Jay Leno’s LeBaron

Jay Lenos LaBaron

Jay Leno has some amazing automobiles in his collection. They are not all million dollar rarities though. There are quite a few more humble cars that he has purchased just because they had a good story behind them. This LeBaron is one of those cars, so today we have the tale for you. It was originally published in The Corvette in the Barn, but is now printed here with permission for your enjoyment!

Jay Leno admits there is nothing special about a 1967 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron, and it’s certainly not a car he ever dreamed about owning. But this particular car was different enough that he decided to take a look, and he’s glad that he did.

“I got a call from an old boy at my office,” said Leno. “He said ‘My name is Leo, I’m ninety-three years old, and I can’t drive anymore. I want you to buy my car.’” Leno asked what type of car he had for sale, hoping it would be a rare Duesenberg or Bugatti. But when Leo said that he owned a 1967 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron, Leno was eager to end the phone conversation as quickly as possible.

“I told him I wasn’t really looking for one of those, but Leo said, ‘Oh, no, no, you’ll like this one,’” said Leno. “He told me it was a two-door with dual air conditioning.” “They only made eighteen of those in 1967,” said Leo. “I bought it new and had it serviced at my home twice a month by a Chrysler mechanic.”

Reluctantly, Leno agreed to take a look at the car. “Where do you live?” Leno asked. “I live on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills,” said Leo. “Oh, what do you do for a living?” asked Leno. “I’m an old-time movie producer,” said Leo, as he rattled off a few movie titles to Leno.

Armed with Leo’s address, Leno went up and down Sunset Boulevard looking for Leo’s address. “I felt like William Holden in the movie Sunset Boulevard.” Finally he sees Leo’s house number, adjacent to a long driveway going off the street. He turns into the driveway and proceeds up to the house.

“It was a 1940s Beverly Hills mansion,” said Leno. “So I pull in front of his house, and he’s standing in the driveway with a smoking jacket and an ascot. Standing next to Leo is another gray-haired guy around seventy years old.”

“Jay, this is my mechanic from Chrysler, and he wants to retire, so I have to get rid of the car,” said Leo. So the three men walked inside the garage to look at the Chrysler. Leno said that it was like a brand-new 1967 Chrysler Imperial.

Leo explained the purchase of the car. “When I bought this thing, I was so afraid I was going to have an accident,” he said. “So I bought two of everything.”

Leo opened up the other side of the garage, revealing brand-new parts still wrapped in paper. “He had new bumpers, grilles, headlights, windshield wiper motors, electric window motors—basically everything you would need to replace if you bought a car for life,” said Leno.

“If you buy the car, all this crap goes with it,” said Leo.

Leno took a look around the car. “Now I have to buy it,” he says he thought to himself. “I can’t not buy it. I mean, look at it; it’s a brand-new ’67 Chrysler.

“When we got it back to the shop, it was smoking a little bit. So we pulled the engine and did a clean-up on it.”

Leno said the most impressive thing about the car is that everything works so well.

“It has electric everything,” said Leno. “It has the thin A-pillar with the panoramic windshield. But this car has the exact opposite of road feel; you drive with one finger, you lightly touch the brake. It’s incredibly smooth.”

“This car represents the last days of old technology. It’s one of the very last big cars where the huge engine, big carburetor, and three-speed Torqueflite transmission had all been perfected. Gas mileage is abysmal, though.”

Leno says the car’s redeeming grace is when it is driven at 70 miles per hour down the freeway.

“The dual air conditioners have you freezing in less than a minute when you throw the switch on,” he said. “The car has two a/c compressors with units in the front and rear passenger compartments.”

“The only feature this car doesn’t have is a portable office, which believe it or not had a desk and a swivel passenger seat.”

The car is quite impressive. The size and condition of the Chrysler make it appear new. Leno said the paint had been touched up, but the vinyl top is still original.

“I think Leo had driven the car up until they took his driver’s license at ninety-three years old,” said Leno. “He just wanted it to go to a good home. It’s wonderful to drive. I use it a lot, especially in the summertime.”

