…when an Imperial was automotive art
It’s not a Chrysler…it’s an Imperial
The Imperial by Chrysler was the company Flagship. It shared the same prestige parity with the Cadillac Fleetwood and Lincoln Continental. A Chrysler was a highly distinguished brand at one time. The Imperial epitomized the Chrysler Corporation as the most luxurious owner-driven model.
It was built as a stand-alone brand separate from Chrysler in 1955 until 1983. The Imperial name dates back to 1926 with the first generation built until 1954. The Imperial was available in Crown and LeBaron trim levels. The Imperial Crown convertible is among the grandest of all open tourers.
It was all about the “Car Wars” in the 1950s. Bigger was supposed to be better. Luxury automobiles had an eminence about them. Chrysler registered the Imperial in 1955 as a separate make. This was an attempt to compete directly with the luxury signatures from General Motors with the Cadillac Fleetwood and Ford Motor Company with the Continental. Ford registered the Continental in 1956 as a separate make offering the Continental MK II carrying a price tag of $10,000. And of course, “The Standard of the World” countered both with the ultra-luxurious Series 70 Eldorado Brougham in 1957 that had a price tag of $13,074 –
1956-1957 Continental MK II fought back
“The Standard of the World” countered with the fabulous 1957-1958 Cadillac Series 70 Eldorado Brougham (Fleetwood 7059X)
The 1964 Imperials were all-new inside and out. The Virgil Exner look was history. Its designer, Elwood Engel was talented with luxury automobiles and had experience doing so. The 1964 Imperial Crown convertible retained the poised dignity which was the hallmark of the brand. It competed with the Cadillac DeVille convertible and the eloquent four-door Lincoln Continental convertible. Elwood Engel was competing with himself…so to speak with the Lincoln Continental.
It was his 1961 Continental redesign that not only saved the brand from extinction but also gave the Continental an identity which it lacked up to this point. His 1964 Imperial reeks Lincoln Continental. Engel left Ford in 1961 to join the Chrysler team. The 1964 Imperial Crown convertible is both dramatically different and remarkably responsive. It is one of the world’s most elegant luxury convertibles. An Imperial Crown is truly a unique experience…it’s a fortuitous adventure in automotive excellence –
Body style code #925 1964 Imperial Crown convertible had a base price of $6,003 and only 922 were built for the 1964 model year. The 1964 Imperials hit the showrooms on Friday October 4, 1963 as 1964 models. The Crown convertible is a heavy weight at 5,185 lbs. It is a very large front engine rear drive luxury convertible.
It rides upon a long 129″ wheelbase, has the luxury length of 227.8″ and is 80″ in width. The 1964 model year gave the Imperial the identity it so desperately needed. Virgil Exner’s “floating” head and taillamps were tasteful and unique when introduced…however; its design became dated and a fresh new approach was just what Elwood Engel envisioned while designing the 1964 Imperial.
The Imperial Crown convertible’s architecture really attracted attention with it being so long, low, and wide. The knife-blade fenders – an Elwood Engel specialty – span seamlessly from front to rear. The clean sweeping design and its restrained use of ornamentation is extremely tasteful. The rear end ensemble hints at the Continental but the squared-off spare tire design has a personality that is truly Imperial.
It is the canted positioning of the rear end design that is most captivating. The eagle motive placed in the center of the bumper and the unique shape of the deck lid made the design exclusively Imperial. The squared-off spare tire design is what “nailed” the look. Every line on the car flows in a smooth harmonious manner. The bold front end design is beautifully proportioned with an asymmetric style. The respect and admiration afforded this supreme achievement in motoring is astounding…
Classic simplicity is what makes the 1964 Imperial Crown convertible elegant. The sumptuous interior is befitting an automobile of such splendor. Executive aircraft type seats with center folding armrests are fitted to the front and rear.
The front seats are individually power adjusted with a passenger recliner. The 1964 Imperials were the only luxury cars to offer front seat head rests as standard equipment at the time. Eight interior color schemes were available with the Imperial Crown convertible’s standard top grain leather. Six passenger comfort never looked so inviting –
Standard equipment for the 1964 Imperial Crown convertible includes: push-button automatic transmission, power steering and brakes, power windows, power fully automatic folding fabric roof, courtesy lighting unique to the model, automatic parking brake release, variable speed windscreen wiper/washers, and electric clock.
The Imperial had a quality control routine that was even more exclusive than that of the Continental which was zero tolerant of anything less than the best. Three groups of inspectors made sure each Imperial was built to the highest standards befitting an automobile of such regal stature. There were 106 dedicated technicians monitoring the Imperial’s progress while in theatre. Another team of inspectors, separate from those mentioned road tested and checked every component for overall operation.
The 1964 Imperials are as rugged as they are rewarding to own. A ladder-type perimeter frame with six cross members and full length outboard side rails provides the Imperial’s structural integrity. It uses a chrome-steel torsion-bar independent front suspension with pivoting ball joints. The Hotchkiss Drive rear suspension uses 60″ leaf-type springs. Oriflow shock absorbers are fitted all the way around. The hydraulic power brake system is equipped with flared drums and self-adjusting shoes fitted to the front and rear wheels. It has a mechanical parking brake with vacuum release.
The 1964 Imperials are powered as genuine Mopars. The Chrysler RB Series 6.8 litre 16-valve 413 CID V8 engine is equipped with a Carter AFB 3256S 4-bbl carburetor. The engine is mated to the Chrysler TorqueFlite automatic transmission with torque converter and three planetary gears. It is a potent performer as a true Mopar should be.
The engine produces 340 hp @ 4,600 rpm with 637 Nm of peak torque @ 2,800 rpm. Longitudinal acceleration is rated as 0-60 mph in 10.1 seconds, 0-100 mph in 30.4 seconds with a top speed of 119 mph ungoverned. It can do the 1/4 mile @ 81 mph in 17.4 seconds. These numbers are excellent for an automobile of this magnitude without aerodynamics. This is one of the largest automobiles built at the time.
The Imperial by Chrysler was marketed as “The ultimate excellence in America’s largest…finest…quietest…and most distinguished luxury automobile.” The Imperial Crown convertible for 1964 exhibited the all-new styling with a youthful zest…in a highly distinctive manner. It was a totally new concept of what a modern luxury convertible should be. It is automotive thinking on the grand scale…the incomparable Imperial Crown convertible is the quintessential open grand tourer –
Beautifully proportioned with an understated elegance gives the Imperial Crown convertible classic simplicity. Its timeless design will remain in good taste challenging the many years to come. Underneath that distinguished architecture, true Mopar high-performance is just a tap of the accelerator pedal away. The Imperial by Chrysler for 1964 offered comfort and convenience beyond superlatives.
It is one of the few automobiles in its league spacious enough to cosset six passengers comfortably in the lap of luxury. The 1964 Imperials were an all-new design and another example of Elwood Engel’s genius. He took over where Virgil Exner left off giving the Imperial an identity for the 1960s. Elegance and opulence with a poised dignity makes the 1964 Imperial by Chrysler highly attractive to connoisseurs of fine automobiles all over the world. The incomparable Imperial Crown convertible for the 1964 model year was limited to only 922 vehicles.
Thanks to connoisseurs Daniel Schmitt and Matt Garrett for the photos to make this tribute to the incomparable Imperial by Chrysler possible…
…you go Greg!
No it isn’t a Chrysler…it’s an Imperial