1-of-429: 1961 Imperial Crown Convertible

There is little about the 1961 Imperial Crown Convertible that would be considered to be small. It is a giant of a car, and in keeping with that theme, this car represents a giant of a restoration project. If you feel that you are up to the task, then you will find the Imperial located in Massey, Maryland, and listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $4,575, and with the reserve now met, someone is about to secure for themselves a monster of a car.

While the Imperial currently wears Alaskan White paint, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it started life finished in the very attractive shade of Pinehurst Green. If so, this would have been a pretty stunning looking car. That was probably a long time ago, and that time has not done the car any favors. The owner is candid enough to admit that the Imperial either represents a major restoration project or that its fate would be as a parts car. There are plenty of exterior trim items missing in the photos, but there is a sizeable collection of parts squirreled away between the rear seat and the trunk, and many of these appear to be the ones that have been removed from the car’s exterior. The owner is unable to open the trunk (no keys), but he does believe that the trunk is also loaded with parts. There is rust visible in a number of locations in the car’s lower body, so there is a pretty fair chance that the floors are also pretty rotten. When I said that the Imperial was a giant of a car, that was no idle boast. With an overall length just shy of 19′ and weight of 5,040lbs, this is no shrinking violet.

Once upon a time, the interior of the Imperial must have been a nice place to be. Today, it all looks to be pretty sad. The dash is the surprise packet, because it doesn’t look that bad. Having said that, if it has been exposed to the elements, which I believe that it has, it won’t have done electrical components or wiring any real favors. That’s not even considering the damage that it has potentially done to the sensitive inner workings of components such as gauges. The entire interior will require a restoration, and that doesn’t promise to be a cheap exercise. However, when it was new, this was a car that was well equipped. For your not inconsiderable outlay of $5,888 back in 1961, you found yourself with a vehicle fitted with air conditioning, power windows, a power swivel driver’s seat, a power top, cruise control, and leather upholstery. In addition, the Imperial also featured some interesting and quirky little design ideas. The most obvious is the steering wheel, which was shaped to both improve driver access to the Imperial, as well as to improve visibility. A less obvious feature is the fact that the back of the driver’s seat is higher than that of the passenger seat. This was supposedly designed to improve both driver comfort, and shoulder support.

When a car weighs more than 5,000lbs, it needs a pretty decent engine to get it moving, and the Imperial certainly delivers on that score. Under the hood is a 413ci Wedge V8, that in its heyday produced 350hp. Also included was a 3-speed TorqueFlite transmission, and power steering. As you can see from the photo, that mighty 413 has been partially dismantled at some point, but the owner is unsure why this was done. The good news is that it appears that all of the parts that have been removed remain with the car. What isn’t clear is whether or not the engine turns freely. I think that it would be fair to assume that a rebuild is going to be on the cards before the car kicks into life once again. For such a heavy car, the Imperial was capable of pretty surprising levels of performance. It could accelerate from 0-60mph in around 8.2 seconds, while a ¼ mile could be covered in 16.7 seconds. Yes, it isn’t muscle car territory, but for a heavy luxury car, it remains quite good.

There is no doubt that restoring this Imperial Crown Convertible represents a mammoth undertaking, but given the relative rarity of the vehicle, it may be worth the effort if the car is structurally sound. As a premium brand in 1961, the Convertible wasn’t a volume seller. In fact, only 429 examples of the Imperial Convertible were sold during the 1961 model year. If you can locate one for sale today, then a driver-quality car will set you back around $60,000. If a pristine example is on your shopping list, then we are talking prices well into the six-figure territory. With what you’ve seen and what you know, is this a viable project, or is its ultimate destiny to be a parts car?


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  1. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    I’d take this on but the hood hinges laying on the engine have me scared.

    Like 3
  2. Fred W

    This could be a huge asset if you happened to be restoring the same car- but otherwise, probably doesn’t make financial sense.

    Like 4
  3. geezerglide85

    A green car with a red interior, must have been really stunning, but i’m color blind. I guess you could get any combination back then. I think these also had a full frame not a unibody. That would make it a better candidate for restoration I think.It would be a real shame to use it for parts and see rest go off to the crusher. Of the 429 how many are left?

