Live Auctions

Cool Hemi Find! 1956 Imperial

I love it when a Barn Finds reader sends in a classified ad for a car I wish I could buy — especially when the price seems reasonable! You can read more about this 1956 Imperial in the Barn Finds Classified Ad. To me it’s in a perfect state; it runs (or it did before the water pump was removed due to leakage) and might not take a whole lot to get back on the road, so it’s affordable enough that I could consider it. The seller, who knows an awful lot about Imperials, is located in San Lorenzo, California and is looking for $4,950 for the car.

Did you know that the 1956 Imperial, with three more inches added to the wheelbase on top of the four inches added for the 1955 models on top of the already long Mopar large cars (whew, that’s a mouthful) was the longest non-limousine post-WWII American car until the 1970s at 229.6 inches overall length? This is one huge car! The Imperial marque was separated from Chrysler in 1955 in an effort to make the car even more exclusive and a better competitor for Lincoln and Cadillac.

Sure there are some dents and dings, but nothing that couldn’t be handled in time. I’d get it running well first and then worry about cosmetics.  The seller suggests the following will be a start:

$300 Carburetor
$300 Water pump
$500 Brakes
$500 Clean gas tank
$??? re-seal transmission if it leaks. It did not leak or get tested (no brakes).
$??? rewire engine compartment – wires are really old, but they do work.

The car has $1,000 worth of brand new wide whitewall tires already. Note that the missing wheel covers and headlight panel are in the trunk.

Those free-standing tail light housings are pretty cool. And those tiny scoops in front of them are the air inlets for the rare rear air conditioning system that’s on this car.

I love all the chrome on the dash and interior. It’s obvious Chrysler was trying to move the Imperial to another level over its competitors. I was reading the original 1956 brochure and found where Imperial was so confident you’d love their cars that they would loan you one for an indefinite period to allow the car to sell itself. I should also note that the brochure suggested that you have your secretary arrange a time for one to be brought to you. I think they had a definite target audience in mind!

Despite the corrosion here, note the 51,753 miles showing. I doubt that it rolled over, but there’s no way to tell for sure. The car was driven into storage in 1999 and was only brought out this year.

The push-button controlled Power Flite two-speed automatic transmission was standard on 1956 Imperials.

And this, my friends, is a Hemi. First-generation, 354 cubic inches, and 280 horsepower worth! Can you believe the size of that air conditioning compressor? I think I’ve owned cars with smaller engines than that! So what say you, readers? Am I the only one that looked up San Lorenzo to see how far away it was?


  1. Rick

    Great deal for a sweet old classic.

    Like 7
  2. Jay Morgan

    It’s a giant salamander salamander.

    Like 1
  3. MOTRV8D

    Pretty nice, I’d love to have it… if I had an aircraft hanger for a garage!

    BTW, those cool taillights perched on the rear fenders are known as sparrow strainers to the Imperial crowd.

    Like 9
    • Lou

      I recall them being termed “microphone tail lights”.

      Like 1
  4. Chris H

    Great price! Wishing it was closer. Would love the hear that motor run…

    Like 1
  5. JRHaelig

    I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that it’s not in New Jersey!

    Great car, great colors….and all there.

    Somebody is gonna have fun.

    Like 3
    • Mark

      I’d estimate that car can be shipped across country for $1500 to your front door. I kinda know since I transported a California Bronco back to NJ just last year 🤗

      Like 3
  6. Del

    Great parts car for my coupe !!

  7. Donny_Dickins

    Virgil Exner was the greatest car designer ever to live. His name also sounds like it means “about to leave”, however it doesn’t. His nickname was “Ex”, which also sounds like an identity based on breaking with old things. Forward Look indeed. His middle name was Max, because of course it was.

    Like 3
  8. Robert White

    I’d chop n’ drop, tub and slam until it was a two door with a bad engine.

    I’d go black primer too, and then I’d find phat boots that fit the tub & profile.

    Nice car & cheap too.


    Like 2
    • grant

      The thumbs down button needs to come back.

