Virgil Exner was nearing the end of his long run as design chief for Chrysler when he created the 1961 Imperial, which included a stylistic quirk that he had long desired and first used for these immense luxury cars: free-standing headlights.
While every other American car had its headlights incorporated into the front fenders or grille, Imperial was unique in having quad headlights encased in separate chrome pods and mounted on short stalks within cutaway fenders. This was an obvious nod to prewar classic designs.
The ’61 Imperial continued the other stylistic extravagances of the late 1950s, but they were toned down somewhat by the advent of the Pick of the Day, a 1963 Imperial Crown convertible, which looks to be in splendid condition and is being advertised on ClassicCars.com by a Kansas City, Missouri, dealer.
The car is mistakenly called a Chrysler Imperial in the ad, though. Imperial was the free-standing luxury division for Chrysler Motors at that time.
“The Imperial name had been used since 1926, as a Chrysler luxury model,” the dealer notes. “However, in 1955, the company spun off Imperial into its own make and division to better compete with its North American rivals, Lincoln and Cadillac.
“Imperial would see new or modified body styles introduced every two to three years, all with V8 engines and automatic transmissions, as well as technologies that would filter down to Chrysler Corporation vehicles.”
The free-standing headlight treatment, though interesting today, was definitely controversial at the time, and Imperial remained a distant third behind the GM and Ford luxury models. After 1963, when Exner left the automaker, Imperial reverted to a more conventional front end.
The Imperial was America’s longest production car in 1963, aside from limos, and this convertible spans 227.8 inches, or about 19 feet, from tip to tail.
The ’63 model had a sleeker look than its 1961-62 predecessors with their towering tailfins; the slim taillight design for this model year looks well-integrated and quite attractive.
The convertible looks fresh in its Holiday Turquoise paint with an Alabaster leather interior. The dashboard is a wild array of chrome gauges, buttons and levers. And the steering wheel is pretty much square. (I recall riding in a neighbor’s Imperial when I was a kid and being struck by how weird the steering wheel looked, especially while being cranked around corners.)
Power is provided by a 6.8-liter engine with 340 horsepower and a mountainous 470 pound-feet or torque, linked to a 3-speed automatic transmission with push-button operation.
“This luxurious cruiser is in terrific condition!” The seller exclaims. “Powered by a giant 413 V8 engine, this classic luxury boat is the ultimate road-trip vehicle packed with creature comforts such as, am radio, power brakes, power windows and leather interior covering ‘sofa-like’ front and rear seats.”
Only 531 Imperial Crown convertibles were sold for 1963, making this car something of a rarity. The asking price is a reasonable $46,000 for such a nice example.
To view this vehicle on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.