (1926–1927)309.3 cu in (5.1 L) (1928–1930) L-head 92 hp(1926–1927) 100 hp(1928), 110 hp(1929–1930)
Transmission 3-speed manual
4-speed manual
Wheelbase 120 in (3,048 mm)
136 in (3,454 mm)
127 in (3,226 mm)
133 in (3,378 mm)
Length 183.5″(1926–1927)

In 1926, Walter P. Chrysler decided to compete with North American marques Cadillac, Lincoln, Packard, and Duesenberg in the luxury car field. Chrysler offered a variety of body styles: a two/four-passenger roadster (four passenger if car had the rumble seat), a four-seat coupé, five-passenger sedan and phaeton, and a seven-passenger top-of-the-line limousine. The limo had a glass partition between the front and rear passenger compartments.

The Imperial’s new engine was slightly larger than the company’s standard straight 6. It was a 288.6 cu in (4.7 L) six-cylinder with seven bearing blocks and pressure lubrication of 92 brake horsepower (69 kW). Springs were semi-elliptic in the front. The car set a transcontinental speed record in the year it was introduced, driving more than 6,500 miles (10,460 km) in the week. The car was chosen as the pace car for the 1926 Indianapolis 500. The model was designated E-80, the 80 being after the “guaranteed” 80 miles per hour (129 km/h) all-day cruising speed. Acceleration was also brisk breaking 20 seconds to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). Four-speed transmission was added in 1930.


Second Generation
1932 Chrysler Imperial
Production 1931–1933
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door roadster
2-door coupe
4-door sedan
4-door limousine
Layout FR layout
Related DeSoto Series K-SA
Dodge Eight
Engine 384.84 cu in (6.3 L) L I8

head125 hp(1932) 135 hp(1933)

Transmission Multi-range 4-speed manual
Wheelbase 124″(1931); Imperial 126″, Custom Imperial 146″(1933)
Length Custom Imperial 212.5″(1932)

The Chrysler Imperial was redesigned in 1931. The car received a new engine, a 384.84-cubic inch (6308.85 cc) Straight-eight engine. Marketing materials for this generation of Imperial referred to the car as the “Imperial 8”, in reference to the new in-line 8-cylinder engine. The engine would be found in many other Chrysler vehicles. The Imperial Custom had rust-proof fenders, automatic heater control and safety glass. The limo even came with a Dictaphone.

The redesign also saw the introduction of new wire wheels that became a standard wheel treatment until the 1940s. Stock car driver Harry Hartz set numerous speed records with an Imperial sedan at Daytona Beach, Florida. It was introduced shortly after the Rolls-Royce Phantom II, Mercedes-Benz 770, Packard Eight, Duesenberg Model J, Cadillac Series 355, and Lincoln K-series appeared in the 1930s.


1934 Chrysler Airflow Imperial CX-71934 Chrysler Imperial

Third Generation
1934 Chrysler Imperial CL
Production 1934–1936
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout FR layout
Related Chrysler Airflow
Chrysler Airstream
DeSoto Airflow
DeSoto Airstream
Engine Imperial Airflow and Imperial Airflow Custom CX-323.5CID cast-iron L-head 130 hp 250lb.ft.torqueStraight-8 (1934–1936); Imperial Airflow Custom CW-384.8CID cast iron L-head 150 hp CR 6.5:1 Strait-8 (1934–1936)
Transmission Imperial Airflow and Imperial Airflow Custom CX:3-speed manual floor-shift; Imperial Airflow Custom CW:4-speed manual, overdrive in 1935–1936
  • Imperial Airflow-128″(1934–1936);
  • Imperial Airflow Custom -137.5″(1934), 137″(1936);
  • Imperial Airflow Custom CW-146″(1934), 146.5″(1935–1936)

The 1934 to 1936 Chrysler Imperial ushered in the ‘Airflow‘ design, reflecting an interest in streamlining. The car was marketed with the slogan “The car of tomorrow is here today.” It featured eight passenger seating and again an eight-cylinder engine. This was the first car to be designed in a wind tunnel. Initial tests indicated that the standard car of the 1920s worked best in the wind-tunnel when pointed backwards with the curved rear deck facing forward. This led to a rethinking of the fundamental design of Chrysler’s line of cars. The Airflow was an exceptionally modern and advanced car, and an unparalleled engineering success. Both engine and passenger compartment were moved forward, giving better balance, ride and roadability. An early form of unibody construction was employed, making them extremely strong. This was one of the first vehicles with fender skirts.

The public was put off by the unconventional styling and did not buy the car in large  numbers. The failure of the Airflow cars in the marketplace led Chrysler to be overly conservative in their styling for the next 20 years. The “standard” styling on the lower-end Chryslers outsold the Airflow by 3 to 1. Its appearance was similar to the unrelated Tatra 77 which also appeared in the mid-1930s with a similar reaction to styling.


Fourth Generation
1939 Chrysler C24 Imperial 7 pass. Limousine
Production 1937–1939
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door, 7-seater limousine
Layout FR layout
Related Chrysler Saratoga
Chrysler Royal
Engine 323.5 cu in (5.3 L) Chrysler Flathead engine 130 hp (1937)140 hp(1941–1942)
Transmission 3-speed synchromesh manual
Fluid Drive
Wheelbase 144 in (3,658 mm)
Length 1937 204.75″ (Imperial), 223.25″(custom Imperial)
Curb weight 3,450-3,835lbs.(1938)

Innovations for 1937 included built-in defroster vents, safety type interior hardware (such as flexible door handles and recessed controls on the dash) and seat back padding, and fully insulated engine mounts. Brakes were 13″ drums, then in 1939 they expanded to 14″, but shrunk to 12″ drums in 1940. Front suspension was independent.

There were three Imperial models in this generation. The C-14 was the standard eight and looked much like the Chrysler Royal C-18 with a longer hood and cowl. The C-15 was the Imperial Custom and the Town Sedan Limousine, with blind rear quarter panels. This model was available by special order. The third model, C-17, was the designation for the Airflow model. They had a concealed crank for raising the windshield and the hood was hinged at the cowl and opened from the front; side hood panels were released by catches on the inside. An Imperial Custom convertible sedan was used as an official car at the Indy 500. The car pictured is James G Martin’s (retired airline mechanic) 1939 C-24 7 passenger limousine, believed by him and his son Tim to be the only 1939 production 7-passenger limo still on the road.

Following an assassination attempt in 1937, an armoured Chrysler Imperial was purchased as the official car for António de Oliveira Salazar, the Prime Minister of Portugal.


Fifth Generation
Production 1940–1948
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door sedan
4-door limousine
Layout FR layout
Related Chrysler New Yorker
Chrysler Windsor
Engine 323.5CID L-head 135 hp I8
Transmission Fluid Drive
Wheelbase 145.5″
Length 1940 225.25″


Width 77.8″
Curb weight 3,900-4,560lbs.(1941)

In 1946 the Imperial line was simplified. Between 1946 and 1948, it was called the Imperial Crown, a new top level trim package designation. Two bodystyles were produced, an eight passenger four-door sedan and an eight-passenger four-door limousine. The two vehicles had a US$100 price difference and a 10 lb (5 kg) weight difference. Hydraulic telescopic shock absorbers were in the front and rear. Two-speed electric windshield wipers were standard.

The “imperial” name was introduced on top-level Cadillac-built limousines, starting in 1941

1948 Chrysler Imperial Crown Limousine1948 Chrysler Imperial Crown Limousine


Sixth Generation
1951 Chrysler Imperial C-54 series Convertible
Model years 1949–1954
Assembly Detroit, Michigan, USA
Designer K.T. Keller
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door Club coupe
2-door hardtop
2-door Newport hardtop
2-door convertible
4-door sedan
4-door Imperial Custom limousine
4-door Imperial Crown sedan
4-door Imperial Crown limousine
Layout FR layout
Related Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton
Chrysler New Yorker
Chrysler Town and Country
Chrysler Saratoga
DeSoto Custom
Engine 324 cu in (5.3 L) Chrysler I8
331 cu in (5.4 L) HemiheadV8
Transmission 4-speed Presto-Maticsemiautomatic
2-speed PowerFlite automatic
Wheelbase 131.5 in (3,340 mm)
1953–54 4-door: 133.5 in (3,391 mm)
Imperial Crown : 144.5 in (3,670 mm)
Length Imperial and Imperial Custom:
1949: 210.0 in (5,334 mm)
1950: 214.0 in (5,436 mm)
1951: 212.5 in (5,398 mm)
1952: 212.6 in (5,400 mm)
1953 4-door: 219.0 in (5,563 mm)
1953 2-door: 217.0 in (5,512 mm)
1954 4-door: 223.8 in (5,685 mm)
1954 2-door: 221.8 in (5,634 mm)
Imperial Crown :
1949: 234.8 in (5,964 mm)
1950: 230.3 in (5,850 mm)
1951–52: 229.5 in (5,829 mm)
1953: 231.6 in (5,883 mm)
1954: 236.4 in (6,005 mm)
Width Imperial and Imperial Custom:
1949–52: 75.8 in (1,925 mm)
1953: 76.8 in (1,951 mm)
1954: 77.8 in (1,976 mm)
Imperial Crown:
1949–52: 80.9 in (2,055 mm)
1953: 81.9 in (2,080 mm)
1954: 82.9 in (2,106 mm)
Height 4-door: 63.0 in (1,600 mm)
2-door: 64.4 in (1,636 mm)
Imperial Crown: 68.8 in (1,748 mm)
Curb weight 4,400–5,700 lb (2,000–2,600 kg)
Successor Imperial

1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom limousine1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom limousine

1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom

1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom coupe1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom coupe

1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom coupe interior1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom coupe interior

1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom coupe rear1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom coupe rear

1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom coupe Airtemp air conditioning vents 1953 Chrysler Imperial Custom coupe Airtemp air conditioning vents

Three Imperial bodystyles were produced in 1949. The short-wheelbase Imperial was only available as a four-door six-passenger sedan. The 4-door 8-passenger Crown Imperial was available as a sedan, or as a limousine with a division window.

