One Owner: 1981 Chrysler Imperial

The full-size Imperial luxury model went away after 1975. Then Chrysler brought back a personal luxury model in 1981 which was sold through 1983. But timing is everything, and the timing of this model just didn’t work. If it had been introduced in 1977 when personal luxury cars were riding high, things may have turned out differently. If it was offered in a 4 door model, sales may have been higher since 4 doors were getting more popular in the early eighties. For 1981, there were 7,225 produced, and it got worse after that. There were 2,329 Imperials produced in 1982 and only 1,427 produced in 1983. Here is a 1981 Chrysler Imperial 2 door coupe for sale here on Classics on Autotrader in Beecher, Illinois.

Imperial only had one option available, and that was a sunroof which this one does not have. There were other features where buyers could choose their preference. This is a one owner car that has always been garage kept. It has the original Day Star Blue Crystal Coat paint (buyers could choose regular or clearcoat finishes). In the early eighties, the Chrysler Imperial, Lincoln Continental, and Cadillac Seville all had a version of the bustle back styling. Personally, I think Chrysler did it better than the other two. The rear features unique styling with almost full-width taillights separated by backup lights just above the bumper with the license plate housing set above the taillights. This car also has cast aluminum road wheels, a choice made by the original owner over wire wheel covers.

Buyers of the Chrysler Imperial had their choice of Mark Cross leather seats or cloth seats. I think this one looks just fine with its sumptuous Yorkshire velour cloth interior finished in dark blue. Standard features included reclining passenger seat, thermostatic temperature control, power windows, power seats, power door locks, speed control, and tilt steering wheel. Buyers also had their choice of AM/FM stereo radio selections.

No engine picture is provided. This car is powered by the 318 cubic inch electronic fuel injected V-8 which the seller says runs poorly. It is mated with a TorqueFlite automatic transmission. The electronic digital dash (buyers could choose either analog or digital) shows that this car has been driven 82,928 miles.  The seller is asking $5,000 for this car that is in good condition, except for the fact that it’s not running well. Is that something you would be willing to get corrected?


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    These “Impostor Imperials” are an insult to real Imperials(imo)…which they stopped making around 1972.
    Burns my bacon that Iacocca green lit these angular 1st gen CAD monstrosities. 500 bux…I’ll use it for a charity sledgehammer event. Happy holidays y’all.🎄

    Like 1
    • Billy007

      Okay, the early fuel injection was lacking, but otherwise they were pretty nice cars/ I also have a J platform car, an 83 Dodge Mirada. No one will ever tell me they were poor cars.

      Like 3
    • Ralph

      This car was mostly already complete when Iacocca became head of Chrysler, he really didn’t think it was a right to launch these when at the same time the company was going to the government for loans.

      Like 2
    • cyclemikey

      Imposter Imperials? Give it a rest. These weren’t bad cars for their time. The late 70s-early 80s weren’t exactly the Golden Years. Once the troublesome FI was addressed by retrofit, these were pretty nice luxury coupes.

      I’ve had 4 Imperials – ’56, ’67 convertible, ’73, and ’75 – and enjoyed them all; still have one in my stable. I’ve also known several people who had ’81-’83 examples and loved driving them. It wouldn’t occur to me, as an actual vintage car enthusiast and collector, to trash their cars as “monstrosities” or suggest taking a sledgehammer to them. Since you’re the one doing the trash-talking, I’d be interested to know what collector cars *you* actually own and drive. Care to step up?

      Like 12
    • Q

      Compared to what? The horrible looking early 60s imperials that were holdovers from the 50s with several pathetic attempts to modernize them.

    • Danny

      I’m not too hot on the newest Imperials, 90-92 using the New Yorker front wheel drive platform, but have been driving an 81 for several years. Converted to carb by factory, and has never let me down. Handling and ride is superior, along with the looks. I had an 83 town car which was no comparison to this personal luxury car regarding looks, power or handling. Now I have an 81 FS too, working out some bugs from it sitting for 20 years, but with only 43K it is a very nice car. Neither of these are imposter cars. If you want imposter try the late 70’s Cadillac Cimarron 4 cylinder. Also if you want half the trunk space and ugly back end, look at the true bustle-back, early 80’s Cadillac Seville. The Imperials had only the suggestion of a slanted trunk lid by the creases on the rear fenders. They have a full sized trunk. The hidden headlights finish off the great look of this car imho.

