No Reserve! 1981 Imperial with EFI

The flagship 1981 Imperial mixed retro styling cues with groundbreaking technology. This low-mileage specimen in Fort Lauderdale, Florida comes to market here on eBay in a No Reserve auction that’s enticed at least eight bidders to bump the price above $3700, a relative bargain for a nearly immaculate example of a V8 luxury coupe with unique styling and seating for six. While many of these cars were converted from the computerized Electronic Fuel Injection to a carburetor either by Chrysler or subsequent owners, the working EFI adds value to this one, as does the one-year-only moonroof. With an MSRP of $18,300, the 1981 Imperial represented a huge investment, more than double the cost of a Monte Carlo. Look for more heated bidding as the auction nears its end.

When properly tuned, the EFI 318 cid (5.2L) V8 can be highly reliable and deliver up to 30 MPG on the highway. A dedicated online following including Facebook can be a priceless source of tips including how to keep the injection happy. As you might suspect, all ’81 Imperials come with air conditioning, power brakes, power steering, and cruise control. At 140 HP and 240 lb-ft of torque, these cars will lose a stoplight Gran Prix to nearly anything built today, but when It’s Time for Imperial, there’s no need to hurry.

I own a double-blue ’81 Imperial, and that plush factory carpeting must be felt to be appreciated. The cutest, softest animal you’ve ever petted is like steel wool compared to the Imperial’s furry floor. Nearly all ’81-’83 Imperials show a raised area in the dash above the radio and digital information center, but this one is barely distorted. Cracks in the plastic steering wheel spokes are also common. Overall, though, this interior looks fabulous, as it should with a mere 47,000 miles on one of the world’s first digital odometers. Other cars may have utilized a partial digital display, but the Imperial went the extra mile with live calculation of fuel economy, miles to empty, and other telemetry that we take for granted today but seemed like unimaginable sorcery nearly forty (!) years ago. Along with a choice of four stereos, buyers could choose leather or cloth upholstery, and the leather generally holds up well. When I bought mine, the leather was dusty and I expected it to be dry and tough, but even in a neglected state the seats were soft and supple.

The bustle trunk makes for high style and luggage capacity. A similar treatment graced Cadillac’s remodeled Seville in model year 1980. Personally I prefer the Imperial’s more modern rendition of this throw-back element. The ’81 Imperial featured many zero-cost choices, but this one has the only one option that cost money:  a moonroof. This car has one, making it even more interesting and rare since the power glass roof window vanished after 1981.

The snowflake wheels compliment the styling perfectly, still looking fresh today. Believe it or not these cars turned some laps in NASCAR! These final generation of rear-wheel-drive Imperials blends old with new. This one appears to have a whole second life in front of it. On a good day this car could bring $7500 or more. Even on an excellent day for the seller, these cars trade well below their original cost of the original MSRP, over $54,000 in today’s dollars. Do you like the styling on these last of the old-school Imperials?

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Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    When I saw the photo of the engine bay, it reminded me of the human brain, only more complex!

    After seeing that, I’m relieved to look under the hood of my ’67 Newport and ’63 Riviera.

    Like 11
    • Fahrvergnugen Farhvergnugen Member

      With all that piping, one doesn’t need a mechanic on call, as much as a plumber.

      Like 9
    • Gremlin X

      You can probably credit the fuel injection system with the low mileage.

      Like 7
  2. Big_Fun Member

    Dear Todd Finch,

    “Hello, my name is Goldie, an ’81 Imperial. I heard you own a friend of mine, ol’ Blue Eyes. Please buy me, as I miss him, and I know he needs the company. Then you could own not one, but two Imperials. Think about it…as they say, no one can quit at just one”
    I’m looking forward to your loving response.”

    Sincerely,

    Goldie

    Like 13
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Tempting but I’ll choose to continue being married. ;-) Thanks Big_Fun.

      Like 11
  3. alphasud Member

    Cadillac beat the Imperial to the market with electronic fuel injection in 1976 and had a digital trip computer in 78 and in 81 you could get a digital instrument cluster. The bustle looks better in the Imperial but I prefer the looks of the 76-79 Seville Caddyova.

