4,797 Miles: 1981 Chrysler Imperial

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Here is a vehicle I’ve long since forgotten about, and in absolutely stunning condition: it’s a 1981 Chrysler Imperial with what is believed to be 4,797 original miles here on eBay. Located in Florida, the Imperial was an attempt by Chrysler to show the world it still had what it took to build a premier luxury vehicle, even when staring down bankruptcy. 

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What’s amazing about the sixth-generation Imperial was how much equipment was offered standard. Literally, there were next to no options available because of the jam-packed feature list. This Imperial sports the Mark Cross leather interior and digital instrument cluster, and I’m willing to bet the standard garage door opener is hidden somewhere in that luxurious cockpit. One of the few options available was the power moonroof, which this car comes with.

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A 5.2L V8 paired to a 3-speed automatic transmission was the sole engine option. The seller points out that due to a recall involving the fuel injection system, many of these cars were altered by the selling dealership. However, due to the presumed low mileage, this Imperial sports its original fuel injection system. While that’s good for originality, it’s up to you whether it will keep you awake at night wondering if it’s about to fail.

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With impressive unmarked bodywork and the original hubcaps in place, this Imperial remains OEM correct from top to bottom. Bidding is quite active, already creeping past $11,000 with the reserve unmet. Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I find this Imperial to be one of the better looking cars to come out of the personal luxury vehicle era. Handsome, svelte and loaded with luxury – what more could you want?

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Comments

  1. Rando

    If not for the armrest split front seat, one sharp left curve would slide you to the passenger seat. Pimpin’

    • Mike

      That’s why you should have your seatbelt on.

  2. Mike

    I never liked the Imperial growing up for some reason, but this one is nice.

  3. Gary

    I just picked up a one owner 1983 Chrysler 5th Ave with 48,000 original miles with the 5.2. As “luxurious” as these vehicles appear to be, they are nothing compared to years past. As stated, it was Chrysler’s so called ‘last hurrah’ at an attempt to offer luxury of days past. Only paid $520 for the 5th Ave., since I was doing the granddaughter a favor in helping her unload it for her grandmother.

    • dj

      I currently drive a 83 Dodge Diplomat Medallion that my grandparents bought new. It’s basically the New Yorker without the added roof. They made about 1300 of them. You’ll find that your 83 New Yorker Fifth Avenue is the only year that both emblems were on these cars. The Fifth Avenue was actually considered an option on them in 83. In 84, they just started calling them Fifth Avenues. I’d give you your money back.

      • Gary

        dj, I believe that in 1984 they began using the New Yorker name plate on the newly released front wheel drive models, while reserving the Fifth Avenue name plate for the rear wheel drive platform which continued until it’s demise in 1989.

    • dj

      Gary, You are correct. If you have the front end aligned on your car, make sure that they don’t use the specs for the New Yorker front wheel drive car. Kids now have no clue that there is a difference.

      Like 1
  4. DirtyHarry

    I think a flat black paint job and it would look like it just came out of Gotham City. While the styling is unique, I am not prepared to call it good either. Lets face it. These things drove like crap. Sometimes these cars have low miles for a reason.

    • Gary

      Yes! DirtyHarry you are correct about the Gotham reference. I’ve identified various automobiles on Gotham by appearance only. For those who do not know, or watch Gotham, none of the vehicles have identifying name plates on them. And, agreed, these cars do handle like crap. Fortunately, the low miles on the 5th Ave. I purchased, are because of the “little old lady” story. Gotham! What a comparison!

    • Rowmac

      I have owned two 1981 Imperials as well as driven several friends Imperials. I believe the 81-83 Imperials drive quite nice! This is not just my opinion, it’s also the opinion of many friends and family that have ever driven these cars. They drive very smoothly and quietly and handle quite well, especially when compared to other early 80s cars!

      Like 1
    • Howard

      They didn’t drive like crap, they drove very well. The only problem they had was with the fuel injection system, which was easily replaced with a carb. I own both an 81 and 82 model, both have Edelbrock 600 cfm carbs, along with an ebrock performer manifold. Both run, drive and ride very nice, and will easily get 20 + mpg cruising at 70.

      Like 1
  5. PaulG

    If I remember correctly, these were made on a different line and Chrysler claimed they were “hand built.
    They even made a Frank Sinatra edition of these, and were blue…

  6. Rick Wilkins

    Hubcaps. Seriously. US car makers sure did some lame stuff.

    • Charles

      Yeah, don’t know how old you are, but in those days, hubcaps came on cars, not the mag wheels prevalent with today’s cars.

