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An Obscure Muscle Car? The 1969 – 1973 Chrysler Imperial Coupe.

Jim Brennan April 19, 2010 In General

While I’m on an Imperial frame of mind, why not crunch over this thought. Would you ever classify one of the “Fuselage” editions of the Imperial Coupe a closeted Muscle Car? I ran this over at CarDomain last week, so I thought I might share it with the Hooniverse Commentariant. So, what do you think?

Read more of the CarDomain Obscure Muscle Car posting: The Imperial Coupe here. And why not catch up on the rest of the Obscure Muscle Car Parking Lot by using this link! Gallery Images courtesy of the Imperial Club.

Currently there are "16 comments" on this Article:

  1. If I'm not mistaken, the Imperial was a separate marque from Chrysler and even state car registrations lacked the brand-name replacing it simply with 'Imperial'… or am i mistaken?

    • And yes the Imps were definitely in a higher echelon of muscle car. Competing with the likes of the 500ci Eldorado and the Marauder X100

    • AteUpWithMotor says:

      Yes, Imperial was registered as a separate marque from 1955 to 1975 and again from 1981 to 1983; it was not technically a Chrysler, although it was obviously a product of the Chrysler Corporation. Part of the confusion about whether it was a Chrysler Imperial was that from about 1926 to 1954 (and briefly in the early nineties), the Imperial name was used for the top-of-the-line Chrysler product. Chrysler's brand marketing left something to be desired.

      From 1960 to 1966, the Imperial also used a completely different body from the regular Chrysler line; it remained body on frame, even when the rest of Chrysler's products went to unitary construction. Eventually, they realized that sales didn't justify the distinction (Imperial never sold more than about 25,000 units in a good year), and in 1967, it became more of a gussied-up Chrysler. When the Imperial marque was dropped in 1976, the Imperial was basically just renamed Chrysler New Yorker Brougham, continuing through 1978.

      Before getting too carried away with calling it a muscle car (which it really was not; no contemporary reviewer would have considered it such), it's important to remember that the Imperial weighed well over 5,000 pounds. Although ones of this vintage had the 440, they weighed about half a ton more than a Fury and nearly 1,500 pounds more than a Belvedere/Satellite/Coronet with the same engine. The most optimistic contemporary road tests of early-seventies Imperials managed the quarter mile in the high 16s, with trap speeds of 85-87 mph — respectable, for a barge, but no drag racer.

      • tonyola says:

        I will say this for the '67-'68 Imperials – Mopar did a good job of visually disguising the Chrysler underpinnings. In fact, the '67 Imp with the complex, beautifully-detailed grille, front bumper curving back to the wheel well, chrome-ended rear fenders, and those massive ribbed taillights separated by the circular trim is in my opinion one of the best-looking Imperials ever (the '68 front end isn't nearly as nice). The '69 blew it by obviously sharing its bodywork with the lesser Chryslers. From then on, the cars really were "Chrysler Imperials", even though it was nominally a separate make until '75.

  2. MadKaw says:

    I'd have to say, yes, the Imperial does qualify as a closeted muscle car – 440, 350 hp and up 480 lb-ft. of torque certainly does it for me. And after all, if I didn't say yes, I'd be a hypocrite – I always considered the '63 Olds Starfire that I once owned to be a closeted musclecar, with its 345 hp, 440 lb-ft. 394. Both cars (and those mentioned by Black Steelies) certainly have a lot in common in their general ethos – a big, full-size hardtop with top of the line luxo features and performance roughly equal to other full-size musclecars – certainly not on par with the fastest of the fastest of the full sizers (such as an 409/425hp Impala or the like), but certainly in the neighborhood of the more common, "everyman's" full-size muscle.

  3. P161911 says:

    While they usually did share the top 440 engines with Mopar muscle cars the extra weight and lack of things like available 4 speeds and bucket seats keep them from being muscle cars in all but the loosest definition of a muscle car. Imperials actually had rather slim option sheets since most everything came standard!

    I wonder how a 1969 Imperial coupe would compare to a 1969 Chevy Impala SS427?

    • AteUpWithMotor says:

      The Imperial would get its doors vacuumed off. The '69 Impala with 427 was a big sucker, but the Imperial outweighed it by at least 800 pounds. Gross horsepower ratings are not particularly trustworthy, but the fact that the SS427 was rated at 385 horsepower and the Imperial 350 hp, combined with the weight advantage, should give you a sense of the disparity in straight-line performance.

      • bill says:

        The 60s had been a very good decade to the Chevy Impala. However, in 1969, Chevy had to discontinue the SS option on all its cars with the exception of the Impala SS 427, still prized for its powerful engine. New features with the SS line included full door glass (no vent windows) and a pontoon-bulge fender.

        Chevrolet would begin switching the Impala from its muscle car roots to a luxury full size car. In the meantime, the 1969 model was able to go from 0 to 60 in 8.4 seconds, and to take the quarter mile in 15.8.

        69 imperial 15.56 @ 88mph

        • bill says:

          Sorry ate up with motor…..The impala would be eating imperial exhaust…. 15.56 @88 was the imperial 4dr……14.90 to 15.20 ets for the 2dr imperial at 92mph…. :-)

    • bill says:

      Actually you could get bucket seats in them…..1969 2drs… had the option for sure…

  4. I'd say, "no", not a closeted muscle car. Whatever you want to call it, it's not in the closet about that at all.

    Look at how big it is, I love it.

    oh, and I have to run, so I'll close with: the corning light on the first picture reminds me of an early Mustang's tail light lens.

  5. Muscle car? Nah. The Hurst 300 wasn't a muscle car either really. But the Imperial has barge load of presence! I'd take it in a heartbeat.

  6. nofrillls says:

    I've always considered muscle car classification to have less to do with the body style and more to do with the engine and it's tuning. If its old, domestic, V8-powered and carries an image of "get-up-and-go" then it's by all means, a muscle car.

  7. Mopar_Ken says:

    My 1969 Imperial lebaron 4dr ………all original, 5,400 lbs, 2.94 gear (factory) ran a 15.56 at 88mph…….just think what a 3.91 gear could do…..lol

  8. Jim says:

    Anything with a V8 is going to move out well and could be considered a muscle car. Many of those late 70s cars were very fast with slight modifications to the exhaust and intake manifolds…

  9. Willy Mac says:

    I love these barges and would like to buy one for a father son restoration project, they are proving to be hard to find. Anything 69-73 with a solid body 2 or 4 door would be great. Roller would be fine also. Son is 13 perfect time to get started. 919 427 4229


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