Imperial Fourth Generation
The "Fuselage Look" was how Chrysler described its new styling in 1969. Instead of the square lines of 1964-68, the new Imperials featured rounded "tumblehome" sides, bulging at the belt line, and tucking in down to the rocker panels. The new styling not only made the cars look longer and wider, it also surrounded the passengers in a hull-like fashion, similar to an aircraft, hence the reference to "fuselage". The curved side glass, which had been pioneered in America by Imperial in 1957, had a much tighter radius, while the increased curvature of the bodysides permitted the window frames to be moved outboard at their bases, resulting in an increase in shoulder room without an increase in overall body width compared to the previous C-body. In fact, front and rear shoulder room increased from 59.4 in (1,509 mm) to 62.7 in (1,593 mm) on 4-door hardtops.
To reduce development and tooling costs, and bring overall expenditures more in line with actual sales, Imperial was forced to share much of its bodyshell with Chrysler for the first time since 1956. Consequently, front and rear doors, quarter panels, decklids, glass, and roofs were common with the lowliest Chrysler Newport. In other respects, however, little had changed; construction was still unibody, the wheelbase was still stretched 3.0 in (76 mm) longer than a Chrysler's in front of the passenger section, the engine and transmission were the same, and the torsion bar front suspension was still used.
In keeping with the times, the look was sleeker, with a reduced, more subtle level of trim. For the first time, the lights were hidden behind doors, giving a fashionable at the time full-width grille look using "loop" bumpers. Only this year the Imperial featured sequential turn signals. 1969 was the final year for pillared sedans, and it was also the first year for the Imperial LeBaron coupe. At 229.7 inches Imperial would once again be the longest non-limousine car made in America, and would remain so through 1973 when it would set the post WW II record for non-limousine car length. 22,083 were produced for Imperial's third best ever year.
The 1970 models differed only in minor ways. The grill pattern changed to a larger eggcrate design; the front cornering lamps were now rectangular instead of the "shark gill" pattern of 1969. A wide chrome strip was added at the rocker panels, vinyl side trim was made optional, and (for this year only) the fender skirts were gone. It was the final year for the Crown series; afterwards Imperial would have only two models, a LeBaron hardtop sedan and coupe. 11,822 of the 1970s were produced.
For 1971, the Imperial Eagle at the front of the hood was gone, replaced by the word IMPERIAL; the deck lid badge said, for the first time, "IMPERIAL by Chrysler". The 1971 Imperial is notable for being the first production car in America with a 4-wheel Anti-lock braking system (ABS) from Bendix, a rarely selected option at that time. The 1966 Jensen FF from England was the first production car in the world to have ABS. Both had ABS for almost a decade before the Mercedes-Benz S-Class which claims to be the first production car with ABS. 11,569 1971 Imperials were produced.
Although the vinyl top was standard, for a short time a unique paisley-patterned vinyl top in a burgundy color was available as an option on burgundy-painted cars. It has been rumored that this top had actually been overprinted on waste "Mod Top" patterned vinyl, which had been available on some Dodge and Plymouth models in 1969 and 1970, but, according to Jeffrey Godshall, a Chrysler designer and frequent contributor to the magazine Collectible Automobile, this was not the case. With exposure to the elements, the burgundy overprint faded, and the pattern began to show through in a purple "paisley" pattern. Chrysler replaced many affected tops with either white or black standard vinyl, but some survive.
The sheetmetal was completely new for the 1972 model year, although the styling was an evolution of the previous fuselage style. The 72 appeared bigger and heavier all around in comparison to the 69-71's and featured a somewhat more rounded side profile without a character line down the side and chrome trim on the top seams of the fenders from the rear windows forward. The front fascia was all new and imposing-looking, and the back featured vertical teardrop taillights for the first time, while the rear side marker lights were in the form of shields with eagles on them. Sales increased to 15,796