Heavy Hemi Survivor: 1955 Chrysler Imperial Sedan

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I love survivor cars and this Imperial listed on craigslist in the San Francisco bay area is a great example. To the right person, it’s it could be worth most of the $13,900 asking, perhaps $10,000, but I understand most of you think the seller is nuts because it has too many doors and you could buy a Mustang, a trip-5 or something to restore for less. Looking around, similar cars are listed at 20K and more, like this one on Classic Cars. This Imperial is not that nice, but it is still a very nice survivor car. The seller, a dealer, believes he is the third owner and it has only about 96,000 miles on it. It appears complete, less the one emblem, and original.

1955 Imperial Sedan Interior

The interior looks original with the expected wear and a few stains. Things look nice in the trunk as well, but there could be rust in the tire well of course.

engine right

The Hemi looks complete and unmolested. A 354 with dual quads would look even better, but I’m sure this 331 CID burns enough fuel as it is.

front right

The body looks really nice, especially the chrome. Surely it’s had a repaint along the way.

right rear

This appears to be a car you could just drive and enjoy. If you were buying this to keep awhile, this Chrysler might be worth spending a little more money on. Besides “it’s too much money, has too many doors, it’s ugly or not a Chevy or Ford”. What do you think of this survivor? Is there anything you would change or upgrade?

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  1. Mitch

    So it’s a 4 door. BIG DEAL! I got over that juvenile mentality years ago.It’s a classic & deserves to be preserved as such. Replace or repair what is needed, keep it as original as possible & enjoy it.

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  2. DrinkinGasoline

    My Grandfather was a “Chrysler Guy” and had this same car in brown over creme in 1956. Normally, he would lean towards the “lesser model” Chryler’s but the local dealer made him a very good offer on his trade-in, which was mint, so Grampa bit. Even though he loved the car, he still felt it was “Hochmut” , (arrogant in German).
    He drove the car for a couple of years but wanted the new Chrysler Windsor in ’58, so my Father took the Imperial and gave Grampa the trade-in amount for the Windsor. I would ensure the mechanical’s, change out fluids and cruise it ! Surprisingly, when tuned properly, those engines were not too bad on fuel. I personally would rather have a “house of doors”.

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  3. Fred

    I laugh about the 4 door thing. No one wants them, but nearly everyone’s modern daily driver is one, and has been for many years.

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    • The Walrus

      Out of practicality, not desire… That’s why, when the car becomes impractical (ie a collectors item) the 2 doors are worth more. It’s a sociological thing when you think about it…

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    • Davnkatz

      Whaddayamean no one wants a 4 door. I am more drawn to 4 door CLASSICS than to resto mods or rods.

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    • Bob moore

      That’s the gods truth. I wouldnt have a 4 door when young, now, even long after kids are gone I drive a 4 .. My truck is a four door too, but my mb and charger are 2.

      I’d love to a 56 mopar of anything with 2 doors!

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    I think it’s a nice one, not to much work to make it mint again. 13,900 doesn’t seem unreasonable for that much car. And it’s got a HEMI!

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  5. Charles

    This is beautiful old classic! Survivor cars are allowed to have a little patina.

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  6. Chris in Nashville

    I would love to give something like that a new home and take it out cruising. I prefer the 4 doors as getting people in and out of back seats is a pain, but hey I love wagons too… Maybe I am just an oddball but if it has a back seat I like it to have back doors!

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  7. Ed P

    This is a luxury car. It should have four doors. Who wants to have to climb into the back seat of a two door car? Not me. Beautiful old car. It needs a home where it will be cared for.

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  8. DrinkinGasoline

    Opening a rear door to a passenger is very opulent. Allow me to transport you to our destination in style ! Two door vehicles have their place for the sport set, but in reality, the four doors have ruled. The sales numbers prove this as well as the availability of survivors as of late.

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  9. HoA Howard AMember

    Yeah, leave the 4 doors alone! This is just an incredible example here. I’d love to know the story on this. Somebody famous maybe? I mean, look at it. How could you possibly compare this to the Ford Taurus? I know, different era’s. Still, I think this is one of the nicest cars to grace these pages. Wow!!! ( note: one carb is plenty, and heard dual quads are quite the hassle.)

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  10. crazydave

    Now if only it was a pillarless 4dr HT!

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    • The Walrus

      Not a Chrysler thing, at least in ’55…

      Like 0
  11. Roseland Pete

    I have no problems with 4 doors. If the Imperial were intended to compete against Cadillac, I’d just as soon have a same year Caddy.

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    • The Walrus

      The Imperial was, frankly, superior to the Cadillac in virtually every regard.

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      • Roseland Pete

        Except for styling.

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  12. Charles

    SWEET RIDE! Imagine cruising down the interstate at 70 mph, how smooth the ride would be as this chariot probably weighs close to 5500 lbs and lots of room with the Hemi pumping out the power……..

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  13. The Walrus

    For what it’s worth… here’s what it’s worth (from the 8/15 OCPG). I copied the 2 door price as well. I hate 4 doors. When it comes to cars that are 60 years old you’re already into the impractical realm. What difference does it make if your passengers in the back have to take a little more time? It’s part of the experience, in my opinion…

    BTW: I absolutely LOVE one of Exner’s first artisitic expressions with Chrysler, that being the taillights of the ’55 Imperial…

    1955 Imperial, V-8
    4d Sed 6: 840 5: 2,520 4: 4,200 3: 9,450 2: 14,700 1: 21,000
    2d HT Newport 6: 1,240 5: 3,720 4: 6,200 3: 13,950 2: 21,700 1: 31,000

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  14. Jim

    For the asking price you have a complete presentable driver you can use while dressing up whatever is needed. Considering what people are paying for crap these days it doesn’t seem unreasonable. At your local cruise night there won’t be 5 others! Hey, it’s a Hemi!