    Like 3
  4. Bob_in_TN Member

    In 1981 I would have never given this car a look. Today I think it’s cool. A great representation of a style of car which is no longer available. Inexpensive. And unless you were at the same Cars & Coffee as Todd, little chance of seeing yourself.

    Like 19
  5. Argy

    Worth the price of admission for the Cartier crystal hood ornament alone!

    Like 10
  6. Scott B

    Super nice example of a super fancy car for the time.

    Like 10
  7. Flmikey

    …just added this beauty to my watchlist and calling the dealer once this hurricane passes my house, which is right now…

    Like 5
  8. Rex Kahrs Member

    Hey FLmikey, what are you getting? Here near Oldsmar just light/moderate rain, very little wind at 5pm.

    Like 3
    • Flmikey

      We have tornado warnings now..a lot of wind and rain, some flooding…I’ve seen worse…

      Like 3
      • Flmikey

        I’m in Bradenton

        Like 1
    • KC Ronn

      It’s even raining in the most corrupt state in the nation
      New Jersey and Atlantic City at that.

  9. K. R. V. Member

    Oh the Imperial! In its day was top if the line American cruise mobile! My own Dad had bought one new in 64, a beautiful Crown Coupe, in metallic turquoise with black vinyl roof and the softest black leather interior I’ve ever felt, that had a real sweat silk headliner, or at least that’s what the sales manager, a good friend of my Dads. But this one? Well compared to what was available in its day, could hold its own, in ride, style, handling and especially attention to detail! All I can imagine is what would this beauty be like, built into a true resto mod? Using a new Chrysler 300, that’s been wreaked, but not so bad the rear suspension and entire Hemi drivetrain was still useable! Just imagine this car with a 370hp, independent suspension and modern 4 wheel disk brakes, I say modern because the 81 Imperial came with 4 wheel Disk Brakes!

    Like 5
  10. Rex Kahrs Member

    Stay safe mikey.

    Like 2
  11. Dual Jetfire

    The same 140 hp as the 54 Nash Ambassador Country Club Lemans, plus more complicated fuel delivery than dual carbs, and no continental styling. What a deal!

    Like 3
  12. 370zpp

    Nice, but somehow still a “K car” Imperial.

    Like 5
    • Tiberius1701

      This Imp was based on the Aspen/Volare/LeBaron/Diplomat chassis, not a K-Car at all.

      Like 10
      • Brian C

        It always reminded me me or the second generation Cordoba.

        Like 2
      • 370zpp

        Regardless of what it was based on, it still has that “K-Car” vibe – for me.
        When I think of Imperials, I think of the majestic ones from the 60s, like my father drove.

        Like 2
    • Dave Brown

      The 1981-1983 Imperial was not a K-Car derived car. It dates back to the 1976 Dodge Aspen, Plymouth Volare and 1977 Chrysler Le Baron on which the ‘new’ 1981 Dodge Mirada, Chrysler Cordoba, Chrysler Imperial, 1979 Chrysler New Yorker, Dodge Monaco and Plymouth Fury were based on. These were all rear wheel drive cars and none of them were anywhere near as advanced as the 1981 K-Cars with all of its variations through the following years. When the K-Cars came out, all of the other Chrysler product cars were old school thinking.

      Like 1
      • Bill-W

        Just to sort out the last years of Chrysler’s RWD fleet –
        M – Caravelle (Canada only), Diplomat, LeBaron, Fifth Avenue, Gran Fury (USA only)
        R – Gran Fury, St.Regis, Newport / New Yorker
        B – (2 dr coupe) – Charger SE, Magnum, Cordoba
        J – Cordoba, Mirada
        Y – Imperial

        The Imperial’s make code, 2nd letter in the VIN, was A in all three years.

        I owned a 1983 Imperial, same exterior colour as the one in eBay, but with a beige cloth interior.. A fantastic highway cruiser. Was cool watching the digital (metric) speedometer increase as you accelerated and the gas gauge (also metric) drop.

