Oh, hai! Welcome to the fifth instalment of Roadwork Archive- Showroom Hyperbole; the series that the internet was created for.
We return to a North America of 1990 for today’s rummage through the dumpster of time, to a period where headlamps hid behind pneumatic flaps and roofs were partially upholstered. This was a bad time to be a domestic American car maker. With import competition hotter than ever it seemed that the domestic’s defence mechanism was to concentrate on Being American. And through these foreign eyes, no 1990 American car was more so than:
The legendary K-Series platform had been Chryslers backbone throughout the ’80s. It reached its zenith (in modified Y-Series form) underneath the New Yorker, NY5th Avenue and here atop the Chrysler luxury tree, underneath the Imperial, which must have loved being front-wheel-drive for the first time in its distinguished career.
“Quality workmanship-inside and out- gave Imperial the highest quality rating of any American car”*
(*This study was conducted by an independent research company by mail among purchasers of vehicles from the October/November 1989 sales period)
See also such empirical research as “red is the best colour” and “wine is the nicest drink”.
Can’t argue with the legroom, though. more than:
“….an Infinity Q45 or Lexus LS400… (or)…Cadillac Brougham or Olds 98 Regency”
This was a valid boast, if only because the Imperial was much longer than the first two.
So they get all the humdrum, workaday stuff about quality and limb-space out of the way early so they can then get on with the more romantic side of things. The artistry of the Imperial.
“… The 1991 Imperial combines timeless beauty with today’s technology. Imperial’s classic profile is set off by a padded vinyl landau roof with a formal rear window, limousine-style roof pillars, opera windows and a wide bright up-and-over molding”.
Now, obviously this was what buyers of domestic luxury American cars wanted, right? Right. Which is precisely why every wealthy aspirational young go-getter headed down Vine Street, straight past his friendly local Chrysler dealer and went to buy from the Germans or Japanese instead. His Dad, though; was more likely to shell Lee Iaccoca his shekels, his Grandpa even more so.
Personally I absolutely adore the way this thing looks, despite its obvious ridiculousness and pomposity. I like the way that the front end with its concealed headlamps and razor-sharp grille looks like it was conceived by Syd Mead as what a luxury car of the nineties would look like from the perspective of the seventies. I love that all retro-futurism up-front is dragging the remains of a bygone time along behind it. And I love the fact that anybody though that fake wire wheels were in any way acceptable at a time where laser-guided bombs were raining down and planes were invisible on radar.
“Under this traditional styling waits the modern engineering that gives Imperial Advantage: Chrysler”.
Here they discuss the brand-new 3.8 litre V6 (150hp) that towed the Imperial along the highway. Strangely, they make no mention here of the Lexus LS400 (250hp) or the Infiniti Q45 (278hp).
“The look and technology of a true luxury automobile”.
To be fair to Chrysler, other than the above this brochure doesn’t really try to stretch the point too far into flights of fancy. They knew absolutely the audience they were talking to, and would be preaching to the choir. Instead the rest of the brochure rather dryly lists the things that the Imperial does and the benefits and features you’d be buying if you went Imperial.
I miss this period when you could look at a car and immediately define which country, even which region it came from. As the ’90s progressed everybody seemed to pussy out and design anodyne, identikit cars that could have come from anywhere in the world. Only relatively recently is a bit of identity starting to return to the roads, with America regaining some of its automotive confidence.
I doubt Landau Roofs will be back any time soon, and Imperial is unlikely to reappear at a dealer near you. But as historical snapshots go; I’m glad that I own the brochure.
<Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material, resting on the bonnet of a 1998 Audi A4. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer, who has moved on. Seriously, they know what they’re doing these days>