      Like 37
      • Robert White

        Bring back profanity, politics, & ad hominem too, eh.

        P.S. Don’t forget religion as that is good for a few rounds as well.

        Bob ‘never met a four door that did not want to be a two door.’

        Like 1
    • Paolo

      You should add those hubcaps with the rotating spinners when you build your Donk.

      Like 1
  9. Maestro1 Member

    These are lovely cars. The Power Steering is finger tip (numb), the car responds with immediate power when called upon, luxury abounds, I’d Vintage the Air Conditioning and Heat, put the compressor in a box, and leave the rest of the Air Mechanism alone. Absolutely give the car what it needs. Do the body work and make it stunning and I’m North of $40,000.00
    since I can’t do my own wrenching any more. This one is a keeper. I’m five hours from the Seller but I have projects underway and am negotiating for more room. I’m sorry I have to pass this by.

    Like 1
  10. Ken Cwrney

    I got me a Chrysler, she’s as big as a whale…

    Like 9
    • Mike

      Doubt it could “seat about 20” unless you stuff people in the trunk. ;)

      Like 1
      • Philip

        Chop em up first and theyll fit just fine….!!!

  11. NChassman

    I’ve always loved these cars…… and I’m not even a Chrysler guy! Very cool!!

    Like 3
  12. Car Nut Tacoma

    Damn! Beautiful looking car! I’ve always loved 1956 American cars in general, but my favourites are 56 Mopars. I love the 56 Chrysler New Yorker, the 56 Chrysler 300, the 1956 Plymouth Belvedere and Fury, and the 1956 Imperial.

    Like 3
  13. Brian B

    Factory A/C makes this pretty appealing.

    Like 2
    • Car Nut Tacoma

      I agree. Particularly during the summer month. Even if it’s 80 degrees outside the car, inside the car can get even hotter, particularly with the windows rolled up.

  14. stillrunners Stillrunners Member

    Had me a few including a coupe. Have a parts car now that provided the grille for my Windsor coupe that wants to be a 300. Nice price – good luck to the new owner.

  15. David G

    These are beautiful cars, probably one of the best looking in 1956. They are big, long and impressive. I have had a four door sedan (black) since 1980 and I enjoy driving it every time I take it out. I do wish that mine had factory air.

    Like 1
  16. Clay Bryant

    I like that “Have your secretary schedule a time to see it”. Had a secretary like that but we kept getting our signals mixed up. Used sign language from one end of the bar to the other but when the smoke got too thick, we just couldn’t communicate any more.

    Like 7
  17. TimS Member

    Wish I had the time and funds to restore it to concours quality, then watch all the “real car guys” have a stroke because somebody did that with a “throwaway” 4 door.

    Like 5
  18. Peter Atherton

    The quip about the “Sparrow Strainer” tail lights originated from good old Tom McCahill back in the day……

    Like 4
  19. Eric B.

    I’ve always thought those tail lights looked like an afterthought.

  20. BJA

    Never could understand those goofy tail lights; the designers seem to say: OOPS! We Forgot tail lights, lets just stick them on the top of the back of the car!

    Like 1
    • MOTRV8D

      It was all about the Forward Look and visual cues from jet aircraft. Those aren’t taillights they’re bombsights. Postwar Buicks had em for hood ornaments for years.

      Surprised it hasn’t sold yet. Those 50s Imperials are a posh ride.

      Like 2
      • Car Nut Tacoma

        I love the taillights. I also love the front end. I find it the most attractive until 1962.

        Like 1
  21. MBorst

    Great old classic but anyone knows unless you do the work yourself, which I do. Your not getting brakes for $500 or carburator for $300.. it looks like a car that some downline Uncle of mine had on the farm.. I do believe he had an imperial.

    Like 3
  22. Dave S.

    Looks like a good deal , but I’m curious what the underside is like. I’m on the east coast of Canada , so it’s to far to go have a peek … also I agree with Mborst you’re not going to get brakes for $500.00 or a carb for $300.00 Still I love this car and it will look fantastic when it is restored.

