Ol’ Blue Eyes and the Imperial

01 April 2022

Chrysler was haemorrhaging cash and careening toward bankruptcy when Chrysler Chairman and CEO John Riccardo hired Lee Iacocca to become president and COO of the company on Nov. 2, 1978.

Lee Iacocca was determined to make the best and most exclusive American personal luxury coupé money could buy.

Iacocca and the management behind the Imperial felt their new coupé would be an easy success, given all its style, engineering, and technological prowess. They thought they had a niche; people would desire the Imperial. Chrysler put an unrealistic sales goal of 25,000 per year. It is worth noting that no Imperial in company history had ever reached that sales figure.

To aid in the luxury market’s recognition of such a premier car, Iacocca turned to one of the most recognisable Americans of the day, Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra, a friend of Iacocca, agreed to put his name on a special edition of the new Imperial for its 1981 debut. It was called the Frank Sinatra Edition and was branded simply as ‘FS’ on the exterior of the select few cars blessed with the package. It was one of the only times a production car wore a special edition named after a celebrity.

Aside from loaning his name and colour scheme to the Imperial, he also wrote a song for the new Imperial used in advertisements, ‘It’s Time for Imperial.’

Ol’ Blue Eyes took payment for his efforts in the form of a $1 bill and an early production example of a new Imperial.

Unfortunately, his particular car suffered the same reliability issues as the rest of the Imperials of the generation and ultimately damaged the relationship between Sinatra and Iacocca.