After years of watching Jay Leno’s Garage, I’ve learned that the best tidbits from the show often don’t come from the feature car, but rather, from some little comment by Jay and a memory he has of some obscure car few people remember. As he seems to have owned most of the cars ever made, his knowledge bank is mighty full. He will be walking around a car, or sitting in the interior, and see a piece of trim, or body design that reminds him of something, and say something like, “Hey, that piece of glove box is just like a 1930s Peugeot I drove one time!”. One recent tidbit I overhead in just such a scenario involved a car from Chrysler, called the Imperial Crown Coupe with the Mobile Director option. In normal form, this car is not that interesting, but there does exist an eye-brow raising option for the car that was rarely chosen. Lucky for us, a few brave souls did pick the Mobile Director package, the topic of this week’s History Hits.
The Mobile Director package was a strange creation consisting of what Chrysler thought the ‘boss on the run’ would need: the center armrest could be origami’d into wood tables over the rear seats, a high-output lamp that could be plugged into the cigarette lighter on either side of the car—front and rear for a total of four lighter outlets—and strangest of all, the front passenger seat could rotate 180° to utilize the tables and comfortably interact with the rear seat occupants. This package was only available for two years—1967 and 1968—solely on the coupe version of the Imperial Crown at the cost of nearly $600 for the package, or over $4,000 in today’s currency value.
While most people recognize the Imperial as a Chrysler, for these years the car was actually sold as an independent vehicle, marketed sans Chrysler, as the Imperial Crown. Despite this seeming-independence, the car was built on the Mopar C-body platform, and used Chrysler engines. Due to the expense of the package, its limited time frame, and the condition of the coupe—as well as the content of the package, perhaps—the Mobile Director was not a box often ticked on the order form: no production numbers have been found, although Wikipedia reports a total of 81 sold, which seems about right.
The car was based on a concept car built by Chrysler and shown in 1966, called the Mobile Executive. This car has a similar seating and table layout to what was eventually produced, yet was many magnitudes more useful due a greater use of then-state-of-the-art technology such as Telephones, Dictaphones, Televisions, and a stereo. As the car was meant to be used by rear-seated executives cruising around town, potentially dictating to a secretary seated in front of them, having all of that technology would have both made more sense and been more appealing to customers. Instead, for nearly $4,500 in today’s cash, customers got a trick front seat, a trick table/armrest, and a lamp. It quickly becomes clear why Chrysler potentially produced less than 100 of these cars.
Frankly, this was not an intelligent design on Chryslers part, as they limited production of a rear-seat focused car to a coupe. Had Chrysler not been constrained by the engineering of the platform they were using, this may have been different, but a coupe had to be used with the rotating front seat, as the mechanism would be blocked by the B pillar included on the four-door variants of the Imperial Crown. Due to this, most of the supposed 81 cars produced were probably used as showroom cars, or ‘manager’ cars at dealerships, while the rest had their tables reserved for keeping the kids entertained with coloring and such on long trips. In short; it is hard to imagine an executive using this car as designed. In the grand experiment that was the car market of the 60’s, the customer let Chrysler know this by not buying any, resulting in production numbers which were low and the lifespan of the package—2 years.
Oh, and the car had a Chrysler 440 big block, but really, who cares with such a car?
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I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.