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08-31-2009, 03:24 PM
1980–1983 Chrysler Imperial

Drivers of this lemon probably didn’t feel especially “imperious” accompanying the wrecker back to the dealership to have their just-bought, top-of-the-line Chrysler’s entire fuel injection system, intake manifold, exhaust system, and gas tank replaced under warranty. It was just one of many appalling problems afflicting the last of the rear-wheel-drive, V-8 Imperials. Not even the pull of having a geezing Frank Sinatra as paid pitchman—“The Chairman of the Board tells ‘The Chairman of the Board’ why it’s time for Imperial,” read the ad copy—could sucker the public on this one.

Almost $20,000 (a huge sum in 1980) bought you . . . a custom-bodied Chrysler Cordoba. And the Cordoba was basically just a gussied-up Dodge Mirada. And the Mirada, in its turn, pirated its transverse torsion bar suspension and basic body structure from the flea-bitten and ancient Plymouth Volaré (whoa-oh!—as the commercial jingle went) and lowly Dodge Aspen. It was like paying $300 per night to stay at Motel 6.

Few people checked-in.

The first year—1980—was pretty awful, even by the standards of the time. Just 6,241 Imperials found buyers. But 1981 (by which time word had got out) was much worse. Sales toppled like Saddam’s statue to just 3,466 units, which was barely more than half the tally of the previous season. This became a bleak pattern, as 1982 saw another halving of sales to 1,746 units—a disastrous performance repeated and amplified in the final year, 1983, when a dismal trickle of 932 Imperials petered out of Chrysler dealerships.

The Imperial was one of the final gasps of the old Chrysler Corp. before K-car derivatives replaced once-luxuriant names such as Imperial with “Aries-K.”

Even those who liked the car’s lines had to concede its flaws. One dedicated owner, who has preserved his 1981 Imperial with just 8,900 miles on it, says his car runs fine . . . “unless you try to go over 25 miles per hour.”

“Then it stalls.”

Sort of like the company itself did right around the same time.

08-31-2009, 11:03 PM

08-31-2009, 11:04 PM
1981 - 1983 Imperial Web Site