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1969-1973 Imperial

1972 Imperial

The 1972 Chrysler Imperial received a midcycle "freshening" of all-new sheetmetal below the belt. Since all of the design's "hard points" were carryover, stylists once again worked out a series of door sections for assessment, eventually choosing one of Ken Carlson's that had been originally considered for the '69 bodies.

1972 Imperial
The 1972 Imperial was retooled to achieve a more crisp look.

The crisp, planar look was replaced by sheetmetal that had a plumpness and an overall smoothness that made the high sides look even more overpowering. The cars looked like the designers had pumped them full of enough air to smooth out all the chamfers and faceted surfaces of the 1969-71 cars. Suffice it to say that the overall result, if perhaps not better, was sufficiently dissimilar to provide a different look.

A loop bumper of four-piece construction was fitted up front, with taller vertical openings for the turn-signal lights now deeply recessed into the shield-shaped bumper ends. These outer ends were separate stampings and, to help disguise the joint lines, attached to the main bumper coincident with the outboard edges of the grille and hood.

The vertical height of the main bumper was somewhat reduced, requiring body-color valence panels below the lower bar. Yet another iteration of the box-check grille was contained within the loop, the texture this time consisting of two rows of small vertical rectangles.

The hood plateau was made more majestic, elevated, widened, and accented by a center windsplit. The front fenderline was also raised, creating a deeper valley between the fender and the hood. This, in turn, required a more-expensive two-piece construction, which, much to Cummins surprise, was accepted without resistance.

A bright molding ran atop the fender and continued along the belt to the C-pillar. The two-door hardtop roof was new, with the forward edge of the C-pillar made more upright.

Having decided that horizontal taillights left the Chrysler and Imperial looking too much alike from the rear, the stylists made a major effort to create a distinctive appearance for the Imperial. The solution was built around tall slender taillights, slightly wider at the bottom, each bisected by a bright vertical bar.

The upper portions of the taillights were set into body-color fender caps, while the lower ends were neatly reĀ­ces-sed into the new bumper. This fresh approach, the work of designer John Mezits, was elegant -- even haughty -- and manifestly different from the Chrysler.

Seen from the rear, the outer ends of the new bumper angled down dramatically toward the lamps. The long horizontal line of the bumper top was relieved in the center to accommodate a circular Imperial eagle. A bright trace molding, delicately delineating the outline of the bumpers as they met the body, was fitted both front and rear. The rear track was also widened by 1.4 inches. A new shield-shaped side-marker light added detail to the rear quarters.

Interior changes included an optional Cologne leather 50/50 split-bench seat sporting a "floating cushion" construction. Available for the four-door hardtop, its seating surface -- described as "ultra-plush ... fashioned in the style of fine furniture" -- was heavily tufted, creating a look somewhere between gaudy and tawdry that I've dubbed "steamboat bordello."

But this almost sinfully sumptuous treatment was well-received by Chrysler buyers and it remained popular clear into the the Eighties on rear-drive Fifth Avenues. Four-door models could also now be ordered with a sunroof.

A new electronic ignition system had no breaker points or condenser. Listed first as standard, it was later made optional, only to become standard equipment again in '73. To assure better rolling smoothness and therefore a better ride, tires for '72 Imperials were individually selected, with each Imperial tested for smoothness prior to delivery.

The new look was apparently worth the tooling money as production of both Chryslers and Imperials increased in 1972. Assemblies of the latter rose to 15,794, a nearly 37-percent gain.

There were no Stageway LeBaron limousines this year, but the U.S. Secret Service commissioned the old-line funeral-car builder Hess & Eisenhardt of Cincinnati to construct a pair of armor-plated long-wheelbase limos for use by the White House. The cars were fitted with 1973 grilles before delivery.

Check out the next section to learn about the 1973 Imperial.

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