Jolly Green Giant: 1973 Imperial LeBaron

Corey KemendoBy Corey Kemendo

Here it is folks, the longest post-war, non-limousine car you could buy. 235.3” of American made steel. Weighing in at over two and a half tons on a 127” wheelbase, the 1973 Imperial LeBaron would be the beginning of the end for gigantic full size Chryslers. Every car after this mega yacht would get a little smaller and lighter. Find this biggie in Ocean Township, NJ for $4,200 here on craigslist. That’s less than a $1 a pound!

Whatever you do, don’t call it a Chrysler Imperial. From 1955-75, then again from 1981-83, Imperial was its own separate make competing with Cadillac and Lincoln. For a very short while, it was the second best selling luxury car maker, beating out Lincoln and Continental. Sadly, the success was short lived and Chrysler began investing less and less to make the Imperial brand stand out. For collectors today, it means an Imperial is a bargain compared to its competitors and nice examples are a great way into old car ownership at an affordable price.

This green fuselage behemoth is rarely seen today. Made during dark times in Detroit, quality control was not up to the highest standards, and the size meant not many saw a garage. Rust would form on fenders, quarter panels, inside trunks, and under the standard vinyl roof. Thankfully this example looks cancer free from the few pictures shown. Paint still looks glossy (you can see it was just washed), the vinyl roof looks smooth with some slight warpage under the back window, and the massive chrome bumpers look ding free and shiny. First thing to go would be the wire wheels and to fix the electric opening headlight covers. Those bumpers with massive rubber bumper guards is how this year Imperial became the largest car you could buy. I can just see myself smashing my knee on one the those girders in my garage like I do daily on my 1981 Chrysler.

Destruction derbys loved these Imperial tanks for their strong construction and powerful 440 V8. Mechanically, parts should be easy to come by to keep this car running well. The Auto-Temp dual AC won’t be as easy to fix since most failed due to its complexity, but when they worked, the car became a rolling walk in freezer. Let’s hope this one is still working. The rim blow steering wheel is cracked and the driver side seat bottom has been redone. These were the cars that started Mopar’s fascination with button tufted seats for over twenty years and were copied by its competitors. The interior looks great with a ripple free dashboard and original radio. Fake wood, real chrome trim, lavalier straps, five cigarettes lighters, and many courtesy lights means this wasn’t your grandparents Fury III. Even the C-pillar had built in pillows! This was a true six passenger luxury car, made for eating up American highways and quietly announcing you had arrived in the world. An Imperial was made for old money, not like those flashy Cadillacs! If Chrysler still made Imperial today, what do you think it would have evolved into? If it was anything like this 1973 Imperial LeBaron, I would be first in line to buy one.

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Comments

  1. RoKo

    I’d take one of these over a Cadillac or Lincoln any day. Beautiful car.

    7+
  2. Joogle

    Imperial is the greatest nameplate not in use today

    5+
  3. Adam T45

    That’s bigger than my house. Unfortunately it’s also more luxurious (and probably worth more)!

    14+
  4. SnuffySmiff

    This reminds me so much of Mom’s ’74 New Yorker Brougham(is that even a word?) Her’s was Chestnut Brown w/dark vinyl roof over some sort of fancy-looking tan cloth interior and had a 440 RB under the hood. No idea what it’s 0-60 time was but once it got moving… …I recall it shifting from first to second @ 70 mph and barking the tires. It rode better than a Caddy-according to Pop. I took it to prom one year-now that was a blast! Alas, my driving privileges got revoked after I slung Pop’s toolbox all over that massive trunk one night whilst cutting doughnuts in the highschool parking lot and forgot to put it all back! A year or so later the folks traded it in on a Nissan Sentra w/auto and I think I actually shed a tear…

    6+
    • KEN TILLY

      If my parents had swapped a Lincoln, any Lincoln, for a Nissan Sentra I would have left home, forever!

      5+
      • SnuffySmiff

        What’s even worse-they only got $400 trade-in on the Yorker! But @12 mpg (on a REALLY good day!) it just wasn’t practical to keep any longer-especially as a daily driver plus Pop’s health was going downhill. But man, what I wouldn’t give to have it back now with a tank full of hi-test and a good set of rubber! Oh and lots of bail $$$!!!

        4+
    • Jay

      My parents bought a 75. It was ok. Didn’t take to graduation or prom for that matter it just wasn’t cool for me I had a 70 Fury lll with 383. Mom kept it three years gave to my brother and got back her a new Caddy Fleetwood. I will say it did good burn outs but you had to hold the brake to start the tires had that lean burn crap.

      1+
  5. Jwinters

    its even heavier
    than a new challenger!

    7+
  6. XMA0891

    The pinnacle of ’70’s excess AND a four-door hardtop to boot! Love it! Hope some new owner continues to cherish it! It has been a long, long while since I’ve seen on in person! Great find!!

    2+
  7. Gene S

    I saw one at an auction recently and was pretty impressed- do not recall seeing one before. A lot of discussion of how many bodies you could store in the massive trunk- 8 was the consensus.

    4+
  8. irocrobb

    I saw one last year at a car show and yes they are huge. I am getting older and can not imagine parking one of these in a regular parking spot. This one looks pretty darn nice.

    1+
  9. jw454

    Olive green was the flavor of the month in the early seventies. The big three all made use of it extensively as well as the appliance industry. I still remember my mom’s kitchen covered in that avocado treatment.
    Nice car. Seems like a fair deal.

