Empty the Barn! 19 Car Estate Sale

Imperial. Chrysler’s highest model designation, and rightly so. From the Latin Imperium, Imperial means “Of the Emperor,” and who reigns more supreme than an Emperor? Unless you call your luxury car the “Deity,” Imperial tops them all. Perhaps, like Emperor Norton of San Francisco, the late owner of this Quonset hut and 19 Chrysler Imperials (all 1981 to 1983 models) deserved praise and royal treatment. In addition to other artifacts and memorabilia, his or her cache of Imperials in Port Huron, Michigan goes up for sale in November. Follow this link to estatesales.net for details.

Personally I love these ’81-’83 Imperials, and I’ll take mine in any dark color with the white leather interior, alloy wheels, and as many Hellcat parts as I can cram underneath… the Imperial version of Jay Leno’s Toronado. As befits royalty, Imperial buyers could choose leather or velour, alloy or wire wheels, and the price of the car remained unchanged.

Anticipating the success of the Imperial’s computer-designed aerodynamic shape, Buddy Arrington fielded two 1981 models in NASCAR, the last Chryslers to run in that series. For more details on these racing Imperials, visit ImperialClub.org. This picture (also from ImperialClub.org) illustrates how the classy design takes well to being slammed and having giant slicks jammed under its fenders. I’d pull the stickers off this “67” and drive it to work every day.

This Frank Sinatra edition came with a special cassette library of Old Blue Eyes’ classics. After a five-year hiatus, the 1981 Imperial benefited from fresh engineering and design, emerging as a beautiful and technically advanced flagship luxury coupe. Advances included electronic fuel injection, computer-and wind-tunnel tuned aerodynamics, and revolutionary digital instruments. Read more about these milestone cars at allpar.com. Sadly the EFI proved problematic and Chrysler offered replacement carburetors at no charge. Finding a specimen with a running EFI system would be a tremendous value-adder, though it’s uncertain whether this sale includes any. I’m reminded of a Craigslist seller hawking three ’70s El Caminos some years ago who stated “Enough here to make you one good El Camino.” If the price is right, you might visit Port Huron and come away with enough parts to make you one good Imperial. Who is planning a road trip to Michigan?


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  1. MikeG

    Always liked the design and features of the Imperials….and not to be a grammar nazi but that’s ‘Emperor’.

    • Mike H. Mike H

      I’ve been preferring the term “Grammar Cop” lately due to the current political climate and the negative focus on Fascism in general.

      • philthyphil

        the negative focus on Fascism in general…….I would hope after the results of the last centuries experiences with Fascism……that negative would continue

    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thanks, MikeG! Fixed!

      • Stanley Davis

        Hello Todd,

        How would one inquire about a purchase of a few of these.

  2. RoughDiamond rough diamond Member

    Great write up, Todd. I learn something new each time I read one of yours such as the ties to NASCAR. I guess all makes and models are fair game for collectors. I’d love to be at that estate sale.

  3. Red'sResto

    Does owning one make you an Imperalist?

    • Imperialist1960

      yes it does.

  4. John D.

    I drove one across Pa to my old roommate’s wedding in New Jersey. Boy, what a ride!

  5. Steve R

    I hope they aren’t expecting to get much for them.

    They would be in luck if some television of movie production needs a large quantity of early-80’s domestic luxury cars, otherwise many will likely get scrapped.

    Steve R

    • Marcus

      They won’t get scrapped, but you’re right that they won’t get much for them. Imperials just generally aren’t at the top, or even the middle, of any collectors’ lists.

  6. WaltB31

    A Hellcat drivetrain, upgraded suspension, and Challenger Bucket seats would be very intriguing!

    • Dovi65

      Hmm .. normally I’m a purist when it comes to my classic cars; keep ’em as close to factory specs as possible .. but a Hellcat heart [or even a hemi] in one of these.. THAT would be an interesting stoplight race!

  7. Superdessucke

    I’m sorry but why?? This is right up there with collecting creepy doll heads.