Leno said that one reason so few of these models exist is because many of them were used in demolition derbies because of their tank-like construction.

“This is obviously a case of buying the story and getting the car thrown in on the deal,” he said.

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Comments

  1. Charles

    Awesome story! With Jay Leno as the second owner, the car’s preservation is ensured. The car ended up where it should be.

    Those mid 60’s big Mopars were special in many ways and are still to some degree overlooked by many car fans. In the mid 60’s my mom worked as the bookkeeper for Hooper Motors, a Chrysler Plymouth in Cocoa Florida. Always a Pontiac family, mom got a deal on a then new 1966 Chrysler New Yorker sport coupe. What a car!!! The NY shared most of the mechanicals with the Imperial, only the New Yorker was considerably smaller and lighter.

    Solid black outside, with white leather buckets inside. The carpet, dash and trim were black. The car came with some nice options such as the then new 440 CI engine, and the 727 torqueflite trans. The 66 version of the 440 came with all the good stuff inside, and would later be the engine that was offered as the 440 Commando and 440 Magnum. 3:73 limited slip gars and the car was as fast as many muscle cars of the day. The NY came with the console floor shifter, and a factory vacuum gauge mounted on the console. This car had the first factory cruise control we had ever seen on a car. The cruise control was a round knob next to the wiper switch with numbers in 10 MPH increments. Simply select 6 for 60 MPH, 7 for 70 MPH, all the way to 9 for 90 MPH. Once set the car would maintain a constant speed until the brake was depressed. A push of the center mounted button would re engage the system. The A/C would freeze you out when it was 100F plus outside. The big cars handled curves better than most muscle cars. Brings back some great memories.

  2. Tim

    Not to sound morbid, but does anybody else wonder what will happen to all these great cars when Leno passes on? Is there another person on the planet with so much dedication to these creations? (And the wallet)

    • Horse Radish

      I don’t think money is an issue.
      I would also be inclined to think that Jay probably has a foundation in the works that will look after these and preserve them…..

  3. Mr. Bill

    I have the four door version of your mother’s ’66 New Yorker. Mine is fully equipped as well with all power, cruise, white buckets, and Tilt-a-Scope steering wheel.

    Mr. Bill

    • Charles

      Awesome!

      Forgot about the Tilt-a-scope wheel!

      Mom’s car went to the crusher in the 1980’s. Glad you still have yours.

    • jim s

      send some pictures in to the site please.

      • Mr. Bill

        I’ll try and get some up in the next day or so…

  4. braktrcr

    Way to go Jay… but they were Awesome in Demo derby’s LOL

  5. Horse Radish

    I had two of these in a sedan version, still got one left.
    Description is pretty much right on, except:
    From what I have heard these (Imperials) are banned from Demo Derbies because their frames were much stronger than anything else out there….

    • jim s

      please send some pictures into the site.

  6. Charles

    A friend of mine owned a 67 Imperial coupe. He hot rodded it back when no one would consider hot rodding a tank of a car like an Imperial. He hurt the feelings of a lot of pony car and muscle car owners.

  7. Brian Wall

    Well, This is just an amazing story. Jay Leno made a great decision to pick up this old beauty, even if it was just for the story lol. I haven’t seen one of these with the dual ac compressors here in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada but the 1967 Chrysler Imperial was indeed a popular choice back in it’s day ! Thanks for sharing this wonderful story Tom.

    • Horse Radish

      this is NOT a Chrysler BUT it’s an Imperial Crown Coupe

  8. Peter

    I was 17 years old and bought my Dad’s 1966 Chrysler 300 fully loaded 440 4B the car was like low level flying and easy hit well over 140 mph. Floated at and speed and always had a burst of power …. it also had disc brakes ….. thanks for sharing this car the story and buying Jay.

  9. Dolphin Member

    Leo sounds like a very smart fellow: get in touch with the right guy, and then make him an offer he can’t refuse.

