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Green on Green: Low-Mile 1981 Chrysler Imperial

There’s an online community of enthusiasts known as Malaise Motors, which is a celebration of sorts for vehicles manufactured from 1972 to 1992. Though their website describes the era as a time where insurance, safety, and emissions agencies “managed to suck the joy out of just about every vehicle platform offered for sale in the United States,” they also acknowledge that vehicles from this era often end up undervalued, with some having potential collectability. After looking at this 1981 Chrysler Imperial that Barn Finds reader Russell G found here on Craigslist, perhaps you’ll also be a believer in the Malaise era of automobiles.

This big Chrysler is available in York, Pennsylvania with a clean title. Chrysler revived the Imperial nameplate for the 1981 model year as a vehicle sharing architecture with the Cordoba, with Allpar stating that about 17,000 vehicles were made during its 1981-1983 production run. This generation of the Imperial also marked the last time it used a front-engine, rear-drive layout.

Both the exterior and interior feature a light green color scheme, and from the looks of it, this Imperial was a “Sunday driver” during its lifetime. The interior features tons of power functions, as well as a radio with AM/FM, 8 Track and CB functions.

Each Imperial from this generation featured a 318 cu.-in. V8 engine with an electronic fuel injection system. The V8 pairs to an automatic transmission to drive the rear wheels, and this drivetrain has only traveled 20,800 miles.

The seller is asking $12,000 for this Imperial, and they mention that any potential buyers must have proof of funds before taking it for a test drive. What do you think of this classy Chrysler?


  1. Show73 Show73 Member

    Always liked these cars, think it would look great dropped .with air ride

    Like 4
  2. TheGasHole

    Had an 82 Imperial Frank Sinatra edition a couple years back. We painted it cleaned it up rebuilt the brakes and carb etc. It had 45k miles on it. Sharp car (in my opinion) but couldn’t give it away. Finally sold it for $2500. $12k on this one seems quite a stretch.

    Like 17
    • Chris M.

      I can’t help but think of Ricardo Montelban when I see this turd!

      Like 2
      • KenB

        FAR from a turd!

        Like 8
      • Jerry Brentnell

        you call this a turd! well what do you call that heap ford called a lincoln based on a ford granada another pile of junk , then lets sink lower and go to gm and look at the cadillac cimarron a lovely heap if there ever was on! that lincoln was called a versailles

        Like 3
      • Chris M.

        Sorry fellas, to each their own. Lol

        Like 2
  3. redwagon

    Way too much of one color although that was the norm for the day. Reminds me of the family’s 1972 Impala that was also green on green on green (vinyl roof) with green carpet too. Good Lord that would have been a punishment putting that together on the line in Arlington or Oshawa.

    Like 7
  4. Rube Goldberg Member

    I believe, this was Chryslers answer to Scotty G’s Caddy. Certainly had all the doo-dads, but never caught on, like the Caddy. I’m sure it’s every bit as nice a car, probably the last of the really nice cars before that dismal front drive platform. While I balk at the price, as usual, I don’t think you could find a nicer car today.

    Like 2
  5. Will Fox

    Wishful price aside, this is probably one of the cleaner Imperials of this vintage I’ve seen lately. And I can’t even recall seeing a nice light green one like this–I like it better than the Sinatra Edition. Wow….the days of actual colored interiors! How I wish that element in automotive production would return. A sad reality today is, not only is there are no “Chrysler” vehicles left, and the co. simply exists for Dodge & Jeep. At least I have my memories; those CAN’T be taken “out of production”!!

    Like 5
  6. Steve R

    Ugly and overpriced. That is not a good combination for a car that time has forgotten.

    Steve R

    Like 3
    • KenB

      Overpriced maybe, but not even remotely ugly!

      Like 7
      • Chris M.

        We get it Ken, you have a fringe opinion on what a nice car actually means. Lol

  7. Sal

    If I had room (or owned an abandoned mall or warehouse), I’d buy this in a heart beat.
    Its pristine and beautiful.
    Not ever car is a DB5, Bugatti Type 57 or a ’69 charger.
    A car can still be good looking and not be a work of art.

    Like 5
  8. Car Nut Tacoma

    Sweet looking Imperial. I remember cars like this. If only I was old enough at the time to drive. I found this more attractive than the Dodge Aspen of the same vintage.

