by Andrew Angove


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Author Andrew Angove has written a number of wonderful articles about different Imperial years, including this one about the 1968 Imperial.  He also has a very nice website devoted to all luxury cars.
On the road again, early. At least the rain stopped. For hours it's just been you and the Imperial. Strangely, you don't dread these trips. You enjoy them. Imperial satisfies every demand you make of it, and always seems to have a bit left over in reserve. It's comforting to know that Imperial will be there for you on the journey home as well.

For the luxury car buyer seeking something a bit more driver oriented in 1968, there were few choices available. Typical luxury cars of the day had become quite large, with a wallowy ride, tons of understeer, and nothing to remind the driver that anything was going on outside the passenger compartment. And people loved them. The choices were familiar: Cadillac, Lincoln, and Imperial. Cadillac would lead the pack again in 1968, with Lincoln second, and Imperial third. For 1968, the Imperial would retain its 1967 styling, but received a new horizontal bar grille with ends that wrapped around the sides of the front fenders. At the center of the grille appeared the Imperial Eagle, mimicking a similar emblem at the rear. The front turn signal/parking lights moved to the bumper below the headlights, and the center section of the bumper dipped, giving the Imperial a very distinct appearance.

Side marker lights were a new feature this year, required by government mandate. A small rectangular amber light was mounted on the front bumper, and a similar red light was placed on the rear quarter panel, just above the full-length molding. This would be the second and final year for this body style, a departure for the Imperial. Normally restyled every three years, the Imperial would abandon this practice with an all-new body for 1969. The "fuselage" era was about to begin.

Inside, antiqued bronze replaced the wood trim of 1967, giving the interior a very elegant look. New options for 1968 included Auto-Temp air conditioning, which integrated the heating and air conditioning functions to allow totally automatic temperature control. Set the desired temperature once, and Auto-Temp did the rest. An AM/FM Stereo Multiplex Radio was new as well, and included up to five speakers. One of the most endearing features of 1967 returned in 1968: the concealed radio controls. A door on the instrument panel conceals the radio and its controls when desired, this gives the instrument panel a very clean look, with controls placed for the convenience of both driver and front seat passengers.

IMPERIAL INSTRUMENT PANEL shown above with radio and cabinet doors open. Note the mirror that automatically tilts up when door is opened.

Interior storage was not a problem in these cars; in addition to the instrument panel storage, each door armrest had a glove compartment. The Imperial seemed to be more thoughtful of its passengers comfort and convenience. Others provided rear seat foot rests, which were probably rarely used; but the little touches included on the Imperial really made it a great way to travel. And the Imperial was and is a driver's car. Throughout the sixties the Imperial received top ratings for its drivability. It was apparent that the people who designed the Imperial didn't forget that the car was meant to be driven, and providing plush interior accommodations and power accessories to do the work wasn't enough. The Imperial had to maneuver, respond, stop, and ride at a level that met the expectations of luxury car buyers as well as drivers who desired a car that didn't isolate them from the world outside. For the driver who still wanted to feel what the car was doing, there was only one choice in 1968: Imperial.

The Mobile Director option returned, but very few cars were equipped with this feature. It was somewhat impractical, and probably would have been more popular on a four door model. The thought of an executive crawling into the back seat of a two door model, sacrificing the space that a four door would provide, is not very likely. Had Chrysler been able to make the option work in one of the four door models, the possibility exists that it could have been a popular option. (There was no way to provide clearance for the front passenger seat to turn around; the B-pillar created interference.)

If ever there came a time that the Imperial was right on target for the times, it would have been in the late sixties. In the late fifties, the Imperial was the styling trend setter; but build quality was questionable. In the early sixties, the styling seemed somehow dated, with Imperial retaining the rear fins just a bit too long. The mid-sixties Imperials showed improvements in build quality, and its styling was every bit as sensational as the Lincoln Continental. But perhaps it was a bit too different at a time when conformity was an important consideration for luxury car buyers.

For 1967 and 1968, the Imperial was on target: good build quality, styling that was representative of the times, it was a driver's car as well as a passenger's car, and it offered just about anything one could possibly desire in the way of optional equipment. Yet it remained in a familiar place in the sales race with its competition.

We have found that although the body is basically the same, the 1967 and 1968 models seem to have different personalities. Some prefer the frontal appearance of the first model year; others say the chromed front of the latter is what sets it apart. We find both to be beautifully elegant representatives of a luxury car that didn't forget it was meant to be driven. If you wanted more than luxury in your luxury car in 1968, Imperial held the crown.

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