      Like 2
    • Degoragon

      If you ask me, the true insult to the “Imperial” name was the Awful K-Car derived Front wheel drivers of 1992. Now THOSE were a true insult!

      These cars are still good cars, if you look aside that horrible Electronic Fuel Injection they had.

      I have a 1981 Imperial coupe myself, and I find it rather striking. Of course, I tossed the Fuel injection for a 4bbl Carb. In time, I want to put a 5.7L HEMI in the engine bay.

      Like 1
  2. Steve

    Another available option was the Frank Sinatra Edition which came with a set of all ‘Ol Blue Eyes albums encased in a custom made box…8 track, of course.

    Like 1

      I sat in one ( senatra edition ) at the dealership, I thought it was pretty nice. I was driving my ’72 Olds NinetyEight at the time.

      Like 1
  3. Steven Tuchten

    There was a conversion to change to carburation back in the day because the fuel injection system was problematic.

    Like 1
  4. Kevin

    I love it! The perfect last-minute Christmas present. I’m going to tell the wife, since I don’t see anything special in the drive or garage at this point, besides the ’69 Dodge.

    Like 4
  5. Had Two

    Is that the Frank Sinatra Edition? Exterior; Ol’ Blue Eyes Blue? Still have the complimentary tape that came with it around here somewhere…..

    Like 5
    • Ralph

      The Sinatra cars had a small console for tapes under the dash and small “FS” emblems.

      Like 1
  6. Stephen Agrista

    I owned a new 1981 and also a 1982. They were and still.are stunning. However the f i system which had 25 patents was a problem My 81 was at the dealership for 3 months Chrysler sent engineers to repair it The imperial warranty was outstanding. I was given a new plymouth reliant as a loaner it was a great car i brought it back when my imperial was finally repaired. I put 12k miles on the reliant and the dealer owner was furious. I told him so was i. Since iwas psying for a 25 k imperial and driving a 6k relianr My 82 also had issues as did cadillacs and lincolns of that era. Chrsysler however really honored the outstanding warranty. I later moved up to several new rolls royces also great warranty but not as comprehensive as the imperial warranty

    Like 10
  7. Ralph

    Note to the author, these did not have an analog option, all of these Imperials had digital dashes with a trip computer.

    Like 3
  8. CanuckCarGuy

    I’ve always liked the bustle-back styling on these…and the Lincolns and Cadillacs of the day. I’d be very happy to have this as a Sunday driver…recycling of the name aside, in ’81 this was a beautiful car and still is today in my opinion.

    Like 6
  9. Debra J Rubin

    Even when these cars first came out, I saw the front and said to myself. Wow! elegant. When I saw the back I said to myself…huh? I say the same dam thing today.

    This is nothing more than just a passing thought though,I would probably see what the mechanic has to say about the engine, but realistically, I’d purchase a crate engine for a few grand, and do the swap. Off ya go! You’d have a lovely, cushy sunday driver.

    Like 1
  10. Ken

    Even when these cars first came out, I saw the front and said to myself. Wow! elegant. When I saw the back I said to myself…huh? I say the same dam thing today.

    This is nothing more than just a passing thought though,I would probably see what the mechanic has to say about the engine, but realistically, I’d purchase a crate engine for a few grand, and do the swap. Off ya go! You’d have a lovely, cushy sunday driver.

    Like 1
  11. scott

    Chrysler for sure but all of the late 70s early 80s early fuel injection / carbureted type Vehicles had lots of problems Ford with their variable Venturi, Cadillac with her for six 8, and Chrysler With The Lean Burn System. Thankfully real fuel injection by the mid-80s and almost repaired everything.