The new custom-built Imperial sedan was based on the Chrysler New Yorker. It shared the same trim, but had a canvas-covered roof and leather and broadcloth Imperial upholstery. These features were installed by Derham, on the all new postwar Chrysler sheetmetal. Early 1949 Imperial Crowns were actually leftover 1948s. The really new models didn’t arrive until March, 1949. Their styling was sleeker than previous models, yet conservative. Fewer, but heavier bars were used in the cross-hatched grille. The upper and center horizontal pieces wrapped around the front fenders. Rocker panel moldings, rear fender stoneguards, full length lower window trim and horizontal chrome strips on the rear fenders, and from the headlights to about halfway across the front doors, were used to decorate the side body.

The 1950 Crosley Hot Shot is often given credit for the first production disc brakes but the Chrysler Imperial Crown actually had them first as standard equipment at the beginning of the 1949 model year. The Crosley disc was a Goodyear development, a caliper type with ventilated rotor, originally designed for aircraft applications. Only the Hot Shot featured it. Lack of sufficient research caused enormous reliability problems, especially in regions requiring the use of salt on winter roads, such as sticking and corrosion. Drum brake conversion for Hot Shots was quite popular.

The Chrysler 4-wheel disc brake system was more complex and expensive than Crosley’s, but far more efficient and reliable. It was built by Auto Specialties Manufacturing Company (Ausco) of St. Joseph, Michigan, under patents of inventor H.L. Lambert, and was first tested on a 1939 Plymouth. Unlike the caliper disc, the Ausco-Lambert utilized twin expanding discs that rubbed against the inner surface of a cast iron brake drum, which doubled as the brake housing. The discs spread apart to create friction against the inner drum surface through the action of standard wheel cylinders.

Chrysler discs were “self-energizing,” in that some of the braking energy itself contributed to the braking effort. This was accomplished by small balls set into oval holes leading to the brake surface. When the disc made initial contact with the friction surface, the balls would be forced up the holes forcing the discs further apart and augmenting the braking energy. This made for lighter braking pressure than with calipers, avoided brake fade, promoted cooler running and provided one-third more friction surface than standard Chrysler twelve-inch drums. But because of the expense, the brakes were only standard on the Chrysler Imperial Crown through 1954 and the Town and Country Newport in 1950. They were optional, however, on other Chryslers, priced around $400, at a time when an entire Crosley Hot Shot retailed for $935. Today’s owners consider the Ausco-Lambert very reliable and powerful, but admit its grabbiness and sensitivity.

The 1950 Imperial was essentially a New Yorker with a custom interior. It had a Cadillac-style grille treatment that included circular signal lights enclosed in a wraparound ribbed chrome piece. Side trim was similar to last year’s model, but the front fender strip ended at the front doors and the rear fender molding was at the tire top level and integrated into the stone guard. Unlike the standard Imperial, the Imperial Crown had a side treatment in which the rear fender moldings and stone guard were separate. Body sill moldings were used on all Imperials, but were of a less massive type on the more massive Crown models. A special version of the limousine was available. It featured a unique leather interior and a leather-covered top that blacked out the rear quarter windows. Power windows were standard on the Imperial Crown .

In an unusual move for the 1950s, the 1951 Imperial had noticeably less chrome than the lower-priced New Yorker that it was based on. It also had three horizontal grille bars with the parking lights between the bars and a chrome vertical center piece. Aside from its front fender nameplate, side body trim was limited to the moldings below the windows, rocker panel moldings, bright metal stone shields and a heavy horizontal molding strip running across the fender strips. Three 2-door bodystyles were added to the Imperial model in 1951: a Club coupe, a hardtop and a convertible. Only 650 convertibles were sold and it would be discontinued the following year. 1951 was also the year that Chrysler introduced its 331 cu in (5.4 L) Hemihead V8. “Hydraguide” power steering, an industry first for use in production automobiles, became available on the Imperial for an additional $226. Full-time power steering was standard on the Imperial Crown .

1952 Imperials were practically identical to the 1951 models, and the most effective way to tell the difference between them is through reference to serial numbers. The convertible bodystyle was dropped in 1952. Unlike the case with Chryslers, the Imperial’s taillights were not changed. Power steering was standard. The “new” Imperial Crown was also unchanged for 1952. Only 338 of these cars were made in the 1951–1952 model run and serial numbers indicate that 205 were registered as 1952 automobiles. A minor change was a one-inch reduction in the front tread measurement.

In 1953 the Imperial model was renamed the Imperial Custom . Although the Imperial Custom resembled the New Yorker, it had a different wheelbase, taillights and side trim. Clean front fenders and higher rear fender stone shield set it apart from the “ordinary” Chryslers. This was also the first year for the stylized eagle hood ornament. Power brakes, power windows, center folding armrests (front and rear) and a padded dash were standard. Parking lights on all Imperials were positioned between the top and center grille moldings, a variation from the design used on other Chrysler cars. A new model was the six-passenger Imperial Custom limousine which had as standard equipment electric windows, electric division window, floor level courtesy lamps, rear compartment heater, fold-up footrests, seatback mounted clock and special luxury cloth or leather interiors. On March 10, 1953, the exclusive Imperial Custom Newport hardtop was added to the Imperial line at $325 over the price of the eight-passenger sedan. The 2-door Club coupe was discontinued. Imperial Custom sedans now rode on a wheelbase 2 inches (51 mm) longer than the 2-door hardtops. The eagle ornament was about the only thing new on the 1953 Imperial Crown. The nameplate was changed slightly and the limousine featured moldings on top of the rear fenders. Imperial Crowns came with a 12-volt electrical system (Imperial Customs still had a 6-volt system) and Chrysler’s first fully automatic transmission, called PowerFlite, became available late in the model year, being installed in a limited number of cars for testing and evaluation. Power steering was standard on Imperial Crowns. Also, 1953 was the first year that the Imperial had a one-piece windshield, instead of a two-piece one. A padded dash was standard.

The 1953 Chrysler Imperial was the first production car in twelve years to actually have automotive air conditioning, following tentative experiments by Packard in 1940 and Cadillac in 1941. Walter P. Chrysler had seen to the invention of Airtemp air conditioning back in the 1930s for the Chrysler Building, and had ostensibly offered it on cars in 1941-42, and again in 1951-52, but none are known to have been sold in the latter form until the 1953 model year. In actually installing optional Airtemp air conditioning units to its Imperials in 1953, Chrysler beat Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile which added air conditioning as an option in the 1953 model year.

Airtemp was more sophisticated and efficient than the complicated rival air conditioners of 1953. It recirculated, rather than merely cooled, the air inside the vehicle, and it was also the highest capacity unit available on an automobile. It was also simple to operate, with a single switch on the dashboard marked with low, medium, and high positions, which the driver selected as desired. The system was capable of cooling a Chrysler from 120 degrees to 85 degrees in about two minutes, and of completely eliminating humidity, dust, pollen and tobacco smoke at the same time. Since it relied on fresh air, and drew in sixty percent more of it than any contemporary system, Airtemp avoided the staleness associated with automotive air conditioning at the time. It was silent and unobtrusive. Instead of plastic tubes mounted on the package shelf as on GM and on other cars, small ducts directed cool air toward the ceiling of the car where it filtered down around the passengers instead of blowing directly on them, a feature that modern cars have lost.

In 1954 the Imperial Custom had a new grille consisting of a heavy wraparound horizontal center bar with five ridges on top and integrated circular signal lights. Its front fender nameplate was above a chrome strip, which ran the length of the front door to the front of the door opening. The rear fender stone guard was larger than in 1953, but the rocker panel molding and rear fender chrome strip style were still the same. The back-up lights were now located directly below the taillights, rather than dividing the lights as in the previous year’s model. The Imperial Crown shared basic styling with the Imperial Custom. However it had center-opening rear doors and Cadillac-like rear fender taillights. Air conditioning was standard on the Imperial Crown .

1955–1983: A separate make

Main article: Imperial (automobile)

1958 Imperial badge (5164170564)1958 Imperial badge

Chrysler Corporation advised state licensing bureaus that beginning in 1955, the Imperial was to be registered as a separate make. It was an attempt to compete directly with GM’s Cadillac and Ford’s Lincoln distinct luxury-focused marques. Frequently and erroneously referred to as the “Chrysler Imperial”, the cars had no “Chrysler” badging anywhere on them, and were a separate, distinct marque, just as Lincoln and Cadillac were for GM and Ford.

In April 1955 Chrysler and Philco announced the development and production of the World’s First All-Transistor car radio. The radio, Mopar model 914HR, was a $150.00 “option” on 1956 Imperial car models. Philco began manufacturing the all-transistor car radio for Chrysler in the fall of 1955 at its Sandusky, Ohio plant.

Chrysler’s intention was to create an individual line of luxury cars, distinct from Chrysler branded vehicles. This marketing strategy suffered because the cars were rarely (if ever) sold in stand-alone Imperial showrooms. Cadillac and Lincoln did a much better job of separating their luxury marques from the lower priced cars that they sold. Imperial was instead offered at the Chrysler dealer network alongside Chrysler’s offerings, and the marque was almost universally known as “Chrysler Imperial” in the public’s mind for this reason, despite the fact that all existing dealerships did indeed carry separate “Imperial” dealership signs distinct from Chrysler .