    The car is terrific, but I haven’t ever heard of a street car that has been serviced as often as this one has and comes with so many spare parts. Who could refuse an offer like that?

  10. jim s

    great story and find. sounds like Leo was in love with this car.

  11. Sim

    Back in the day, my best friend’s mother bought a new white on white ’73 Imperial. It was the largest and most opulent luxury cars we’d ever seen, and when I googled the images of this car (just now, to remember what it looked like) I can see why we thought it was so big. One thing I remember best, is that we were giggling in the back seat because it didn’t feel like a car ride, it felt like we were floating.

    • Don Andreina

      Syd Mead, who designed Blade Runner, drives one of these fuselage models. Me, I can’t decide between a late 60s or an early 70s. Both are awesome.

  12. Don Andreina

    Tom, thanks for sharing these stories. Your books make for great bedtime reading; adult fairytales with happy endings.

    Can you shed any light on the true story and possible whereabouts of the 1965 Bertone Mustang commissioned by L. Scott Bailey of Automobile Quarterly?

  13. Chris in WNC

    gotta love Jay Leno.
    he’s the modern reincarnation of Bill Harrah.
    Leno truly loves cars and has the deep pockets to do them right, just like Mr.Harrah did.
    I saw Harrah’s collection while hitchhiking across the country in 1974.
    ’twas amazing.

  14. Charles

    The Imperials did not have a separate chassis. It was a unitized body just like the Chryslers were. Back in the 80’s I worked at a large RV dealership. People would buy the big 60’s and 70’s Mopars because they made the best tow vehicle for a travel trailer. More metal in the unitized body of one of those cars than a large SUV built these days. We installed a lot of Class 3 hitches on those things and they pulled like a truck.

    I towed a 32 foot Holiday Rambler Presidential (8K) with a 76 Newport with a 440 engine.

    I remember seeing a Pinto rear end an Imperial once at a traffic light. The Pinto wrapped itself around the back bumper of that Imperial. The Pinto was totaled and the Imperial suffered a cracked tail lamp lens.

  15. Mr. Bill

    I thought all LeBarons were four doors in 1967 with the first two door LeBaron appearing in 1969.

    Mr. Bill
    Hamlet, NC

    • Charles

      You are correct. The Le Baron was the four door in 67, and the Crown Coupe was the two door. 67 was the beginning of the unitized body Imperial.

      • Horse Radish

        Just to complicate things a little, boys:
        For Imperial (stand alone company, not a Chrysler !)
        In 1967
        There were LeBarons, and there were Crowns.
        Crowns came in Htp Sedans, Htp Coupes, and Convertibles.
        Whereas the Lebaron only came as a Htp Sedan.

  16. grid Member

    We live in the country, which was even more desolate when we grew up here. One drove everywhere, and that included “studying” together before a big test. At the time, I had a 56 Savoy, flat-head 6. My best friend (Tommy) drove his dad’s Chrysler with the 426(?). The guy we “studied” with (Jesse) had his dad’s DeSoto with the potent 361. Jesse’s dad was a fish-boat captain, and was gone for weeks at a time, so the DeSoto got a righteous workout! One afternoon we left Jesse’s to go to Tommy’s, a full mile away. Why take one car–or walk–when you can take three?. Tommy pulled out of Jesse’s driveway and floored the Chrysler, leaving twin streaks for over a quarter-mile. Jesse lined up just a little off-center and was just shy of matching Tommy’s accomplishment. I backed up into the sand, floored the accelerator and dumped the clutch. About 3″ of rubber was left on the road. That weekend, JP, Jesse’s dad, came home. Saturday morning he called a conference with us boys. He looked at the street, looked at Tommy (his nephew) and said, “I’m gonna talk to your father and see what he wants to do with you.” He looked at Jesse and said, “Son, you’re grounded for a month.” (OUCH!). “”Yessir.” He looked at me, looked at the road, put his arm around me and took me aside so my buddies couldn’t see or hear him and said,: “Son, you need more engine.” I told that story at his funeral, and I do believe it’s the only funeral ever, around here, anyway, where the wet eyes were from laughter rather than sorrow!

