Ask Matt Delaney a few questions about Mopars and you could very well find yourself in a two-hour conversation, with a healthy dose of automotive history thrown into the mix. Matt has been buying and building Mopars for most of his life, and his current collection totals 30 cars. We did ask him why it always seems to be Mopars: "I try to specialize in Mopars," Matt says, "because if I bought one Pontiac, I'd end up with five of 'em."
He's done a pretty good job of specializing so far, as his recent creations are some of the most well-known Mopars on the planet, and include a '68 Challenger (PHR May '05) and '70 Challenger (PHR Feb. '09), both powered by V-10s. His latest masterpiece is this '67 Imperial Crown coupe. Like his previous projects, this car marches to the beat of its own drummer and goes in a direction most fans of the Pentastar only see in their wildest dreams.
They only made 17,614 Imperials in 1967, and only 3,235 of those cars were two-door hardtops. Many will look at those numbers and assume these cars just weren't that desirable. While it's true that less money could've bought a loaded Shelby GT500KR or a Tri-Power Corvette, that's a comparison of apples to watermelons. The truth is, an Imperial owner back in the day could probably afford to buy all three.
Matt has built both convertible and hardtop versions of all of the popular Mopar body styles in each of the generations, but he wanted something different with the Imperial. "I wanted to build a fun cruiser," Matt says. "I've gone on the Power Tour about 10 times, and what you want is something that can hold a 10x10 easy-up canopy, a few chairs, and an ice chest."
Matt studied all of the Imperials going back to 1955, and when he bought this one he'd narrowed his search down to a '67 or a '64, which was the peak of the art deco design phase. Matt decided he didn't like the unique design aspects of the '64 model, including the headlights with separate buckets. In addition, that car was 500 pounds heavier and had a 413 with really bad heads. The lighter unibody design of the '67 made it an easy choice.
"I didn't want a four-door car. Having four doors is nice in a modern car, because they designed the lines of new cars so the four doors all fit in. Back then, most of them would take a two-door car, add two more doors and really turn it into a box," Matt says.
The car Matt found was an original 49,000-mile car from Wisconsin. "I met the owner at the Mopar Nationals. He had a big collection of about 20 cars and was trying to unload about 10 of them," Matt says. "His kids gave him a list of cars they wanted to keep and he was mostly looking for a good home for the rest. He was actually excited to sell the Imperial to someone who was excited to get it."
Chrysler was pimping rides...
Chrysler was pimping rides long before MTV ever came along. Crown Coupes had a staggering number of optional features, including telescoping steering columns, a front passenger seat that swiveled 180 degrees, and a center armrest that folded out into a table.
Long before passengers needed...
Long before passengers needed cell phones, iPods, and GPS systems, every passenger in an Imperial had his own cigarette lighter.
Matt knew it was important that the car was as complete as possible, because replacement parts would be hard to find. "If you don't find a really nice car, you could spend three times as much money chasing down parts for it," he says. Matt did find a few pieces of trim that were in better shape than what came with the car, but generally it was in pristine shape.
Included in the long list of Imperial amenities for 1967 were dual heater cores designed to kick out plenty of heat in the coldest Montana winters, and dual evaporators capable of providing ample cooling in the Arizona desert. Matt knew he'd have to rebuild the air conditioner and windows, but the biggest challenge came in finding a replacement for the foot button that scrolls the radio.
Mildly ported heads and exhaust...
Mildly ported heads and exhaust manifolds off a 440 six-pack quietly help the 500ci motor breathe easier.
The motor destined for the...
The motor destined for the Imperial's engine compartment was a 500ci wedge from Mopar. "It needs 500 ci, because it can't be slow. That was something Chrysler never had the budget to do, but it needed it. The car drives effortlessly now," Matt says.
"This car has automatic dimming headlights and a number of little bitty options. The number of electrical switches on this car is mind-boggling. They all work now, but it took forever to get them that way," Matt says.
The interior was redone by the previous owner, who found a master in Martin Beckenbach of Legendary Interiors. Crown Edition Imperials had 27 different interior options and Beckenbach and the previous owner went through books of leather trying to find a sample that had the exact feel of the original. "They did a great job," Matt says. "The red leather and suede inserts really feel luxurious."
The only thing Matt did in the interior was re-paint and re-dye a few items, and replace the carpet. At that point, the Imperial had the makings of a beautiful, numbers-matching restoration, but Matt had different ideas.