1960 Imperial LeBaron 1960 Imperial LeBaron

The Imperial automobiles continued to be retailed through Chrysler dealerships. A distinct marketing channel was not established; thus, the Imperial nameplate failed to separate itself from the other Chrysler models and become a stand-alone marque.

Although there were no Imperials produced between 1976 and 1978, the cars that were previously marketed as an Imperial were rebranded as the Chrysler New Yorker Brougham during this time.


Seventh Generation
1990-93 Chrysler Imperial photographed in Washington, D.C., USA.
Production 1989–1993
Model years 1990–1993
Assembly Belvidere, Illinois
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout FF layout
Platform Y-body
Related Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue
Engine 3.3 L EGA V6
3.8 L EGH V6
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Wheelbase 109.6 in (2,784 mm)
Length 203 in (5,156 mm)
Width 68.9 in (1,750 mm)
Height 55.3 in (1,405 mm)
Curb weight 3,519 lb (1,596 kg)
Successor Chrysler LHS

1992 Chrysler Imperial1992 Chrysler Imperial

1990s Chrysler Imperial featured full-width taillightsThe 1990s Chrysler Imperial featured full-width taillights

The early 1990s saw a revival of the Imperial as a high-end sedan in Chrysler’s lineup. Unlike the 1955–1983 Imperial, this car was a model of Chrysler, not its own marque. Based on the Y platform, it represented the top full-size model in Chrysler’s lineup; below it was the similar New Yorker Fifth Avenue, and below that was the entry-level New Yorker.

The reintroduction of the Imperial was two years after the Lincoln Continental was changed to a front-wheel drive sedan with a V6 engine, a move that appeared to reflect the popularity of the North American market Acura Legend sedan introduced in 1986.

Though closely related, the Imperial differed from the New Yorker Fifth Avenue in several ways. The Imperial’s nose was more wedge-shaped, while the New Yorker Fifth Avenue’s had a sharper, more angular profile (the New Yorker Fifth Avenue was later restyled with a more rounded front end). The rears of the two cars also differed. Like the front, the New Yorker Fifth Avenue’s rear came to stiffer angles, while the Imperial’s rear-end came to more rounded edges. Also found on the Imperial were full-width taillights, which were similar to those of the Chrysler TC; the New Yorker Fifth Avenue came with smaller vertical taillights. On the inside, the Imperial’s “Kimberly Velvet” (Mark Cross Leather was available) seats carried a more streamlined look, while the New Yorker Fifth Avenue came with its signature pillowy button-tufted seats.

This Imperial remained effectively unchanged over its four-year run. Initially, the 1990 Imperial was powered by the 147 hp (110 kW) 3.3 L EGA V6 engine, which was rated at 185 lb·ft (251 N·m) of torque. For 1991, the 3.3 L V6 was replaced by the larger 3.8 L EGH V6. Although horsepower only increased to 150 hp (112 kW), with the new larger 3.8 L V6 torque increased to 215 lb·ft (292 N·m) at 2750 rpm. A four-speed automatic transmission was standard with both engines.

This generation Imperial was a standard 6-seater sedan in either velour or Mark Cross leather. Power equipment came standard, as did automatic climate controlled air conditioning, ABS brakes, Cruise Control, driver’s side airbag, and its distinct Landau vinyl roof. The Imperial featured hidden headlamps behind retractable metal covers similar to those found on the LeBaron coupe/convertible and New Yorker/Fifth Avenue. The Imperial was available with a choice of several Infinity sound systems, all with a cassette player. Other major options included fully electronic digital instrument cluster with information center, electronically controlled air suspension system, and remote keyless entry with security alarm. Dealer-installed integrated Chrysler cellular phones and six-disc CD changers were also available.

All seventh generation Imperials were covered by Chrysler’s market-leading “Crystal Key Owner Care Program” which included a 5-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and 7-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty. A 24-hour toll-free customer service hotline was also provided.

As planned, this generation Chrysler Imperial was discontinued after the 1993 model year along with the similar New Yorkers. They were replaced by the new LH platform sedans. While the New Yorker name continued on for three more years, 1993 would be the last year for Imperial. The critically acclaimed cab-forward styled Chrysler LHS replaced the Imperial as Chrysler’s flagship model for 1994.

Production figures and prices

Production figures/prices
Year Units Original MSRP Today’s Dollar Equivalent
1990 14,968 $25,655 $46,468
1991 11,601 $27,119 $47,115
1992 7,643 $28,453 $47,979
1993 7,064 $29,481 $48,293
Total production = 41,276


Chrysler Imperial Concept
2006 Chrysler Imperial
Production 2006 (Concept car)
Body and chassis
Class Full-size luxury car
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout FR layout
Platform Chrysler LY platform
Related Chrysler 300
Wheelbase 123-inch (3,124 mm)

A Chrysler Imperial concept car was presented at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. This concept uses the Chrysler LY platform, which is an extended LX. It features a 123-inch (3,124 mm) wheelbase. Riding on 22-inch (560 mm) wheels, the car presented “a six-figure image but at a much lower price” according to Tom Tremont, Vice President of advanced vehicle design for Chrysler. The design incorporated a long hood and front end dominated by an upright radiator and a horizontal themed grille. Brushed and polished aluminum pods evoke the free-standing headlamps (a classical throwback favored by 1960s Chrysler chief designers Virgil Exner and Elwood Engel, used commonly in 1930s Chrysler vehicles). Circular LED taillights with floating outer rings harken to the “gun sight” taillight look of early 1960s Imperials. The roof line was pulled rearward to enlarge the cabin and to create a longer profile.

See also

Imperial (automobile)

Imperial (automobile)

This article is about the Imperial marque manufactured by U.S. auto maker Chrysler between 1955 and 1983. For Imperial cars manufactured under the Chrysler marque, see Chrysler Imperial. For the early British manufacturer, see Imperial (British automobile). For the Imperial automobile from 1908 to 1916, see Imperial Automobile Company.
1960 Imperial Crown Convertible

1960 Imperial Crown Convertible
Manufacturer Chrysler
Production 1955–1975
Body and chassis
Class luxury car
Layout FR layout
Predecessor Chrysler Imperial

Imperial was the Chrysler Corporation‘s luxury automobile brand between 1955 and 1975, with a brief reappearance in 1981 to 1983.

The Imperial name had been used since 1926, but was never a separate make, just the top-of-the-line Chrysler. However, in 1955, the company decided to spin Imperial off as its own make and division to better compete with its North American rivals, Lincoln and Cadillac, and European luxury sedans called the Mercedes-Benz 300 Adenauer, the Mercedes-Benz 600, and the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud. Imperial would see new body styles introduced every two to three years, all with V8 engines and automatic transmissions, as well as technologies that would filter down to Chrysler corporation’s other models.

First generation (1955–1956) A Separate Make

First generation
1955 Imperial Four Door Sedan (C-69 series)1955 Imperial Four Door Sedan
Model years 1955–1956
Assembly Jefferson Avenue Assembly
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Designer Virgil Exner
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door Newport hardtop
4-door sedan
4-door Southampton hardtop
Related Imperial Parade Phaeton
Engine 331 cu in (5.4 L) Hemihead V8
354 cu in (5.8 L) Hemihead V8
Transmission 2-speed PowerFlite automatic
3-speed TorqueFlite A488automatic
Wheelbase 1955:130.0 in (3,302 mm)
1956:133.0 in (3,378 mm)
Length 1955: 223.0 in (5,664 mm)
1956: 229.6 in (5,832 mm)
Width 1955: 79.1 in (2,009 mm)
1956: 78.8 in (2,002 mm)
Height 1955: 61.2 in (1,554 mm)
1956: 61.5 in (1,562 mm)
Curb weight 4,700–4,900 lb (2,100–2,200 kg)

1955 Imperial Newport with rear view of free-standing gunsight taillights1955 Imperial Newport with rear view of free-standing “gunsight” taillights

1955 Chrysler Imperial Newport1955 Imperial Newport


For the 1955 model year, the Imperial was launched and registered as a separate marque (make), apart from the Chrysler brand. It was a product of the new Imperial Division of Chrysler Corporation, meaning that the Imperial would be a make and division unto itself, and not bear the Chrysler name. Chrysler Corporation sent notices to all state licensing agencies in the then-48 states that the Imperial, beginning in 1955, would no longer be registered as a Chrysler, but as a separate make . Chrysler introduced Forward Look Styling by Virgil Exner, who would define Imperial’s look (and the look of cars from the other four Chrysler divisions) from 1955 to 1963. Even as early as in 1954, Chrysler Corporation ads at the time began to visibly and consciously separate The Imperial from the Chrysler Division car line in the eyes of the public, to prepare for the big change coming in 1955.  Once the “Imperial” brand was introduced, Cadillac no longer used the “imperial” name for the top-level limousines starting in 1955.


