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Car of the Month, March 2010: 1964 Imperial

by Greg Gjerdingen

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I have been obsessed with cars since I was a little kid punching transmission buttons in my parent's cars. My preference to Mopars may be because, it was my Mom's 60 Dodge Seneca I first got to move. I was playing with the transmission buttons and released it and rolled the car out the driveway into a park across the street. I was about 4 or 5 years old.

In 2003, I finally ended up with a little more money than sense. I started looking around at what was available and came to the conclusion that I could literally not get any more car for the money, than if I got an Imperial.

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I acquired my Imperial in 2003. I did not and may not ever have the money to buy a decent muscle car, but the big luxury cars of the fifties and the sixties were often the origins for the engines that would get tweaked and tuned for muscle car duty. All 1964 Imperials had a 413 4-barrel engine, standard. In 1966, the 413's bore was increased to become the legendary 440.

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The Imperial will not turn in 0-60 times like a Road Runner or Charger, weighing in at close to two and a half tons, but I still get to listen to the big block rumble. I just have to open the windows, because Imperials were all about making sure the occupants were undisturbed in the elegantly appointed interior. Once behind the wheel of the Crown Coupe, who would care about getting anywhere faster. This car makes you feel that this is where you want to be.

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I found this one with 78,000 miles on it. It has air conditioning, an AM/FM radio, tilt steering column, Auto Pilot (cruise control), leather, and my favorite, the push-button Torqueflite automatic transmission. Imperials had many power features standard: steering, brakes, and windows. This one included optional power locks, seats, antenna, and trunk release.

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The Imperial Crown Coupe, with a LeBaron type rear window, was new for 1964. Imperial offered no less than 776 color and trim combinations among its four cars in 1964; every Imperial could have been unique.

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This Imperial has not required much work. It had been repainted and the bumpers rechromed before I bought it.I had to repair some transmission fluid leaks and rebuild the "Sure Grip" differential and replace some missing and worn trim pieces.

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The first Summer I had the car I cruised 700 miles around Northern Minnesota and had a great time. Many people thought it was a Lincoln or a Cadillac. It definitely has the presence of a luxury car. I can forgive people for mistaking it for a Lincoln. The Imperial was the first Mopar marque to be completely restyled by Elwood Engel, who had previously worked for Ford and had been involved in the designing of the 1961 Lincoln.

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