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  15. John H. in CT

    Before you get too excited. These ’55 hemi’s like to burn holes in pistons 7&8 just around this mileage based on a not so optimum intake manifold design. Do a compression test and if possible, videoscope before signing on the deal.

    Add in an engine rebuild and this deal isn’t so sweet!

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  16. Jim

    I remember some if the older drag racers talking about that, supposedly some intake manifolds didn’t seal well with the factory gaskets, some cylinders leaned out and did exactly that. If she runs well it’s probably ok but changing the intake gaskets wouldn’t be as bad. You’re right, check thoroughly first especially if you want to start driving right away.

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  17. GOPAR

    This car appears very nice for an original 61 year old car. It looks straight and solid and presents itself very well. Yeah, I’m a 2-door guy, but when it comes to a car of this caliber, I’m not sure it’s that important. If this car is sound mechanically, I think it should easily bring the asking price. No, it’s not a ’55 Ford or GM. But that’s a plus in my book. This ride is loaded with style!

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  18. Coventry Cat

    Given that a large portion of the population able to buy an old car like this is geriatric, 4 doors are more practical for getting in and out of. 2 doors are nice, but some translate better with 4. Great looking car.

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  19. Swede

    Had a 2 tone green one in 1965. Great car, and those sparrow strainer tail lights were special! It drove great and had plenty of getup and go. Wish I still had it!

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  20. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

    Have owned all 3 body styles of ’55/56 Imperials (sedan, hardtop & limousine).
    The limousines were equipped with the Ausco-Lambert disc brakes on all 4 wheels & when working correctly those brakes were the best in the industry!
    (My ’55 limo was an ex-White House car for Ike.)
    The 55/56 Imperial is/was the BEST high speed road car I’ve ever experienced. Flat towed many a Packard & Caddy behind my Imperials!

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    • Ed P

      If anyone wants to understand this disc brake system better, try this:

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    • Dave Wright

      I started buying Imperials about 1981 eventually owning one either 2 door hardtop or convertable of every year from 1955 to 1965 at the same time, the years imperial was a separate brand. They were each magnificent cars in there own right. Just a couple of notes on them. The only really exceptional Hemi was the last one, the 392. The earlier ones were great motors but not the power houses that people think of today. 392’s were made in 1957-58 but the 59 Polly head 413 had more power. Hemi’s are wonderful to look at and run well but unless tuned with factory cross Rams like a letter series were only really powerful when compared with a small block chev or any of the other engines of the period. The other thing is these cars improved immeasurabley with the introduction of torsion bar suspension in 1957. It really made the cars handle and ride like a car of there status should. Read the old road tests at the time, they were being compared with the top sports cars of the day. Chrysler was always a couple of cuts above a common Ford or Chevrolet of the time but the imperial was another several cuts above that.

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    • Dave Wright

      Bill……..Was your limo an Italian built one? I used my first Imperial, a 59 Crown to tow my Lotus 11 to races around the northwest……Wonderful cars all.

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  21. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

    I have owned only one “Italian job”- a 1965, #9 of only 10 built by Ghia.
    My 1955 Crown limo was #110, a White House motor pool car.
    Plus, I was the only guy who was allowed to drive the actual ’55 Derham Crown limo used by Ike, once the owner became too old to drive it.
    When I lived in Germany (1974-75), I bought a 1956 Imperial sedan that had a special data plate indicating it was “finished” by Facel in Paris, France. It had Marchal electrics, a metallic painted 3-tone gray interior for the dash, etc, real silk brocade seats with embroidered eagles, and sheepskin carpets. Also had a pre-production Torqueflight trans. And of interest — while it had the 331 hemi with 4 bbl carb, it also had what looked like 3 head gaskets per head, to lower the compression due to the poor fuel in 1950s Europe.
    Bought it for 300DM (about $100), drove it for 30,000km before bringing it back to the USA.
    Discovered it had been built for the Paris auto show! Sadly it was destroyed in a huge lighting caused fire.
    I’m also tracking what I have been told is the Crown Ghia limo used by Queen Elizabeth during her Canada tour. That car has a removable rear plastic roof panel.

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  22. James Turner

    Personally, I think the word HEMI is overrated. So big deal, Its a HEMI. A lot of people, Especially the younger people do not even know what the word HEMI means in mechanical language. They just like the word. In cars in the last decade there are all kinds of camshaft and piston configurations and timing methods that increased horsepower especially in 4 cyl and V-6 engines. Don’t get me wrong, Nothing wrong with HEMISPHERICAL PISTONS, Its just especially with modern technology its almost a thing of the past. That HEMI piston configuration was developed in the early 1950,s. Happy 4Th. of July everyone.

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  23. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

    James Turner,

    Hemispherical combustion heads were used as early as 1910 in Europe, and Peugeot is generally credited with the first “Hemi” automobile motor.

    I grew up at a time when the Chrysler Hemi [both generations – 1950s & 1960s] was considered one of the finest engines available in an American automobile.

    No, the Chrysler Hemi was not always the fastest. When I crewed on a 69 Road Runner for the 1/4 mile in the early 1970s, it did better with a 440 then a 426. [I hate to think how many 426 and hi-po 440 blocks & heads we destroyed over the years!]

    Even today, if I take young people to a car show and they spot a car with a Hemi, or they even see the 426 emblem on the fender, they DO know what it means. And if you’ve not done so, Try inviting a young boy or girl who shows an interest in cars in general to a old car show, that’s one of the best ways to keep the millenials interested in preserving what we’ve worked hard to create.

    Like 0

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