1955 Chrysler Imperial car model shown on display at January 1955 Chicago Auto Show 1955 Imperial car model shown on display at January 1955 Chicago Auto Show

The 1955 models are said to be inspired by Exner’s own 1952 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton show cars (which were themselves later rebodied to match the 1955-56 Imperials). The platform and bodyshell were shared with that year’s big Chryslers, but the Imperial had a wheelbase that was 4.0 inches (102 mm) longer, providing it with more rear seat legroom, had a wide-spaced split eggcrate grille, the same as that used on the Chrysler 300 “executive hot rod”, and had free-standing “gunsight” taillights mounted above the rear quarters, which were similar to those on the Exner’s 1951 Chrysler K-310 concept car. Gunsight taillights were also known as “sparrow-strainer” taillights, named after the device used to keep birds out of jet-engines. Such taillights were separated from the fender and surrounded by a ring and became an Imperial fixture through 1962, although they would only be free-standing in 1955-56 and again in 1962. Models included a two-door Newport hardtop coupe (3,418 built) and a four-door sedan (7,840 built). The V8 engine was Chrysler’s first-generation Hemi V8 with a displacement of 331 cu in (5.4 L) and developing 250 brake horsepower (186 kW). Power brakes and power steering were standard. One major option on the 1955 and 1956 Imperials was air conditioning, at a cost of $535. Production totaled 11,430, more than twice the 1954 figure, but far below Lincoln and Cadillac.


1956 Chrysler Imperial Southampton Two-Door Hardtop1956 Imperial Southampton Two-Door Hardtop

1956 Chrysler Imperial1956 Imperial

1956 Chrysler Imperial dash push button PowerFlite transmission introduced for the 1956 models

Imperial dash push button “PowerFlite” transmission introduced for the 1956 models

1956 All-Transistor car radio - Chrysler Mopar model 914HR - Optional on 1956 Imperial car models.All-Transistor car radio – Chrysler Mopar model 914HR – Optional on 1956 Imperial car models.

The 1956 models were similar, but had small tailfins, a larger engine displacement of 354 cu in (5.8 L) with 280 brake horsepower (209 kW), and a four-door Southampton hardtop sedan was added to the range. 10,268 were produced. With a wheelbase of 133.0 inches (3,378 mm), longer than the previous year’s by 3.0 inches (76 mm), they had the longest wheelbase ever for an Imperial. This also contributed to an increase in their overall length to 229.6 inches (5,832 mm), making them the longest non-limousine post WWII American cars until the advent of the Imperials of the “Fuselage Look” era later in the 1970s.

1956 was the year that Chrysler introduced the push button PowerFlite automatic transmission; Packard also introduced a similar system called the Touchbutton Ultramatic in the Imperial’s competitor, the Packard Caribbean and the Patrician.


1955 Chrysler – Philco all transistor car radio – “Breaking News” radio broadcast announcement. (Optional on 1956 Imperial car models)

On April 28, 1955, Chrysler and Philco announced the development and production of the world’s first all-transistor car radio, the Mopar model 914HR. It was developed and produced by Chrysler and Philco and was a $150.00 “option” on the 1956 Imperial car models. Philco manufactured the Mopar 914HR starting in the fall of 1955 at its Sandusky Ohio plant, for Chrysler.

Second generation (1957–1966)

Second generation
1957 Chrysler Imperial Crown coupe
Model years 1957–1966
Assembly Jefferson Avenue Assembly
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Designer Virgil Exner and Elwood Engel
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop
2-door convertible
4-door sedan
4-door hardtop
Platform D-body
Engine 392 cu in (6.4 L) Hemihead V8
413 cu in (6.8 L) Wedgehead V8
440 cu in (7.2 L) Wedgehead V8
Transmission 3-speed TorqueFlite A488automatic
3-speed TorqueFlite A727automatic
Wheelbase 129.0 in (3,277 mm)
Length 1957: 224.4 in (5,700 mm)
1958: 225.9 in (5,738 mm)
1959–60: 226.3 in (5,748 mm)
1961–62: 227.1 in (5,768 mm)
1963–66: 227.8 in (5,786 mm)
Width 1957: 81.2 in (2,062 mm)
1958: 81.3 in (2,065 mm)
1959: 81.0 in (2,057 mm)
1960: 80.1 in (2,035 mm)
1961–63: 81.7 in (2,075 mm)
1964–66: 80.0 in (2,032 mm)
Height 1957: 57.5 in (1,460 mm)
1958: 56.7 in (1,440 mm)
1959: 56.9 in (1,445 mm)
1960–61: 56.7 in (1,440 mm)
1962–64: 56.8 in (1,443 mm)
1965: 57.2 in (1,453 mm)
1966: 55.8 in (1,417 mm)
Curb weight 4,800–5,500 lb (2,200–2,500 kg)

For the 1957 model year, the Imperial received its own platform, setting it apart from any other division of Chrysler. This would last through the 1966 model year. Imperials during this period were substantially wider, both inside and out, than other Mopars with front and rear shoulder room equal to 64.0 in (1,626 mm) and 62.0 in (1,575 mm) respectively. The front seat shoulder room measurement remains an unsurpassed record for Imperial and would remain the record for any car until the 1971–1976 GM full-size models. Exterior width reached a maximum of 81.7 in (2,075 mm) during 1961–1963, which remains the record for the widest non-limousine American car. After Lincoln downsized in 1961 this generation of Imperial had no real competitor for the title of largest car for the remainder of its decade-long lifespan.

1962 Chrysler Imperial Crown interiorImperial Crown interior

One advantage of Imperials of this vintage was their strength; their crashworthiness got them banned from most demolition derbies for being too durable and too tough to take down. Unlike the rest of the Chrysler Corporation makes (Chrysler, De Soto, Dodge and Plymouth), that began unibody construction in 1960, the Imperial retained separate full perimeter frames for rigidity through the 1966 model year. These substantial frames had a box cross section with crossmembers forming an “X”. The drive shaft passed through a hole in the “X” frame. The emergency brake gripped the drive shaft, and was not connected to the rear drum brakes prior to 1963.

Another advantage was that Imperial, and all Mopars, received “Torsion-Aire” suspension in 1957. Torsion-Aire was an indirect-acting, torsion-bar front suspension system which reduced unsprung weight and shifted the car’s center of gravity downward and rearward. Torsion-bar suspension on the front combined with multi-leaf springs on the rear provided a smoother ride and improved handling.



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1957 Imperial Crown Southampton coupe

The 1957 model year was based to an even greater degree on Virgil Exner’s “Forward Look” styling (also used on other full-size Chryslers of the period). It featured a complicated front end (similar to Cadillacs of the period) with a bulleted grille and quad headlights, tall tailfins, and Imperial’s trademark gunsight taillights. For the first time on an American car curved side glass was used. The Hemi engine was available for the first two years that was enlarged to 392 cu in (6.4 L). Power seats and dual exhaust were made standard across the line. A convertible was available for the first time on an Imperial and available in the mid-range Crown series. Sales were helped by Exner’s “ahead of the competition” styling, with 1957 becoming the best-selling Imperial year ever. 37,593 were produced, but Cadillac by contrast sold over 120,000 cars in 1957. Quality control also slipped considerably, a consequence of the second total redesign in two years.

Starting from 1957, Imperials were available in three levels of trim: standard Imperial Custom, mid-range Imperial Crown, and the new top-of-the-line Imperial LeBaron  (a reference to LeBaron, Carrossiers). The custom-built Imperial Crown limousine was also offered. Through the late 1950s and into the early 1960s styling would continue to become “Longer, Lower, Wider”, with the addition of some of the wildest fins on a car. The “FliteSweep Deck Lid”, a fake continental tire bulge, was an option from 1957 through 1961 and again in 1963 (due to demand). It was shared with contemporary Mopars, including the Valiant. Exner’s love of this feature extended back to early-fifties concept cars like the 1953 Chrysler D’Elegance.


1958  Chrysler Imperial Crown convertible1958 Imperial Crown convertible

Styling changes in 1958 were limited to the front grille and bumper. Quad headlights became standard. The 1958 Imperial is credited with the introduction of cruise control, which was called “Auto-Pilot”, and was available on the Imperial, and on Chrysler New Yorker and Windsor models. Power door locks were another new option. Sales slipped to 16,133 in a recession year. Dealers were frustrated with buyers referring to the cars as a “Chrysler Imperial”, which inhibited sales as Chrysler was not seen as having Cadillac or Lincoln’s prestige. It didn’t help that Imperial continued to be sold at Chrysler dealerships, instead of standalone dealers, although it did have a separate “Imperial” dealership sign.


1959 Chrysler Imperial 2 1959 Imperial


Samsung1959 Imperial Crown coupe with view of “FliteSweep Deck Lid”

Production was moved from the traditional Jefferson Avenue Assembly plant in Detroit to an exclusive facility on Warren Avenue in Dearborn. Other than a toothy new grill and revisions to side trim little changed in terms of exterior styling for the 1959 model year. A new option was the “Silvercrest” roof which featured a stainless steel front with a rear canopy that could be ordered either in any of the basic car colors or in the “Landau” version which had a black canopy with the appearance of leather. Another new option was swivel out front seats that were part of the six way electric front bench seat. Manually activated by a handle for this introductory year, for 1960 and 1961 the seats would automatically swivel when the front door was opened activated by a cable. The Hemihead engine was replaced with the less expensive 413 cu in (6.8 L) Wedgehead engine that nevertheless had more horsepower and weighed 101 lbs less, improving the power-to-weight ratio. For the model year 17,710 Imperials were produced, ahead of Lincoln, as the Packard luxury brand withdrew from the marketplace.

