Healthy Hemi: 1957 Imperial Crown Convertible

General Motors has Cadillac, and Ford has Lincoln. For Chrysler, Imperial became its premium standalone brand in 1955, producing some of the most expensive American-made cars through the late-1950s and 1960s. One of those was the 1957 Imperial Crown Convertible. So high was the price that sales barely dragged into four-figure territory. This one is far from reaching dizzying heights, but it appears to be a solid vehicle with a healthy Hemi under the hood. It is listed here on eBay in Lakeville, Minnesota. The seller set their BIN at $15,000 but left the option to make an offer.

The history of this Cloud White Imperial is unclear, but the seller describes it as “a real barn find.” The vehicle is complete but shows the hallmarks of a classic that spent many years in storage. The panels have minor marks, but the best news is the apparent lack of crippling rust. Some is visible in a couple of spots, like the lower door corners and lower front fenders, but all are candidates for patches rather than wholesale panel replacement. A few interior shots with the carpet pulled back show surface corrosion on the floors but no evidence of penetrating rust. If they are indicative of the underside condition, returning the panels and paint to a pristine state could be straightforward and surprisingly affordable. The power top is shredded beyond repair, and some trim pieces require a trip to the platers, but the tinted glass looks excellent.

If whipping the panels and paint into shape proves affordable, this Imperial project might reach a balancing point due to the cost of an interior refurbishment. The upholstered surfaces look pretty sad, and a complete retrim is on the agenda. I had no luck locating kits to return the interior to its former glory, but several companies offer material by the yard off the roll. The new owner may need to source what they require and place everything in the hands of a professional upholsterer. I would budget at least $3,000 for that process, but there are no other viable alternatives. As well as leather trim and a power top, this Imperial features power windows, a power front seat, and an AM radio.

Engine choice for a 1957 Imperial Crown was pretty uncomplicated. If you didn’t like the company’s 392ci Hemi V8, you bought something else! This powerhouse churned out 325hp, and with the Crown Convertible weighing more than 5,000lbs, these cars needed every spare pony if progress was to be anything but glacial. Considering the weight involved, the ¼ mile ET of 17 seconds demonstrates that Chrysler knew how to maximize the performance of almost any model. Cementing this classic’s luxury credentials are the standard three-speed TorqueFlite transmission and power assistance for the steering and brakes. The seller says they coaxed the Hemi back to life, and it sounds strong. The car is a long way from roadworthy, but it seems the buyer will avoid the expense of an engine rebuild as part of this restoration.

When it was new, this 1957 Imperial Crown Convertible cost its original owner around $5,775. That figure was more than 12% higher than a fully-loaded Chrysler 300C Convertible and helped explain why Imperial only sold 1,167 Convertibles in that model year. Today, the Imperial name is a distant memory, although that hasn’t prevented these classics from achieving fantastic sale prices. This car is not a cheap project, but it could be a winner. It will take dedication and a significant capital outlay to do this car justice. However, the payoff comes in its potential value once complete. A high-end job puts a six-figure value within their grasp, and unlike some classics recently, values are climbing. That makes it worth a close look for someone considering a classic project that represents a potentially solid long-term investment.

Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Yoink! Goodbye hemi, trash,,oops, I mean, part out the rest. 392s, from what I hear, are extremely rare today. Every hot rod in the 50s and 60s HAD to have a 392 hemi. Cars like this were scarfed up just for the motors.This car, by the looks of it, must have been well hidden, for that motor to still be there. Don’t get me wrong, top of the line in 1957, but with as much as it would take to do this right, going to be few takers.

    Like 8
  2. Harry Allen

    If age were not a factor (mine) I would be more than willing to take this project on. I do have the skills and resources to do most all of what appears to be a fairly straight forward yet intense restoration. I do wish some of my earlier driver rebuilds were as rust free and complete as this one is. Pictures really don’t tell all but give a very good starting point. I hope and believe there are people there that have similar feelings as I do, that these early cars do deserve to be preserved. Personally the point of restoring earlier vehicles does not come down to HOW MUCH money you can make but like a kid showing off his new bicycle, pride and then if I were offered enough I just might sell it. Prime example; I had 2 Henry J’s I bought on the cheap! and restored them to driver quality and liked driving them. Then one day I had a fellow who approached me and offered me more than I wished to turn down all I asked after the transaction was a ride home. They weren’t worth what he paid me at the time, but now I realize they were worth much more.

    Like 7
  3. Will Fox

    A proven collectible that will only increase in value once restored. Of 1,100 built, there aren’t many left today. Worth every dime to do a frame-off.

    Like 9
    • Phil_the_frenchie

      I’m the proud owner (since 1994) of a ’57 Crown convertible. I spent 7 years in restoration (frame off). About the cost of interior, Gary Goers made me especially for me seats and door panels (i had to send him the old upholstery) and i think the price was well over $3000 in 1998 !

      Like 6
  4. Don

    Any ’57-60 Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth convertibles are rare and desirable. This looks like a good project for someone with the budget, and time.

