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Imperial cars, 1926-1966

Two years after his highly successful introduction of the Chrysler car and the formation of the corporation bearing his name, Walter P. Chrysler invaded the luxury car market. The 1926 New York Auto Show hosted the unveiling of a new Chrysler car, to which he gave the regal name Imperial 80. The numeral 80 stood for the peak speed; the car was guaranteed to do 80 miles per hour, and it quickly became well known for its high speed, low-gear pull, and hill-climbing ability. Many contemporaries called the Imperial the only stock U.S. car of its time that could deliver a truly sports car performance.

1926 Imperial Floyd Clymer demonstrated the great 1926 Imperial performance in spectacular style. Driving a stock Imperial touring car, he launched out on a record breaking 702­mile speed-endurance run between Denver and Kansas City in June 1926 in which the Imperial covered the distance in 13 hours and 56 minutes. Its average speed of 51.8 mph was the fastest ever attained by a stock car over 500 miles to that time — yet only 200 miles of the 702-mile stretch was made up of paved roads! Floyd called the Imperial 80 "one of the real quality cars" of its day.
1927 CHRYSLER IMPERIAL, E-80: The Imperial 80 was the first Chrysler car to use light aluminum alloy pistons. Its potent 92 horsepower six-cylinder engine made it one of the most powerful cars of its day. It also had a carburetor "fumer" to electrically preheat the fuel mixture, and a small Chrysler emblem on the dash panel would light up when the battery needed water. 1927 Imperial E-80
1928 Imperial L-80 1928 CHRYSLER IMPERIAL, L-80: 1928 saw Imperial become the first Chrysler car to pass the 100-horsepower barrier with a rating of 112 at 3000 rpm. Compression ratio was raised from 4.7:1 to 6:1 and wheelbase was established at 136 inches. Semicustom bodies were offered by Locke, Dietrich, and LeBaron at prices up to $6,795. (See Imperial L80*)
1929-1930 CHRYSLER IMPERIAL L8: By 1929, Imperial had become one of the premier cars on the road. New slimmer profile radiator grilles were designed especially so that the fluted hood identification of previous Imperial cars could be retained. Rumble seat models had a door on the curb side for easier access to the rear compartment. Prices ranged from $2,675 to $3,475. 1929-1930 Imperial L*