    Like 2
  12. Cncbny

    Funny to hear haters describe cars. I had a ‘61 Lesabre. In the motor trend featuring my car, there was a hater describing the “ disgusting 1961 T-bird.” He went on to say how it looked like “a polyethylene bed pan”. The cars reflect the times. They’re time capsules. Jibda like how my Kia Soul has180 hp. A 1978 corvette with a 350 had 180 hp too.

    Like 3
  13. Raoul-F Raoul Forabosco Member

    A very beautiful car !! I want to get it. …As you see…blue is one of my favourite colors…And a Mark VII isnt Bad too

    Like 4
    • Raoul-F Raoul Forabosco Member

      Yesterday i called the owner again.. unfortunately.. seems, there was a time reset to medieval … its not possible to get the sales contract and so on via e-mail, i was told… Humph ! :-(

  14. Gay Car Nut

    Lovely looking car. I’ve always found this generation Chrysler cars more attractive than earlier Chryslers of the mid 1970s.

    Like 3
  15. Rabbit

    I got to drive several of these during my tenure with a (sleazy) wholesaler during the early 80’s. I always thought they were stunning. IMO, the ride was above & beyond a Seville or Mk VII of the day. Didn’t care for the lagging FI, but they were otherwise fairly well powered. Shoulda gone with the 360-4bbl tho. Again, my opinion. BTW…later I was with a DuPont jobber, & learned that Crystal Blue & Gold Dust were about impossible to get a decent color match on. Oh, well…..

    Like 3
    • Johnnyb

      Regarding the quirky fuel injection, a friend of mine was a Chrysler dealership tech back when these were new. He told me the ultimate factory fix was a retrofit kit that put the cars back to a carburetor. He mentioned that he made good money doing the swaps.

      Like 2
  16. SubGothius

    Always kinda liked the looks of these, mostly for the rakish nose and tail, let down somewhat by the blander profile. This RWD J-body derived from the A/F/M-body lineage could make for interesting restomod prospects with Mopar go-fast upgrades…

    Like 1
    • Fiete T.

      A-bodies ended in ’76. They didn’t have the transverse torsion bar/cradle mess

      Like 1
    • Ken

      The roots of this car are related to the M body? I’m pleasantly surprised actually. They did a great job with hiding it, that’s the truth.

      Like 2
  17. MJ

    I race an Imperial.

    Like 5
    • Glenn

      I like the look of your Imp! More info please, and more pictures!!

    • davy beam

      You are a car nerd who certainly knows how to have some serious fun! Thanks for the share. Maybe you could write up a short story with some photos to be featured here or on Jalopnik perhaps.

  18. Glenn

    Im glad to see these cars are starting to get some respect! They have a timeless beauty that Iv always admired. One day they will be right up there with the classics! I own this 81 Frank Sinatra with sun roof making it one of 148 81 Sinatra additions and one of approximately 50 Sinatra’s with sun roof. Its also still injected making it rarer still!

    Like 6
    • davy beam

      That is probably in my top five Chrysler corp. wants for my dream garage. Equipped with either seat covering, and hopefully the FS cassettes in lieu of the 8 tracks. But that may have been a letter year option.

      Like 1
  19. Raoul-F Raoul Forabosco Member

    Timeless elegance, indeed !

  20. Del

    Not running well.

    Original fuel injection well over due for a carb conversion.

    Front end is off colored. Accident ?

    Be lucky to get 1500 bucks

    Like 1
  21. Raoul-F Raoul Forabosco Member

    I just called the owner, i want to buy the car and bring it to Europe… Unfortunately they insist, that i have to sign the sales contract at the owners locality.. Impossible for me to travel now to the states. Usually i always do by mail and scan the signed contract.. And send it back. What a pity. I really want that car!!!

    Like 1
  22. Del

    Get an agent in USA to buy and ship.

    • Raoul-F Raoul Forabosco Member

      I already imported cars from the states via an shipping agent…but the owner don’t want to send a Sales contract to me. without contract the agent cant do the job.. Seems the owner dont trust me. Loooool

      Like 1

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