1926 Chrysler Imperial Touring.jpg
Chrysler Imperial
Chrysler
aka Type aka here, not up there
Production 1926-1954
1990-1993
Class denote market class
Body Style how many doors+how many seats+what type of body
Length length - type here
Width Width - type here
Height Height - type here
Wheelbase wheelbase - type here
Weight Weight - you get the point
Transmission transmission + drive
Engine engine
Power N/A hp @ N/A rpm
N/A lb-ft of torque @ N/A rpm
Similar similar (competition)
Designer Designer (lead designer if it was a team effort)

The Chrysler Imperial, introduced in 1926, was the company's top of the range vehicle for much of its history. Models were produced with the Chrysler name until 1954, and again from 1990 to 1993. The company tried to position the cars as a prestige marque that would rival Cadillac and Lincoln. According to a feature article in AACA's magazine The adjective ‘imperial’ according to Webster’s Dictionary means sovereign, supreme, superior or of unusual size or excellence. The word imperial thus justly befits Chrysler’s highest priced quality model.

1926-1930[edit | edit source]

1926 Imperial Roadster.jpg

In 1926, Walter P. Chrysler decided to attempt to compete with Cadillac and Lincoln in the luxury car field. Chrysler offered a variety of body styles: a two/four-passenger roadster(four passenger if car had the rumble seat), a four-seat coupé, five-passenger sedan and phaeton, and a seven-passenger top-of-the-line limousine. The limo had a glass partition. The Imperial's new engine was slightly larger than the company's standard straight 6. It was a 288.6 cu in (4.7 L) six cylinder with seven bearing blocks and pressure lubrication of 92 brake horsepower (69 kW). Springs were semi-elliptic in the front. The car set a transcontinental speed record in the year it was introduced, driving more than 6,500 miles (10,460 km) in the week. The car was chosen as the pace car for the 1926 Indianapolis 500. The model was designated E-80, the 80 being after the "guaranteed" 80 miles per hour (129 km/h) all-day cruising speed. Acceleration was also brisk breaking 20 seconds to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). Four-speed transmission was added in 1930.

1931-1933[edit | edit source]

1932 Chrysler Imperial.jpg

The Chrysler Imperial was redesigned in 1931. The car received a new engine, a 384.84-cubic inch (6308.85 cc) I8. Marketing materials for this generation of Imperial referred to the car as the "Imperial 8", in reference to the new in-line 8-cylinder engine. The engine would be found in many other Chrysler vehicles. The Custom Imperial had rust-proof fenders, automatic heater control and safety glass. The limo even came with a Dictaphone. The redesign also saw the introduction of new wire wheels that became a standard wheel treatment until the 1940s. Stock car driver Harry Hartz set numerous speed records with an Imperial sedan at Daytona Beach, Florida.

1934-1936[edit | edit source]

1934 Chrysler Imperial CL.jpg

The 1934 to 1936 Chrysler Imperial ushered in the 'Airflow' design. The car was marketed with the slogan "The car of tomorrow is here today." It featured eight passenger seating and again an eight-cylinder engine. This was the first car to be designed in a wind tunnel. Initial tests indicated that the standard car of the 1920s worked best in the wind-tunnel when pointed backwards with the curved rear deck facing forward. This led to a rethinking of the fundamental design of Chrysler's line of cars. The Airflow was an exceptionally modern and advanced car, and an unparalleled engineering success. Both engine and passenger compartment were moved forward, giving better balance, ride and roadability. An early form of unibody construction was employed, making them extremely strong. This was one of the first vehicles with fender skirts.

The public was put off by the unconventional styling and did not buy the car in large numbers. The failure of the Airflow cars in the marketplace led Chrysler to be overly conservative in their styling for the next 20 years. The "standard" styling on the lower-end Chryslers outsold the Airflow by 3 to 1.

1937-1942[edit | edit source]

37-42 Imperial.jpg

Innovations for 1937 included built-in defroster vents, safety type interior hardware(such as flexible door handles and recessed controls on the dash) and seat back padding, and fully insulated engine mounts. Brakes where 13" drums, then in 1939 they expanded to 14", but shrunk to 12" drums in 1940. Front suspension was independent. There were three Imperial models in this generation. The C-14 was the standard eight and looked much like the Chrysler Royal C-18 with a longer hood and cowl. The C-15 was the Imperial Custom and the Town Sedan Limousine, with blind rear quarter panels. This model was available by special order. The third model, C-17, was the designation for the Airflow model. They had a concealed crank for raising the windshield and the hood was hinged at the cowl and opened from the front; side hood panels were released by catches on the inside. A Custom Imperial convertible sedan was used as an official car at the Indy 500. The car pictured is Jim Martin's 1939 C-24 7 passenger limousine, believed to be the only 1939 production limo still on the road.

