- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

Back when the Chrysler Corp. was introducing American drivers to front-wheel-drive American cars, someone had the brilliant idea that a new rear-wheel-drive flagship model was needed.

The Imperial nameplate was revived and for three years, starting in 1981, a handsome, fully loaded luxury automobile a couple of inches shy of 18 feet long was produced. Despite being a fine car, it never caught the fancy of the driving public as seen by sales figures for the three years:

• 1981…………….7,225.

• 1982…………….2,329.

• 1983…………….1,427.

A sea foam green 1981 Imperial accented with black pinstripes was sold at the Lawrence Chrysler/Plymouth dealership in Richmond to a Chesterfield County man. The Imperial had a base price of $18,311 and was upholstered in green crushed velour. The owner kept it garaged and well maintained for 25 years as evidenced by the car’s condition in 2006.

The heavy (3,968 pounds) coupe rides on a 112.7-inch wheelbase and can be turned around in a 44-foot circle. The 318-cubic-inch V-8 engine develops 140 horsepower, which gets to the rear-drive wheels via a TorqueFlite automatic transmission. Stopping chores are handled by the front disc and rear drum brakes.

One of the selling points of the Imperial a quarter century ago was the 32 percent lead crystal engine hood ornament. That and the choice of 12 colors.

After 25 years the original owner decided to find a good home for the Imperial and ran an ad in one of those trader publications where it arrested the attention of Ryland Tedeton of Falmouth.

Mr. Tedeton is a Mopar man to the bone and knew a gem when he saw one. “I had never owned an Imperial before,” he says. The car was only about 75 miles from his home so he drove down to see it and was sold on the spot. He left a deposit and told the owner he would return to get the car.

The next nice day last April Mr. Tedeton’s brother, Tim, drove him to Chesterfield County to retrieve the car.

On the 75-mile trip home, the car performed flawlessly. To be on the safe side, Mr. Tedeton changed the oil and filter. He noticed that the original owner must have experienced difficulty with the fuel injection system because the fuel injectors had been replaced with a Holley four-barrel carburetor.

He is a fan of the 60/40 split luxurious cloth seats. “I like them a lot better than leather,” he says. The original headliner was beginning to droop, so Mr. Tedeton had a new one installed.

The only optional extra available on the car was a sun roof.

Standard equipment on the car includes:

• Power seats.

• Power brakes.

• Power mirrors.

• Cruise control.

• Power steering.

• Power windows.

• Air conditioning.

• Power defogger.

• Electric antenna.

• AM/FM cassette.

• Electric antenna.

• Power door locks.

• Tilt steering wheel.

• His & her ashtrays.

In such a fully equipped car, Mr. Tedeton says one thing is missing. “There are no cup holders,” he says.

The crystal ornament on the engine hood is duplicated in the center of the horn button on the leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Under the dashboard on the passenger’s side, the upholstered kick panel has a built-in litter box that is easily removed and replaced.

For a 5.2-liter V-8 engine, Mr. Tedeton says, “It doesn’t have a lot of power.”

The Imperial is courteous if nothing else. Courtesy lights are to be found almost everywhere. “There is a lot of illumination at night,” Mr. Tedeton says.

Occasionally Mr. Tedeton will drive his pristine Imperial to work or on a daily errand. “I always park way away from everybody else,” he says.

With the hidden headlights at one end and a bustleback at the other, Mr. Tedeton says that his 1981 Imperial has style.

“Wherever I go,” he says, “the car turns quite a few heads.”

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