While many critics of automobile styling rate the 1955 through 1959 Imperials highly, the design of the 1960–1963 period is more controversial. At that time, Exner was increasingly struggling with the Chrysler president and board. “It was during 1962 Exner was dethroned as president of design in Highland Park. His successor was Elwood Engel, lured away from Ford to lead Chrysler Corporation along a more conventional path. Exner continued as a consultant through 1964, after which he had no further involvement.”This source also states, “When he was good, he was very good ( re: styling). When he was bad…. it was the epitome of excessive design. Sales dropped off and the board stepped in.” Exner’s son went on further, in a 1976 interview, “it was time for a change. Their image needed changing. Dad was a great designer and he was always ahead of his time. He gained more freedom from Chrysle r in his designs of the modern Stutz.” This same source gives blow-by-blow accounts how Chrysler Corporation was revived through corporate changes in leadership. “But on the product front, the influence of Tex Colbert (ousted President of Chrysler in 1961) and Virgil Exner was still present, and it wouldn’t be entirely washed away until 1965”.

1963 Chrysler Imperial Crown convertible (Australia)1963 Imperial Crown convertible (Australia)

Despite the annual styling changes, all 1960-63 models featured a similar space age dashboard. The steering wheel was squared-off at top and bottom, designed for better leg room and view through the windshield in the straight ahead position. Dashboard lighting was electroluminescent, which used no incandescent lamps: electricity running through a five-layer laminate caused the phosphorescent paint to glow in the dark. Chrysler called it “Panelescent”, and it was shared on some Chrysler models. The effect was eerie and surprisingly modern, with its glowing green face and bright red needles. The 1960-63 models were also united by a distinctive side trim that started above the headlights and that ran at a slight downward angle almost to the end of the rear fender (except in 1963 when it would actually wrap all the way around the rear of the car) that was undercut by a slight indent in the sides from the front until just before the rear wheel housing.

More importantly, but perhaps less obviously, a significant change in the car’s proportions had occurred between the 1959 and 1960 model years. Although, at 226.3 inches, the 1960 Imperials were exactly the same length as the previous year, the whole body had been shifted forward, with a 2.1 inch reduction in the rear overhang, and a corresponding increase at the front. This led to a look that, due to a relatively smaller rear deck and more expansive front hood, was closer to Exner’s classic car era ideals, and it would persist, by one means or another, for the remainder of Imperial’s existence as a separate marque.


1960 Chrysler Imperial Crown sedan 1960 Imperial Crown sedan

1960 Chrysler Imperial Crown back1960 Imperial Crown


The 1960 Imperial adopted wildly exaggerated styling, featuring front fascia with a swooping bumper, gaping mesh grille, giant chrome eagle, and hooded quad headlights, and tall rear fins. Soaring fins had bullet style tail lamps at the peak of the fin, with a chrome ring surrounding it. The grille and bumper on the front of the 1960 used large pieces of heavy chrome, and the ‘furrowed brows’ of the fenders over the double sets of headlights gave the car a ponderous look. In common with most other 1960 Chrysler products, the Imperial featured the new “High-Tower” seat with the driver-side back individually contoured and raised above of the rest of the front seat for increased driver comfort and shoulder support. This would last through the 1962 model year. Also in 1960, Imperial changed back to 15 inch diameter wheels from the 14 inch diameter wheels that had been standard since 1957. Imperial LeBarons now featured a distinctive smaller “formal rear window” for greater rear seat privacy. Sales increased to 17,719. Imperial again finished ahead of Lincoln, but never did so again. While the rest of Chrysler’s lineup adopted unibody construction, Imperial retained its body on frame construction.


1961 Chrysler Imperial Crown convertible with view of free-standing headlights1961 Imperial Crown convertible with view of free-standing headlights

1961 Chrysler Imperial Crown convertible back1961 Imperial Crown convertible

The 1961 model year brought a wholly new front end with free-standing headlights on short stalks in cut-away front fenders (a classical throwback favored by Virgil Exner, used commonly in the 1930s Chryslers. He would continue his look with the modern Stutz), and the largest tailfins ever. Inside, the Imperial gained an improved dash layout with an upright rectangular bank of gauges. The pillared four-door sedan was cancelled and would not return until the 1967 model year. With the downsizing of Lincoln, at 227.1 inches (later increased to 227.8 inches in 1963), the Imperial would once again be the longest non-limousine car made in America though 1966. Sales fell to 12,258, the result of bizarre styling and continued poor quality control.


1962 Chrysler Imperial Custom Southampton two-door 1962 Imperial Custom Southampton two-door

1962 Chrysler Imperial Crown convertible 2 1962 Imperial Crown convertible

The tailfins were largely truncated in 1962, topped with free-standing gunsight taillights, but these were elongated, streamlined affairs. The front grille was split, as in 1955-56, and a large round Eagle hood ornament was fitted for the first time. The 1962 models had a new, slimmer TorqueFlite A727 automatic transmission, which allowed a smaller transmission “hump” in the floor. This provided greater comfort for passengers in the center seat up front. Dual exhaust was now only standard on convertibles. 1962 also marked the closing of Imperial’s dedicated assembly plant. All later Imperials were once again built in the same Jefferson Avenue facilities in Detroit as Chryslers, as sales were insufficient to maintain a separate facility. 1962 production totaled 14,337. Shortly before leaving Chrysler, Virgil Exner had planned for a smaller Imperial to go along with the downsized 1962 Mopars, but the idea never went anywhere.


1963 Chrysler Imperial Crown Four-Door 6972cc1963 Imperial Crown Four-Door

1963 Chrysler Imperial Crown Four-Door rear

1963 Imperial Crown Four-Door

The 1963 models saw the split grille disappear again, replaced by a cluster of chromed rectangles, and the taillights were now inside the rear fenders, in ordinary fashion, for the first time. In addition, the designers redesigned the rooflines of Custom and Crown, two and four door models to be more squared off with thicker c pillars. 1963 models were the last Virgil Exner–styled Imperials, however Elwood Engel began applying some of his own touches to them, especially in the form of the redesigned base and Crown roofs. LeBaron roofs remained the same with formal styling and closed in rear window. 14,121 cars were produced for 1963.

In 1961, Chrysler scored a coup by hiring Elwood Engel away from Ford, where he had designed the 1961 Lincoln Continental. Engel’s design themes at Chrysler were a major departure from the fins of Virgil Exner, and instead featured a more familiar three-box design, but with more extreme rectilinear styling. And, at first glance, the total re-styling of the Imperial in 1964 was thought to strongly resemble Elwood Engel’s previous efforts for the 1961 Lincoln Continental. Both cars shared clean, slab-sided body panels, thick C-pillars, and a chrome molding outlining the top of the fender line. However, Engel used subtle curves and parallelogram angles to give the Imperial a distinct and novel look.


1964 Chrysler Imperial Crown interior Coupe1964 Imperial Crown interior

1964 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron Front

1964 Imperial LeBaron

1964 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron rear

1964 Imperial LeBaron


The 1964 Imperials were the first designed entirely by Engel. Predictably, they bore a strong resemblance to the Lincoln Continental. The dashboards seemed more conventional because the squared-off steering wheel and electroluminescent dash lighting were gone. However, there remained the ribbon-style speedometer. A split grille returned after one year’s absence, inspired by the 1955 appearance, and the faux spare tire bulge atop the trunk lid gave way to a squared-off protrusion at the rear, carrying downward to the rear bumper. A large boss in the center of it was actually the fuel filler door, covered with a large Imperial Eagle. Horizontal, spear shaped housings hold a taillight and back-up light. Heat and defrost, always a popular option, were now standard.

The base Imperial Custom model was now gone; the cars were now available as a four-door hardtop in the Crown or the LeBaron levels of trim, or as a two-door hardtop or convertible in the Crown level of trim. As a result, power windows were now standard on all Imperials. Imperial Crown coupes adopted the smaller style LeBaron “formal rear window” that had been introduced in 1960, and both body styles could now be ordered with a vinyl roof. With 23,295 produced, 1964 was Imperial’s second best tally ever. A padded dash, power seats, power steering, power brakes, and head rests were standard on the convertible. A new option this year was an adjustable steering wheel.

Tom McCahill, an automobile critic with a reputation for colorful metaphors, quipped that Imperial “cornered at speed flatter than a tournament billiard table”, unusual for a car of its prodigious weight and extreme dimensions. McCahill became a loyal customer, buying a new Imperial yearly 1957 through 1962. His visible and enthusiastic endorsement helped Imperial forge a reputation as the “driver’s car” among the big three luxury makes.

And as McCahill observed in 1964:

This is what I told them in California. When I hit the road with hundreds of pounds of baggage, typewriters and testing equipment, I’m not out there just to have fun. I want to get from here to there, which may be thousands of miles away, with as much comfort as possible. Besides, Boji [his dog] now demands comfort. So does my wife.

I’ve been on some pretty fancy trains, including private cars, and to this writing, I have never found anything quite as comfortable or more capable of getting me to my destination as the ’64 Imperial LeBaron. It’s a great automobile.


1965 Chrysler Imperial Crown Four-Door1965 Imperial Crown Four-Door

1965 Chrysler Imperial Crown Convertible1965 Imperial Crown Convertible


Changes for 1965 were largely confined to the front fascia and to trim, and replacement of the push-button automatic transmission gear selection system with a more conventional steering column-mounted shift lever. The split grille was gone, replaced by a large chromed crossbar and surround, and the headlights were inset into the grill behind glass covers (similar to that year’s Chrysler 300 and New Yorker models) with etched horizontal lines imitating the grill. As pointed out by the sales literature, 100-year-old Claro Walnut trim was added to the interior. Production totaled 18,409.


1966 Chrysler Imperial Crown convertible1966 Imperial Crown convertible

1966 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron coupe rear1966 Imperial LeBaron coupe


This was the final year for the Imperial platform that was first created in 1957. All subsequent years through 1966 used this same basic platform with annual changes to the body sheetmetal. However, the Imperial still used the wrap-around windshield that had been dropped by most other makes for entry and exit room when they almost all simultaneously downsized in 1961.