      Like 1
      • Larry Mayes

        Actually the wire wheel covers were not good looking and aluminum wheels were available on them at no extra cost. See the picture of mine how it came from the factory with aluminum snowflake wheel.

        Can tell by the white walls tires on the barn find car they have been replaced, and a good thing if it was going to get driven. Still have the original GoodYear Arriva (white wall is about 1 1/4″ compared to the 3/4″ on listed car) tires on mine but bought another car to get the wheels off of to restore and put new tires on it so the car can be driven without fear of tire failure.

    • Rowmac

      The 81-83 Imperial came standard with aluminum wheels, wire wheel covers were a no cost option. Dealers and customers ordered the two different wheel choices in about a 50/50 split. I think the Imperial’s wire wheel covers looks quite nice compared with Cadillac’s or Lincoln’s wire wheel covers of that era. The Imperial looks great with wire wheel covers on in darker colors and looks better with aluminum wheels in the lighter metallic colors. Mercedes came with hubcaps in the early 80s!

    • Howard

      Umm, wheel covers were what came standard on all luxury cars in those days.

  7. Oldcarsarecool

    I’ve always loved these rare cars in spite of the less than stellar reliability. Mopar stylists did a great job . . .

    Like 2
  8. Scott Reska

    One word – HELLCAT

  9. Chebby

    Put a 440 in it and some Mirada mag wheels. Man it would still be ugly.

    Maybe cut the bustleback off at the sloping body line and make a….

    SUPER GREMLIN!!

  10. Old geezer

    “Last hurrah” or clear manifestation of why Chrysler was going bankrupt?

  11. Larry Mayes

    The garage door opener control is on the drivers side sun visor, but you have the have the wall mount for it to work. So if the car was found in a building with a garage door opener GO GET THE WALL MOUNT for the opener.

    The sun roof I think was a $1,870 option and the only extra cost option. The wire wheel covers or snowflake aluminum wheels, cloth or mark cross leather, type radio, color were all choices. The original tires were GoodYear Arriva which my car still has on the aluminum wheels.

    There should be a box with a book, umbrella, key fob and cyrstal head key

    This one appears to still have the fuel injection. Most were converted by Chrysler to a carb. due to run issues. The conversion include new intake, carb, exhaust, computer, dash cluster, fuel tank and lines. Mine was converted in March of 1988 with the car having 9,826 miles and has only 5,400 since.

    The 1981 Imperial was $19,700 out the door in Indiana with the optional sun roof. Think the sun roof was $1,870 extra cost

    Wish the car was closer so I could take a look at it. In the past 20+ years I have yet to find one that is in better condition than mine, but this one might just be the one that is better.

    Like 1
  12. AMCSTEVE

    Very beautiful nice riding car. I’ve always wanted one but most are trashed. This one is a bit much but hey 13k is what it’s getting

    Like 1
  13. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    I remember thinking these were kind of a neat style among all the look-alike boxes. The generic term hub caps always was a pet peeve, a hub cap covers the hub in the middle of the wheel, aka poverty caps, dog dish, etc. One that covers the entire wheel, like this one, is called a wheel cover.

  14. Roselandpete

    I was in the car market when these came out but I was leery of buying one because I wasn’t sure if Chrysler would still be around. I bought an 80 Toro instead which was a very nice car.

  15. M B

    That this car still has the fuel injection is GREAT! Only real issue was keeping the air cleaner band clamp positioned correctly so that all of the intake air went THROUGH the air cleaner snorkel (where the mass air flow sensor is located)!

    Though not hand-built, the mechanical components were hand-selected to be the best ones Chrysler had available. At the “top end/optimal” specifications for what they were. The body sheet metal was supposed to be a little thicker than normal, which helped explain why the normally 3500 lb Aspen/Volare car was now about 4100lbs.

    The additional weight, the “weak” 318 V-8, taller tires, and 2.2 rear axle ratio, these were NOT quick cars, but were more for luxury profiling and cruising than anything else.

    If I had one, I’d upgrade it to a 360 with self-learning fuel injection (keeping all of the “FI” badges), put some firm shocks on it, and maybe a few other incognito upgrades common to Moparland . . . and enjoy driving something unique and pleasurable.

    • Larry Mayes

      The Imperial was built on the same platform as the Córdoba, not the Aspen. You are correct the metal is heavier gauge because they wanted it over 4,000 lbs

      The 318 is only 140 hp, a real snail with the 2.2 rear end, but it also would get 20 mpg

      Have seen a few with 440’s transplanted in them

      Can get mine out and have people say they have never seen one.

