As a result of the amalgamation of Chrysler and Imperial assembly operations, Imperial now benefited from the full, seven-stage, dip-spray corrosion-protection treatment accorded Unibody cars. Attempts were made at Jefferson to continue some of the additional craftsmanship processes used at Warren Avenue. A separate metal shop was established to apply extra metal finishing to joints and seams in the body-in-white stage, while another special line in the paint shop allowed extra-quality sanding and the application of exclusive epoxy sealer coats to obtain a smooth, high-luster finish.
After assembly, each Imperial was removed to its own inspection building for an intensive quality audit, high-pressure water testing, and a final road test to ensure that, according to Chrysler, "it rides, drives, and performs as an Imperial should."
This two-door Crown Southampton shows the
reduced fins that were more in line with prevailing tastes.
After an originally planned all-new "S-series" 1962 Imperial was canceled, stylists set about improvising changes to the 1961 car. The egregious fins were lowered and chopped back, becoming horizontal in side view and forward-leaning rather than undercut. They were capped by a new variant of the signature taillight, an elongated tubular shape bisected by the circular ring. Because of the extended red lens, the stylists irreverently nicknamed the lamp the "flashlight."
"That taillight," grumbles Cummins, "was originally much smaller, but Cliff got hold of it and ruined it."
Up front, the angle of the headlamp brows was continued inboard via new moldings that extended nearly to the center before sweeping sharply downward, creating a V-shaped body-color panel that divided the horizontally ribbed grille. Though rather forced, the look was reminiscent of the 1955-1956 Imperials. A ringed Imperial eagle perched atop the grille divide, its previous position in the grille being replaced by block letters to spell out the marque name. Redesigned wheel covers in brilliant chrome set off the 15-inch wheels.
Though the roof panels themselves were unchanged, the sweep moldings and stainless inserts were removed, while the side- and rear-window moldings were restyled for a more angular, tailored look. Interiors were mostly untouched, although the LeBaron lost its exclusive wool broadcloth upholstery, which had been a hallmark of the series since its launch in 1957. It was replaced by a cord body cloth/broadcloth bolster-trim option in gray only.
In back, the Imperial's characteristic "gun sight"
taillights sat atop fender edges for the last time.
One of the Imperial's greatest fans was the avuncular Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated. McCahill, who often lived out of his car for months at a time while on assignment, proclaimed the 1962 LeBaron "the best sedan in the world today. I've never driven a car that was as effortless to drive on long trips." At Daytona International Speedway, McCahill was able to push the nearly 5,000-pound LeBaron to a top speed of 121.4 mph, with 0 to 60 achieved in a respectable 9.4 seconds.
More-customary customers apparently approved of the Imperial's tamer appearance. Assemblies rose to 14,337 units in what was another difficult year.
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