    Like 10
    • Scott Williams

      Oh these are full frame alright. Google 61 Imperial frame and take a good look at what you see. Maybe the beefiest car frame you’ll ever see.

      Like 5
    • Will Fox

      This color combo was either a mistake by the ordering dealer, or some odd special-order. Red guts on a turquoise green paint job was NOT a normal offering. The interior looks factory. No wonder someone painted it white; I would’ve too.

      Like 2
  4. Andy

    Great car, one of the best of the era. But deep pockets? I think you need Captain Kangaroo sized pockets for this one!

    Like 14
  5. Miguel

    What happened to that rear suspension?

    It is a shame somebody let this car go this far.

    Like 3
  6. Bob McK Member

    If you are rich enough, this could be one stunning and rare car. I hope someone can take it on.

    Like 5
  7. ken tilly UK Member

    I would much rather have the 1946/7 Bentley parked on the trailer thank you.

    Like 3
    • luke arnott Member

      Are you sure it’s a Bentley?Looks more like a Railton to me.

      Like 1
      • Mike Harrel

        I looks like a Railton but I don’t see Railton louvers on the sides of tthe hood. I know little about Bentleys but don’t they all have the flat grill?

        Like 1
  8. That AMC guy

    That thing looks positively sinister without the headlight pods, like some kind of blind sci-fi monster that’s going to come out after dark to gobble you up!

    Like 20
  9. Ken Cwrney

    Hi Mike! If I were a few years younger, and had deep pockets, I’d be all over this.
    This car does need to be saved but how
    is the question before us. Maybe the guys at Graveyard Cars would be interested. After all the way they see it,
    Mopar or no car. Finally, we’re getting
    Brutus tagged and insured. That’s the
    F250 that my brother in law got given to
    him earlier this year. It runs great, but
    needs the proper fuel tanks installed.
    Right now, it’s got a Camaro tank in it.
    Hope also to have the body ready for
    the paint shop soon, provided I can
    get cleared by my doctor so that I can
    help him get it ready. I’ve got an appointment with my cardiologist next
    month, so we’ll see what happens from
    there. I’ve got a sanding block with your
    name on it!

    Like 2
    • Dave

      After seeing a 1971 Fury in Mark’s parking lot I fired off an email asking about the car and if we’d see its restoration.
      The Fury is Mark’s, the reply went, and no, we weren’t going to see it being restored. Only A, B, and E bodies.

      Like 1
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      I’m on that sanding block Ken! At least I would be warm. Best of luck with your Doc.

  10. Joe Machado

    I have done 3 1961 Imperials. One, a convert. The parts, all of them, are available. Repro rubber and top pump, rams are produced. Bob Hoffmeyer, think spelling, has Tons of items. Several others have many parts. Headlie assemblies are all over. Door panels are reproduced. Dash pad also.
    I am about to finish my LeBaron, again. I did it in 83-85. Drove it almost 300,000 more miles.
    Better built than Cadillac or Continental. I have owned, worked on, and drove them all.
    The frame, stronger than my Dodge diesel of F350, 7.3 diesel.

    Like 15
  11. Kenbo52

    Like this , but many dollars and time . However it would be fun to cruise in the summer , top down , a/c on 8oz ball pene hammer under the front seat to tap the EPR valve on the top of a/c compresser . Of course a once updated entertainment center blasting to cover the thunderous engine’s music . A visit to Mexico for a tuck &roll white leather interior.

    Like 3
  12. Del

    Wow. Beautiful car one time.

    Parts car now.

    Like 2
  13. Andrew Franks

    If i had the room and the time I would take it on. But I would farm the project out to a reliable and meticulous Restorer and win every medal available with it. And drive it. Paying for restoration would probably put the investment in the $165,000.00 range if not more, and would be well worth it to save the car. I had a ’61, and remember it with much affection and terrible gas mileage (Jock Whitney: If you have to ask the price you can’t afford the cost)
    but there was nothing like it going down the road.

    Like 6
  14. Thomas

    Found this link showing how stunning this car was. https://www.supercars.net/blog/1961-imperial-crown-convertible/

    Like 1
  15. canadainmarkseh Member

    If this were a hard top I’d like it a lot more.

