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My Classic Car: Steve’s 1956 Imperial


This isn't Beatrice, but another of Steve's Imperials | Steve Carter photo
This isn’t Beatrice, but another of Steve’s Imperials | Steve Carter photo

‘Beatrice” was a 1956 Imperial sedan named for the nurse who took care of my mother during a protracted illness in 1955 when the car was introduced.

Beatrice, the nurse, looked after me also, and was well loved.

One Saturday morning the Chrysler dealers were meeting at a hotel nearby our home and three Imperials were parked at my curb. All of 4 years old, I was mesmerized by the cars and their gun sight taillights. That day began my lifelong love of cars, of Chryslers, and of Imperials in particular.

I promised myself to own one someday. That day came in 1970, in Opelika, Alabama, when I screeched to a stop, having seen a Mint Green 1956 Imperial on a used car lot. I was driving my father’s ’66 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 Holiday sedan at Auburn University. Before I knew it, I had traded for the Imperial, never asking my dad for permission. It was before titles, or such legalities, but a 1956 Imperial was finally mine!

I drove Beatrice, the car, as my daily driver until 1976, after I threw a rod and couldn’t afford an engine rebuild. Sadly, I sold her to an Imperial aficionado who towed her away with a 1956 Imperial coupe, Tan over Desert Rose.

I called him once or twice to keep up with Beatrice. I had driven her on a family vacation the summer before and it was the last time we were all together before my parents announced their divorce, so she bceame even more special to me. Then, life took over, although my love of Imperials, 1956 Imperials, and Beatrice never abated.

Fast forward nearly 25 years. By now, the Online Imperial Club was a reality, and I had just joined. I sent a query: Does anyone know about the ’56 Mint Green Imperial that was sold to a gentleman in Milledgeville, Georgia, in 1975? I knew it had moved to Miami and had been painted dark green.

Surprisingly, I got a response the next day from the same person who bought the car from me: “Yes, I know where it is. It’s here in Milledgeville and is owned by a friend.” Excitedly, I got the name and number from him, and called.

His wife answered, I explained the reason for my call. “Are you the man who named her Beatrice?” she said.

“Yes, that’s me, it was after my mother’s nurse!” “Well,’ she replied, “her name is still Beatrice. And, you left an (Atlanta) Braves baseball cap on the back seat. It’s still there!”

But Beatrice was not for sale. Since I had such a connection to her, I decided to pay a visit. I was living in Birmingham and Milledgeville was about five hours away. I had to wait six months to find the time, but when I did, I drove to Atlanta and then to Milledgeville.

But when I arrived, the original buyer and the owner had had a falling out and the man I’d sold her to was not welcome there. Since I was with him, neither was I. So, 25 years later, and six months of waiting, and then five hours of driving, I sat at the curb in front of the house where Beatrice was stored. I would have walked up to the garage to look in, but he had even blocked the garage door with a car.

I never saw Beatrice. I could only surmise that the reality was that she had deteriorated to a point at which he would have not wanted me to see her.

I have found two Mint Green 1956 Imperials since, and missed purchasing both. I did own a 1956 Imperial coupe for a number of years, but it wasn’t the same.

I wonder if Beatrice is still there?

— Steve Carter, Birmingham AL

P. S. I’ve owned a number of Imperials over the years, and currently own the 1961 in the photo. Her name is Thelmagrundy, after the lady who owned her from 1961 until her death in 1986. It’s Thelmagrundy’s photo attached, since I don’t have a photo of Beatrice.


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  1. Sorry Bob, But I don’t think any of the Imperials were ugly. I too lost an opportunity to own a classic Imperial. She was a 1968 Imperial. She was dark blue with matching leather interior. I was 18 and my best friend talked me out of buying her. As I remember she had around 65000 miles on her. The price was 1800 dollars. That was 30 years ago. I still resent him to this day. I have never found another one like her, but I’m looking.

  2. Ugly and beauty are all in the eye of the beholder. The ’61 imperial is certainly outrageous, but it’s that outrageousness that makes it interesting. It has a combination of styling features that are more extreme than any postwar car, including Cadillac. Freestanding headlights? Free hanging taillights? Flitesweep deck? Shark Fins? Stainless roof panels? Push button drive? Square-ish steering wheel? It’s all there. And, the scale of the details put it all in perspective. Exner was a master at making the ridiculous sublime, and that was never better expressed than in the 1961 Imperial. By the way, the torsion bar suspension, torqueflite transmission, and wedgehead engine made it the handling performer of it’s day. AND, it was practically handbuilt at it’s own factory.

  3. I used to ride “shotgun” in a white 1963 Imperial brand new owned by a gentleman that we attended UB nite school together; what a ride and a dream boat. He got the opportunity via Chrysler Corp. to test drive the “Turbine Chrysler” during that era as well. What a hoot !
    When his car was being serviced we cruised to nite school in my brand new Corvette.
    That older gentleman got a real thrill out of that.

  4. I just SD a 63 Imperial leBaron. I bought her to save her from A demo derby. Didn’t have the money or ability to fix her up. Hope I don’t regret the sale in the future. The guy who took her was thrilled and restores MoPars. I am sure he will do her right.

  5. The 1961 Imperial looks like it is going 100 standing still, The 1961 Lincoln Continental looks like a brick!! The 1961 Cadillac is better, but no match for the Imperial!! PS. The 1961 Imperial has the highest fins from Detroit not the 1959 Cadillac!!

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