    Like 1
  17. Auto-Watcher

    I believe it was only Imperial from 1955 to 1968. In 1969 they started Chyrsler-Imperial.

    I owned a 1951 Plymouth with that lod flat head 6 cyl emgine.. In 1953 I pulled up next to a ’53 Buick strait 8 and Dynaflow (we called ’em Dynaslush). I spun my wheels when we took off at the light & I left him in the dust. Oh happy day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Rene

    have heard of a LeBaron. Never a LaBaron ;-)

  19. 1965_300L

    I’ve got a 300L Convertible from 1965. These late ’60s Mopars are simply incredible on the highway. Even with its stock 14″ wheels the 300L is incredibly smooth at highway speeds in excess of 70mph. The pinnacle of Chrysler engineering.

  20. Scott A.

    In High School, I had a 71 Chrysler Newport Royal. 400 with a carter 2-barrel. It would leave a 350 4-barrel Chevy Impala in the dust. One night out in the woods, we heard a “CRASH”. Ran over and saw a guy had backed his mom’s 73 Impala into my Newport’s front end. He had a huge dent in the trunk. We looked for damage to my Newport… I found some paint on the front end from his Impala. I scraped it off with my fingernail. Didn’t even scratch the chrome! It was an awesome car. You could fit 4 in the front, 4 in the back, and the trunk could hold six more (did that at a drive-in)!

  21. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Well, there were obviously some errors in this one. We pulled it straight from the book without any proofreading. It is a 1967 Chrysler Imperial Crown Coupe as people have mentioned above. We have added a video from Leno’s Garage where Jay recounts the whole story. Enjoy!

  22. Charles

    The Imperial was a separate line from Chrysler like Lincoln that is built by Ford, but technically is not a Ford.

    Imperial Crown Coupe built by Chrysler Corp.

  23. Dan

    Jay
    A friend of mine got in 1985 while in his last few months of high school a 65 Imperial Crown Coupe. His didn’t have the 440 his had the very potent and venerable 413 CUI with the Carter 625 cmf AFB( Aluminum four barrel). His car was the 3rd fastest Mopar in the class of 84 and class of 85 Fastest 2 being a 71 Dodge Charger with a 440 and a 3 speed manual and my friends brothers 71 Chrysler 2 door 300 with a 440 TNT that had a Holley 750 double pumper.
    Funny thing about Imperials, the bolt pattern on the wheels are slightly different than other Chryslers so trying to find a replacement steel rim is a very exasperating and enduring project. or at least it was trying to find one for that families other Imperial Crown Coupe a 1964
    I heard you say you also had a 56 Imperial, I almost bout 1 in 1987 from a guy who used to run a speed shop with his brother in Lindenhurst , NY. They were a Mopar shop when you could get Mopar parts brand new and not have to deal with a dealer. Anyway he had at his house a 56 Imperial Crown , and a 58 Imperial Crown (that had the donut on the back trunk lid) the 56 had gotten hit in the left rear quater and the tip of the tail fin where the gas filler cap was got knocked off. She had a 354 Hemi (solid lifter high out put 300 motor) but the original dual quad setup was taken off in the late 70’s during the gas shortage and sold. The real reason I didn’t buy the car was it was originally and still in except the left rear quater, the Doris Day package (Pink and Black ,gray mohair seats , pink and black dash).
    Today I kick myself cause I could have bought that car for $1,000 and sold the original wire wheels back in 88 for that alone though I wouldn’t have .Maybe someday I will come across a beauty like that again but when your just 20 you think yuck pink and black.

  24. '59fordfan

    Who, is “Leo?” He(I’m assuming, ‘he’) is mentioned, in comments but, nowhere, in the feature story. Was a portion, of the headline story, omitted?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      I just read it again and Leo is the person Jay got the car from — it’s throughout the story.

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