1946-1948[edit | edit source]

In 1946 the Imperial line was simplified. Between 1946 and 1948, it was called the Crown Imperial. Two models were produced, an eight passenger four door sedan and an eight passenger four door limousine. The two vehicles had a US$100 price difference and a 10 lb (5 kg) weight difference. Hydraulic telescopic shock absorbers were in the front and rear. Two-speed electric windshield wipers were standard.

1949-1954[edit | edit source]

1951 Chrysler Imperial Convertible.jpg

Three Imperial models were produced in 1949. The Imperial C46-2 was a four door, six-passenger sedan. The Imperial Crown models, both with the C47 designation, were a sedan and limousine for eight passengers each. Standard equipment on all 1949 Imperials were self-energizing, hydraulic, four-wheel disc brakes consisting of 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.

The C50 models in 1950 featured a new hood ornament, grille, front and rear bumpers, as well as taillights.

For 1951 and 1952, two series were added: the Imperial and the Custom Imperial.

1951 was the year that Chrysler introduced their new "Hemi" V8 engine.

In 1951, "Hydraguide" power steering, an industry first for use in production automobiles, becomes available on the Imperial for an additional $226. Full-time power steering was standard on the Custom Imperial long-wheelbase 8-passenger sedan and limousine models.

The 1953 Crown Imperials came with a 12-volt electrical system and Chrysler's first fully automatic transmission, called PowerFlite, became available late in the model year. Also, 1953 was the first year that the Imperial had a one-piece windshield, instead of a two-piece one. Padded dash was standard

1955-1983[edit | edit source]

Main article: Imperial

In 1955 Chrysler spun off the Imperial as its own separate marque in an attempt to compete directly with the Cadillac and Lincoln luxury marques offered by General Motors and Ford, respectively, rather than the traditional Chrysler competitors Buick and Oldsmobile.

Imperial sales during this period were generally about 10% of the numbers that Cadillac was posting.

Imperial as a marque was always sold in Chrysler dealerships and never in distinct Imperial dealerships (which were never set up), so the nameplate failed to separate itself as its own marque as a consequence. See the separate page Imperial (automobile) for information about Imperial model years 1955-1983.


Although there were no Imperials produced between 1976 and 1978, the cars previously sold as an Imperial were sold as the Chrysler New Yorker Brougham during this time.

1990-1993[edit | edit source]

1992 Imperial.png

The early 1990s saw a revival of the Imperial as a high-end version in Chrysler’s lineup. Unlike the 1955-1983 Imperial, this car was a model of Chrysler, not its own marque. Based on the Y platform, it represented the full-size model in Chrysler's lineup; below it was the nearly identical New Yorker Fifth Avenue, and below that was the entry-level New Yorker. Presently, this model was the last production vehicle to have borne the Imperial name. The reintroduction of the Imperial was two years after the the Lincoln Continental was changed to a front wheel drive sedan with a V6 engine, a move that appears to reflect the popularity of the Acura Legend in 1986.

Though closely related, the Imperial differed from the Fifth Avenue in several ways. The Imperial's nose was more wedge-shaped, while the Fifth Avenue's had a sharper, more angular profile (the Fifth Avenue was later restyled with a more rounded front end). The rears of the two cars also differed. Like the front of the car, the Fifth Avenue's rear came to stiffer angles, while the Imperial's rear-end came to more rounded edges. Also found on the Imperial were full-width taillights, which were very similar to those of the Chrysler TC; the Fifth Avenue came with smaller vertical taillights. On the inside, the Imperial's "Kimberly Velvet" (Mark Cross Leather was available) seats carried a more streamlined look, while the Fifth Avenue came with its signature pillowy button-tufted seats.

This Imperial remained effectively unchanged over its four-year run. Initially, the 1990 Imperial was powered by the 147 hp (110 kW) 3.3 L EGA V6 engine, which was rated at 185 lb·ft (251 N·m) of torque. For 1991, the 3.3 L V6 was replaced by the larger 3.8 L EGH V6. Although horsepower only increased to 150 hp (112 kW), with the new larger 3.8 L V6 torque increased to 215 lb·ft (292 N·m) at 2750 rpm. A four-speed automatic transmission was standard with both engines.

This generation Imperial featured standard six passenger seating in either velour or Mark Cross leather. Power equipment came standard, as did automatic climate controlled air conditioning, ABS brakes, Cruise Control, driver's side airbag, and its distinct Landau vinyl roof. The Imperial featured the same hidden headlamps behind retractable metal covers as the LeBaron and New Yorker/Fifth Avenue. The Imperial was available with a choice of several Infinity sound systems, all with a cassette player. A fully electronic digital instrument cluster was an available option. Other options included several dealer-installed integrated Chrysler cellular phones and six-disc CD changer.

The Chrysler Imperial was discontinued after the 1993 model year. This was due to slow sales, its outdated platform that dated back to the original 1981 Chrysler K platform, and the introduction of the LH cars. The critically acclaimed cab-forward styled Chrysler LHS replaced the Imperial as Chrysler's flagship model for 1994.

See Also[edit | edit source]

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