Time for another trip in the Wayback machine to look at the 1981-83 Imperial, courtesy of my friend Jim Smith. He thoughtfully took pictures of brand new luxury cars back when Brougham was still in, the tops were padded and opera lamps were expected!
The 1981 Imperial was Lee Iacocca’s last try at the Continental Mark III formula: Long, low, sleek, with every available convenience, a long hood, a short deck, and Broughamed out to the gills.
When it was introduced, Jim was immediately smitten, and headed over to the local dealer to check one out. As he relates: “Parked on the showroom floor at North Oak Chrysler-Plymouth on the north side of Chicago in 1981 was this Frank Sinatra edition Imperial. This car was sold to the lawyer of the dealership’s owner. The lawyer was an Imperial collector who also had ’67 Imperial convertible. As far as I know he still owns this car.” Jim himself owned one years later, and drove many back when he worked in the car business in Chicagoland.
Yes, Sinatra himself endorsed this car, and the FS edition Imperial came with a selection of his greatest hits on cassette tape, and the metallic blue paint matched his eyes, according to Chrysler Corporation press releases. It was definitely NOT your driver’s ed Dodge Aries.
The Big Three had a brief fascination with prewar Rolls-Royce Hooper coachwork, especially the razor edged bustle back rear styling. The 1980 Cadillac Seville was first out of the gate, then the Imperial in ’81, and finally the Continental in model year ’82.
The Seville lasted to 1985 and the Continental to 1987. Both cars’ replacements had much more focus-group-friendly looks.
As this is a Retro Show post, we won’t get really deep into the Imperial’s history, but its technology-laden features, particularly its electronic fuel injection system, proved troublesome. A solution wasn’t immediately feasible, and many Imperials had their FI replaced with a carburetor. The car was only sold from 1981-83, with only 1,427 built in ’83. The Frank Sinatra package was not available in the final year of production.
I have only seen two or three of them in the last fifteen years, and never an FS. But there’s no denying their razor-sharp American luxury look and plush accommodations!