Kenyon Wills' 1973 Imperial LeBaron

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73 Front.jpg (59129 bytes)

1973 and me.

  Since photos were taken, rear bumper has been replaced with a straight one.

4 known issues:

  • Tires are over 10 years old
  • Auto-Temp II unit not working
  • Chronomter (clock) not working
  • DS wing window does not seal shut as it once did - plastic gear in motor suspected to have chipped a tooth where it counts.

  • NEW Brakes
  • NEWLY REBUILT Transmission
  • NEW Belts & hoses
  • NEW adiator
  • NEWLY REBUILT Carburetor
  • Currently in storage but presumed to be a dependable, easy-to-live with car which is unlike any other in your area - people will never miss you when you are on the road in Imperial Margarine!

    Please contact me at imperialist1960 at yahoo dot com to discuss.



    73 @ bay bridge.jpg (494556 bytes)

    I am the owner of the 1973 Imperial shown here.  It is in very good original condition, having come to me through an interesting, if somewhat ordinary route.  The car was owned until 1999 by a couple that were original owners. 
    The man passed away some years earlier, and the car sat in the widow’s garage until she donated it to the Bay Area Salvation Army.   A non-Imperial lover bought it just because it was so BIG and put some work into the car, but moved to a place that had a homeowner’s association that forbade street-parking/storage, and he then decided to sell it.  I work with his mother-in-law and she had spotted the Imperial pictures that are in my cubicle at work.  Thus the connection was made.

    73 Quarters Front Glamour Shot.jpg (54098 bytes)

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    I went to look at the car out of curiosity, with no intention of buying.  At $1000.00 it was just too tempting to inspect, and I have always wondered about the Fuselage cars.  I drove the car and was so impressed that I offered money on the spot, with the agreement that the car would be driven to my place on Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay (in the center of the Bay Bridge) from San Jose, about 60 miles away.  If the car made it to The Island without breaking down, then it was SOLD.  
    The car had a bad radiator cap and started to overheat on its voyage to my place, so it was pulled onto the shoulder of the Treasure Island off-ramp in a cloud of steam and the keys were promptly surrendered.  The car was mine.  A new radiator cap, new belts and hoses, and a new power steering line and it’s as good as new with 100,000 miles seeming to show on the odometer.  

    Lo temp Hi Press at 65mph - 73.jpg (24309 bytes)

    Margarine at bay bridge.jpg (11975 bytes)

    The car is painted “Sunfire Yellow” with a white vinyl top and white/brown interior.  Due to its color, I call it Imperial Margarine.  I keep the plastic top off of an “I can’t believe it’s not butter” container on the rear package shelf for laughs, but the car is correctly addressed as “Imperial Margarine”.  


    I proceeded to drive the car all over the place, and am very happy with it.  After having been still for so many years, I did have a problem with the transmission seals.

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    Lores DS Engine -73.jpg (30485 bytes)

    Apparently when seals sit and are not full immersed or fully out of the fluid, the region where the seal transitions from “dry” to “wet” becomes particularly brittle and can fail.  A dry seal can become wet and regain most of its softness, but the transition line does not hold up well to use.  
    In driving the car, the seal on the output shaft of the transmission failed and dumped fluid out the back of the transmission.  This is ordinarily the point at which an experienced person such as myself calls for a tow truck and inserts a new $10 seal in the comfort and safety of one’s own driveway.   My laziness got the better of me (I was not in any hurry, but thought that I could get away with a stupid stunt).   I simply filled up the transmission with more fluid and tried to drive the 5 miles home.  

    Open Hood 73 Imp 9 01.jpg (62252 bytes)

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    On the onramp to the Bay Bridge , the transmission blew the last fluid out the back and began to slip, so I pulled the car over.  I then smelled smoke and looked under the car to see flames about 4 inches high.  The transmission was so upset at me that it had thrown fluid up its dipstick tube onto the exhaust manifolds, thereby igniting.  I now had an engine fire that was not raging, but it was dark and quite impressive.  I got it out using a fire extinguisher from a passing truck-guy, but by this time, the flames had melted the Auto Temp Control and all wiring and vacuum hoses going to it.  
    The transmission was also a goner, so I had that rebuilt and added on a deep MOPAR HI PERFORMACE trans pan with drain-plug.  It looks great when its up on the rack, and increases the amount of fluid available to the transmission.  I have had few problems since then.  