    Like 2
  9. CJinSD

    I believe that this is one of the many Imperials that has had its fuel injection system replaced with a carburetor. I don’t see the air flow meter on the fresh air inlet or the large Combustion Control Computer mounted to the driver’s side of the air filter housing.

    Like 4
    • canadainmarkseh

      81 was to early for fuel injection. I don’t even see lean burn on it. However it is the right vintage for lean burn. 1987 was more the time if fuel injection, and it would have been throttle body injection.

      • Ralph

        These had fuel injection standard, there were cars available with fuel injection for may years before 1981. Cadillac had it available in 1975.

        Most of these had the FI replaced under warranty because it was troublesome.

        Like 3
      • Superdessucke

        1981 was indeed too early for fuel injection.

        Unfortunately that didn’t stop manufacturers from offering it, including Chrysler on this car. It was poorly executed so it ended up getting replaced under recall.

        Like 1
      • Ralph

        It was too early for fuel injection done poorly on the cheap by car companies that were nearly bankrupt-

        I fixed it for you.

      • W9BAG

        The car had a very problematic fuel injection system. Smart owners converted it to a carburetor.

    • canadainmarkseh

      Most of these and Gm had feed back carbs which meant computer controlled metering rods instead of vacuum controlled metering rods. This was the prelude to fuel injection. This didn’t work well as the metering rods were cycled about a hundred times a second and were worn to death. Under vacuum they would just be elevated to the fuel demand and stay there until throttle position change the demand. I still have a feed back carb sitting on a shelf in my garage. These weren’t bad cars the problem was the public had moved on to smaller cars.

      • MOPAR Joe

        Canadainmarkseh, The 1981-83 Imperials did indeed have fuel injection as stated by Ralph. The systems were made by TRW and had a fuel metering detector that was too sensitive for its time. Many were later replaced under warranty with the standard 318 carb package for those years.

        Like 4
    • Jim

      I had an 1981 Cordoba with the 318 and Combustion computer set up(Canadian made). A real POS. The 318 was too small for the car’s weight. After 45K the car simply would not start. It was suggested to me to pull all the computer equipment off it and put a rotor on it so I sold the little beauty. It was a very pretty car. I smartened up and bought a Caddy next. No worries there, ever!

  10. OldASA

    Has stock EFI been replaced? Chrysler dealers were forced to refit many w/carburetor. Fit & finish outstanding compared to other Mopars (and many other makes) of the time. Sorted they are pleasant cruisers. Half the asking price would be high IMHO.

    Like 2
  11. Bob McK Member

    Am I wrong or do these have computers that cannot be replaced?

  12. Sundaydriver

    Back in ’81 as a high school kid, I remember despising these cars.
    To me, they screamed “I bought the top of the line, and I still have no taste!”

    Now, nostalgia has set in, and I’m down with them. Not sure where they would land in the “buy” column though.

    Love me an 8 track and a CB!

    @kenvinbarr She is a Sunday Driver! Thanks for the Malaise Motors lead! : )

    Like 4
    • TheGasHole

      Very accurate about that “look at me!” when these came out. Fun fact: The 81-83 Imperial was the most expensive American car you could buy during their run….sticker was $23k-$25k!

      Like 5
  13. Del

    If this still has the original injection system , then it will stop working soon.

    These were nice cars but very expensive and if you bought one and had problems then you were not interested in buying another one.

    There was a factory kit issued at one time to replace the injection system with a carb I believe.

    Like 3
    • TheGasHole

      Del you are mainly correct. There was a conversion kit available to convert the Lean Burn (aka EFI) to a carb. However, this was a complex job which involved changing the gas tank and many other items, so most ppl had Chrysler do the conversion. The conversion cost Chrysler $2500 and you’ll know if the conversion was done by a certified Chrysler mechanic/dealership by an * on the digital dash in the odometer field.

      Like 2
      • MOPAR Joe

        Mr GasHole, The Imperial EFI system was was not Lean Burn. The Lean Burn packages were all carburated. When feedback carbs/systems came out, the name changed to electronic spark advance. Chrysler did not make the switch to EFI until 1984 MY with the 4 cylinder engines.(Yes there were 375 1983 late built E body’s with 2.5 L engines that had EFI). The V-8’s came after that.

