The C-body Chrysler Imperial for 1969 is sporting a new fuselage body which gives passengers more room-about 3 ½” more shoulder room in the four door sedan, but the unibody Imperial is no longer or wider than last year. The newly styled cabin is narrow at the rocker panels then wider at shoulder height, narrowing again towards the roof line, like an aircraft’s passenger compartment. The widow glass is curved to fit the new body shape. The Imperial shares a number of the same body panels with the lesser Chrysler Newport, which means a saving in production costs. This Chrysler is looking streamlined and elegant for ’69, with 22,083 discerning customers that chose the Imperial this year. The Imperial, only for 1969, features sequential turn signals, but it’s the last year a pillared sedan is on the table. The newly introduced Imperial LeBaron coupe is 229.7 inches (5834. 38 mm) bumper to bumper, and the line-up is once more, in ’69, the longest post-war personal luxury car, short of a limousine. The only power available is the 440 cu in “Wedgehead” V8 which is coupled to the A727 Torque-Flight Automatic three speed transmission.
There are a few trim changes for 1970 with a new egg crate grill for the front fascia. The “shark gill” parking lights have been dropped in favour a more squared configuration and for’70 only, the fender skirts are also gone, but additional chrome trim is added to the rocker panels, with a vinyl trim offered optionally. The Crown series will be retired at the end of 1970, leaving the LeBaron as a coupe or hardtop the only models available. Production dropped by half- of last year to 11,822 in ‘70.
The Imperial Eagle logo is gone from the hood in 1971 and replaced with the word “Imperial”, while the rear deck has the same name, but adds “by Chrysler”. The ‘71 Chrysler Imperial is the first car made in the states that could be equipped with four-wheel anti-lock brakes. This ABS system is made by Bendix, but it was a seldom chosen option at that time. This makes an ABS equipped Imperial a very uncommon find among the original 11,569 factory produced units. The white or black vinyl roof is a standard feature in ’71, but there were a few Imperial models with factory applied burgundy body paint that have a burgundy vinyl roof, that fades to a purplish color and reveals a paisley pattern underneath. There is speculation that this “Mod Top” may have been leftover vinyl material used for the sportier Dodge or Plymouth units. The material was then printed over for use on the Imperial. A Chrysler designer and spokesperson, Jeffery Godshall, did say, in a “Collectable Automobile” magazine article that: “This is untrue, the vinyl had simply faded, to the purple paisley pattern after exposure to the weather.” Chrysler Corporation replaced a large number of the faulty burgundy tops under full warrantee, but there are still some of these remaining.
As sign of the times in 1972, the Imperial sheet metal is all changed, now with a much more rounded look from a side view, the car is also looking larger and heavier than the first three years of the G4 production. The fuselage style cabin is now more refined, but lacks the character line along each side. This year there is a chrome trim strip over the top of the fender seam running from the rear windows forward. The newly revamped front fascia is an eye catching feature, as are the new vertically configured teardrop taillights, while the rear side marker lights are now in a shield shape with an eagle in the center. The sales pick up a little in ’72 with a total of 15,796 leave the assembly line that year.
For 1973 the Chrysler Imperial is now 235.3 inches (5,977 mm) long with the new impact absorbing bumper guards adding another 5.9 inches (147 mm) making it the longest production car produced on this continent. This is a good year for car sales in N. America with 16,729 of the Chrysler Imperial roll off the assembly line. Two of these, black ones, were sold to the U.S. Secret Service and were last officially used to take President Ronald Regan with his entourage to the swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill in January, 1981.
The reasons for the small blocks popularity over its five decade life span can be attributed to its compact light weight and a strong support team with a wide variety of parts readily available. All the Chevy V8 engines from the early “W”, to the big blocks including today’s LS7 and LS9 have evolved from the original 265 small block. This engine is categorized in families by bore size; with the first two in engines in the original family, the 265 and the 283 going into automotive history.
The 3.875 inch bore family from 1955 to 1973-three members:
The start of the long procession of small block V8’s is the 265 which has a two year production run before evolving into the 283. The 265 was initially produced to give the Corvette a more powerful engine than the inline stove bolt six used in the 1955 models. From the design studio to the production floor took only 15 weeks for Ed Cole and his team for the original two barrel carburetor 165 hp (123 kW) version. The engine is a cast iron block, cast push rods, with hydraulic lifters; the power plant is oversquare with a 3.75 inch (95 mm) bore and a 3 inch (76 mm) stroke-for many decades the 4.4 inch (111.8 mm) bore spacing would remain a standard. The Bel Air for ’55 came with a two barrel developing 162 hp (11 kW) but with the option of a Rochester four barrel added giving the engine 195 hp (145 kW). A further option is the “power pack” which adds a dual exhaust and with the four barrel the Bel Air delivers 180 hp (134 kW). The 1955 Corvette had three power option 265 engines; the single four barrel delivers 210 hp (157 kW), the twin four barrels offer 225 hp (168 kW), or added to those for the ultimate Corvette in ’55 is with the high lift camshaft which gives the ‘Vette 240 hp (179 kW).The 265 is not an engine for a casual owner or regular driver in spite of its original sand cast green color-it is a collector’s item only because it lacks adequate oil filtration with its add-on filter.
The 283 cu in (4.64 L) engine is a 265 bored to 3.875 inches (98.4 mm) with a 3.00 inch stroke which becomes available for the 1957 model year. These first versions used the original 265 blocks and they are overbored which make for thin walled cylinders. The later 283 engines were cast with thicker walled blocks to accept the larger bore. There are five power versions of the 283 available offering from the carbureted entry level two barrel putting out 185 hp (138 kW) or with twin carburetors gives a few more horses. With the Ramjet mechanical fuel injection the 283 achieves 283 hp (211 kW)-one hp for each cu in displacement in the 1957 model year. This however, is not the first engine to reach the goal Chrysler did the same in the 1956 model year. The horse power ratings increased each year with the 283 topping out in 1961, still using the injection at 315 hp (231.68 kW). The Chevy 283 was also available for the Checker Cab line up and in Canada the Studebakers for ’65 and ’66 could be ordered with this engine
The last of the 3.875 inch bore family is the 307 (5.025 L)-the higher displacement is attained by increasing the stroke to 3.25 inches (82.6 mm) and was the standard V8 offered from 1968 through 1973. The 327 engine is the source of the crankshaft which offers the longer stroke. The engine is also used by GMC in South Africa and the Australian Holden subsidiaries.