A whale of a convertible comes out to play at River City Marketplace | News

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A whale of a convertible comes out to play at River City Marketplace

"Hop in my Chrysler, it's as big as a whale and it's about to set sail!" - Lyric from "Love Shack" by the B-52s.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- They were affectionately known as land yachts and Morris Wakeham's 1968 Imperial convertible is certainly a whale of an example. Although the B-52s were singing about a 1965 Chrysler 300 convertible, Wakeham's Imperial might have actually been an even better choice had one been available for their music video.

The Northside resident doesn't know the exact length of his "whale" but said "this car is longer than my (Ford) King Ranch," kidding that "you could fit Jimmy Hoffa in the trunk."

The Imperial was a stand alone brand from Chrysler from 1955 until 1975 and then again briefly from 1981 to 1983. But for convertible lovers, 1968's Imperial wasn't just the pinnacle but the end of the line. 

Wakeham said just 474 convertibles were made in 1968 and of those, Wakeham believes only ten 1968 convertibles are known to still exist, with probably five that are show-worthy. He bases those numbers on Internet research he's done.

Wakeham's Imperial has just 16,500 miles on it. The paint shows some spider cracks and the top rubber isn't perfect but given the Imperial's years, it's in amazing condition.

Wakeham bought the Imperial from a collector who found the car in a Texas barn (he doesn't know what part of Texas). The previous owner told him it had been in storage there from about 1969 to 2000 or so.

Old Cars magazine reports the '68 Imperial Convertible weighed more than two-and-a-half tons, which explains why it needed the biggest V-8 that Chrysler had at the time. 

Old Cars reported the '68 had 360 horsepower and 440 cubic inches of displacement. Wakeham's Imperial glides along with a three-speed automatic and power-everything.

Wakeham's Imperial was on display at last Saturday's First Coast Ford F100 F1 Club of Jacksonville's 13th Annual Truck and Car Open Show at River City Marketplace.

The Imperial convertible's demise marked a trend that would soon also come to Ford and GM. In 1976, America celebrated its 200th birthday as Cadillac tied the occasion to the demise of the big American convertible. 

The final 200 Cadillac Eldorado convertibles rolled off the line in 1976, and were designated as the "Bicentennial Edition," closing the final chapter on rag tops that were "as big as a whale."


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