        Like 2
      • MOPAR Joe

        I don’t remember having to change the instrument cluster when you converted them to a carb. The asterick(*) was the indicator that the odometer had been replaced with a zero mileage odometer.The odometer was part of the cluster. A sticker was supposed to go on the B pillar indicating what the mileage was at the time of replacement

        Like 2
      • TheGasHole

        Doh! Getting my Lean Burn and EFI mixed up. This is what happens when commenting while on vacation in Spain. However…the 81-83 Imps most definitely had EFI systems there are tons of articles on them and I owned one. Chrysler may not have made the change until 1984 but remember that from 81-83 Imperial was a separate entity from Chrysler.
        The * was a character on the digital odometer when the EFI was converted to carb by a Chrysler dealership. It had nothing to do with changing the odometer. Again, plenty of info online about this and mine had it as well.

    • TheGasHole

      Sorry got cut off…damn spanish internet. The * was to indicate the efi to carb change and correct there should also be a sticker on the door jamb indicating the original miles when the change was done.

      • JunkyJoe

        “*” indicates instrument cluster has been changed and mileage is not accurate. It does not mean the vehicle has been converted to carb. Both of my 81 imperials are still efi and both have “*”. Tha ks


    This loser might very well be the flagship sled for the automotive “malaise era” .
    Having owned a graceful 1969 Imperial coupe as my first car..I double face-palm
    at what Iacocca let happen on his watch. Pull a “0” off the back of that asking price…and they might make a sale.

    • Ralph

      To be fair to Iaccoca, this was already well underway before he joined Chrysler, and though he had doubts about it and considered cancelling it since it wouldn’t look right to be asking for a Gov loan and then launching a new pimpmobile, he thought that it would also make it look like Chrysler was on the “up and up” and that it would make the company look confident to launch a new luxury car, sort of as a comeback.

      But yeah, its like a Cordoba had the full “Live and Let Die” Fillet of Soul Package added on to it……

      Like 4
      • MOPAR Joe

        It was a Cordoba underneath

      • Ralph

        Yeah, I know. Thats why I said it was a pimped out Cordoba.

        Like 1
  15. That Guy

    I’ve always sort of liked these. I think they pull off the bustleback look more successfully than the Seville. This is probably the best you’ll find. What’s it worth? Who knows. Twelve large is a real shoot-the-moon price IMO. Assuming it’s as good as it seems, I can see someone paying seven or eight for it, and they’d be getting a heck of a lot of car for the money.

    Like 4
  16. nessy

    I like everything about this car including the green color combo. A moonroof would be the icing on the cake. 8 track was hardly ever ordered by 81. The last year for a factory 8 track option on any American car was 1983. There is a guy several towns away from me with a white 81 with white leather and blue carpets. Has the alloy wheels and cassette player. The car has not moved an inch in his driveway since at least 1993 or 94 when I first saw it, (maybe even much longer) and he will not sell it. The guy looks like Howard Hughes in his recluse days, creepy. The car gets a wash once a year in the fall and air in the tires, by that time, it’s covered in slimy green moss. After that once a year bath, it looks pretty nice. I want to post a photo of it here, “the car, not the guy” but I can’t. Did something change on the site? Can we still post photos?

    Like 15
    • 36Packard

      I think only paying members can post photos, but they don’t seem to want to do that at all. sad, some of the photos in the comment were truly awesome. Seems like a nickel and dime thing, maybe the site owners should budge a little on the photo thing, after all, its not like there is no advertising on this site to help pay the bills. But, do not get me wrong, I am a confirmed Capitalist, I understand the need to make a profit to keep the lights on, but irritating the people who see the required ads makes no sense to me.

      Like 10
      • nessy

        Really? Now the readers can’t even post photos anymore unless we are “Members”? Oh that’s silly and to be Frank, a dumb call, especially, since many of us, like myself, have been here from the start. I must have sent at least 25 solid barn find leads to this site and I know at least 17 were featured so I did my share. Not to forget the fact that the thumbs up and down were removed once again. It’s all about money? Not the original fans who supported the site when it was new and unknown?

        Like 10
      • 36Packard

        Nessy, I fully agree with you but it their site, not ours. In American, you have the right to be wrong, no matter how foolish. The pictures on the comments might have come in handy recently in my case. Months ago (apparently when you still could post a picture, member or not), A man with a pristine restored Dodge Mirada had posted that car here. It got me all excited and I really wanted to see another picture of it, perhaps get a link so I could contact the man. Of course, no further pictures came. What harm could have come of it? I agree, the site is less enjoy able, though I do still peek here once in a while. I hope the management changes their minds on the picture thing, then maybe that guy will post another picture I can ogle over and bother my wife about.