The 1966 model year saw a change to an egg-crate grille. The glass headlight covers lost the etched lines but gained twin 24k gold bands around the perimeter. The trunk lid bulge became more squared off with a smaller Imperial script off to the side. The back-up lights were moved to the lower bumper, nearly doubling taillight size. The Claro Walnut trim that had been introduced the previous year was used more extensively and would be replaced the following year. The 413 cu in (6.8 L) engine that had been standard since 1959 was replaced with a 350 hp (261 kW; 355 PS) 440 cu in (7.2 L) engine.

Production totaled 13,752. There was a 1966 LeBaron that was presented to Pope Paul VI at the UN in New York for his use. Also this year, Imperial was the basis for “The Black Beauty,” a rolling arsenal on the ABC-TV series The Green Hornet, starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee. A black Imperial of this year would also be restored as a wedding anniversary gift for Richard “The Old Man” Harrison on the History Channel show, Pawn Stars.

Third generation (1967–1968)

Third generation
1967 Chrysler Imperial Le Baron photo-61967 Imperial LeBaron
Model years 1967–1968
Assembly Jefferson Avenue Assembly
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Designer Elwood Engel
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop
2-door convertible
4-door sedan
4-door hardtop
Platform C-body
Related Chrysler 300
Chrysler New Yorker
Chrysler Newport
Chrysler Town & Country
Engine 440 cu in (7.2 L) Wedgehead V8
Transmission 3-speed TorqueFlite A727automatic
Wheelbase 127 in (3,226 mm)
Length 1967: 224.7 in (5,707 mm)
1968: 224.5 in (5,702 mm)
Width 79.6 in (2,022 mm)
Height 1967: 56.7 in (1,440 mm)
1968: 57.0 in (1,448 mm)
Curb weight 4,900–5,200 lb (2,200–2,400 kg)

With the exception of the introduction of a shorter wheelbase and unit body construction, Imperial styling was not radically changed for the 1967 and 1968 models. The new body maintained the themes established by Engel for the 1964–1966 models. Imperial switched from the body-on-frame platform (D-body) to a unibody platform (C-body platform used in other full size Mopars.) While Imperial’s front K member was 3.0 inches (76 mm) longer than a Chrysler’s, dimensions behind the front fenders were similar. One reason for the change was that Chrysler had gained experience with unibody construction and was ready to apply it to the company’s flagship line.

The economic component was that the switch to the C-body was less expensive than maintaining a separate platform for Imperial, which was increasingly difficult to justify given Imperial’s relatively low sales volume. The new platform resulted in a significant reduction in weight as well as in exterior and interior dimensions. With the partnership gone between Ghia and Chrysler, limousines based on the Imperial were produced byAmbruster-Stageway of Fort Smith Arkansas. The limousines were “sectioned” between the front and back doors with a 36″ insert (based on factory sheetmetal) that allowed two rear-facing seats and a small console/bar in between. The limousine conversions were longer than the earlier Ghia cars, and longer than the Cadillac Series 75 limousines.


Imperial shared the unibody platform with other full-sized Chryslers but retained a unique bodyshell. The styling kept the overall straight-line, sharp-edged Engel theme, but there were many detail changes intended to make Imperial look less like Lincoln and more into its own territory. The spare tire bulge was completely gone from the rear, although the boss remained. The practically full-width taillights spread out from it, straight, but ended before chrome-tipped rear wings. The front end was somewhat similar to 1966’s, although the glass lamp covers were gone. A base Imperial model, simply called Imperial, returned for the first time since 1963, complementing the Crown and LeBaron levels of trim. It contained the convertible, which had previously been a Crown, and the first four-door pillared Imperial sedan since 1960. Dual exhaust was no longer standard on the convertible. The only way to get it was to order the “TNT” version of the 440 engine, an option that promised more power.

An option on Crown coupes was the Mobile Director. Essentially the front passenger seat turned to face rearward and a small table and high intensity light folded out over the back seat. The idea was that an “executive” could turn around and do work while being driven to the office, or he could sit behind the driver and a secretary could take dictation in the rear-facing front seat. The concept originated with the 1966 Mobile Executive Show Car that was an Imperial Coupe fitted with a telephone, Dictaphone, writing table, typewriter, television, reading lamp and stereo. Chrysler also used the reversed front seat idea in the 300X show car. Costing $597.40 ($317.60 in 1968), at a time when a Crown coupe started at $6011, it was a very expensive option. Thus a total of only 81 Crown coupes were ordered this way, and only a handful so equipped are known to still exist. The option was cancelled at the end of the 1968 model year. Sales increased to 17,614.


The 1968 Imperial was little changed from the previous year. The grille changed to a brightly chromed one with thin horizontal bars, split in the middle by vertical chrome and a round Imperial Eagle badge. The cornering lamp lenses were now covered by matching grilles. At the rear, the horizontal bars over the taillights remained, but the gas filler door pull was changed to a cast metal eagle instead of a round knob containing a plastic emblem. All 1968s came with a Federally mandated energy absorbing steering column. The base level of trim was cancelled after only one year and the convertible and four-door sedan became part of the Crown level of trim. This was also the last year for the Imperial convertible. A total of 15,367 Imperials were sold in 1968.

Fourth generation (1969–1973)

Fourth generation
1972 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron-41972 Imperial Le Baron
Model years 1969–1973
Assembly Jefferson Avenue Assembly
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Designer Elwood Engel
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop
4-door sedan
4-door hardtop
Platform C-body
Related Chrysler 300
Chrysler New Yorker
Chrysler Newport
Chrysler Town & Country
Engine 440 cu in (7.2 L) Wedgehead V8
Transmission 3-speed TorqueFlite A727automatic
Wheelbase 127.0 in (3,226 mm)
Length 1969–71: 229.7 in (5,834 mm)
1972: 229.5 in (5,829 mm)
1973: 235.3 in (5,977 mm)
Width 1969–71: 79.1 in (2,009 mm)
1972–73: 79.6 in (2,022 mm)
Height 1969–70: 55.7 in (1,415 mm)
1971: 56.1 in (1,425 mm)
1972: 56.0 in (1,422 mm)
1973: 56.2 in (1,427 mm)
Curb weight 4,900–5,200 lb (2,200–2,400 kg)

The “Fuselage Look” was how Chrysler described its new styling in 1969. Instead of the square lines of 1964-68, the new Imperials featured rounded “tumblehome” sides, bulging at the belt line, and tucking in down to the rocker panels. The new styling not only made the cars look longer and wider, it also surrounded the passengers in a hull-like fashion, similar to an aircraft, hence the reference to “fuselage”. The curved side glass, which had been pioneered in America by Imperial in 1957, had a much tighter radius, while the increased curvature of the bodysides permitted the window frames to be moved outboard at their bases, resulting in an increase in shoulder room without an increase in overall body width compared to the previous C-body. In fact, front and rear shoulder room increased from 59.4 in (1,509 mm) to 62.7 in (1,593 mm) on 4-door hardtops.

To reduce development and tooling costs, and bring overall expenditures more in line with actual sales, Imperial was forced to share much of its bodyshell with Chrysler for the first time since 1956. Consequently, front and rear doors, quarter panels, decklids, glass, and roofs were common with the entry-level Chrysler Newport. In other respects, however, little had changed; construction was still unibody, the wheelbase was still stretched 3.0 in (76 mm) longer than a Chrysler’s in front of the passenger section, the engine and transmission were the same, and the torsion bar front suspension was still used.


1969 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron coupe

1969 Imperial LeBaron coupe


In keeping with the times, the look was sleeker, with a reduced, more subtle level of trim. For the first time, the lights were hidden behind doors, giving a fashionable at the time full-width grille look using “loop” bumpers, primarily used on the Lincoln Continental. Only this year the Imperial featured sequential turn signals. 1969 was the final year for pillared sedans, and it was also the first year for the Imperial LeBaron coupe. At 229.7 inches Imperial would once again be the longest non-limousine car made in America, and would remain so through 1973 when it would set the post WW II record for non-limousine car length. 22,083 were produced for Imperial’s third best ever year. Ambruster-Stageway of Fort Smith Arkansas continued with limousine conversions using the 1969-71 sheetmetal. Twelve total conversions were delivered over the three years, including one for then New York governor Nelson Rockefeller.


1970 Chrysler Imperial Crown

1970 Imperial Crown

The 1970 models differed only in minor ways. The grill pattern changed to a larger eggcrate design; the front cornering lamps were now rectangular instead of the “shark gill” pattern of 1969. A wide chrome strip was added at the rocker panels, vinyl side trim was made optional, and (for this year only) the fender skirts were gone. It was the final year for the Crown series; afterwards Imperial would have only two models, a LeBaron hardtop sedan and coupe. 11,822 of the 1970s were produced.


For 1971, the Imperial Eagle at the front of the hood was gone, replaced by the word IMPERIAL; the deck lid badge said, for the first time, “IMPERIAL by Chrysler”. The 1971 Imperial is notable for being the first production car in America with a 4-wheel Anti-lock braking system (ABS) from Bendix, a rarely selected option at that time. 11,569 1971 Imperials were produced.

