Cohort Classic: 1968 Imperial Crown 4-door Hardtop – Troubled Empires

Photos from the Cohort by Hyperpack.

It’s little secret that by 1968, Chrysler’s wishes for its Imperial were falling far short of its imperial ambitions. The marque’s high water point had been in ’57, early on the marque’s imperial quest. From then, as JPC’s post on a ’68 Imperial Convertible told, the whole saga was one of constant retreats until eventual capitulation.

And with ’67 being the year that the Imperial lost its stand-alone platform, one can see the non-empire was in trouble. Not that it was news by then.

If one is to look for imperial analogies for the ’68 Imperial, I could see the case for it being Portugal’s Prince Regent John in 1807; fleeing to Brazil to set up its court in that territory while Napoleon was taking over its kingdom. Or maybe the reign of Spain’s young Alfonso the XIII? Losing what little of the Spanish Empire was left to the Americans in the 1898 Spanish-American War.

I would think there are more appropriate examples, but those are the ones that first jump to mind.

However troubled the Imperial project might have been by ’68, that doesn’t take away that any surviving one isn’t worth our attention. And as the images show, today’s sample is indeed a rather troubled Imperial.

This one belongs, once more, to the multiple MoPar Cohort uploads by Hyperpack (slant six in the comments). And yes, it’s another of the vehicles lying in the surrounding grounds of GO Car Sales in West Mifflin, PA. Like many others there, I would think this one has been at this location for quite a while without use.

As told in previous posts, the ’68 Imperial was little changed from the previous year, except for styling updates to differentiate some more from the full-size Chryslers. In that update, the ’68 carried with even more severity the elegant rectilinearity promoted by Chrysler’s VP of styling Elwood Engel. The lineup included the top-of-the-line LeBaron, then the Crown in 2-door Coupe, 4-door hardtop, and convertible versions (the latter making its final appearance). And finally, the Imperial Sedan.

While since ’67 the Imperial shared Chrysler’s unibody full-size C-platform, the car wasn’t a mere badge job. For one, the Imperial had its own distinctive body and its wheelbase benefited from an additional 3″ (127″ vs. 124″). That translated to an extra 6″ inches in length, and an extra 1″ of width. The model also enjoyed multiple luxury options, from full instrumentation and outstanding cooling and heating to 6-way power seats and the then-novel Auto-Pilot (Cruise Control). That plus the rarely ordered Mobile Director chair, now a true collector’s item. 

Carefully crafted and expensive-looking detailings accented all those luxury options. The nicely chiseled grille, for one, looks the part of the upper-class product the Imperial aimed to be.

Door-mounted toggle switches controlled a multitude of powered goodies. Interiors also offered a mix of fabric, wood paneling and leather to pick and choose from.

Period road tests attested that the Imperial was the best riding and handling of the Big 3 luxury offerings, with its suspension settings offering relaxed and sumptuous cruising for the 5000-plus pounds vehicle. Heft aside, the Imperial had a rather brisk performance thanks to the corporation’s mighty 440 CID V-8 mill offering 350hp at 4400 rpm. And as usual, the 3-speed Torqueflite automatic got plenty of praise in those reviews.

Those road tests confirmed that on paper, the Imperial was as good an offering as any of the Big-3’s competitors. Those same tests also told of the Imperial’s by-then-known troubles; mainly the nameplate’s lack of upscale cachet. An essential quality that the marque never quite cracked.

Then there were some new issues on top. Platform sharing certainly helped in the costs department, but it was getting mighty hard to tell an Imperial from a Chrysler product. Regardless of their different stylings, casual observers probably found it hard to tell them apart from the distance. Not good, for the style-conscious.

Also, and not new, Chrysler’s spotty quality record played against the models.

Now, Mr. Engel’s Chrysler styling reign has become known for its elegantly boxy offerings, but in a previous life, the man was as fond of the Space Age as anyone else in Detroit. A trait that occasionally made appearances later on, as in the ’68 Imperial’s Sci-Fi prop rear end. Is that a jet outlet back there? What about those thin side blades? A Star Trek ship of some kind?

Against the rest of the corporate’s lineup, the car’s most distinguishing view.

The dashboard panel is a mix of the future and the traditional; with a nifty chrome strip carrying the instruments, all accented by wood paneling. Sober, modern and traditional? What a mix. If only Infinity had heard of such an approach in ’89… (Oh wait, they’ve actually outlasted Imperial so far.)

Notice the Auto-Pilot controls, or Cruise Control on the lower left of the steering; still a novelty at the time. And then that hefty brake pedal with the Power Disc Brakes inscription.

Besides the Crown emblem, notice (on the left) the nifty and sculpted door handles that got a special mention on JPC’s ’68 Imperial Convertible post.

The renowned 440 up close, with new wiring and battery in place. I assume it runs?

Imperial’s empire never quite took hold, but that doesn’t take away that some lost soldiers occasionally appear in hopes of preserving the remnants of what could’ve been. Here’s one, in action behind the wheel.

Here our troubled Imperial is getting some more help. Going to a new home I would think?

Empires and imperial quests always leave plenty of questions to answer about what could have and might have been. And the Imperial saga is no different. And each find will probably just add more fodder to the matter as we ponder the multiple scenarios. Pointless? Perhaps. But rather entertaining.


Related CC reading:

Curbside Classic: 1968 Imperial Crown Convertible – Fall Back, Men, Fall Back!

Car Show Classic: 1967 Imperial Crown Coupe – For The Last Time, It’s Not A Chrysler!