Planning the Imperial
Planning the Imperial involved using the Cliff Voss and Allan Kornmiller model as a template. Multiple sections were created by the studio stylists working over the required "hard points." These were then reviewed, revised, redrawn, and reassessed.
The section chosen included a chamfered plane at the belt
that crisply intersected an arcing plane that dropped vertically to a
second hard intersection, followed by a subtle undercut and a rapid
tuck-under to the sill.
The appearance of the 1973 Imperial changed little and centered
on a finer grille texture.
In eschewing any abrupt changes, the stylists created a surface that both realized and reinforced the idea behind the fuselage look: to integrate the roof, side glass, and lower body into one continuous flowing surface. The result was elegant, austere, and entirely appropriate to a car bearing the lordly name "Imperial."
"The Chrysler, however, came first," relates Cummins, "based on a beautiful line drawing by stylist Bill Wayland penned during the second or third go-round of sketching. I had been eyeballing the sketch as a real possibility when Elwood came into the studio, saw it, and asked me, 'Have you seen this sketch? That's your Chrysler!' Sometime later, Engel brought his former mentor and retired Ford design VP George Walker through the studio, and Walker was equally enthusiastic about the sketch."
As developed, the upper chamfered plane flowed rearward from the front fender to the leading edge of the C-pillar, where it turned and snapped up into the roof. The lower body's full-length crease line rose as it moved forward, creating a truncated wedge in side view that gave the car a sense of forward motion. The front wheel opening was simply cut into the fender surface while the rear wheel was concealed by a skirt, both openings accented by discreet bright moldings.
With its muted bodyside section and buried rear wheels, there was nothing to keep the '69 Imperial from looking as massive as it was, if not more so. Two other things contributed to the massive appearance. One was the overall length of the car, determined ironically by a "requirement" from Bob Kushler, head of Chrysler product planning, who insisted on a high roof for the four-door sedan for more head room. (Shades of K. T. Keller!)
"We called it the 'super roof,'" remembers Cummins, "and its height was nearly impossible to live with. When we realized that despite our protests it wasn't going to 'go away,' we understood that the only way to disguise the roof height was to make the body longer proportionally.
"We had a partially complete sedan clay buck modeled up with this 'super roof' and shipped it to the showroom, with Di-Noc'ed fender and doors and a clay quarter panel representing the currently approved length of the car. Using lightweight Foam-Core, we cut out a full-size outline of the rear quarter panel and covered the surface with painted Di-Noc.
"Then we shifted this cutout into various positions, moving it back and forth, trying to discover just how long we had to make the body in order to make the higher roof look acceptable. After an hour of experimenting, we finally reached a consensus. The resulting rear overhang made for an enormous trunk, especially on the two-door hardtops," and permitted a hefty 23-gallon fuel tank.
Learn about the 1969 Imperial in the next section.
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