        Like 1
      • K. R. V. Member

        So tell us how many FWD K Cars are still going strong on B the road as compared to the “old school” RWD cars? Especially either of both with well over 100,000 miles?

      • MOPARJoe

        Just to clear things up, the Imperial from 81-83 was built on the completely new for 1980 MY Cordoba/Mirada platform. They were all built in the Windsor, Canada assembly plant. The plant was converted over in 1983 for the launch of the 1984 minivan.
        The Y body Imperial was a FWD stretched version of the R body cars and was built in Belvedere, Illinois in the early 90s

        Like 1
      • MOPARJoe

        I meant RWD R body vehicles.

    • K. R. V. Member

      Not at all! 81-83Imperial was a rear wheelV8 driven luxury car, not a 4 cyl Front wheel drive economy. Sr!

      Like 1
    • DN

      370zzp,

      Regardless of what vibe you get, it’s STILL not based on a J-car

      • 370zpp

        DN, No kidding?
        I never said what it was based on, simply offered an opinion.
        Hope you are okay with that.

        Like 1
  13. Glenn

    Tod I too own a 81 Frank Sinatra and it has the sun roof and its still injected! Is yours. Seeing they only made 158 Franks in 81 and it having the one year only sun roof, it is one of only maybe 50 built with both options available that year. the styling on these cars is timeless! Iv been hooked on it since when they were new. This car is a keeper after owning around seven 81-83 Imps over the last 32 years!

    Like 7
  14. Maestro1 Member

    This one is as attractive as the Sinatra. I think I’d want more horsepower. That
    notwithstanding, I’d buy this anyway if I had the room and I wasn’t 4000 plus miles away. Good luck with it; somebody buy and enjoy.

    Like 3
  15. Car Nut Tacoma

    Awesome looking car. Although I was way too young to drive at the time, I was 7 yrs. old at the time, I remember when this Imperial was on the market. I find it way more attractive than anything on the market today.

    Like 7
    • Frank

      Nice car, Florida living has agreed with it

      Like 2
  16. Patrick Curran

    Why would someone install V8 symbols on the sail panels?

    Like 1
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Hello Patrick Curran. That’s a classic Grandpa move. You’ll see some ’60s-era Imperial badges on there too. My late Father did the same sort of thing. He put “V6” badges on his ’95 LeBaron Convertible “So people won’t think it’s a #*$^ing four cylinder.” Add that to the Florida zip code and I suspect you’ve got your answer!

      Like 1
  17. Joe Sewell

    Loved these back in the day and still do! Couldn’t swing it then – was driving a 1979 Sedan Deville at the time, after having just sold a ’71 model. Loving this Imperial…just bought a brand new 300S 5.7L. First Chrysler purchase since 1985. Decent vehicles – dealers left much to be desired as they seemed to provide no service training to their techs.

    Like 3
  18. Cav427

    Can anyone say “Hellcat Transplant.” That 318 is a shadow of its former self, and even then not all that great.

    Like 1
  19. Stacey Hagan

    Absolutely a wonderful car. It had enough pep to keep out of trouble and all the luxury you could want. Between this and a real sweet Mirada on BAT the other day, I am in heaven.

    Like 3
  20. Tom S.

    Ebay photos show a sagging headliner. What is going on with the carpet? Beyond that, you can pull up to the Cracker Barrel in this beauty feeling like a movie star.

    Like 2
  21. JolietJake Member

    The only thing CLOSE to “immaculate” on this car is under the hood. What’s up with the snow on the floorboards?…snow in Florida? Unless it’s “snow” of another kind..looks like somebody laid out some “lines” on the transmission hump! And the paint has 3-4 different shades of tan (gold) on the body…immaculate, indeed!

    • Chuck Dickinson

      It’s the lines from vacuuming the plush dark mocha carpet. Snow indeed!!!!