    6+
  10. CCFisher

    Imperial was a Chrysler from 71 on. The story goes that management was tired of seeing the Imperial make listed at the bottom of the sales charts.

    1+
    • Corey Kemendo Corey Kemendo Staff

      The trunk lid on the 1971-73 Imperials were badged ‘Imperial by Chrysler’, but the cars were still a separate make. They were still titled and sold as Imperials and the VIN is an Imperial only VIN. They wouldn’t become Chrysler Imperials again until 1990, just like from 1954 and before.

      3+
      • CCFisher

        Do you have any references? Every source I have indicates that Imperial was rolled back into Chrysler in 1971, and that includes the ’81-’83 coupes.

        1+
    • Corey Kemendo Corey Kemendo Staff

      If you are into decoding VINs, pre-1980 VINs for Chrysler’s always started with a C for the make and Imperials always started with a Y. If an Imperial was just another Chrysler, it would have started with a C and then later in the coding it would have been broken down into Newport, NY, Imp. In 1981, once again the second digit was a C for all Chrysler’s and a A for Imperials, the make. If from 1981-83 the Imperials were just a Chrysler, they would have had a C for make and then the traditional Y for Imperial for body style. But they still said the make was Imperial as opposed to Chrysler. Chrysler created a lot of this confusion by itself calling the vehicles Chrysler Imperials even when still a separate make.

      http://imperialclub.org/registry/vin_decode.htm#1966-75

      https://www.lhmopars.com/vin66-74.htm

      1+
      • CCFisher

        Not sure I agree that the first character of the VIN indicates make. Note that Plymouth Barracudas, Valiants, Satellites, and Furys all have distinct first characters in their VINs, yet all are registered as Plymouths.

        1973 Codes:

        First digit = car line

        B – Plymouth Barracuda (“E” Body)

        C – Chrysler All (“C” body)

        D – Dodge Polara, Monaco (“C” body)

        J – Dodge Challenger (“E” Body)

        L – Dodge Dart, Dart Sport (“A” Body)

        P – Plymouth Fury (“C” body)

        R – Plymouth Satellite, Sebring (“B” body)

        V – Plymouth Valiant, Duster, Scamp (“A” body)

        W – Dodge Charger, Coronet (“B” body)

        Y – Imperial LeBaron (“C” body)

        1+
    • Corey Kemendo Corey Kemendo Staff

      Only talking about Chrysler’s and Imperial’s to show how they are different. Not talking about Plymouth’s and Dodge’s that had different models and sizes. Look at the first link I posted. Clearly states make in the break down.

      1+
    • carsofchaos

      Sorry but that’s 100% incorrect. Having owned Imperials, even a couple 81-83’s, they were assuredly not Chryslers.

      0
      • carsofchaos

        According to VIN breakdown for 81-83:
        First digit is Country (1=USA 2=Canada)
        Second digit is Make (C=Chrysler A=Imperial)

        0
  11. Nova Scotian

    This is a classic.

    1+
  12. leiniedude

    Smoking deal in my book. I can see Scotty written all over this!

    0
  13. Tom

    My garage is 20 feet long and my ’75 New Yorker Brougham barely fits. The good thing is I have no trouble finding it in a parking lot.

    0
  14. Chebby Member

    25 years ago I almost bought a pristine ’72 in dark gray with blue leather, they were asking $1800 but I was a broke college kid. This one brings back memories. So many cigarette lighters!

    Unfortunately I think the craigslist ad is a scam, the combo of low price / few pictures / lousy description looks suspicious. Especially with those expensive-looking wire wheels on it. But the car is real, and it’s a tasty jumbo olive.

    2+
  15. Jay

    My parents bought a 75. It was ok. Didn’t take to graduation or prom for that matter it just wasn’t cool for me I had a 70 Fury lll with 383. Mom kept it three years gave to my brother and got back her a new Caddy Fleetwood. I will say it did good burn outs but you had to hold the brake to start the tires had that lean burn crap.

    1+
  16. Troy s

    I don’t really know but at some point in are history it seems a man’s success was measured not by the size of is wallet but how big of a car he owned. I remember seeing these in demolition derby’s all the time years ago when that kind of thinking turned to beamers and Mercedes.

    1+
  17. grant

    Hmm. Demolition derbies didn’t love these, they banned them for being indestructible. And I’d look a little closer at that vinyl top. There’s lumps all around the back window.

    1+
  18. LAWRENCE

    What grant said….I have a flyer from one the dirt track places around here that banned them too.

    Of note – the 1974/75 did come with four wheel disks…..

    1+
  19. Pete

    It looks like water damage on the RH head rest. And what do the grey carpet squares loosely thrown down in rear footwells hide? I would check this one out carefully.

    1+
    • Pete Phillips

      That is sun damage on the vinyl headrest. I had a black ’73 that I bought from an old lady in my hometown, and its headrest was the same way, even though the car had been kept indoors most of the time.

      1+
  20. David Miraglia

    A classic.

    0
  21. russell spreeman

    I detailed a car just like this one once when I was a teenager. I could not believe how big it seemed from the inside. When you turned a corner it felt like the car was standing still and everything else was rotating past me.

    And to think, for only 4x this much, you can buy a New Yorker 5th Avenue that’s been converted to a 4 speed. Ecch

    0

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