Friday, September 16, 2016

Classic case of Monumentalism

Brash! Bold! Dashing! Tucked alongside a country road in rural PA was this mammoth testament to executive power. Thanks to Sarah from Everywhere for this luxurious submission. Now please rise. . .
What we have here is an ocean liner otherwise known as the 1968 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron dressed in Formal Black with a Polar White vinyl roof. This is the end of an era in American automotive design. The Imperial would continue on as the Chrysler flagship after '68 but the severe formality of this vintage would be tempered by the Fuselage style to come.
Check out that War of the Worlds looking single orange eye at the center of the windshield base. That is the Twilight Sentinel feature which was available from '67-'75. It would notice oncoming headlights and automatically dim your brights. 
Look into the relaxed eyes of a vehicle that knows it's at the top of the food chain. Whoever hung that LOST IN THE 60'S license plate on this beauty ought to be escorted out of their office by a guard ("we'll send your things along to the address on file. Please leave now").
Everything about this car is solid. You know just by looking at it that the grill and hood are made from heavy gauge metal crafted with great care. This is a 48 year old car sitting by the side of the road but every panel fits perfectly and the chrome refuses to dull.
This is how Chrysler itself chose to advertise the '68 Imperial:
Here it is having emerged from the depths of the ocean after feeding on shipwrecks and getting stronger. The grill has the look of baleen. The brochure for this ride is 100% superlatives and declarations of awesomeness.
The scale of this is undeniable but so is the level of quality. Imperials are still legendary for holding up beautifully. No expense was spared at any point in creating this beast. Fun fact: Imperials are the only car universally barred from entering demolition derbies because they would nonchalantly destroy everything else on the track without breaking a sweat. It wasn't even a fair fight!
The LeBaron series was the top-of-the-heap above the Crown and base models. Appointments were bordering on excess. Those tiny vent windows in the front doors are power operated. The air conditioning is actually 2 separate systems; one for the front and one for the rear.
The door panels are currently removed most likely for electronics repair. Power windows, vent windows, and locks are joined by a courtesy light at the bottom (out of view). All of this makes for a mighty complicated door! *Incidentally each door had its own glove compartment as well; the armrest lifts up exposing a generous and hidden storage area.
The dashboard is very sleek with "antiqued bronze" featured heavily for the full width of the car. The radio is kept hidden behind a lift-up panel that you can make out in the open position here. Options were few as the LeBaron Imperial came almost fully equipped as-is. The parking brake automatically disengages when the car is put in gear, the climate control allows you to set a temperature and it will use a/c or heat depending on what's needed, and cruise control is included. Leather seating in this pattern was LeBaron only, this example in Red.

Alright Chrysler isn't even playing it cool in this image! The rear seat is tryst-ready as shown by this comely lass laying languorously on the champagne-colored leather bench. A tiger rug? Cattails in a vase? The message is clear! Buy the Imperial and harvest lunchtime secretaries from the lower floors of your office daily!
I love the severity of the full-width chrome-hidden taillights on this beast. That center circle is the gas filler door which consists of a cast metal eagle! You'll be using this door often as the only engine available was the 440 TNT V8. Despite its size the Imperial was known as the luxury car for drivers because it accelerated, handled, and stopped much like a smaller, sportier car.
Well that's it for this car but I'll close out with a personal anecdote. When I was a kid living in Paradise California my stepfather Cliff had a 1962 Imperial that he loved. One day he got into a heated argument with some guy who claimed his new Toyota pickup was stronger than an old Chrysler. Cliff came home to get the Imperial and grabbed myself and my best friend Dan to sit in the backseat for added traction. We drove to a Safeway parking lot where the guy with the truck was waiting (with a fresh pile of gravel in the truck bed for his own traction).
They hooked the two vehicles up back to back with a chain connecting the rear axles and inched them forward until the chain was tight. At that moment Cliff leaned over the seat and told us to get down because "if that chain snaps it's coming through the window and might take your heads off".
Somebody must've given the signal and both men stomped the gas to the floor. After a brief screaming of tires there was a loud sound and we were moving forward. We stopped and got out to see that the Imperial had torn the rear axle off of the truck completely which was now slumped on it's haunches, gravel spilling out onto the pavement. We drove home victorious with Cliff saying what an idiot the guy was for overloading the truck bed with ballast. True story!

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