      Less than 12,000 in the 3 model years with 1981 being the most produced. Been a while but there were a little over 7,200 1981, 3,400 1982 & 1,700 1983. Fairly rare car.

      Have a complete 1981 body with sun roof I bought many years ago to save it from the crusher after the guy took the complete drivetrain out of it.

      Like 1
      • Lady Feliz

        The 1980-83 Cordoba, which the 1981-83 Imperial is closely aligned with, was indeed built on the same platform as the 1976-80 Aspen/Volare. Motor Trend called the Imperial “the world’s most expensive Volare” and in most ways it was. Same bouncy ride, same mediocre handling, but worse performance from the 318 due to the extra curb weight. A good looking car though.

  16. HeadMaster1

    The Rarest car I own, or have ever owned is my 1982 Imperial FS (Frank Sinatra), 1 of approx. 180 made that year. Cloth seats, mag wheels. I’ve owned 3 of these 81-83 Imperials over the years, just love the idea of a huge 2-door with hidden headlights and RWD. As previously stated, the sun/moon roof was the ONLY at cost option, BUT my FS has a LSD, my others did not……GREAT riding cars, big trunk, not many left on the road and personally I think this is the best bustle back since the olden days………They made a very mean looking NASCAR back in the ay too, with the most aerodynamic body until the “new T-Bird came out

    Like 1
    • Roselandpete

      I also like the bustle back styling especially on the Sevilles.

  17. nessy

    A local guy or nut is the better word has a triple white 81 Imperial with leather and those mag wheels just sitting in his driveway. The car has not moved an inch in at least 25 years, or more and is not for sale. Several times a year, an old lady gives the car a bath and pumps up the flat tires so the car still looks ok. The guy, who seems to only come out of the house at night in a ripped up t shirt and PJs, has long hair and a beard down to his beltline, will not sell. In the garage is a Porsche 928 covered in dust and boxes of junk.

  18. Reg Bruce

    Surely a different look for Chrysler at the time but, as mentioned before, was a dog to drive.
    Unfortunately, there were many more F.I. problems than just a loose air passage clamp. We did plenty of what the Chrysler rep called, “The Coffin Fix” on these cars. This was not a reference to the vehicle catching fire but rather to the fact that all the parts to change the F. I. system over to a 2- barrel carb came in a long somewhat – tapered wooden box shaped like a ……..
    Yes, you guessed it!

    RB

  19. TomRoberts

    Ahhhhh—-Corinthian leather from the Cordoba relabeled….

  20. Randy

    It was rumored that Bob Lutz, Chairman at Chrysler during the era, put a wet blanket over the roll-out party at HQ by saying something like: “Take a good look at it, because we’re never going to make anything like this again.” Talk about a buzzkill!

  21. Larry Mayes

    The title thread to this is Chrysler Imperial, but on my Title it shows the make as Imperial, not a chrysler. Dad took the window sticker to work to show someone and we never found it when we were looking so I have no idea what it showed. Just like Plymouth, Dodge, Desoto, Imperial was it own brand.

    • Dave Wright

      By the time this was built………it was a Chrysler Imperial. I think that the Imperial brand went away about the time body on frames did.

      • Rowmac

        The 81-83 Imperial was a separate brand competing directly with Lincoln and Cadillac. There were approximately 5000 Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge dealerships in the US and Canada in 1981. If a dealer wanted to sell Imperials they had to pay Chrysler $25,000 for the privilege of selling Imperials, out of approximately 5000 dealerships only about 450 dealerships sold Imperials.

        Like 1
    • Mike

      Oh well hind sight is 20/20 you thought you were doing the right thing at the time. To bad you don’t have a clean imperial you could get over 10k. But the toros were nice to cut the lawn with

  22. Bryan

    I don’t believe that these 81-83 Imperials have the Chrysler nameplate anywhere on them….simply Imperial. I remember when Imperial was reintroduced in 1981; it was heavily promoted by Chrysler (limited to only 25k cars a year….they wished)!

    The snowflake wheels looked great on these cars….not a fan of the wire wheel covers. The only extra cost option for these cars was the moonroof, apparently only available for 1981 models (the electric motor is in the trunk). I’m not sure if the FS (Frank Sinatra) edition was an option or, more likely, a model of Imperial.

  23. LoriR

    I am looking to find the value of the Mark Cross Key Fob and the Cartier Crystal Blank Key. Looks like part of the gift box. I also have new in box mopar crystal ornament part #4103694 stamped on the box. Any idea?

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