Although the vinyl top was standard, for a short time a unique paisley-patterned vinyl top in a burgundy color was available as an option on burgundy-painted cars. It has been rumored that this top had actually been overprinted on waste “Mod Top” patterned vinyl, which had been available on some Dodge and Plymouth models in 1969 and 1970, but, according to Jeffrey Godshall, a Chrysler designer and frequent contributor to the magazine Collectible Automobile, this was not the case. With exposure to the elements, the burgundy overprint faded, and the pattern began to show through in a purple “paisley” pattern. Chrysler replaced many affected tops with either white or black standard vinyl, but some survive.



Bj. 1972, V8, 7,1 l, 245 PS1972 Imperial LeBaron coupe

1972 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron-31972 Imperial LeBaron

The sheetmetal was completely new for the 1972 model year, although the styling was an evolution of the previous fuselage style. The 72 appeared bigger and heavier all around in comparison to the 69-71’s and featured a somewhat more rounded side profile without a character line down the side and chrome trim on the top seams of the fenders from the rear windows forward. The front fascia was all new and imposing-looking, and the back featured vertical teardrop taillights for the first time, while the rear side marker lights were in the form of shields with eagles on them. Sales increased to 15,796.


1973 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron1973 Imperial LeBaron

1973 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron 21973 Imperial LeBaron


The 1973 model year saw new federal bumper standards to prevent damage. This meant the Imperials gained large rubber over-riders front and rear, adding 5.8 inches (147 mm) to the car’s length, making it the longest production car in North America for that year and the longest postwar (non-limousine) production car at 235.3 inches (5,977 mm). As 1973 was in general a good year for the auto industry, 16,729 of the 1973 Imperials were built and sold. Two all-black LeBaron sedans were delivered to the US Secret Service, who then turned them over to Hess and Eisenhardt, who converted them into limos for Presidential use. Both cars were used as late as 1981, and carried Ronald Reagan and his staff to Capitol Hill for his Presidential Swearing-in ceremony in January 1981.

Fifth generation (1974–1975)

Fifth generation
1975 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron.png
Model years 1974–1975
Assembly Jefferson Avenue Assembly
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Designer Elwood Engel
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door Crown coupe
2-door hardtop
4-door hardtop
Platform C-body
Related Chrysler New Yorker
Chrysler Town and Country
Chrysler Newport
Engine 440 cu in (7.2 L) Wedgehead V8
Transmission 3-speed TorqueFlite A727automatic
Wheelbase 124.0 in (3,150 mm)
Length 1974: 231.1 in (5,870 mm)
1975: 232.7 in (5,911 mm)
Width 79.7 in (2,024 mm)
Height 1974: 54.7 in (1,389 mm)
1975: 54.5 in (1,384 mm)
Curb weight 5,000–5,200 lb (2,300–2,400 kg)
Successor Chrysler New Yorker Brougham

On the eve of final plans for the 1974 model year things looked bleak for Imperial. The marque had lost its exclusive assembly plant in 1962. It had lost its unique platform in 1967. Then in 1969 it lost its unique bodyshell. Mention of the Chrysler name returned in 1971 after Imperial having been a separate marque for years. The 1973 model year appeared to be the end of the road for Imperial.

Chrysler had planned on quietly discontinuing the Imperial at the end of the 1973 model year. Without its own unique bodyshell, it would be difficult to compete with Cadillac and Lincoln, which had their own unique bodyshells. Sales were likely to remain low, as image and appearance were an important part of luxury car appeal. And, in turn, without sales, it seemed there was no way Chrysler could afford to build an Imperial with a unique appearance.

A front end design, which had been envisioned for the next Imperial by Chrysler/Imperial exterior studio senior stylist Chet Limbaugh, came to the attention of Elwood Engel. Engel showed the design to Chrysler president John Riccardo and convinced him to use it on an Imperial. Except for the front end clip and trunk lid, to save money it would use all the same body panels as the Chrysler New Yorker, and, for the first time in its history as a separate marque, it would have the same wheelbase. But the car would have Limbaugh’s unique new “waterfall” grille design which featured thin vertical chrome bars, separated by a body-colored band running through the center, and which started on top of the nose and flowed down.


1974 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron Hardtop Sedan1974 Imperial LeBaron


With the full effects of the 1973 oil crisis being solidly felt, a bad year for the U.S. economy (and the auto industry as well) was in place for 1974. This was Chrysler’s 50th anniversary year and the final redesign of the full-size Imperial. The 1974 Imperial was the first regular American passenger car to offer 4-wheel disc brakes since the 1949–1954 Chrysler Imperials, the 1950–1952 Crosleys and the Chevrolet Corvettes that starting featuring them in 1965. The Imperial’s ignition system was electronic, another first in the market, as was the optional burglar alarm. In addition to the two regular 1974 LeBaron models, a 50th Anniversary 2-door LeBaron Crown Coupe was also produced, finished in Golden Fawn; only 57 were built, making a grand total of 14,483 Imperials produced for the model year. While sales were down from 1973, Chrysler was pleased with the sales of the Imperial line, given the poor economy that year.


For 1975, other than an enhancement to the waterfall grille, the front bumper and a few detail improvements, little changed. This was to be the last year of the independent Imperial marque, with only 8,830 1975 models sold. The last Imperial, a LeBaron sedan, rolled out of the factory on 12 June 1975. However, only the name disappeared, as the same basic car was offered, rather more cheaply (the Imperial feature of 4-wheel disc brakes was discontinued). From 1976 through 1978 the car was known as the Chrysler New Yorker Brougham. Justifying the price differential over the full-size Chrysler had become increasingly hard to do as the cars became more and more similar over the years to save costs, and in turn the costs of maintaining and marketing a separate, poorly selling marque were possibly just too high. Also, the 1973 oil embargo had turned buyers towards smaller more fuel efficient cars, a movement that had been building through the early-1970s as a result of rising fuel prices.

Imperial Crown Limousine (1955–1965)

Imperial Crown
1955 Imperial Crown Sedan (Orange Julep)
Model years 1955–1965
Assembly Jefferson Avenue Assembly
Detroit, Michigan, USA (1955-1956)
Designer Virgil Exner and Elwood Engel
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door limousine
Platform D-body (1957–1965)
Engine 331 cu in (5.4 L) Hemihead V8
354 cu in (5.8 L) Hemihead V8
392 cu in (6.4 L) Hemihead V8
413 cu in (6.8 L) Wedgehead V8
Transmission 2-speed PowerFlite automatic
3-speed TorqueFlite A488automatic
3-speed TorqueFlite A727automatic
Wheelbase 149.5 in (3,797 mm)
Length 1955: 242.5 in (6,160 mm)
1956: 246.1 in (6,251 mm)
1957: 244.9 in (6,220 mm)
1958: 246.4 in (6,259 mm)
1959–61: 246.8 in (6,269 mm)
1963–65: 248.3 in (6,307 mm)
Width 1955: 79.1 in (2,009 mm)
1956: 78.8 in (2,002 mm)
1957: 81.2 in (2,062 mm)
1958: 81.3 in (2,065 mm)
1959: 81.0 in (2,057 mm)
1960-61: 80.1 in (2,035 mm)
1963: 81.7 in (2,075 mm)
1964–65: 80.0 in (2,032 mm)
Height 1955–56: 62.5 in (1,588 mm)
1957–65: 58.5 in (1,486 mm)
Curb weight 5,300–6,300 lb (2,400–2,900 kg)
Predecessor Chrysler Imperial Crown



 1958 Imperial Crown Ghia Limousine


1965 Chrysler Imperial Crown Ghia Limousine1965 Imperial Crown Ghia Limousine

1960 JFK funeral - Jacqueline & Robert Kennedy entering limousineJacqueline Kennedy, standing near Robert F. Kennedy, about to enter her 1960 Imperial Crown limousine after the funeral of President John F. Kennedy at St. Matthew’s Cathedral.


During 1955 and 1956, a Imperial Crown limousine model was also offered. With an extra 19.5 in (500 mm) and 16.5 in (420 mm) of wheelbase in 1955 and 1956 respectively, and seating eight (three in the front including the driver, three in the rear, and two on rearward-facing fold-down jump seats), these replaced the long-wheelbase offerings in all Chrysler marques. Only 172 were built in 1955 and 226 in 1956. They were the last Chrysler-branded limousines built entirely in Detroit.

From 1957 until 1965, long-wheelbase Imperial Crown cars would be finished by Ghia in Italy. The earlier models used two-door hardtop bodies mounted on the more rigid convertible chassis; these would be shipped across the Atlantic, cut apart, lengthened by 20.5 inches (521 mm) and reworked. Later models were built from four-door models to the same specification. Each took a month to build and carried a high price for the time ($18,500 in 1963-64). They sold poorly against the Cadillac Series 75 that was less expensive ($9724–$9960 in 1963-64), and had an established reputation among limousine buyers, as well as against competing coachbuilders building on the Cadillac commercial chassis. A total of 132 Imperial Crowns were manufactured for Chrysler by Ghia over 1957-65. An interesting oddity is that all 10 Ghia built Imperial Crowns sold during the 1965 model year were 1964s with 1965 exterior styling, and consequently had pushbutton gearshifts. At about 6,200–6,300 lb (2,800–2,900 kg) curb weight the 1957-65 Ghia built Imperial Crowns are the heaviest standard production cars sold by an American firm since the 1930s.

Throughout her husband’s term as U.S. President, Jacqueline Kennedy’s personal car was a Ghia built 1961 Imperial Crown with 1960 styling. The car figured prominently in her various duties as First Lady. In President John F. Kennedy‘s funeral procession on November 25, 1963, near the front of the motorcade, carrying Jackie and her children, was her Imperial Crown. In 1963, the Imperial Crown limousine saw a new competitor from Europe called the Mercedes-Benz 600 and the Rolls-Royce Phantom V, with the same level of luxurious attention shared with the Ghia-built Crown limousines.