        Like 5
    • Josh Mortensen Staff

      It’s actually a security thing. We had people trying to upload malware and viruses via the photo uploader. Rather than remove photo uploads entirely, we decided to limit it to supporting members. I know it’s a bummer, but it’s the only way to make sure we keep the site secure and safe for everyone.

  17. JEFF S.

    They will be keeping this one for a long time, before someone gives them $12 K, unless the person is on ACID. I hate green cars, after owning a green 62 chevy impala, that always gave me problems on cold start-up, when it would start, that is.

  18. CJM

    I love these in concept and have always wanted to love the looks of them but have never quite made it. The 80-85 Seville pulled off the bustleback look much better. These look good from certain angles, (side, rear, rear ¾) and not so good from others (anything showing the front, front ¾). The nose cap is too long. Good colors on this one. Far preferable to the pukey “FS” edition blue. I swear 80% of these were made as Frank Sinatra editions. Have missed out on a few deals on these in the past so I suppose I will never get one. Had an ‘82 Cordoba with the same body, starker interior, and much cleaner styling. Price is way too high. Condition looks good but not 20k original good. Not sure what the values run these days. Maybe worth 5-6k to the right buyer?

    • TheGasHole

      They actually only made about 500 of the FS edition Imperials, but they do come up for sale more often than “regular” Imperials. My guess is that the FS editions were saved more than the garden variety Imps. I will say the Imperial looks better in person than in pics. I like the Sevilles as well…. gotta give the car companies credit for at least taking some chances back at a time when most cars looked…well….let’s just say uninspired.

      Like 1
  19. KenB

    The Malaise era ran from 1972 to 1995.

    • Todd Zuercher

      Malaise era for cars was long over by ’95. I would say 73-83 and just looked up several links online (including wikipedia) and they generally state the same years.

      Like 1
      • JEFF S.

        I had a 1988 chevy wagon with a 305 or 307 with some piece of junk electronic carb, that was crap, you were lucky to get 10 mpg. Another piece of junk from GM an 88 Pontiac sunbird, timing chain / belt went at 60,000 miles, after repair engine had noise, just turned the radio up and drove the car until someone ran into me and totaled it in 1995 I also had a 1991 Pontiac Grand AM that had reverse gear go out at 85,000 miles and the paint was peeling off all over the car, bad primer / sealer, from the factory, I was told, out of warranty. I did purchase a 1994 Buick Roadmaster in 2001, LT-1-350 with 99,800 miles. Car went 209,000 miles before it died and went to the boneyard. I purchased all my cars used, I would of really been pissed if I had paid new car prices for anything I purchased from 73 to 93 models. I would have to say 73 to 93 from my and my family and friends experience with cars, from the big 3.

  20. MOPAR Joe

    $5,000 max for this one and drive it home.

  21. Cadmanls Member

    I am pretty sure these cars followed the same recipe as early sixty’s Lincoln’s. Motor was hand assembled and run up then opened back up and recepricating assy inspected before going to the vehicle. Chrysler was trying to survive then and wanted a top shelf car to compete with GM and Ford. Always liked these and the green looks great, but 12K?

    Like 1
  22. Andrew Franks

    The color is not one of my favorites and I think the car is overpriced.

  23. Solarman

    The carpeting in these cars were sumptuous. Really something to enjoy driving barefoot in.

    Like 1
  24. CanuckCarGuy

    Baby got bustleback…these must have inspired the musical classic by Sir Mix-A-Lot.

  25. Micheal Doring

    There’s a white one in Central City, Ne. Hasn’t moved in a decade that I know of.

  26. W9BAG

    We had ONE at the largest C/P dealership in KY in 1981. It is a gorgeous car. The carpets are incredible; you want to drive it bare foot. It was the demo for the dealership’s owner. I believe that it listed for close to $26K in 1981 dollars. I love the styling. However, it seemed to be a sales fiasco. We offered it for $17xxx at a tent sale. We couldn’t give that car away. I’ve always wanted one.

    Like 3
  27. r s

    Looks nice, shine it up and put it in a museum. Only for gosh sakes don’t bother trying to drive it. As a car it’s a total fail. Don’t get me started.

  28. Chris

    To each his own . I think too much . To the right person. Priceless !!!

  29. OldASA

    This site would be rather more pleasant w/o twits like Chris…

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