It’s probably no surprise that around these parts we are somewhat partial to our German cars. As both of your TTS hosts were raised by engineers in the 1970s and 1980s, that somewhat stands to reason. I mean, those were the glory days of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, so those were the cars held up to us as the gold standard. That is, until our resident engineers discovered Lexus and Infiniti in the early 90s, but that’s a blog for another day. Still, we do appreciate some good old American muscle, and although we do like our GM A-bodies and MOPAR B-bodies, there is no shame in a big, old, muscular sedan – especially a 4-door hardtop like this classic 1967 Imperial listed here on CraigsList in Newburg, Pennsylvania for a not unreasonable $8,500.
Imperial was, for all intents and purposes, Chrysler Corporation’s answer to Lincoln and Cadillac. It was their flagship brand from 1955 through 1975, and again briefly (and not terribly successfully despite Lido’s best efforts) from 1981- 1983. I’ve always been a little partial to the 1965-1966 Imperials with their covered sealed beam headlights and the link to the Green Hornet TV series starring a very young Bruce Lee as Kato, but the 1967-1968 cars like this one are special in their own right: they were the first of the Imperials that utilized unibody construction versus body-on-frame architecture, yet they retained classic angular American long hood/long trunk styling and – more importantly – the 4-door pillarless hardtop design.
My engineer Dad always loved a hardtop in either coupe or sedan. Something about that wide open feeling. I’ve had a few hardtop coupes, but never a 4-door sedan. This just may be a bit of a bucket list car for me. I always liked the early 1960s Continental, but the Imperial is just a little bit different. Not that Continentals are common, per se, but they are sort of the “go to” 4-door hardtop of the period. Sadly, there was no convertible option for the Imperial as there was for the Continental, but check out that vinyl roof! Coupled with the rear fender skirts this car looks long, sleek, and just a tad menacing. Mobster or banker could be equally at home in their Imperial in its time.
Earlier Imperials were too often mistaken for the Continentals with which they competed, thanks in no small part to the (sort of trapezoidal) wheel hump in the middle of the trunklid. For 1967, the tire hump was gone, instead the Imperial had a futuristic light bar that spanned the width of the car, in the middle of which was the Imperial Eagle in a round housing. I don’t know about you, but I see hints of Batmobile flamethrower rocket here, but surely that wasn’t intentional.
The Imperial’s tall greenhouse meant outward vision was quite good, despite the thick rear pillars. Head restraints were a $52 option at the time, and would be a welcome add-on for me. This car also has the optional seatbelts, which don’t hurt my feelings and come in very handy for enthusiasts who like to take their young kids out in their old cruisers. Interestingly, unlike some of the period competition, the Imperial came standard with power windows and even a cigarette lighter for each of the four outboard occupants. Unfortunately, the ad doesn’t say whether this car has the optional air conditioning. If not, there’s always Vintage Air. I do like my creature comforts…
The wood inside the Imperial is very much real walnut, and the facia panel has a trick wood door to cover some of the controls – sort of like a 2000s VW Phaeton. This car appears to have some sort of stereo console under the dash, at least that’s what the speaker on the side suggests. I’m guessing that means the original still occupies its place on the dash. That doesn’t make me unhappy. The leather seats look remarkably good, although according to the listing there was a full restoration in 1989 and some recent refreshing or “touch-up”. It doesn’t look new, but it looks very nice indeed.
Hearkening to my earlier comment about being “menacing”, perhaps the most notable point on that topic is the 440 cubic inch V8 engine, delivering an impressive 350hp and 480 lb-ft of torque to the pavement through a 3-speed automatic transmission. If not for the fact that the car weighs nearly two and a half tons, it would have been an outright rocket. Even so, the Imperial could hit 60mph in a not-too-shabby 9.4 seconds and power its way to 121mph. Those numbers are remarkably similar to the significantly smaller and lighter (again, it’s all relative) Mercedes 280SEL 4.5 in my garage right now. Having heard a 440 in action, I can tell you that the rumble from the Imperial’s dual exhaust just may be intoxicating. I love my old Merc, but wonder if he’d consider a trade?