  8. Ron Bunting

    “…Anticipating the success of the Imperial’s computer-designed aerodynamic shape…” What sort of computer did they use? Delorean’s desk top calculator or a Sinclair ZX81?

    • BiggYinn

      Funnily sinclair made desktop calculators before the zx80 or 81 came out lol

    • Mike R

      Sperry Univac, maybe. LOL

      Different strokes for different folks certainly applies to this collection.

  9. Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

    I didn’t think they had computers capable of doing “computer designed aerodynamic shapes” in 1978. (Bearing in mind that it took 3 years to tool up and manufacture a new model)

    • Imperialist1960

      Not sure where that computer designed quote came from, but the car is notable for being the first production car to have an all digital dash.


      I remember having a plastic digital star wars watch on my 8 year old wrist and what a marvel that was, and this came out a few years later. The Aston Martin Lagonda’s TV screens were technically analog, so this was the first digital car dash, and it had many of the things that we take for granted now but were revolutionary at the time – miles left on your tank of gas being one.

      If you go to the auction, keep an eye open for the hyper-rare, optional factory CB radio. Get that and you will be truly unique in your Imperial ownership.

  10. Matt G

    Hey, the Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960’s used computer guidance systems, by 1978 I would expect they had computers capable of at least making some sort of contribution to the design process of a passenger car…

    • BiggYinn

      The whole moon landing thing again ….noooooo lol

      If Computers wheren’t powerfull enough in the late 60s to land a lunar module….they deffo wheren’t powerfull enough to design a car in the late 70s early 80s ….look at that back end!!

    • Steve Visek

      For what it’s worth I know that the 1968 1/2 Pontiac Ram Air II camshaft(later used on the Ram Air IV as well) is known as Pontiac’s first computer-designed camshaft, so computers have been import in the car design process for a while.

  11. Rex Kahrs Member

    Boy that rear end treatment is an acquired taste, eh? That’s what you get when you let a computer design a car I guess.

  12. GearHead Engineering

    Looks more like a model specific parts business than a car collection.

    Is there a complete, running car here?

    How much of a parts market is there for these things?

    Always interesting to see what people will collect. I’m not trying to be critical – there would be lots of colorful comments if I posted my collection of “treasures.”

    – John

    • Jerry

      I have personally been in that quonset hut and seen all this stuff. There are 4 Frank Sinatras as well as the others described. Many of them are 100% complete and will run, but have been in this storage for MANY years.
      If you are an `81-`83 Imperial nut, as i am ,this is heaven on earth!
      I would love to buy all the parts, but I can’t make it to the sale, and, if I could, couldn’t afford it anyway ! Lol !
      It’s ALL gonna go cheap !

  13. jaymes

    the man himself was even left on the side of the road (

    • Ex Benzo Tech.

      I dont get it. How tomb stone of a russsian mafia guy pertains to the article.
      I must say carving the front of the S600 out of stone is amazing.

  14. Chris Londish Member

    Advanced digital instruments GM tried it here in Australia in the VL Commodore Calais what an abject failure never tried it again

  15. Anthony

    Toss the stupid FI and get one running good and you will have a great car. Still better looking than 95 % of the junk built today.

  16. Karguy James

    What a total waste of dry inside storage space. Can you imagine what he would have monetarily if he had stored Hemi Cudas, 356 Porsches, a Ferrari or two or some other cars worth of the hibernation picked up at 80’s prices!

    • Jerry Landis

      ’81-83 Imperials were HIS passion, not Porches, Ferraris or Cudas. He may have expected them to go sky high in the future, as there were relatively few of these made in the 3 years of production.
      For example, Chrysler made a TOTAL of 168 “Frank Sinatra” editions and only 148 were imported into the US. They were built by Chrysler Canada, as were all of the ’81-83 Imps.
      I am fortunate enough to have one of the 148 in my garage undergoing restoration, But, if it turns out perfect, which I guarantee won’t happen,It MIGHT bring $10K to $12K. Not a good investment !!

    • Puhnto

      He might have collected them just because he liked them!

