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By: Stephen B. Petrovich, for WPC News
When any person drives an Imperial for the first time, he knows the luxury and good taste and the room and the comfort the car has to offer. In the case of the ’62 Imperial LeBaron, Crown, and Custom, the acceleration and general liveliness handles easier and more precisely than other fine cars of its time and possibly even of today’s cars. In describing the ’62 Imperial of the fine-car class, you cannot only imagine the four-square riding quality, but also feel the plush, rigid quality standards of Chrysler interiors.
The ’62 Imperial resisted change just for the sake of change. When the ’62 Imperial was introduced, the ’61 model did not suddenly become obsolete. For example, it moderately redesigned its grille and lower rear quarter panels. Roof line, hood line, wheel openings and the other styling features that are most readily apparent, had not been changed. Yet the car does have a subtle difference. It is somehow more stately, seems to be longer (though its dimensions are identical with previous models).
The Imperial of ’62 had launched six body styles: The Imperial Crown, two and four door Southampton; the Imperial Custom, two and four door Southampton; Imperial Crown Convertible Coupe; and the elegant Imperial LeBaron four door Southampton.
The Crown series includes two and four door Southampton (hardtops) and a convertible. Imperial Crowns are more completely equipped than Customs , and include all the equipment of a first class quality automobile. That year, Imperial introduced a new transmission with the highest breakaway ratio in the fine-car field. The car may have been ordered in any of fourteen body colors and ten interior decors, including fine leathers, cords and metallic-accented fabrics.
The Imperial Crown Convertible was the roomiest convertible of the time. Also the most solid. In the convertible, Imperial’s massive “ladder” type frame is augmented by heavy, box-section X members from corner to corner. Thus, an Imperial Convertible gave precisely the same level, four-square riding quality as did a closed model. There was a choice of black or white tops, either of which is head bonded at the seams. This “welding” eliminated stitching holes and effects a single unpierced canopy of weatherproof protection. The convertible interiors were completely wrought in premium grade top grain leathers, including for the first time, a handsome natural tan. Each interior was handcut, sewn and handfitted. The interior was tailored in Alabaster White leather and new tan.
The Imperial Custom series is available in two and four door Southampton (hardtop). Though the Custom is the most conservatively priced of the three Imperial series, it had been fitted with all the conveniences and motoring comforts of comparable cars. In size and passenger room and spectacular performance, it is identical with all other Imperials. There was a choice of decor from fourteen body colors and four interior color schemes in fabric and saddle-grain vinyl.
The general decorative and design scheme for the year 1962 of the Imperial was basically similar to earlier models, too. Seat dimensions and shapes were the same. They were built of full-volume foam rubber, up to six inches thick, and contoured to fit the way people sit. My ’62 Imperial LaBaron still has the original Upholstery Chrysler took pride in. Only the best leather, tanned under rigid quality standards and finished by hand was matched with a high nylon content fabric. The 1962 Imperial LeBaron had a crisp roof line and the smaller rear window which gives the car a mark of luxury and excellence. It is one of the heaviest Imperials, yet it maneuvers with the quickness that made Imperial the choice of automotive experts of the year. Some luxuries that my ’62 are equipped with are power windows, vent windows, six-way power seats, power steering and brakes, torqueflite automatic transmission with pushbutton driver selector, safety cushion instrument panel, eletroluminescent instrument lighting, three cigarette lighters, clock, cruise control, air, and a lot, lot more.
Before the Imperial was brought to the showroom, it went through tough specifications. The Imperial went through seven dips and six spray operations before its final twin coats of enamel were applied. This treatment contained chemicals which penetrated the outer surfaces and created changes in the metal itself to inhibit rust and erosion. Over these rust-inhibitors went two primer coats which were baked on and then wet sanded by hand to develop a glass-smooth surface for the final color.
