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1983 through 1986 Limos - Designer's Notes

Imperial Home Page -> Imperials by Year -> 1981 -> Factory Specials -> Executive Sedans -> History -> Designer's Notes

Below are a number of correspondence that IML member, Robert Smith, had with the designer of the "Little Limos" Robert Marcks. Also included are a number of intracompany communications about this project.


March 12, 1997

Dear Robert,

I enjoyed your letter of February 26 and will be happy to discuss the K-car limo any time. I will send you some material in the interim so that when we do discuss the car you will have more background.

One of the enclosures is the Jan Feb '97 V-12 Trail, which goes to about 100 West coast members of the Lincoln-Zephyr Owners Club. I am an editor and on page nine I discuss the inspiration for Chrysler's cab forward design. After I wrote it, I edited and sent it to Automotive News on a whim, which published the version Gregg Merksamer saw.

I saw the car as having a number of serious purposes, [1] enhancing Chrysler's image at a time when we were weak on product and [2] spurring the development of vehicles with a best-in-class attribute - interior room, being the two most important. It did both jobs very well, as it turned out.

Tell me about your car, is it the limousine or executive sedan; what color is it; what's its condition, etc. I believe that Frank Sinatra had one and I saw one locally when I lived in Idyllwild, CA (mountains above Palm Springs). Have you started your registry?

I was surprised to see that neither the Chrysler Historical group or ASC had any information on the cars. I would have thought that ASC would have been involved to some extent in maintenance/parts for the cars.

My daughter has been trying to get me to use E mail, but so far I have limited my use to about the level of a typewriter! I do use it to put together The V-12 Trail.

Give me a call anytime after you've digested the enclosed and let's discuss one of our mutually favorite automobiles!

January 19, 1998

Dear Bob,

Thanks for your letter of December 29; sorry for the delay in response. It's not due to lack of interest in your request.

You are certainly free to use any material I sent you, on the Web and in any other way as well. I would urge you to include my address and phone number. I am always interested in talking about it.

It was a pet project of mine, and under questioning I might be able to come up with more information; if there is interest in some of the minutiae of the project.

Bob Marcks
9935 East Island Clove
Scottsdale AZ 85258
Fax 602-614-1981

Article from THE DETROIT NEWS, 1982

Campana, like his predecessor Givens, wholeheartedly embraces the so called niche marketing approach the company is taking.

It involves production of a series of specialty vehicles, like the convertible and the executive sedans the company will offer during the 1983 model year.

"WE NEEDED to get new customers into the showroom," he ' said. "Niche marketing is an excellent way to do it."

A memo Robert Marcks received from Bob Lutz:






re: 1990 IMPERIAL


You're quoted in the Chrysler Times as saying that the big news has to be the Y-body Fifth Avenue and Imperial." With rear legroom....almost limolike." Exactly.

Many thanks, it happens that I initiated the car in 1985, with a sense that the market was missing a genuinely spacious car, with the thought that we could get there easily and quickly via a stretched C-Body. Attached are further thoughts on the subject.

The newest luxury entry, Infinity equates luxury with serenity, it seems.

A sense of spaciousness and repose become intrinsic and equivalent elements in the Imperial, by virtue of its package. These attributes could be communicated to great advantage to the domestic-luxury segment of the market. These people demand uncompromising space in their homes, for the most part. They should be able to readily identify with what we have created for them in the Imperial, but it needs to be shown.

The birth of the Y-body When Automotive News TV asked Chrysler Motors President Robert Lutz earlier this year what Chrysler's big news for the 1990 model year was, Lutz said, "The big news has to be the Y-body Chrysler Fifth Avenue and Imperial.

A lot of people are going to feel very good about the car when they see what they get aesthetically, what they get in quality. technology and features compared to domestic and import competition, when they check out the.rear legroom, which is going to be the best in the industry, almost limo-like."


TO: FROM: Robert Marcks 602860-9741


Tracking a Trend/How Trends Start:

* How Wall Street Joumal editorials have practical applications, influendna billions Qf expenditures, resulting in a marketing coup. /

* Have paper trail covering 18 year history.

The Origins and Progress of a Significant Trend:

* The Wall Street Journal was alone, in 1977, in stating that there was no energy shorta ge.

* The writer sends copies of those editorials to Ronald Reagan suggesting that he cover them in his radio addresses. Reagan answers affirmatively.

* Chrysler's corporate economist predicts higher gas prices/conventional wisdom.

Hal Sperlich - Chrysler's new Vice-President of Product Planning:

* Advocates 100% switch to front wheel drive (FWD) in 1979.

* Advantages: Platform simplicity, reduced tooling costs, meet fuel economy targets more easily.

