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What happened to the 2006 Imperial concept car?

Back at the 2006 Detroit auto show, Chrysler unveiled a new concept Imperial. The Imperial had been the top of the line Chrysler before becoming its own standalone marque; then it was dropped, brought back a few years later first in rear-drive form, then in front-drive form, then abandoned and presumably forgotten. Until, that is, the 2006 Imperial concept.inside the 2006 imperial

Some believed that the Imperial was actually a stand-in for a car that was really supposed to come to fruition — the 2010 Chrysler New Yorker. The long-wheelbase version of the Chrysler 300C would have been a flagship for the Chrysler brand, and a good car for the fleet/limousine crowd.

Test mules were made in 2007, using a three-inch-longer wheelbase than the 300C. The extra cost of engineering and testing the Imperial or New Yorker may have been deemed unnecessary to keep the factory at full use with the Challenger coming online; regardless, the recession and Daimler’s decision to jettison Chrysler made such a car impossible to support. Chances are that, despite the beautiful interior of the concept, the factory version would have been far too “cost-cut” to sell.

First looks

by Steven Kasher

Photography is not kind to this truly beautiful automobile. Most photos show the grille as being rather flat; it actually curves softly, side-to-side and and over the top. The taillights are much more detailed than they appear, and the tube-like “gun-sight” design adds depth and rich heritage to the package.

chrysler imperial

The deck lid is elegant, using one continual horizontal line that gracefully curves across the entire panel. While it sometimes appears imposing, the Imperial concept car is stately and proud.

The Imperial generates a “wow factor” that emanates from a smile of smartness and not testosterone. It commands visual attention without being offensive or sedated, a mark of true stateliness.

Imperial concept car

The interior combines some of the best aspects of classic Imperial cues. The expanse and curve of the dash instantly strikes the simples elegance of the 1930s and 40s. Extensive lighting techniques provide both task and ambient light. Seating surfaces eschew traditional leather for comfortable suede in upright yet ergonomically supportive style.

The Imperial is not far from production feasibility. Chrysler group would like move a step above the 300 line and if the Imperial can maintain its "craftsman" ambiance while holding its price point, a new Imp could the next smash hit for the winged division.

imperial concept

by David Zatz

Chrysler’s press release boasted: “Like the great Imperials of Chrysler's storied past, the 2006 Imperial concept vehicle is designed as Chrysler's flagship, a luxury sedan that is elegant, provocative, aspirational, yet attainable.” The designers looked both to the classic 1930s-50s Imperials and to concept cars from the d’Elégance to the Chronos.

The car was hand-sculpted, reflecting the tradition of custom-built Imperial LeBarons. Mike Nicholas, the principal exterior designer, said, “The Imperial's exterior artfully blends a stately nobility, hand craftsmanship, and modern dynamic sculpture and proportion.”

rear - imperial concept car

The Imperial had a 123-inch wheelbase, with larger overhangs than the standard 300C, making it 17 inches longer; it was also six inches higher, and passengers sat nearly seven inches higher than in the 300, giving a “command of the road” view that would have been closer to the 1930s seating position. The roof was pulled back to enlarge the cabin and create a larger image of length. The car had a higher hood and deck, with 22-inch wheels.

Made of narrow linear elements of brushed and polished aluminum, the grille was capped by a bright header, with room for the Chrysler wing logo. A polished molding ran from the grille header to the base of the windshield.

seats

Polished aluminum parabolic pods held projector-beam headlights, meant to recall the free-standing headlamps of 1930s and 1960s Imperials; the circular LED taillights were supposed to evoke those cars’ “gunsight” tail-lamps. The work was not especially successful; rather than evoking the classic Imperials, the taillight assemblies seemed to come off other cars, while the headlights seemed to come from a car with nonfunctional headlight covers.

The raised deck lid and hood were both V-shaped; the deck lid had silver wings as well.

The doors were wide, with suicide doors in back; there was no B-pillar, so the entire interior could be seen at once. That was where the Imperial truly shone. The high-contrast four-passenger cabin was done up in Bay Brown and Birch Creme, covered in leather and suede, complemented by California burl wood and metallic-like warm-bronze accents.

inside the Chrysler Imperial concept car, 2006

The designer’s goal was to have “harmonious, expressively curving shapes” with some forms appearing to “float” over recessed areas. The seats’ elliptically-curved bronze-and-burl side shields echo similar elements recessed into the full-length floor console.

Nick Malachowski, the primary interior designer, said, “We wanted everything inside to be nested, fitted and hand-crafted, with every component subtly reinforcing the hand-sculpted look of the exterior.”

conceptThe center console, presaging future 300Cs, had a large screen; a touch pad on the suspended center console armrest had settings for radio, climate, and navigation. Unusually, the driver air bag/horn pad was fixed in place, so the radio and cruise control switches were always in the same position.

The gauges were rendered in satin with polished aluminum bezels, intended to invoke memories of older Imperials but cleverly placed in the same spots as on a conventional 300 — which would make production of a car with a similar dashboard easier.

The windshield glass went up to the midpoint of the roof, for a much larger view; the glass had a distinctive bronze tint. Rear passengers had reclining seats, with individual movie screens. The rear seat headsets could be stored in the package tray at the touch of a button so the driver could see better when there were no passengers.

LED lighting behind the “floating” elements of the instrument panel and doors enhance the shapes, and provided indirect cove lighting for the headliner; there was also a choice of electroluminescently-lit fabric or directed-beam spotlights in the overhead console.

more 2006 imperial concept car

Without having actually driven the car, this does seem to have been a worthy candidate for the Imperial name — and if not that, then at least the Chrysler New Yorker. The car would seem to have almost been guaranteed of 20,000 sales per year (2/3 of the “black car” fleet), but Chrysler had more pressing needs in 2007-09, and the Imperial/New Yorker passed out of view.

Past Imperials covered by Allpar: 1924-1930 | 1969-1973 | 1990-1992


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