      Like 5
  22. JolietJake Member

    I’m with you, Rex! Keep it simple! Looks like a LOT of electronics (1981 vintage) on this puppy… under hood, on dash, even on driver’s door!

  23. Tom Mulligan

    Having owned an 81 Imp I can tell you keeping one of these running is a never ending problem. The EFI system never worked and this vehicle spend way too many times on a tow truck…..if you are thinking of purchasing one of these cars get one that was dealer converted to a carb

    Like 1
  24. Russ Ashley

    I have always loved these Imperials. I wish I had the room and the spare money to buy this one. My brother owned one this same color that I drove a couple of times and it drove and rode well. The FI system was a problem so much that they put out a kit that replaced it with a carburetor, but if I got one now I would prefer the FI. I think a lot of the problem was inexperience and lack of interest on the part of many of the Chrysler mechanics.

    Like 2
    • Joe Sewell

      Truth. My wife and I bought a new for 1985 Chrysler LeBaron. Glorified Kcar for sure but a solid design and fair build quality. I learned quickly more than one dealer had no clue on how to even make minor repairs. As an amateur mechanic, I was able to correct the few, minor problems myself.

  25. Leslie Martin

    The Cordoba may have had “fine corinthian leather” but there is no better smoking lounge on wheels than an Imperial. I’m hoping to be able to afford a sofa as nice as this interior… and that carpet!

    Having owned a few early 80’s Chrysler products of dubious build quality, I know the new owner would need to have realistic expectations about maintenance . But what a cool retro ride to cruise in and even take to shows. I dig it!

    Like 1
  26. theGasHole

    Nice to see some love for the 81-83 Imps after so many years of them being bashed on here. Todd, I too owned a FS Imperial but had to sell it about 4 years ago when I was laid off. Here in Jersey, you would have thought the FS edition would have been popular, but I literally couldn’t give that car away and ended up selling it to a gentleman in Philly who actually designed the interior of the 81-83 Imps. A couple of years ago he sold it, and I am in tough with the current owner, anxiously awaiting when he decides to sell it.
    These are not race cars, and were never meant to be. They are comfortable cruisers. Fun fact is that the FS edition Imps were the most expensive American car on the market at the time they were new.

    Like 1
  27. Todd Fitch Staff

    GH – Mine came with no gas tank or filler and the cat. conv. cut out so I haven’t even driven it yet! Looking forward to a first drive. It would be interesting to make the factory EFI work with a 350 HP 360 and early A518, but first I plan to enjoy it stock and get everything working. I’ve admired the styling since they were new, and plan to keep this one indefinitely. Thanks for your comments!

  28. Todd Fitch Staff

    Winning bid: US $5,600.00

  29. Bill-W

    The RWD R bodies were built 1979-1981 – Gran Fury*, St.Regis, Newport and New Yorker. And, except for 32,210 1979 Chryslers built at the Windsor plant, all were built at the old Plymouth Plant on Lynch Road, Detroit. The R body was a reworked B body. (No Gran Fury for 1979 – big mistake by management)

    The 1981-1983 Imperials were all built at the Windsor assembly plant. And they were classified as Y bodies – at least initially. Another instance of Chrysler management not sure as to what to do.

    The 1990-1993 Imperials used the 1990-1993 Fifth Avenue body (Y body) and thus were FWD vehicles. The Dynasty and New Yorker Salon were built on a 104.5″ wheelbase (C body) while the Y body had a 5.1″ longer wheelbase – all in the back seat. These models were built at the Belvidere, Illinois, plant.

    When talking about the J body, keep in mind there were two. The first was the 1980-1983 RWD Cordoba and Mirada platform. This J body was taken from the M body. These models were built at the Windsor plant.

    The second J body was the FWD 1987-1995 LeBaron coupe and convertible built at the St.Louis, Missouri, plant.

  30. MOPARJoe

    I agree with all your comments except the comment about the Cordoba/Mirada chassis being taken from the M body platform. They were all new for 1980 MY.

    FYI, the M body was really just and oversized F body(Volare/Aspen).

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