* Disadvantages: Lack of breadth in line, new cars are compacts, 4 cylinder, low per-unit profit.

Bob Marcks - Chrysler's Special Vehicle Project Manager and corporate Show Car Manager - in Sperlich's Organization:

* Proposed and built a compact limousine show car- based on belief in three factors:

1. Wall Street Journal editorials on energy = cheap fuel "forever".

2. Trend of 'empty nesters' toward purchases of "5 bedroom, 4% bath" minimansions. Market for roomier houses = market for roomier cars?

3. Industry-wide deterioration of rear seat legroom since 1940.

* Using mini-limousine as a provocative lever, I proposed "Best-inClass" legroom across the board.

* Chrysler had primitive chassis, weak V4, narrow K-car.

* Longitudinal stretch was one of few "best-inclass" features possible.

* Specific proposal: 5" wheelbase stretch in Dodge Dynasty:

1. Cost $75 per car, only 75 Ibs. Per car weight increase (advantages of FWD)

2. Yield: New 5th Avenue and Imperial, with retail prices almost double that of Dynasty. Retention of large 5th Avenue owner body.

- Ran ads boasting of more legroom than Cadillac.



The 1990 Chrysler Imperial Is viewed as a conservative derivative of the New Yorker. Superficially true. However, the significance of the Imperial Is Its "package." IT RECREATES A COMFORT CONCEPT WHICH HAS BECOME EXTINCT OVER THE PAST 50 YEARS.

As manager of Chrysler's Special Vehicle Projects In 1980, It seemed that there were two gaping product voids In sung and gcomforP niches Tackling the fun~~ niche, I proposed and supervised the creation of the Chrysler LeBaron convertible - still the most popular convertible In the world.

As for Comfort, front wheel drive/transverse engine power-tralns offered a new potential for remarkable room In a sedan Just 200" long, several feet shorter and a thousand-plus pounds lighter than previously attained with rear wheel drive.

A key goal was to re-estabilsh rear seat legroom which was equal to front seat legroom (or about 42" front and rear, the same as any 1940 sedan!). To dramatize the benefits of Increased rear seating comfort, I created the LeBaron minllimousine show car In 1982. (There was a collective corporate anxiety about designing any car with a wheelbase much over 100"1)

Then in 1985, bolstered by the Wall Street Journal's analysis of oil price forecasts, It seemed timely to make the case for a longer wheelbase C-Body sedan with a Zstretchedz rear compartment. Which became the 1990 Imperial (and 5th Avenue).

The Imperial Is not just a conservative sedan for the gold folks," but a most contemporary benchmark package, defining the optimum* size for a new wave of roomy four door sedans.

For a conventional four door sedan, this represents the optimum minimum and maximum wheelbase/helght/ length dimensions needed to provide uncompromised interior room to seat four comfortably. Anything smaller reduces the human comfort factor. Anything larger tends to be superfluous. Additionally, Its engine/ drive train and trunk space conform to the logical minimum/ maximum requirements, given the scale of human beings, and functional necessities.

R. C. Marsks 1V4/89

Automotive News DECEMBER 9, 1996 letters TO THE EDITOR

Cab forward or cab backward? Chrysler Corp.'s biggest automotive feature is a cabforward interior: Sit in the in the back seat of a 1997 Chrysler LHS sedan and contemplate:

In 1952, while a student at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles,I acquired a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr. It had had a hard life and showed it.

I drove it back to Michigan when I became a designer for Ford. One of its features was outstanding comfort,with lavish rear-seat legroom.I never forgot, as you will see.

In the early 1980s, I was a Chrysler product planner and was in charge of show cars. I deplored the lack of interior room in Chrysler cars. To stir things up,I designed a K-car mini-limousine. It received favorable attention and went into limited production.

Using the minilimousine as a lever, I proposed a seveninch stretch to the New Yorker, hoping to achieve the industry's abest rear-seat legroom (equal to a 1940 Lincoln-Zephyr) .

Thus were created the 1989 Chrysler Fifth Avenue and Imperial, which Chrysler touted as having aalmost limousine-like room" and More rear-seat legroom than the biggest Cadillac.n

After that, all Chrysler car lines gained increased rear-seat legroom the so-called cabforward design. It was actually cabbackward. Think:

There was no room Forward." For 10 straight years, the driver's left foot rested on an intruding front wheel housing in Chrysler's front-wheel-drive cars.

But cab-backward, like a song titled aApril in Peoria," lacks panache.

That's my interpretation of why a 1997 Chrysler LHS has the legroom of a 1940 LincolnZephyr.Chec k it out for yourself.

BOB MARCKS Scottsdale, Ariz.

The writer is a retired Chrysler executive.

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