1931 Imperial

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Imperial gauges

Thanks to RM Auctions for the use of these photographs

1931 Imperial CG 1931 CHRYSLER IMPERIAL, CG: A startling new kind of Imperial was introduced in 1931. Its bodies were designed with long hoods and broad sweeping fenders that combined to make the car a true Chrysler classic. Wheelbase was 145 inches. A new Straight Eight engine of 384.5 cubic inch displacement had a nine-bearing camshaft and turned out 125 horsepower.
1932 CHRYSLER IMPERIAL CUSTOM EIGHT, CL: The long, classic body lines were continued but with new ventilating doors on the side of the hood similar to other Chrysler cars. The CL became the first of the Chryslers to be fitted with a power brake booster. A shorter 135" wheelbase Imperial CH was introduced as a companion to the CL; it would be replaced in 1933. 1932 Imperial Custom Eight CL
1933 Imperial Eight, CQ 1933 CHRYSLER IMPERIAL EIGHT, CQ: The Custom (CL) was carried over with cosmetic changes, but a new CQ-series Imperial (essentially the 1932 Chrysler CP Eight) had an even shorter wheelbase of 125 inches; it replaced the CH introduced in 1932. The CQ and (unrelated) CL were the only Chrysler-made cars with wire wheels standard, rather than wood wheels. Standard features were a new coincidental ­accelerator pedal starter, automatic vacuum clutch, and hydraulic brakes. An optional CQ engine had lower horsepower, presumably for better economy.
1934 CHRYSLER AIRFLOW IMPERIAL, CV: At 212-1/4 inches, the CV model was the shortest of the three Airflow Imperials. In keeping with the performance image Imperial had built up since 1926, a CV coupe established 72 stock car speed records during a one-day run at the Utah Salt Flats under AAA Contest Board Supervision. 1934 Airflow Imperial, CV
1934 Airflow Custom Imperial, CW 1934 CHRYSLER AIRFLOW CUSTOM IMPERIAL, CW: Automatic overdrive and the ride stabilizer bar were only a part of the CW story. Like the other Airflows, its structure was a network of steel girders covered by body panels --a prelude to unit construction. The CW had a wheelbase of 146.5 inches and could seat eight passengers. Its one-piece curved glass windshield was the first of its kind on a production car.
1935 CHRYSLER AIRFLOW IMPERIAL, C-2: Imperials continued to use the Airflow body design exclusively. New hood and grille surface projected forward into the airstream to give the cars a longer look. Other new appearance items included bumpers, head lamp surrounds, and hood louvers on the side. 1935 Airflow Imperial, C-2
1936 AIRFLOW CUSTOM IMPERIAL, C-ll 1936 CHRYSLER AIRFLOW CUSTOM IMPERIAL, C-11: Imperials again remained exclusively Airflow design; however, the very long 146-1/2 inch wheelbase Custom model was removed from the line-up. New die-cast radiator grilles and hood louvers were featured, and a redesigned steering linkage permitted a change in the angle of the steering column.
1937 CHRYSLER CUSTOM IMPERIAL, C-15: Except for the Airflow C-17 model, all eight-cylinder Chrysler cars bore the name Imperial or Custom Imperial. The Custom came on a wheelbase of 140 inches in two body types--the 7-passenger sedan and the sedan limousine. The latter had a crank-operated glass partition behind the front compartment. 1937 Customer Imperial, C-15
1938 CHRYSLER IMPERIAL, C-19 1938 CHRYSLER IMPERIAL, C-19: Wheelbase of the Custom went up again -­ to 144 inches. Front and rear sway bars ensured a stable ride for all Imperials, the only Chrysler-built cars to feature both. Instrument panels for the C-19 Imperials had a painted, highly polished wood-grain finish, but those of the Custom were painted to harmonize with the upholstery.
1939 CHRYSLER CUSTOM IMPERIAL, C-24: The first application of a fluid coupling to passenger cars in the United States was made late in 1938, when Chrysler introduced Fluid Drive as standard equipment on the Custom Imperial C- 24. Also new to all Imperials as standard equipment was the steering column-mounted gear shift lever. 1939 Custome Imperial c-24
1940 Crown Imperial, C-27 1940 CHRYSLER CROWN IMPERIAL, C-27: All Imperial cars were now consolidated under a single banner--the Crown Imperial. Fluid Drive, Overdrive, and power brakes continued to be offered as standard equipment. The new Crown had three body styles: the six­ and the eight-passenger sedans, and the sedan limousine with glass partition.
1941 CHRYSLER CROWN IMPERIAL, C-33: Power windows made their initial bow in Imperial as standard equipment. A master control unit for the windows was mounted on top of the instrument panel. Prices ranged from $1,795 for a Town Sedan to $2,795 for the Sedan Limousine which was the most expensive of the Chrysler-built cars. 1941 Crown Imperial, C-33
1942 Crown Imperial, C-37 1942 CHRYSLER CROWN IMPERIAL, C-37: Five months and 448 Imperial cars after the start of the 1942 season, production of Imperials was shut down for the duration of World War II. Front fender lines of the new Imperial blended gracefully into the hood structure, and running boards were enclosed by the doors.
1946-48 CROWN IMPERIAL, C-40: Like all first postwar cars, the new Imperial reflected the same basic appearance that it had had during the short-lived 1942 production year. A new grille and body ornamentation, however, provided immediate recognition to its two body styles: the limousine and the 8-passenger sedan. 1946-48 Crown Imperial, C-47
1949 Crown Imperial, C-47 1949 CROWN IMPERIAL, C-47: A unique, self-energizing, hydraulic disc brake was introduced as standard equipment on all 1949 Imperials. It had two flat pressure plates on which segments of brake lining were bonded. Braking action was obtained when the pressure plates were forced outward into contact with rotating brake housings.
1950 CROWN IMPERIAL, C-50 (custom body by Derham shown): A new hood ornament, grille, front and rear bumpers, and taillights were part of the 1950 appearance package for the Crown Imperial. Factory retail prices, not including Federal tax, were $4,970 for the sedan and $5,070 for the limousine. 1950 Crown Imperial, C-50
1951-52 Imperial, C-54 1951-52 IMPERIAL, C-54: Two series of cars now came under the exclusive Imperial name plate: the Imperial and the Custom Imperial. The latter retained rights to the long-wheelbase 8-passenger sedan and limousine models. Introduction of full-time power steering as standard equipment was a "first" for the Custom Imperial.
1953 CUSTOM IMPERIAL, C-58: Chrysler Corporation's first fully automatic transmission, called PowerFlite, was installed in Imperials beginning in March, 1953. The Crown Imperial was equipped with a 12-volt electrical system. Electric seat adjusters could be obtained on sedans, and the one-piece curved windshield returned to vogue. 1953 Custom Imperial, C-58
1954 Custom Imperial, C-64 1954 CUSTOM IMPERIAL, C-64: With a rated increase in engine horsepower from ISO to 235, Imperial continued to be the highest-powered luxury car made in the United States. And it was not even necessary to use premium fuel! The most pronounced exterior changes took place in the grille and bumpers. The Imperial name was separately registered in 1954.
1955 CROWN IMPERIAL, C-70: In a move to give the Imperial a distinctiveness separate from other Chrysler cars, Imperial formally became established as a car line utilizing its own design concepts. As a result of this decision, shipments of Imperials rose from 5,761 cars produced in 1954 to 11,432 at the end of the 1955 run. 1955 Crown Imperial,C-70
1956 Imperial, C-73 1956 IMPERIAL, C-73: Sweeping, long rear fenders and new body side ornamentation characterized the 1956 Imperial. The upper back portion of the right fender also acted as a door which could be swung out to reveal a hidden gas filler cap. Crown Imperials terminated the body molding at the rear wheel opening and followed it with five chromed louvers.
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1957 IMPERIAL: The long, graceful lines of the new Imperial body combined with a compound curved windshield and the first use of curved side glass on a standard production car to make Imperial a contemporary classic. The front end was designed to utilize either single head lamps or the smaller dual head lamps that were making their first showing. 1957 Imperial
1958 Imperial Crown 1958 IMPERIAL CROWN: Auto Pilot was introduced on Imperial as the first automatic driver assist which would allow the driver to select turnpike cruising speeds by means of a dial. Optional 11.00 x 14 tires were the largest passenger car tires in the world. An integrated mechanical-electrical door locking system was offered as another Chrysler "First.”
1959 IMPERIAL CUSTOM: Power brakes, power steering, back-up lights, windshield washers, and dual exhausts were standard equipment on all Imperials. A new rear suspension option featured a compressor which automatically increased air pressure inside flexible, nylon reinforced rubber air springs to keep the car level. 1959 Imperial Custom
1960 Imperial Custom 1960 IMPERIAL CUSTOM: Special attention was directed toward passenger comfort: seat cushions were padded with nearly six inches of foam rubber; instrument panel gauges were illuminated by the soft glow of electroluminescent lighting; swivel front seats became available. The LeBaron took on a "town car" look with small rear window.
1961 IMPERIAL CROWN: A new front end design featured individual head lamps, each standing on its own base. Safety padding was used on the steering wheel crossbar, and the top and bottom portions of the instrument panel. Steering wheels had a new oval shape with flats at the top and bottom of the wheel. 1961 Imperial Crown
1962 Imperial LeBaron

