Imperial Fith Generation
On the eve of final plans for the 1974 model year things looked bleak for Imperial. The marque had lost its exclusive assembly plant in 1962. It had lost its unique platform in 1967. Then in 1969 it lost its unique bodyshell. Mention of the Chrysler name returned in 1971 after Imperial having been a separate marque for years. The 1973 model year appeared to be the end of the road for Imperial.
Chrysler had planned on quietly discontinuing the Imperial at the end of the 1973 model year. Without its own unique bodyshell, it would be difficult to compete with Cadillac and Lincoln, which had their own unique bodyshells. Sales were likely to remain low, as image and appearance were an important part of luxury car appeal. And, in turn, without sales, it seemed there was no way Chrysler could afford to build an Imperial with a unique appearance.
A front end design, which had been envisioned for the next Imperial by Chrysler/Imperial exterior studio senior stylist Chet Limbaugh, came to the attention of Elwood Engel. Engel showed the design to Chrysler president John Riccardo and convinced him to use it on an Imperial. Except for the front end clip and trunk lid, to save money it would use all the same body panels as the Chrysler New Yorker, and, for the first time in its history as a separate marque, it would have the same wheelbase. But the car would have Limbaugh's unique new "waterfall" grille design which featured thin vertical chrome bars, separated by a body-colored band running through the center, and which started on top of the nose and flowed down.
With the full effects of the 1973 oil crisis being solidly felt, a bad year for the U.S. economy (and the auto industry as well) was in place for 1974. This was Chrysler's 50th anniversary year and the final redesign of the full-size Imperial. The 1974 Imperial was the first regular American passenger car to offer 4-wheel disc brakes since the 1949–1954 Chrysler Imperials, the 1950–1952 Crosleys and the Chevrolet Corvettes that starting featuring them in 1965. The Imperial's ignition system was electronic, another first in the market, as was the optional burglar alarm. In addition to the two regular 1974 LeBaron models, a 50th Anniversary 2-door LeBaron Crown Coupe was also produced, finished in Golden Fawn; only 57 were built, making a grand total of 14,483 Imperials produced for the model year.
For 1975, other than an enhancement to the waterfall grille, the front bumper and a few detail improvements, little changed. This was to be the last year of the independent Imperial marque, with only 8,830 1975 models sold. The last Imperial, a LeBaron sedan, rolled out of the factory on 12 June 1975. However only the name disappeared, as the same basic car was offered, rather more cheaply (the Imperial feature of 4-wheel disc brakes was discontinued). From 1976 through 1978 the car was known as the Chrysler New Yorker Brougham. Justifying the price differential over the full-size Chrysler had become increasingly hard to do as the cars became more and more similar over the years to save costs, and in turn the costs of maintaining and marketing a separate, poorly selling marque were possibly just too high. Also, the 1973 oil embargo had turned buyers towards smaller more fuel efficient cars, a movement that had been building through the early-1970s as a result of rising fuel prices.