    Super Hires engine PS -73.jpg (153087 bytes)

    Imperial Margarine parked on side with 1960.jpg (740301 bytes)

    The car sees occasional use.  I am also an owner of several 1960 LeBarons that I am crafting together into one restored car, and that is my primary focus at the moment.  The LeBaron is easy to drive, has lots of power, and is officially recognized as the longest post-war car mass produced due to the little bumperette bumper extensions that the federal government mandated.  The 1972 car was similar, but lacked these.  
    The car has headlight sentinel, which was very fashionable at that time.  Enabling this feature meant that if you turn the car off and exit with your keys when the headlights have been on, the car will keep its headlights on for you with an adjustable slider that allows more or less time to lights-off.  This causes considerable confusion for guest passengers or other people where you park when you get out and walk away from a car with lights blazing, but it’s a fun item that allows one to claim that it’s a “true” luxury car.  Take that, MBZ and BMW!  

    Headlight sentinel -73.jpg (8068 bytes)

    headlite dimmer -73.jpg (8098 bytes)

    The car also has an automatic headlamp dimmer that has adjustable sensitivity.  Many other owners of this feature, which was available for quite a few years, indicate that it does not always work.  Mine works reasonably well, and will drop the high-beams when an oncoming car’s headlights approach.  It also turns the headlights on automatically when it is sufficiently dark.  This is most apparent when one enters a tunnel or parking structure.  In theory, one could travel coast to coast with the cruise control, auto headlight controls, and the Auto Temp controls automatically regulating the car, meaning that filling the car with gas, tuning the radio, and steering it would be the only input needed from the driver.  
    The car has covered headlights, and the doors are actuated by an electric motor located on an axle that is obvious if the hood is up.  My headlight motor refused to open the headlight doors when I got the car.  There is a knurled knob at the base of the motor that allows the doors to be manually opened.  After about a week of doing this, the mechanism freed itself and has continued to operate since.  If the car sits for awhile, this process must be repeated, but I am writing this to warn that others may find that the thing’s just stiff and needs to be coaxed to work.  Try this for awhile before replacing yours.  This also applies to the other covered headlight Imperials, as they all appear to have a similar motor.  

    73 PS Fuselage Sightline Front.jpg (54150 bytes)

    the drop.jpg (568510 bytes)

    As a special treat, I have included pictures of my car in San Francisco, my favorite City, and residence of 10 years (I grew up nearby).  The Drop is a street that is parallel and 2 blocks to the north of the famous Lombard Street, which is the “crookedest street in the world” – a famous tourist attraction.  (There is a twistier street in SF, but it’s not where the tourists go and doesn’t have flowers in planters, by the way.)  
    Anyway, The Drop is the second steepest street in San Francisco , and has an abrupt drop from horizontal to a very steep slope.  I’ve jumped a VW Golf there and gotten all four wheels about 3 feet off the ground with only about 150 feet in run-up distance, so it’s plenty steep.  This grade photographs well for people who live where its flat (and boring!).  The street’s pitch is so steep that there are steps in the sidewalk, and the Imperial’s weight makes the brakes smell awful and the pedal mushy and soft from boiling brake fluid.   This hill is best done only once per hour in an Imperial!

    the drop II.jpg (568969 bytes)

     the drop III.jpg (680484 bytes) 

    the drop III side view.jpg (711920 bytes) the drop Iv.jpg (696181 bytes)

    73 Fuselage Sightline.jpg (50860 bytes)

    If you like 1973, you might be interested in the data-book that was at dealerships for customer perusal.   Click here to view the 1973 Data Book. 

    I enjoy Imperial Margarine immensely and revel in easily finding and quickly executing parallel parking in this most congested and hilly driving environment that is Metropolitan San Francisco.

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    73 Rear PS.jpg (35897 bytes)

    If you want to reach me, I can be gotten at:


    Kenyon Wills

    December 2002 

    DS Dash - 73.jpg (71421 bytes) DS F SEAT - 73.jpg (62296 bytes) Front seat - 73.jpg (18477 bytes) DS rear seat -73.jpg (31142 bytes)
    All door panels like this - 73.jpg (15515 bytes) PS Dash - 73.jpg (64927 bytes) Untitled-1.jpg (12391 bytes) no holes anywhere inheadliner - 73.jpg (30568 bytes)
    rear package shelf -73.jpg (9038 bytes) HiRes Engine shot - 73.jpg (90181 bytes) 73 & transamerica.jpg (64281 bytes)
    Rear Bumper & Body - 73.jpg (25910 bytes) IMG_0725.jpg (537456 bytes) Other side of bumper for caparison - 73.jpg (9427 bytes)
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    Nixon Bumper Sticker.jpg (501376 bytes)

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    IMG_0723.jpg (547662 bytes) 73 Rear.jpg (49269 bytes) IMG_0724.jpg (477844 bytes)

    This page was last updated October 11, 2003 .  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club