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.
The Imperial marque was marketed...
The Imperial marque was marketed as its own separate luxury brand from 1955 to 1983, with only the small Pentastar logo indicating the connection to Chrysler.
"Originality is a pain, and I don't collect pianos. I'm not going to experiment with my original cars. If you drive one and crack the block, you've knocked $100,000 out of the price of the car. That doesn't interest me anymore," Matt says. Instead, he swaps the original engines out for safe-keeping, while he enjoys the cars with relatively cheap crate motors.
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. Upon hearing of his motor upgrade, one of his friends reportedly said, "You're sick! Your Imperial will outrun my Roadrunner!"
Normally, a big-cube motor will be outfitted with a lumpy cam and a throaty exhaust, but that would go against everything the Imperial was designed to be and Matt would hear none of it, literally. "I couldn't resist getting a good set of exhaust manifolds off a '69 Roadrunner 440 six-pack, but I wanted manifolds, because I didn't want to hear the exhaust," Matt says. "You've got to look at the original spirit of the car, and that's a 5,000-pound, personal luxury sport coupe." Likewise, Matt went through several different mufflers, before finding a set of Cherry Bomb Turbo mufflers that had a resonance to his liking. Even with the quiet exhaust, the big-block still provides 585 hp and 610 lb-ft of tire-melting torque.
The transmission is a 727 TorqueFlight, mated to a TCI torque converter with a 2,200-rpm stall. The Mopar 8 3/4-inch rearend is packed with 2.94 gears loaded on an Eaton Posi unit. That's a combination that epitomizes the "built for comfort, not for speed" approach, and with four U-joints and a heavily weighted two-piece driveshaft, it's not likely to run much faster than the 13.18 Matt recorded with a G-Tech. He claims the land barge will still pass you like a hydroplane on the highway though.
On the suspension, Matt put all new rubber up front and had the springs rebuilt, but the torsion bars were fine. "When I started thinking about improving the handling, I didn't go with any polygraphite, I just put all new rubber on everything. The car has a phenomenal ride and at 4,800 pounds, it corners decently. You can try to make it handle, but you won't make it into a road course machine," Matt says. "You feel everything in a Roadrunner; you don't feel anything in this car."
Trunk space on the Imperial...
Trunk space on the Imperial was listed at 14.6 cubic feet, or three bodies and two shovels on the Goodfellas scale of measurement.
He also modernized the rolling stock, outfitting his Imperial with 17-inch Billet Specialties GTP47 wheels, wrapped in Kumho rubber. The wheels hide 12-inch rotors up front with a massive set of four-piston calipers that Matt claims are as big as any six-piston caliper ever made. The rear brakes are the factory 11-inch drums, which were the largest available at that time.
Matt finally has a car he can put all of his stuff into, go anywhere and be comfortable, while knocking down a very respectable 17 mpg on the highway. The Imperial cruises at 2,600 rpm and while Matt is tempted to add a Gear Vendors Overdrive unit, he first wants to experience the car as the original designers intended. After that, it may be your turn behind the wheel.
Matt only claims three of the cars in his collection cannot be bought at any price. The rest can all be had for the right number and the Imperial is one of them. He'll have it out on Power Tour this year, allowing folks a chance to see it up close. After that, he may not lose interest, but he will move on to the next project. That one will likely return him to more familiar turf and involve some combination of either an all-aluminum 572 Hemi or a 468ci small-block and a Mopar that starts with the letter "C."
Matt's wife thinks he likes building them more than he likes driving them. That may have been true so far, but this Imperial is unlike anything he's ever built or driven before.
By The Numbers
'67 Imperial Crown Coupe
Builder: Matt Delaney/Delaney Auto Design
Total cost to build: $27,200
||Mopar 500 wedge crate motor
||heavy-duty cast-iron, cross-bolted block
||Milodon high-volume pump, stock pan
||Mopar forged crankshaft, flat-top cast-aluminum pistons, 9.0:1 compression ratio
||Mopar Performance heads, ported by Hughes Engines to flow 320 cfm at .600-inch lift
||COMP Cams Xtreme Energy XE272
||Mopar high-lift single valvesprings, 2.14-inch intake and 1.81-inch exhaust stainless steel valves
||Mopar Performance single-plane M1 intake manifold, Edelbrock Thunder Series 800-cfm carb
||MSD distributor, coil, and 8.5mm Super Conductor wires
||Edelbrock fuel pump
||'69 440 Six-Pack cast-iron manifold, five sticks worth of 2 1/2-inch exhaust with Cherry Bomb Turbo mufflers
||'67 Chrysler Imperial radiator
||585 hp and 610 lb-ft of torque
||727 TorqueFlight, stock shifter
||'67 Mopar 8 3/4 rearend, 2.94:1 gears; Eaton Posi unit
||stock torsion bars
||Eaton leaf springs, Edelbrock shocks
||stock Mopar 12-inch discs with four-piston calipers
|in the front, stock Mopar 11-inch drums in the rear
|WHEELS & TIRES
||17x8 Billet Specialties GTP47
||255/55R17 Kumho ECSTA