    Like 4
  5. RNR

    At $15k you could do this one up and not be under water. I’d paint it Horizon Blue to match my ’57 New Yorker convert; there was a guy in the Boston area several years ago with one and we parked side by side at shows a couple times.

    Like 4
  6. DON

    “Lack of crippling rust ” ? Adam must be in the real estate business ! Every panel on this car has rot in it, and there sure seems to be a lot of Bondo slapped around ,so who knows what’s hiding behind it . The one shot i can see of the floor shows heavy rust, and being a topless ragtop in Minnesota I can only imagine what the rest of the floor looks like, and there’s no shots of the trunk area and underneath. . This isnt the kind of car you can find in a junkyard for replacement parts, so you have to work with what’s there . The engine runs, so that’s a plus , but if a restoration is going to happen to this car, its going to be rebuilt, so add on more cash to the bill. That interior is going to be a lot more than 3 grand and hopefully all the electric bits are working. Its a rare car, and I hope it will be restored , but I think the asking price is high compared to what it needs and the work involved

    Like 9
    • Anthony Caracausa

      Indeed; good observation. That was actually one factor that torpedoed Chrysler’s reputation after this year: People learned fast that almost no anti-corrosion treatment was given to these cars. I elaborated a bit more on that in my own response. On top of that, considering where this car has been, I’m surprised it’s still standing on its own feet.

      Like 2
  7. George Birth

    This one has been through the wars and has the scars to prove it!!! I don’t know if this one is worth making an offer on considering the condition.

    Like 1
  8. Pete Phillips

    A running 392 is worth the asking price for the whole car. Looks very restoreable to me, and well worth doing. $3000 is not too much for this car. Go find another one, unrestored, for less money!

    Like 3
  9. Chuck Dickinson

    “Several companies offer material by the yard off the roll”. Pray tell, how do they do that with hides of LEATHER. The seats aren’t vinyl or cloth, they’re actual cowhide.

    Like 3
    • Phil_the_frenchie

      And to have the correct upholstery it’s very difficult: there are die-heated “lines” in the (vinyl) door panels and a crown “printed” on middle of (leather) back seat. When i tried to find someone who sells materials it’s only Goers who can do it.
      Note that all leather was optional on convertibles, the standard upholstery is leather and cloth : http://www.ch300imp.com/dataplat_us.htm

      Like 1
  10. Anthony Caracausa

    IF this car is in fact free of terminal cancer, it is nothing short of a miracle; I’ll explain why shortly. From what I read, 1957 was the crowning (pardon the pun) glory for Chrysler’s Imperial. Its styling was quite impressive even for the ’50s, looking slimmer than any other corporate makes save for Ford’s Continental Mark II…and the Imperial had one thing the Mark II never had: CURVED side glass, at a time when flat panes were the standard everywhere. That cue alone is what is left of Imperial’s legacy, the legacy of Virgil Exner, Sr. On top of that, the Imperial for all its bulk was incredibly maneuverable, thanks to really impressive engineering of the suspension:
    Torsion bars for the front, leaf springs in the rear, which together could make this behemoth maneuver with or out-maneuver nearly anything else on any road one chose…and the Hemis regardless of size were no slouches, not even on this car. These were what helped Imperial to unseat Lincoln as the second-bestselling luxury marque in the States that year. But that victory was fleeting.

    Chrysler spent somewhere in the ballpark of $400 million to bring it into the limelight with styling and mechanical changes unprecedented for that company, and that much spending meant cutting corners elsewhere. Customers who switched to Chrysler products from rival makes in ’57 quickly learned that scant attention was paid to quality-control, not just in assembly but also in corrosion resistance: Every Highland-Park car of ’57 and ’58, from Plymouth to Imperial, rusted with a vengeance. It was estimated that one in four car-buyers switched to Chrysler from rival makes in ’57; by late-’58 a survey revealed that, of those buyers, only one in ten would ever consider buying another Chrysler product.

    That alone is what makes this particular Imp special. Half of it should no longer exist; it should be rusted out worse than the hull of the Titanic. I do hope that a Mopar enthusiast with the ability to do so gives this car a new home soon.

    Like 4
  11. dogwater

    Well I hate to kick it to the curb its going to cost a lot of money to get her back on the road looking at 50k or more.is it worth it?

  12. James Groome

    Jay Leno has one, a perfect example of a luck restoration (his was an Ol’Ladies car garage keptSoCal).
    I worked for a Wilm De Speed Shop as a kid and we scoured junk yards for old Hemi’s

    Like 1
  13. Robt

    As mentioned earlier, I It’s all about the hemi. A running 392 hemi.

    • bone

      Ok, its a 392 Hemi – is a 392 worth 15K ? And the ad says it runs, but how well ? The car obviously wasn’t taken care of , I wouldn’t think the engine was either

  14. Miguel - Mexican Spec

    I predict this car is going to be for sale for a long time.

    The people that would have taken this on are too old to do it now.

    This car does not appeal to younger people.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.