  17. stillrunners lawrence Member

    KG James…..take a break………

  18. Steve Visek

    Always thought that was the best reason!

  19. jaymes

    oops, wrong picture.

  20. Todd Fitch Staff

    Hi Stanley. All the bold dark red words in the posts are hyperlinks so you can click on any of them including the one that says “this link to estatesales.net” The auction is 31 October and you can also follow this link. https://www.estatesales.net/MI/Port-Huron/48060/1648398?highlight=Car%27s+Car+cars+Cars Let us know if you buy anything!

  21. Pat

    I’m in heaven here and just wish I would’ve know the guy ! We are a proud and happy few who like these and the Miradas that knowbody even knows much about I have an F/S also and two Miradas I hope all this gets sold and more importantly saved

    • Jerome

      The owner is still alive !!

  22. carsofchaos

    Here come all the guys who’ve not had an 81-83 Imperial with all of their “knowledge”. Sigh……
    Is the design an acquired taste and not for everyone? Yep.
    Did the EFI suck? It did. Most EFI equipped cars have been replaced with normal carbs (but make sure the factory did it, denoted by an * on the odometer). Having the original EFI in place does not add to the value of the car. The factory re-fit cost Chrysler approximately $2k per Imperial (80’s dollars) and Chrysler lost money on every one.
    The 360 from the Police Interceptors was not an available option on the Imps (in answer to the always asked “why no 360?”.
    The Frank Sinatra Edition, unless you really like light blue, will not be your thing. I had one…trying to replicate the color for the interior is almost impossible.
    They are floaty to drive, not fast, but few things were in ’81-’83 so, while dogging the h.p. is cute, remember to try and put the car in context.
    The F.S. edition was the most expensive American car on the market at the time (yes, LOL on that one).
    What these are: unique, not-for-everyone cars which are rear wheel (occasional posi trac) cars with a 318 V8 and a 2 doors that you can get in almost pristine condition for under $5k. Make sure to have a vacuum leak detector handy.
    The collection the seller has is unique and rare. That doesn’t always equal $$$ (when I went to sell my Imp I lucked out and knew the man who had designed the interior and really wanted one, and I still lost money on it!), but if you want to stand out at a car show and not have to cash in your 401(k) to do so, you might want to check one of these out.

    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thank you carsofchaos – Contributions like your reply are what give these posts a “second life” and value to folks searching for information on into the future! In my opinion these Imperials are beautifully designed. Very high-tech with typical V8 power for their day. Yes; you can buy four-cylinders with the same HP today, but in context these were a statement car inside and out.

      • carsofchaos

        Thanks Todd that’s a very kind comment. I’ve also been accused of being a knowledge base of useless knowledge LOL. I often find cars like the 81-83 Imperials interesting (I’ve also owned a Granada, a Versailles, and a Hudson among my less “cool” cars). What I find interesting about these types of cars is that the car makers were TRYING to do something with them against the back drop of the Malaise era. For example back to the Imps: the 81-82’s hood emblems and C-Pillar Pentastars were actual crystal, but by ’83 in an attempt to “cut costs” they were changed to plastic. Also the only options available was a power moon roof (I’ve never seen one that had one installed), and the choice between Mark Cross leather interior or something that was called Kimberly Velvet (which is what my Frank Sinatra edition had….it become rather brittle I can assure you).
        A Frank Sinatra edition Imperial hung a price tag of over $25k for the 1981 model year and $27k for the 1982 model year. Insane, isn’t it?
        These cars may get dogged mercilessly, but we can’t all drive Tri-5 Chevys, now, can we…….

  23. Russ

    There’s not enough room on the Internet to tell why I dislike these cars so much, but:
    1. Overpriced Dodge Mirada / Chrysler Cordoba (and I owned a Mirada – unquestionably THE WORST car I ever owned)
    2. Lousy fuel injection had to be replaced with a carburetor.
    3. What, 120 hp? ZZZzzzz…
    4. Ugly ‘bustleback’ styling was thankfully a short-lived fad.
    5. There are so many other better options than this awful turkey!

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