  16. John Corey Member

    I have one of these. It was the first car in my collection, and it consumed a big pile of restoration dollars, event hough it was nowhere as bad as this one to start with. It’s funny, but mine is also Alaska White with the red leather interior (NOT swivel seats: this one doesn’t have swivels either). I seriously toyer with going the Pinehurst green color, too! I decided that a dinosaur in lizard green metalflake with a blood red insides was just too much too much. It’s been a fine car and has made four Great Race cross-country rallies. There is an unusually large and supportive Imperial fan club, with the best online resource around (www.imperialclub.com). You’ll even find the stories of two of my Great Race runs there. There are still well over 100 of these on the road!

    Like 6
  17. Bill McCoskey

    I live about 10 minutes from this car, if you would like me to check it out, I can give you my email address, just ask.

    In the background I also spotted a 1955 Imperial, looks like it may be one of the very rare limousines, and may have been my car about 30 years ago.

    Like 3
  18. TimM

    Rare doesn’t always mean valuable but in this case it does!! Stunning car but there’s not a piece that doesn’t need attention!!! Rare however does it might not be easy to get parts for!!! I can’t imagine any one makes floors or quarter panels for this boat!!! You might have to melt down two of your Toyota’s to get enough metal to make a quarter panel for this one!!! Huge car!!!!

    Like 4
  19. David Thomas

    To confirm..Bentley R. Basically a Rolls Royce Silver Dawn produced though the fifties.
    The 6 cylinder engine was resurrected by British Leyland in the mid sixties for their Princess. (A “tarted” up Austin A110 Westminster)

    Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey

      The 4 litre “R” Rolls-Royce as used in the Princess saloons was a commercial all alloy 6 cylinder, similar to the one in the British Army Champ vehicle. It was never used in any Rolls-Royce or Bentley cars [probably because it was not a very reliable motor, I’ve owned several over the years].

      This is also a different engine than the one in the big Princess limousines, those 4 litre engines were basically a bored out Austin truck motor,and as long as they didn’t overheat badly, those engines were bullet-proof.

      The only reason Leyland got a Rolls-Royce engine to put in a car was because in the early 60s Rolls-Royce made the bad decision to outsource the building of a new smaller Bentley, And BL was chosen to make 4,000 cars under contract.

      Realizing their mistake in outsourcing to BL, Rolls-Royce tried to get out of the contract, but BL stood firm. So to settle the dispute, Rolls-Royce PLC [the parent company] agreed to sell BL 4000 of the alloy 6 cylinder engines, hence the Vanden Plas Princess 4 litre “R” was created.

      Problem was, the “R” was prone to early engine troubles, overheating even in English weather, valve failures, and oil leaks. The ones I had were a joy to drive, quite luxurious inside and compared to other BL offerings they were very quiet on the inside. I drove an air conditioned LHD USA version for several years without any major problems because by the time I got it, most of the engine problems were sorted out.

      Like 1
  20. Joe Machado

    Hey Mr Corey. See you still have your 61 Imperial.
    We have mentioned that everything for these is available.
    I have a 63 body and rust free floor.
    Anyway, I did sell all the steering Wheels .
    All the rubber items are reproduced

  21. Bill McCoskey

    Spoke with the owner of the Imperial about 9:30est today, and he informed me the car was sold about 15 minutes before our conversation. If I remember correctly, it’s headed overseas.

    Like 2
  22. Joe Machado

    WW1 paint code. With red leather interior. Not a Turquoise or Pinehurst Green Imperial.
    Standard on Crown was power windows, seats. All Imperials had power steer and brakes.
    Custom, windows and seats Were optional.

  23. Larry Latham

    I drove a 60 LeBaron to skool that my dad gave me mom had a 61 and dad had a 62 we also had a 56 2 Dr that was Cecil B Deville car that dad bought at estate sale All Imperials bought between 65 and 70 $675 to $1250 they were all pretty Glad to see a few around none should be junked

  24. Bill McCoskey

    Larry Latham,
    If you had a 1956 2-door Imperial formerly owned by Cecil B. DeVille, I guess you could say it was an “Imperial Coupe DeVille”!

    However the Studio executive’s name was Cecil B. DeMille, Not DeVille.

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