1962 IMPERIAL LEBARON: At 227.1 inches, Imperial continued to be one of the longest cars built in the United States. A new vacuum suspended-type power brake replaced the air-suspended unit used previously, and a small lightweight reduction gear starting motor was introduced.

1962 Imperial LeBaron
1963 IMPERIAL CUSTOM: Imperial joined other industry cars in reporting interior dimensions based on a seating design and measuring system that utilized a two-dimensional manikin in its seated attitude in a car. All Imperials were painted in acrylic enamel paint that was hand buffed before the cars left the assembly line. 1963 Imperial Custom
1964 Imperial LeBaron 1964 IMPERIAL LE BARON: An indication of how complex things can become in the automotive industry is attested by the fact that Imperial offered an amazing total of 776 color and trim combinations among its four cars. The Crown Coupe with a LeBaron type rear window was a new offering. The Custom series was eliminated. [See the interior of a 1964 Imperial — our March 2010 Car of the Month]

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1965 IMPERIAL CROWN COUPE: Head lamps were covered over by a pane of flat tempered glass. Inlays of rich wa1nut veneer decorated the steering wheel, instrument panel and door trim to give only a hint of Imperial luxury. A master gauge flashed a warning light on the instrument panel if fuel level, oil pressure or engine temperature needed attention. 1965 Imperial Crown Coupe
1966 Imperial Crown Convertible 1966 IMPERIAL CROWN CONVERTIBLE: Imperial four-door models were highlighted by new 50/50 front bench seats. Each half could be adjusted independently of the other. This included the center armrest which also was divided down the middle. A new grille and deck lid shape were the primary appearance changes.

Also see: 1969-1973 Imperials

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