Curbside Classic: 1973 Imperial LeBaron by Chrysler – Those Were The Days, My Friend

(first posted 8/11/2014)    As so often happens with cars I like that are shared here on CC, I have the feeling that the title of this piece will receive some backlash. “Those were the days? 1973?! Gas lines, park bench bumpers, strangled performance and muscle cars halfway out the door?! What???” But bear with me! In 1973, new car buyers still had a lot to choose from, no one had yet uttered the dreaded word “crossover” and pickups were for people who, well, actually NEEDED a pickup.

Yes, in 1973 you still had choices. And there was much variety as well: personal luxury cars, a rising tide of efficient, well-made and attractive (albeit horribly rust-proofed) Japanese vehicles, station wagons (with or without Di-Noc, at your pleasure), hardtops, and convertibles.


Variety in color too. Silver, gray and black were available of course, but people cared less about resale value than about the actual car they would enjoy. I am of the opinion that ordering a car based on getting the best trade-in value down the line is dumb. Just get what you want! And people did. There was a virtual kaleidoscope of color charts for 1973 models, be they domestic, Asian or European. Want a red Volvo 144E with red vinyl? No problem. Triple white Eldo convertible? Sure. Bright blue 240Z with white buckets? You got it!


And there were Broughams! Long, lush, lovely Broughams! Baby Broughams like the new X-Body Buick Nova Apollo and Oldsmobile Nova Omega! Midsize Broughams like the Colonnade Cutlass Supreme coupe, Mercury Montego MX and Pontiac Grand Prix! And, of course, the big, comfortable top-tier Broughams from Cadillac, Lincoln, and Imperial.

Yes, Imperial was still around in ’73, though you could be forgiven for forgetting it. Sales had been steadily tapering off since the mid-Sixties, and despite an attractive facelift of the Fuselage Imperial for 1972, there just weren’t too many folks willing to pay $1500 more than a Chrysler New Yorker Brougham–a car that clearly shared a lot with the pricier Imperial.

The 1973 Imperial was offered only in LeBaron trim, the final Crowns coming off the line for the 1970 model year. You had your choice of the $7313 two-door hardtop or $7541 four-door hardtop.

When compared to the top-of-the-line standard Chrysler, the New Yorker Brougham, the Imperial added bespoke sheetmetal, hidden headlights (always a plus in your author’s opinion) and standard air conditioning ($420.85 for manual A/C and $495.15 for AutoTemp in New Yorkers).

1973 Chrysler Full Line-02-03

It also retained the loop bumper up front, unlike the Chrysler Newports and New Yorkers, which got a blockier, non-loop unit that, while not bad, was somewhat at odds with the curvy Fuselage style.

But, as the best Chrysler Corporation had to offer, the LeBaron had a lot of cool details, such as that amazing rear bumper, side marker light disguised as an emblem, aforementioned hidden headlights and elegant tailoring. It almost looked like a coachbuilder-customized New Yorker, which really, is precisely what it was.

One notable option on Imperials was a power sun roof, for a hefty $584.75. I can’t imagine too many popped for the sun roof, making this car (one of 14,166 four-door hardtops; 2,563 two-door hardtops were also made) rare even among fellow 1973 Imperials. As you can see in this shot, it was generously sized, like everything else on the Imperial. Stretch-out room? Oh yeah!

This attractive cloth was standard on LeBarons, but as you would expect, leather trim was available for a bit more. I always really liked the no-nonsense instrument panel on Fuselage Mopars, with everything easily falling to hand and logically laid out. The Imperial version, of course, had more simulated wood and padding, but was not drastically different from the Newports and New Yorkers it shared showrooms with.

Out back, you not only had ample leg room, but a built-in pillow on the C-pillar and lavaliere straps to assist your entry and exit. Combined with the pillarless body style, I believe this would be an excellent car to ride in in early spring with all four windows down!

