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      Car History: Car History Year 1969
    Posted on Monday, September 27 @ 00:45:36 UTC by Cars
     
     
      Cars As the Sixties came to a close, America still found itself enmeshed in the Vietnam war, although the number of US troops there was being reduced and efforts were being made towards the Vietnamization of the war by providing material and air support to the indigenous forces of South Vietnam. The anti-war rallies continued and home-coming troops who had served in South East Asia often returned to find that they were looked upon with disgust by many of their peers, despite the fact that most of them had been drafted. Later in 1969, news of the massacre of innocent civilians in the village of My Lai by American troops stirred up the anti-war sentiment all the more.

    It was a year of mourning, not just for the thousands who had died in Vietnam, but also for one of America's great heroes of the twentieth century. On March 28, the country was shocked by news that Dwight D. Eisenhower, former President and Commander in Chief of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, had died. If many Americans were not proud of what was being done in their name in Vietnam, all had reason to be proud of their country's achievements in space. Following successful orbital missions to the moon, NASA carried out a successful landing in July, and Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on its dusty surface, quoting the now immortal phrase: "One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." The auto industry, however, took a slightly shorter step that year, with new car sales being a little below those of the previous year. It was not the easiest of times for manufacturers. With increasing pressure to improve the exhaust emissions and safety aspects of cars, production expenses increased. By this time, the industry's flirtation with the compact had just about come to an end, and the future seemed to lie with intermediate-sized cars. Some, however, continued to build big cars, among them Chrysler - a company that was rarely known for styling innovation, although they often led the field in engineering. The real luxury models in Chrysler's line-up came from the company's Imperial division which, for many years, had sought to compete with Cadillac for the prestige end of the market. For 1969, the Imperial range comprised of 2- and 4-door hardtops and a 4-door sedan. in addition, a custom-built limousine was also available to special order. Imperial had been a name associated with Chrysler for decades but, until the mid-fifties, it had simply been applied to the most luxurious models sold under the Chrysler badge. The company built long wheelbase sedans and limousines as well as other luxury models under the Custom Imperial and Crown Imperial names. However, these were obviously Chryslers and could be associated with more mundane company products. It was not good marketing for a company that wanted to do well in the luxury market, dominated by Cadillac. If Imperial was to make it, the image of the cars had to improve; they needed to be less obviously part of the Chrysler empire, with a mystique of their own. As a result, in 1955, a separate Imperial division was formed and a new range of Imperials launched. Sadly, one of the new cars - the 2-door hardtop - looked very similar to the Chrysler C300, a popular high-performance automobile that had done well in competition. This undoubtedly affected the sales of the Imperial range, but even so their total sales doubled compared to the year before. However, Imperial had become established as a maker of luxury cars, and the name became more familiar with buyers. Until the mid Sixties, many imperials were designed by Virgil Exner, who had some quirky ideas of what made a good-looking luxury car. As with most other automobiles of the late Fifties, Imperials grew fins that became ever-larger with each new model. Unfortunately, because the company had relatively limited resources, new models appeared less frequently than those of other manufacturers and, towards the end of each model run, the cars were beginning to look decidedly dated. This is particularly true of the '62 models which had outlandish fins at a time when all other manufacturers had dropped the idea. Lights were another of Exner's foibles. Wanting to give his designs the classic look of Thirties automobiles, he incorporated freestanding head lights and tail lights that looked as though they had been stuck on as an afterthought. If nothing else, Imperials were unique in appearance. Exner was eventually replaced by Elwood Engel, who had worked at Ford, and he brought a considerable degree of Lincoln influence to the '64 imperials, which were big slab-sided automobiles. From this point on, Imperials tended to reflect design trends within the industry, rather than setting standards of their own. Although featuring a completely new 127 inch wheelbase body, when the '69 Imperial models were unveiled, the similarity with the New Yorker was even more pronounced. The body had gently rounded sides and was referred to by Chrysler as having "fuselage styling". The drivetrain was the same as that used previously, while power steering and brakes were standard equipment. Two series of Imperial were built: Crown and LeBaron. The latter was the more luxurious of the two and was available on both hardtop models, while Crown versions of all three body styles were available. There is no doubt that all the imperial models were luxury cars - for Chryslers. But the company had slipped out of the market they had long wanted to be a part of. Moreover, they would never return. Despite its obvious Chrysler parentage, the 1969 Imperial sold well compared to previous years. In total, just over 22,000 examples were built; the last time sales had been above 20,000 was at the launch of the new 1964 model. Sadly, that was the highpoint for, thereafter, sales dropped quite alarmingly (by almost 50 in 1970 and 1971). Minor changes were made until 1974 when, again, it shared the latest New Yorker body shell. By this time, Imperial no longer existed as a separate division of Chrysler. However, the oil crisis of 1973 had sounded the death knell for big gas guzzlers and, after 1975, production of Imperials was brought to a halt. Specification IMPERIAL LEBARON Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 440 cu. ins Bore and stroke 4.32x3.75 ins. Horsepower 350 Body styles Hardtop coupe; Hardtop sedan No. of seats 6 Weight (lbs) 4,610 Ibs-4,710 Ibs Price $5,898-$6,131 Produced 19,413     Specification OLDSMOBILE 4-4-2 HOLIDAY COUPE Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 400 cu. ins Bore and stroke 4.00x3.98 ins. Horsepower 325 Body styles Hardtop coupe No. of seats 5 Weight (lbs) 3,713 Ibs Price $3,204 Produced 19,587     Specification MUSTANG BOSS 429 Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 429 cu. ins Bore and stroke 4.36x3.59ins. Horsepower 375 Body styles Fastback coupe No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 3,250 Ibs Price $4,798 Produced 858     Specification CHEVROLET CAMARO Z-28 COUPE Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 302 cu. ins Bore and stroke 4.00x3.00 ins. Horsepower 350 Body styles Hardtop coupe No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 3,050 Ibs Price $3,000+ Produced 19,014  
     
     
     
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