The 1967-1968 Imperials abandoned the separate body and frame construction for good. Ostensibly, the reason was technological. By 1967, Chrysler argued, methods of insulation and soundproofing had become so advanced as to make the use of a separate body unnecessary.
Vast technical improvements had indeed occurred, allowing computerized stress testing of the unit body/chassis before its construction. As a bonus, the unibody also reduced average weight by 100 pounds or so. The 1967 Imperial, the company said, was if anything quieter and smoother than the 1966.
Another compelling reason for the change in construction technique was overhead: It was certainly cheaper to build unibody Imperials with a Chrysler inner shell, albeit on a slightly longer wheelbase.
As a result of this basic change, the 1967 models were all-new and completely restyled. A new grille with a prominent nameplate was accompanied by sharp front fenders that housed the parking lights. Headlamps remained integrated with the grille. There were vertical rear bumpers and horizontal "character lines" along the bodysides. The wheelbase came down two inches to 127.
Sales did pick up, exceeding 17,000 in 1967 and 15,000 in 1968. Prices also rose, Crown hardtops exceeding $6,000 base for the first time. To compensate, Imperial reinstated the Crown four-door pillared sedan, which started at around $5,400. Convertibles remained, but just barely: production was only 577 for 1967 and 474 for 1968, the last year for the Imperial soft top.
Imperial's continued inability to dent the Cadillac/Lincoln market share caused management to rethink their approach and make a far-reaching decision. For 1969 and beyond, Imperial would share exterior sheetmetal with Chrysler.
The 1968 Imperials, meanwhile, were only slightly changed from 1967. Features included a new grille that extended around the front end to enclose the parking and cornering lights, dual moldings on the lower bodysides, and rear side-marker lights (now required by law). Narrow paint stripes were applied along the beltline on all models. The 440 V-8 remained standard, with a dual exhaust/twin snorkel option that boosted output from 350 to 360 bhp.
Learn what the critics thought of the unibody 1967-1968 Imperial on the next page.
For more information on cars:
Road tests of the 1967-1968 Imperial point out some of their problems compared to their chief competitors. Typically, an Imperial had better seating and more maneuverability than a Lincoln or a Cadillac, but lacked the opposition's level of quality control (long a Lincoln hallmark and also emphasized by Cadillac).
Imperials were also slower: a Motor Trend comparison test of a LeBaron with a Coupe DeVille and a Continental gave 9- or 10-second 0-60 times for the Cadillac and Lincoln, against 12.4 seconds for the Imperial, which was also considerably slower in the standing start quarter-mile and the 50-70 passing test. Imperials got slightly better gas mileage than the Cadillac, but were inferior to the Lincoln in this respect.
Motor Trend criticized all these characteristics, along with the Imperial's styling and brakes, but there was also a long list of things they did like: individual lighters in each door, slanted power toggle switches on door armrests, rear compartment reading lights, time delay ignition light, seating comfort and ride, stereo system, lift-up door handles, individually operated power front seats, and thermostat air temperature control.
The LeBaron defied a fad by using antiqued bronze inlays across the dashboard and doors instead of wood veneer. Imperial, the editors said, had the best dashboard layout, with a wide padded top that allowed the dash to be recessed underneath. "Because of this arrangement, toggle switches are used and are much more convenient than sliding handles or padded knobs."
In 1967-1968, a new Imperial limousine was offered, built by Stageway Coaches of Fort Smith, Arkansas, a supplier of airport limos. Twelve of these LeBaron limousines (the Crown Imperial name was dropped) were built on an enormous 163-inch wheelbase, and justifiably advertised as the largest luxury cars in the world. Unlike Ghia Crowns, Stageway limos had an extra window and panel between the front and rear doors. Prices ranged between $12,000 and $15,000 depending on equipment.
See the specifications for the 1967-1968 Imperial on the next page.
For more information on cars:
1967-1968 Imperial Specifications
Unibody assembly gave the 1967-1968 Imperial a lighter weight than previous years.
Engine: ohv V-8, 440 cid (4.32 x 3.75), 350/360 bhp
Transmission: 3-speed automatic
Suspension front: upper and lower control arms, longitudinal torsion bars
Suspension rear: live axle, leaf springs
Brakes: front disc/rear drum
Wheelbase (in.): 127.0; limo: 163.0
Weight (lbs.): 4,660-6,300
Top speed (mph): NA
0-60 mph (sec): 12.4