The driver’s compartment was not shabby either, with a split bench and his-and-hers folding armrests. The door panels also had concealed storage, something that I always associated with Lincolns (my grandparents’ 1987 had them, as does my 2000 Town Car). But it appears Chrysler was first. Or was there another car that had them even earlier? I’m kind of curious about that…feel free to chime in in the comments!

But as a 1973 hardtop, the shoulder belts were separate from the lap belts. As it was kind of a pain to slide them out from their clips in the headliner, most folks just left them up there. My brother’s first car, a 1973 ‘cuda 340 purchased in 1999 (yes, really!) had the same thing. But unlike the Imperial with its various power assists and standard air conditioning, Andy’s ‘cuda had no chilled air–making things a bit uncomfortable in the summertime, even with a white interior and a hardtop!

But the best interior option of all were these groovy bucket seats, as shown in the 1973 Imperial deluxe brochure. Wow! I love these things, and would have rapidly checked off the box for them on the order form, but I imagine most of the ’73s did not have them–sadly! Aren’t they great?

I was a little disappointed that the headlight doors were in the up position on this 1973 I spotted at a repair shop one day late last year. But that is being really picky, as this car is a beaut! I love the colors. That deep metallic blue is a great contrast to the ample chrome trim, the white top is perfect, and the blue interior a perfect match to the paint.

Honestly, I was tripping over my tongue, stumbling out of the Lincoln with camera in hand, when I saw this fine specimen. I love my Fuselages! I was equally amazed a few months earlier when I saw the silver-blue 1971 New Yorker two-door hardtop, but this was even better. This was an Imperial. An Imperial, you guys! She was lovely.

And yes, though I get really tired of eBay listing saying “Chrysler Imperial” for a 1958, 1964 or 1951 model, sadly, it was correct for 1973. I am not precisely sure when the little “by Chrysler” emblem was added, but it is shown in my 1972 brochure.

And the sunroof was just the icing on the cake! I love my Town Car, but it looked like a pale luxury car facsimile compared to the grandeur of this Imperial! Well, that’s what twenty-five years of regulation will do to a luxury auto–but then my TC is much safer with four-wheel disc brakes, dual airbags and ABS too…

I was also impressed with this car’s originality. No silly non-factory paint colors, no huge ugly wheels, no bad JC Whitney do-it-yourself window tint. Just a nice, clean car.

Factory wheel covers, whitewall tires, original chrome, original trim. Just how I like it.

I personally would lose the tacky bug deflector, but its installation has likely kept the Imperial Eagle and hood paint sitting pretty for 41 years.

Here we can see the “rubber baby buggy bumpers” added to Imperials for 1973 to comply with the new bumper regulations. Although not the most beautiful bumper guards out there, they are worlds better than some of the ungainly bumpers tacked onto other 1973 motors. 1973 LTD anyone?

Although a true blue (true blue? Ha!) member of the Brougham Brigade, the 1973 Imperial LeBaron wore the final vestiges of the smooth lines seen on American cars from, oh, say about 1965. Clean styling, smooth sheetmetal. The opera lamps, landau tops and ample crushed-velour gingerbread and filigree were just around the corner, but in ’73, the big Mopars, from plebian Plymouth Fury I to Impressive Imperial, were rather clean, cohesive, and most attractive.

As I have heard tell, the ’73 was originally to be the last Imperial, but a chance sighting of a design sketch at Highland Park led to a slight stay of execution for the beloved but slow-selling Imperial.

Said new model, debuting in 1974 as the last all-new Imperial, did not sell well at all, but was a classy bit of kit, and after being slightly decontented, reappeared in 1976 as the “new” New Yorker Brougham, where it sold well beyond any Imperial of recent memory. But I will always have a soft spot for the 1972-73, for their rarity, for their luxuriousness while still retaining clean lines, but most of all, for their honorable continuation of one of the best luxury car names ever–Imperial.

Related: CC Capsule: 1973 Imperial LeBaron Coupe  Curbside Classic: 1973 Imperial LeBaron by Chrysler