Nelson Rockefeller, Vice President of the U.S. during the term of President Gerald Ford, also owned a 1960 Imperial Crown. It is one of 17 limousines made by Ghia in 1960, and the only one that year with blind rear quarter treatment.

In the 1974 movie “The Godfather II“, a black Ghia built 1958 Imperial Crown was used by Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) while at the family compound near Reno, Nevada.

Imperial limousines (1966–1983)

While the “Imperial Crown” limousines ended in 1965, Imperial limousines continued to be made by other coach builders. After the last ten Ghia built Imperial Crowns were completed, Ghia sold its tooling to Barreiros Coachbuilders of Spain. Barreiros built ten limousines, much like those built by Ghia and, similar to the last ten built by Ghia, built 1965s with 1966 exterior styling, but with two inches longer wheelbase. Build quality was poor by comparison, with the cars famous for having a wiring harness made from wires of the same color.

Between 1967 and 1971 a total of 27 Imperial limousines were produced by Stageway Coachbuilders (ASC) of Fort Smith, Arkansas on a 163.0 in (4,140 mm) wheelbase, and were justifiably advertised as the largest luxury automobiles in the world. Two 1972 models with 1973 grills were built by the Hess and Eisenhardt Company of Fairfield, Indiana for the United States Secret Service and were used by Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan on his swearing-in day. One 1974 model Imperial was produced into a limo also by ASC. The final Imperial limousines were 1981-83 bodied cars, two of which were stretched by 24 inches (610 mm) and five were lengthened by 36 inches (910 mm).

Sixth generation (1981–1983)

Sixth generation
1981 Chrysler Imperial personal luxury coupe
Model years 1981–1983
Assembly Windsor Assembly
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
Platform Chrysler J platform
Related Chrysler Cordoba
Dodge Mirada
Engine 318 cu in (5.2 L) LA V8
Transmission 3-speed A904 automatic
Wheelbase 112.7 in (2,863 mm)
Length 213.3 in (5,418 mm)
Width 72.7 in (1,847 mm)
Height 52.6 in (1,336 mm)
Curb weight 3,968 lb (1,800 kg)
Predecessor Chrysler New Yorker Brougham
Successor Chrysler TC by Maserati (2-door coupe) (ideological)
Chrysler Laser (market segment)

1982 Chrysler Imperial Coupe

1982 Imperial

1981–83 Chrysler Imperial Burgundy rear styling1981–1983 Imperial rear styling


The early 1980s Imperial was an attempt to reinvent the Imperial as a personal luxury car. This came about after Lee Iacocca took the helm at Chrysler, as he had been instrumental in creating the successful Lincoln Mark series for this market while he was at Ford in the late 1960s. Although the company was facing bankruptcy, Iacocca decided that “a new flagship would assure the public that Chrysler had a future.” During the design of the car it was intended to be named Chrysler LaScala. However, when the car finally appeared, it was marketed simply as an Imperial, and the Chrysler name was not used.

For 1981, the top level sedan was the Chrysler New Yorker with the special “Fifth Avenue” trim package, introduced in 1979. The 1981 coupe was branded “Imperial” but with no model name, while the sedan was branded as “Chrysler.”

The new Imperial was a smaller, two-door only package, sharing its wheelbase chassis with the second generation Chrysler Cordoba and Dodge Mirada. Neither a convertible nor a 4-door version was available, though conversions were made of both by 3rd party companies. The bustle-back appearance was an attempt at an early 1980s luxury car appearance that was briefly popular, with Chrysler drawing inspiration from its 1937–1939 Chrysler Imperial sedans.

The Imperial eagle logo was not used as it had been moved to the Chrysler LeBaron model in 1977. Instead it bore a Chrysler Pentastar hood ornament made of Cartier crystal.

Competing models such as the Cadillac Eldorado and the Lincoln Continental Mark VI had been downsized by 1981, so the Imperial was of comparable size to its competitors, and the Eldorado was at that time rising to the peak of its success. A marketing effort for the new model included commercials and magazine ads featuring singer Frank Sinatra, a personal friend of Iacocca. Sinatra even recorded special songs to promote the new Imperial. The Imperials carried a market-leading 24-month/30,000-mile limited warranty which covered all labor, maintenance, and parts (except tires).


The 1981 Imperial came with a long list of standard features including air conditioning with thermostatic temperature control, electronic VFD dash (including odometer, speedometer, gear selection, gasoline-use calculator, and clock), power windows, power door locks, power seats, power outside mirrors, power trunk release, tilt steering column, automatic speed control, garage door opener, and other conveniences. Because of its high level of standard equipment there were virtually no options other than a cost-free choice of wheels (color-coordinated ‘snowflake’ cast aluminum wheels or steel wire wheel covers), upholstery choice (Mark Cross leather or Yorkshire cloth), sound systems choice, 40-band CB radio, power moonroof, and the Frank Sinatra Edition package.


The Imperial continued to offer an extensive list of standard luxury and convenience items for 1982 although some changes were made. Imperial’s “floating cushion” velour seats were replaced with ones of Kimberly velvet one-piece construction. New “Quartz-Lock” electronically tuned radios (ETR) were added to the options list while power moonroof was no longer available.


Following significant price increases during the 1981 and 1982 model years, due in part to high inflation at the time, the Imperial’s base price was cut back close to its original introductory level. The hood ornament, while similar in appearance, was changed from Cartier crystal to plastic. The Frank Sinatra Edition package was no longer available. A suspension upgrade Touring Edition package was added.

Overall, the sixth generation Imperial did not meet Chrysler management’s sales and reliability expectations. It had innovations such as the fuel injection system and electronic instrument cluster, and Chrysler tried to use it as a showcase for technology and quality. Unfortunately the fuel injection system proved troublesome and many cars were retrofitted under warranty (or later on owner initiative) with carburetors.

The Imperial name would reappear in 1990, but as the flagship Chrysler Imperial model.


The 318 cu in (5.2 L) V8, with a Chrysler-built throttle-body EFI system, was the only available engine. The automatic transmission was a wide-ratio TorqueFlite equipped with lock-up torque converter, with the final drive ratio 2.2:1 in 1981 and 1983; 2.4:1 in 1982.

engine displacement, type,
fuel system
max. motive power
at rpm
max. torque
at rpm
318 cu in (5,211 cc) LA V8
140 bhp (104 kW; 142 PS)
@ 4,000
245 lb·ft (332 N·m)
@ 2,000
3-speed TorqueFlite A904 automatic

Special trims

Frank Sinatra Edition

 Frank Sinatra in first 1981 Imperial built

The Imperial had an unusual distinction for 1981 as it was offered with an optional special edition named after a celebrity. The Imperial fs was a rare example of automotive history, as it was one of only a handful of regular production cars bearing a celebrity’s name. This limited edition Imperial was available only in Glacier Blue Crystal paint – Chrysler advertising claimed it matched the color of Sinatra’s eyes – and had special fs (lowercase) external badging, with a large glovebox placard proclaiming “Frank Sinatra Signature Edition”. Inside, 16 cassette tapes of Sinatra titles were presented in a specially made Mark Cross leather case. In the center console of the car there was also a special tray for 8 cassettes. 271 fs edition cars were manufactured. The “fs” cost $1,078.

Aside from the fs edition available for purchase by the public, Chrysler president Lee Iacocca commissioned a 1982 Imperial converted by ASC (American Sunroof Corporation) outside Detroit, Michigan using the front doors from a 1979-81 Dodge St. Regis sedan into a limousine with a 36 in (910 mm) stretch, and presented it to Frank Sinatra as a gift. A similar Imperial limousine also built by ASC is also used in the 1984 movie Cannonball Run II driven by Burt Reynolds and Dom Deluise, as well as the movies Sharky’s Machine and Stick.

Cartier Crystals

All 1981 to 1983 Imperials had Cartier crystals strategically placed on the exterior opera lights and steering wheel, and each crystal displayed ‘Cartier.’ In addition, each Imperial came with a Cartier crystal key in the Mark Cross Gift Set.

Mark Cross Interior & Gift Set

All 1981 to 1983 Imperials had the interior designed by Mark Cross, maker of fine leather goods. The seating came in either Kimberly cloth or Leather. Upon purchasing a new Imperial, Chrysler shipped the new owner a Mark Cross Gift Set consisting of an umbrella, leather portfolio, leather key fob, uncut Cartier key, and a ‘Sounds of Stereo’ music cassette. These were exclusive Mark Cross items not available for sale in a Mark Cross show room.


A few race teams built NASCAR spec racecars with Imperial sheetmetal and raced them on the NASCAR circuit from 1981 through the 1985 season, though mostly only on the superspeedways. They were driven by Buddy Arrington, Rick Baldwin, Cecil Gordon, Phil Goode, and Maurice Randall. The cars did not distinguish themselves to any great degree, however a Buddy Arrington owned and driven Imperial finished in sixth place in the summer 1982 race at Brooklyn, Michigan. The Imperial-based cars were used in competition as it was determined to be far more aerodynamic (and capable of higher speeds) than the Dodge Mirada at the time. The car had a drag coefficient of 0.41, which was better than contemporary Corvette (0.45), and performed well on the big high speed tracks, with Morgan Shephard (driving Buddy Arrington’s Imperial) qualifying for the 1985 Daytona 500 at a speed of 197 mph, despite the lack of suitable high-performance race engines. One of Arrington’s Imperials resides in the Talladega, Alabama NASCAR museum.

My collection found by searching the world wide web: