Once, long ago, there was an automotive concept known as a personal luxury car. This was a two-door car, but not an economy car or a sports car, or even a GT car. It was a luxurious car for classy people, people who chug expensive liquors and eat caviar by the dripping fistful. It was, however, still a two-door car, which is why this particular option for the 1967 to 1968 Chrysler Imperial, known as the Mobile Director package, is so damn weird.
Oh, a quick terminology note: the personal luxury car was really a subcategory that straddled two-door sedan and coupé, but I’ll likely call it a coupé because it’s increasingly important to give that word more of its proper usage. It’s just my little way of helping to skew search results for “coupe” to cars that actually only have two doors.
Anyway, the coupé version of the Imperial was a wonderful example of this sort of car, being a large, opulent, elegant, two-door very clearly targeted at people who were doing quite well, and wanted to be sure everyone around them was aware of just how quite well they were doing.
The Mobile Director package was unusual because it offered two features that wouldn’t be considered odd in, say, a minivan or conversion van, but are really weird for a two-door: a swivelling front seat (you know, like the Captain’s Chairs in a shag-slathered conversion van) and a pretty good-sized fold-out table. Oh, and a gooseneck lamp.
Check out this photo from the 1967 Imperial brochure, where it shows the dream of every personal luxury car owner — to be able to drive out into the middle of nowhere, at night, and still be able to enjoy a long, comfortable game of chess with a treasured companion in the same comfort you’ve grown to expect in your, um, smoking room or gentleman’s club or wherever.
Here, let’s let Chrysler’s own midcentury ad agency show, not tell, what this was all about:
Holy crap, that was classy! Class out the arse, am I right? Special Tensor lamps, swelling music, two classy people in unprecedented luxury in sight of a sunset over the Golden Gate bridge, all for “one of the few people who could afford a genuine luxury automobile,” oh man, that’s a lot to take in.
I’m a little dizzy. My body isn’t used to this level of class, and it’s reacting poorly. I just need a hit from my inhaler of Pabst Blue Ribbon — ah, that’s better.
I know the video quality isn’t great on that video, which may have been shot with a Super 8 camera pointed at a 24-inch Magnavox maple cabinet television set, so here’s a clearer video from someone with a lovely restored example:
Man, that’s a clever setup. The little table can be an armrest for the front or rear seats, or expand into that useful little table.
Of course, we can’t forget that this was all going on in a two-door, personal luxury car, a type of car that is designed to be driven by the personal luxuriant themselves. This isn’t a car that people would routinely be driven about in, since almost anyone who wants to be chauffeured around would very likely demand a four-door car.
And yet here’s the rub: because of the intrusion of the B-pillar between the doors, the swivelling seat and hence the whole Mobile Director package could not be installed on four-door Imperials! That meant that the body type where this sort of thing might actually really be desired just couldn’t get it.
The genesis of the Mobile Director package came from a 1966 Chrysler concept car called the Imperial Mobile Executive Car, which featured this fever-dream fantasy of the most up-to-date, cutting edge executive working his arse off, surrounded by modern equipment, in the back seat of his Imperial:
One especially notable bit of equipment there is that Datafax machine, which, in such a miniaturized and radio-telephony-capable setup, would have been absolutely bleeding-edge tech for this era.
But, damn, think of all the business you could do in the back seat of that thing, especially if we remember that at least 40 per cent of mid-’60s-era business was drinking scotch out of tumblers.
The Mobile Director option package is quite rare today, as its price of $US597.40 (that’s over $US4,800 today!) was a huge chunk of cash for something that, if we’re honest, probably would have been used most by some executive’s kids’ colouring books or a covered in Fritos than for receiving any Datafaxes or having intimate games of mahjong over glasses of Glenlivet.
I do think the basic ideas of swivelling chairs, lamps, and tables are solid, though, and if modernity is going to insist that nearly everything sold is a big-arse SUV or crossover, something like this would actually make a lot of sense in today’s luxo-beasts.
So, those few of you genuine luxury car buyers, demand your next Escalade or Lexus or Urus come equipped with swivelling seats and tables and fax machines, because you’re a mobile director, dammit.