The entire front section of an Imperial is fabricated into a single unit to make it sturdy, silent, and impact resistant. For maximum rigidity and strength it is formed from heavier gauge sheet metal than was ordinarily use on other fine cars.
Spread out before the driver, in a single flat plane, are all the gauges and indicators needed for the informed operation of the car. The “flat plane” concept was important. All dials were the same distance from the driver’s eye so he needn’t refocus for every reading and so can spend more time watching the road. Both top and bottom edges of the panel are padded and upholstered. And the entire panel of dials is lighted by non-glare electroluminescent light, known to have been a help in preserving night vision. The entire design of the panel makes it impossible for any light reflections to be thrown onto the windshield. Rather than have using gears in the speedometer drive, Imperial engineers developed a unique magnetic motor. The advantage is that the new drive was not only more accurate, but since there were no gears, there was no friction, wear, or noise.
Imperial had built its own distributors. With a sturdy aluminum housing, lightweight breaker points and nylon bearings, this distributor had longer service life, lower inertion and much less “point bounce” at the high speeds. The points were larger and were ventilated for added life.
The Imperial was the first big car to offer an alternator. The new current-generating unit was so efficient that it would produce current even when the engine was idling. In fact, any car with the old-style generator would have to have been going twenty-two miles an hour to produce as much current as Imperial’s alternator did when the engine was idling and the car was standing still. With more and more electrical accessories being added, it was reassuring to know that the Imperial was capable of furnishing electric current in abundance, with virtually no strain on the battery.
Aside from the alternator, Imperial’s pushbutton torqueflite transmission had also been redesigned. It was now almost impossible to tell when it would shift from one gear to the next. In addition, the new unit was smaller. Yet even in its smaller size, the new transmission had the highest breakway ratio than any other big car. Imperial’s drive shaft was formed of two thick-walled tubes, one inside the other. Between these tubes were seven rubber rings, bonded to the inner tube and force fitted to the outer one. These rubber rings effectively insulated the drive train from the noise and shock caused by road irregularities.
To prevent disaster from common road hazards, Imperial decided to install the largest brakes ever to be equipped in the large car field...351 square inches of effective lining area. There were no rivet holes to gather grit and no rivets to score brake drums.
The Imperial engine is the most powerful fine-car engine in the world, in my opinion. Three hundred forty (340) horsepower... more sheer car-moving force than most cars. Its smoothness is enhanced by its unusually deep and rigid cylinder block and by a heavy stiff crankshaft. Also, the Imperial engine is very quiet. From within the passenger compartment, the engine is unbelievably quiet. In all, to assure driving pleasure, more than a hundred pounds of sound-absorbing materials are used. The roof is padded by the thickest sound bllanket in the fine-car class. The floor is treated underneath by a thick, sprayed-on coating of rubberized material that silences flying stones, and turns away road chemicals as well. Above the floor is a heavy feltmastic pad, a three-fourth inch jute undercarpet and the deep pile carpeting itself. The same carpeting is also used in aligning the trunk of the car.
In making Imperial’s high-compression, 90 degree V-8 reputation so good is what it’s based on, mainly tradition and Chrysler’s technology. The one specification I'm talking about is Imperial’s four-barrel carburetor which has a special two-stage “step-up” jet which achieves remarkably precise metering of fuel vapor at cruising speeds. A further refinement in carburetion is the auxiliary fuel filter (in addition to the fuel tank filter) located in the fuel line. It will trap any particle larger than 6 ten-thousandths of an inch, thus virtually eliminating flooding due to dirt in the carburetor. The tank capacity of the Imperials is 23 gallons.
There have been many times in which I could have sold my ’62, but different occasions have prevented the sale of the car to my advantage one would say. As in the photos by John Lehne of Malibu, the elegance is only surpassed by its quality craftsmanship of the car’s engine power. The year of ’62 had certainly been a good year, not only for those who bought Chryslers, but also for those who weren't quite old enough to enjoy them then until today.
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