    Like 1
    • Car Nut Tacoma

      I agree. All good things to consider. While I love original survivors, there are some things that still need to be upgraded if you want to drive the car. It’s not always about originality, it’s about driveability, it’s about safety.

      Like 1
  23. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    In 1974, while riding my 10 speed bicycle in the Mannheim, Germany area, I spied a 1956 Imperial sitting forlornly in the back of a local used car lot. That huge black sedan was begging me to take it home, and I was unable to resist it’s charms. I had to buy it, especially with an asking price of only 300DM, or about $100.

    Still having my bike with me, I opened up the trunk. Once the bike was stored inside, it barely took up any room! Going past a nearby ESSO filling station, I doubled my investment in the car by filling the tank! My Imperial was all original with less than 75,000 kilometers showing on the odometer.

    I put 35,000 kilometers on that elegant piece of rolling artwork, travelling throughout Europe with nary a problem before shipping it home.

    Turned out it had a very unique history. . .

    My car had been sent [in an unfinished condition] to the Paris coach-building firm of Facel Metallon, the builders of Facel Vega cars. Facel completed the assembly of the car just in time for the 1956 Paris Auto Show. My car had a beautiful silk embroidered interior, with a 3-tone gray dashboard, & Mouton carpets that were well over 2 inches thick. [This is the only 1955 or 1956 Imperial I have ever seen with a 3-tone painted dashboard, all the others were singe or 2 tone.]

    Mechanically it had the 354 Hemi with a single 4-barrel carb. Also had the Torqueflite transmission, a fairly rare trans for the 1956 Imperial. An interesting note about this specific engine was the headgaskets: There were 6 of them, 3 per side! We believe this was done to lower the compression ratio due to the poor octane rating found in many European service stations in the mid-1950s. We’ll likely never know if the extra gaskets were installed in Detroit before shipping it out, by Facel Metallon, or some local garage later on.

    All of the general lighting system parts/bulbs were French Marcal, but the instruments and engine electrics were MoPaR. Near the brake booster was a special metal serial number plate from Chrysler, all in French. Next to that plate was the Facel Metallon plate with a matching serial number.

    My Imperial had almost every option available, except for wire wheels and A/C. Whenever we stopped in a rural town, the car would draw a small crowd. Most rural Europeans, even in 1974 & ’75, had never seen a car with power windows, and I used to give little kids “rides” on the power front seat! The biggest problem I had in driving this land yacht was navigating the tiny roads in the larger European cities.

    I remember getting stuck down in the center of Heidelberg, no possibility of turning around or backing out due to 1-way roads. The local Police, instead of berating me for getting stuck, were fascinated with the Imperial, even asking permission to take photos of them with the car, before they led me down the main central “Pedestrian only” shopping plaza [behind their Opel police car], until I was able to find a side road large enough to navigate! I remember some shoppers giving me the “Thumbs up” signal and clapping!

    When it became time for me to leave the US Army, I drove the Imperial about 900 kilometers from Mannheim to the North Sea port, where it was shipped back to me in the USA. I picked it up in early 1976 and drove it from Norfolk, Va to my home in Maryland. Sadly, some decades ago my huge storage building was hit by lightning and burned to the ground, this Imperial included.

    I miss my ’56 Imperial, it was one of those great cars that was difficult to find fault with. It NEVER let me down the entire time I lived in Europe. My dad came over to visit in February 1975, and we drove the car over Bavaria on a 20 day vacation/pass. At the end of the tour, my dad, who was not a serious car guy, made sure I promised to bring it back stateside later that year.

    Now about this featured car; If I had the ability to start another project, I’d be all over this Imperial. It would be mine. Basically rust free, great color, and with FACTORY A/C! This is a vehicle that will cruise at freeway speeds all day long, and wrap you in 1956 luxury at the same time! [I also had a 1955 Imperial Limousine with A/C, it made a wonderful tow vehicle! ]

    Like 1

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