Chrysler Imperial

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Chrysler Imperial
Drawing of 1991 Chrysler Imperial 1926 Chrysler Imperial Touring
Drawing of 1991 Chrysler Imperial 1991 Chrysler Imperial sedan
ManufacturerChrysler Corporation
Production1926 – 1954
1990 – 1993
SuccessorChrysler LHS (For 1994)
ClassFull-size luxury car
ManualsService Manual
For Imperial models sold under its own marque (1955-1975, 1981-83) see Imperial (automobile)
For the type of rose see Chrysler Imperial Rose

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 positioned the cars as a prestige marque that would rival Cadillac and Lincoln.[1] 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. [2]


First Generation
1926 Chrysler Imperial Roadster 1926 Chrysler Imperial Roadster
Production1926 – 1930
Body style(s)2-door roadster
2-door coupe
4-door sedan and phaeton
LayoutFR layout
Engine(s)288.6 CID (4729 cc) I6[3]
Transmission(s)3-speed manual
4-speed manual
Wheelbase120 in (3048 mm)
136 in (3454 mm)
127 in (3226 mm)
133 in (3378 mm)

In 1926, Walter P. Chrysler decided to attempt to compete with Cadillac and Lincoln in the lesser luxury car field. [4] Chrysler offered a variety of body styles: a two/four-passenger roadster, a four-seat coupé, five-passenger sedan and phaeton, and a seven-passenger top-of-the-line limousine. The Imperial's new engine was slightly larger than the company's standard straight 6. It was a 288.6-cubic inch[3] (4729 cc) six cylinder with seven bearing blocks and pressure lubrication of 92 brake horsepower (69 kW). 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).


Second Generation
1932 Chrysler Imperial Custom 8 1932 Chrysler Imperial Custom 8
Production1931 – 1933
Body style(s)2-door roadster
2-door coupe
4-door sedan
4-door limousine
LayoutFR layout
Engine(s)384.84 CID (6308.85 cc)[5] I8

The Chrysler Imperial was redesigned in 1931. The car received a new engine, a 384.84-cubic inch (6308.85 cc)[5] 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 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.


Third Generation
1935 Chrysler Imperial CL 1935 Chrysler Imperial CL
Production1934 – 1936
Body style(s)4-door sedan
LayoutFR layout

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.


Fourth Generation
1939 Imperial C23 sedan 1939 Chrysler Imperial C23 sedan
Production1937 – 1942
Body style(s)4-door sedan
LayoutFR layout
Engine(s)299 CID I8
Wheelbase144 in (3658 mm)

Innovations for 1937 included built-in defroster vents, safety type interior hardware and seat back padding, and fully insulated engine mounts. There were three Imperial models in this generation. The C-14 was the standard eight and looked much like the Chrysler Royal 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.


Fifth Generation
Production1946 – 1948
Body style(s)4-door sedan
4-door limousine
LayoutFR layout

In 1946 the Imperial line was simplified. 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.


Sixth Generation
Chrysler Imperial Convertible 1951 Chrysler Imperial Convertible 1951
Production1948 – 1954
Body style(s)2-door coupe<br.4-door sedan and limousine
LayoutFR layout
1953 Chrysler Imperial sedan

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.[6]

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.

In 1951, "Hydraguide" power steering, an industry first for use in production automobiles, becomes available on the Imperial for an additional $226.[7] 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.

1955-1975 / 1981-1983

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. See the separate page Imperial (automobile) for information about Imperial model years 1955-1975 and 1981-1983. 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.


Seventh Generation
Chrysler Imperial
Production1990 – 1993
AssemblyBelvidere, Illinois
Body style(s)4-door sedan
LayoutFF layout
Engine(s)3.8L Template:Convert/150 V6
Transmission(s)4-speed automatic
Wheelbase109.6 in (2784 mm)
Length203 in (5156 mm)
Width68.9 in (1750 mm)
Height55.3 in (1405 mm)
Curb weight3,519 lb (1,596 kg)
Fuel capacity16 US gal.
(60.5 L) (13.3 Imp. gallons)

The early 1990s saw a revival of the Imperial as a luxury version in Chrysler’s lineup. [1] Unlike the 1981-1983 Imperial, this car was a model of Chrysler, not its own marque. Based on the Y platform, it represented the flagship 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.

Though closely related, the Imperial differed from the Fifth Avenue in several ways. First, the Imperial's nose was more of a wedge-shape, while the Fifth Avenue's had a sharper, more angular shape to it (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 tailights, which were very similar to those of the Chrysler TC; the Fifth Avenue came with smaller vertical tailights. 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. It featured six passenger seating and was powered by either a 3.3 L or 3.8 L V6 engine. A four-speed automatic transmission was standard. Power equipment came standard, as did air conditioning, ABS brakes, Cruise Control, a cassette player, 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 cab-foward Chrysler LHS replaced the Imperial, as Chrysler's flagship model for 1994.


The following are the original base prices for the 1990-1993 Chrysler Imperial:

  • 1990 • $25,655 USD
  • 1991 • $27,119
  • 1992 • $28,453
  • 1993 • $29,481


Chrysler Imperial concept in 2007

A Chrysler Imperial concept car was presented at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. This concept uses the Chrysler LX platform. It features a 123-inch (3,124 mm) wheelbase. Riding on 22-inch (560 mm) wheels, the car presents "a six-figure image but at a much lower price" according to Tom Tremont, Vice President of advanced vehicle design for Chrysler. The design incorporates a long hood and front end dominated by an upright radiator and strong horizontal grille. Brushed and polished aluminum pods evoke the free-standing headlamps of past models. Circular LED taillights with floating outer rings harken to the "gun sight" taillight look of early 1960s Imperials. The roof line is pulled rearward to enlarge the cabin and to create a strong profile.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Georgano, Nick N. (Editor) (2000). The Beaulieu encyclopedia of the automobile. Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. pp. 753–745. ISBN 9781579582937.,M1. 
  2. Hippensteele, Lee B. (May-June), "Imperial: Dowager Queen of Chrysler Corporation", Antique Automobile: 14–23, 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "1928 Factory Service Manual – License Data for the Chrysler Imperial "80"". Chrysler. 1928. Retrieved on 2008-08-10. 
  4. Flink, James J. (1998). The Automobile Age. MIT Press. p. 218. ISBN 9780262560559. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "1931 Factory Service Manual". Chrysler. 1931. Retrieved on 2008-06-11. 
  6. Imperial cars, 1926-1966, retrieved on October 27 2007.
  7. Flammang, James M. (1994). Chronicle of the American Automobile: Over 100 Years of Auto History. Publications International. p. 261. ISBN 9780785307785. 

External links