1983 Imperial

“A singular statement of car and driver.”

Brought to market in part to reassure buyers of Chrysler products that company would be staying around, the “bustleback” Imperial was introduced in 1981. By 1983, the Cordoba-based luxury coupe was in its final year, selling a mere 1,427 units as all rear-wheel drive Chryslers continued their decline.

For 1983, the powertrain continued to be the same: the 140 bhp LA electronic throttle-body fuel injected 5.2 liter (318 cubic inch) V8 paired with a three speed automatic transmission. Despite serious attempts at increasing quality (each Imperial went on a five-and-a-half mile test drive and had numerous other checks by technicians before it was shipped), the bleeding edge fuel injection continued to be stunningly unreliable—Chrysler frequently ended up replacing it with a carbureted system at a cost of $3,500 plus about 50 hours of labor.

Performance for the 3,900 pound coupe wasn’t very good: 0-60 came in about 14 seconds. Fuel economy was rated at 16 mpg, giving an unimpressive range of less than 300 miles with the 18 gallon gas tank.

Standard mechanical equipment for the loaded $18,688 Imperial (approximately $44,700 in today’s dollars or more than the list price of a loaded 2014 Chrysler 300C) included halogen headlights, power brakes, power steering, cruise control, and Goodyear Arriva P205/75R15 steel-belted radial whitewall tires (a size still easily available) on cast aluminum wheels. Exterior equipment included power heated mirrors, power windows, intermittent windshield wipers, and a rear window defroster. Interior equipment included “semi-automatic” air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, power seats, and a 30-watt AM/FM stereo with cassette and power antenna.

Unusual standard equipment for 1983 in any car included an electronic instrument cluster, a garage door opener, and a two year/30,000 mile warranty (a lot of warranty in those unreliable days). The only extra cost option was high altitude emissions ($75—why did Chrysler cheap out at this point?); no cost options included cloth and vinyl seats, Michelin tires, and wire wheel covers. There was no Frank Sinatra edition for 1983.

Page from the 1983 Imperial brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Especially from the rear, the Imperial looked a lot like Cadillac’s 1980 Seville redesign, but was evidently a separate idea—exterior design had actually begun in 1977.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Imperial in #1 condition is $10,500, with a more normal #3 condition car fetching $4,000. Imperials do show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds—as I write this in September 2014, there’s a Pearl White 1981 with 29,000 miles available for $3,250.

Not surprisingly, allpar.com has an interesting and detailed article on the 1981-1983 Imperial—it is here. Make mine Black, please.