(first posted 11/2/2012) Recently, I attended what is, in all likelihood, the last car show of the season. True to form, I took several dozen photos and will be meting them out in the next few months. Today, let’s look at one of my favorite marques: Imperial. And that’s an Imperial, buster! It is not, I repeat, NOT, a Chrysler. To understand why it bugs Imperial connoisseurs when someone calls one of these majestic luxury cars a Chrysler, imagine how weird it would sound for someone to call your Eldo a “GM Cadillac” or your Mark III a “Ford Lincoln.” OK, got it? Good. Let’s move on to the star attraction: This ’67 Crown Coupe.
The 1967 Imperial was all-new. It was also the first model to share the Chrysler’s monocoque chassis. And no doubt to Paul’s relief, the circa-1957 wraparound windshield was, at long last, consigned to the dustbin. It was a handsome car, though it was clear that it was not as unique as it had been in prior years. It all came down to dollars and cents: The Imperial had been stalling in the luxury car sales race, and Chrysler was getting tired of putting so much money and effort into a special car that typically sold 15-18,000 units–if they were lucky. It had been a long time since the Imperial’s last big sales year, 1957, when 35,734 units found buyers. In fact, ’57 was the high-water mark for the classy but unsuccessful Imperial marque, which finally fizzled after the ’75 model year.
That said, the ’67 Imperial was still very handsome and luxurious–and so were the competing Cadillac and Lincoln Continental. Could 1967 have been the pinnacle of the big, blowsy American luxury car? If not the best year, it’s certainly in the top three.
There’s no denying that the Imperial was sumptuous, with its plush seating, Danish-modern instrument panel with full instrumentation (sans tach), and an intriguing new option–the Mobile Director. Though rarely ordered, this neat option, available only on the Crown Coupe, comprised a front passenger seat that swiveled 180 degrees and a three-position folding table–the perfect setup for dictating a letter to your comely secretary while sipping a martini as you’re being whisked to an important meeting on the brand-spanking-new Interstate. Alas, this unique option was infrequently ordered (its $597.40 price tag on a $6,000 car might have had something to do with that), and Mobile Director Crown Coupes are prized by collectors today.
Our featured Imperial does not have the Mobile Director option, but nonetheless is quite lush with its blue leather seating. This has to be one of the sleekest instrument panels of the late ’60s. I especially like how the ends “waterfall” down into the power window controls on the door panel. And no, that is not a radio blanking plate; it is hinged and conceals the radio when it’s not in use, all in the name of aesthetics. And what’s that below the dash?
Yes, it is a vintage mobile phone. These had to be scarce in the ’60s and early ’70s. I wonder if jpcavanaugh’s dad’s Mark IV had the same model? Perfect for Maxwell Smart to phone the Chief when his shoe phone was busted! At any rate, there’s no antenna so it’s likely there for looks alone.
Even the door panels are luxurious. Look at all the buttons and controls. Maybe one of them launches the Saturn IB rocket! Each door had a built-in glove compartment, carpeted lower panel and courtesy light.
Befitting an Imperial, there was much standard equipment, including power front disc brakes, power steering, power windows, fender skirts, and several yards of chrome and polished stainless steel trim.
All Imperials received a four-barrel 440 cu in V8 that produced 350 horsepower at 4,400 rpm. Naturally, it was backed by Chrysler’s excellent Torqueflite automatic transmission. The Crown Coupe cost a princely $6,011 before options; adding the most popular options was likely to bump up the tally by a grand or two. Any 1967 Imperial is rare–only 17,614 were built–but the Crown Coupe take rate was even less, with only 3,235 made. Only the Crown four-door hardtop beat it in the lineup, with 9,415 built.
Our blue CC is a local car, and unrestored to boot. It was sold brand-new at Learner’s Sales & Service, right here in Rock Island. Although Learner’s was bought out by a Moline, IL C-P dealer in the late ’90s, this car still stands as a testament to just how good Chrysler made the Imperial back then. Too bad most folks wanted Cadillacs.