I Want It! 1956 Imperial Crown Limousine

You have to have some imagination to see this one for what it really is; a diamond in the rough! This 1956 Imperial Crown Limousine was submitted by our own David W., and he and I have some of the same tastes because I really like this find! It’s located in San Jose, California and is listed for sale for $3,500 here on craigslist. By the way, you’ll note I didn’t say Chrysler. That’s because at this point in time, Imperial was its own marque under the Mopar umbrella.

The seller tells us that they started on a restoration path, with some work completed. The suspension was rebuilt and the brakes were converted to a safer dual master cylinder system. They also tell us that the wheel cylinders were all honed and new seals were installed. As the brake shoes were in good shape, the drums were deglazed and the shoes were refitted–I think I’d revisit that considering the 5380 pound curb weight–I’d look at what discs I could convert to.

The seller includes enough detail pictures for us to tell that the car is basically solid but hasn’t been licensed for the street since 1985. There is a piece of trim missing on the right hand side, but the seller gives the impression that they have some partial pieces to try to make one up. They are also missing one of the side louvers and both headlight rings. As there were fewer than 200 of these limousines produced, I suspect any trim that is unique to the extended length model will be difficult to come by.

But oh my gosh, look at what it could look like when you finished the car off! Wow! I’m generally not a limousine fan, but I can’t stop thinking about this picture and how cool it would be to have this car back on the road. I’m sure it would be a labor of love rather than intelligence from a dollars and cents point of view, but just imagine cruising around in a car like the picture above! We’re told the original engine ran but has a large hole in one piston, so it wasn’t running well. From what I can tell, if it’s the original engine it would be a 354 FirePower Hemi V8. Rated at 280 horsepower and 380 ft-lbs of torque, it’s not going to set any speed records, but I don’t think that’s the idea anyway. Of course, you could always repower it with a late model Charger drive train–whoops, did I say that out loud? I think my bank account is lucky this one is a continent away! And as the last home-grown version (Ghia started working with Imperial as of 1957) it’s pretty special! What do you think?


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  1. Howard A Member

    Can’t really see inside, but I read, if it has no divider behind the front seat, it’s an 8 passenger sedan, not a limo. If it is a limo, it was the most expensive limo ever made at $6,520. ( or $58,000 today, doesn’t sound like a lot) with the 8 passenger close behind at $6406. I can’t find any pictures of any presidents using Imperials, mostly Lincolns and Cadillacs in ’56, but one has to wonder, what famous people rode in this thing, especially in California.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      As best as I could tell from researching, the limousines were the only ones with that extra 16-1/2″ of wheelbase, which I’m pretty sure this car has. So I do think it’s a limousine.

    • Bill McCoskey

      Howard – Eisenhower was a good friend of the Chrysler president K.T. Keller, and Ike always used Mopar vehicles, even trucks on the farm were Dodges. When he took office, Keller sent 2 1955 Imperial limousines to Derham Coachbuilders in PA, where they were extensively modified. Ike’s special parade car had some very unusual changes. There were no jump seats, and the rear seat was moved 8″ forward to make the occupants more visible to the public. There was a sliding steel sunroof [slide forward to open] with a grab bar just inside on the ceiling to hold onto as Ike stood in the sunroof opening during parades. But the biggest change was removal of the window frame on both rear doors, there was only the front post, no top door rail or rear post, nor was there a post in front of the 1/4 window. Derham installed opening 1/4 windows from the Imperial 2-door hardtop, and built special chrome framed door windows. This gave the car an open look when all 4 windows were lowered. This was serial number 101

      There was a second Derham car built, but it was more like the standard Imperial cars on the outside, and only minor changes inside. This car bcame known as “Mamie’s limo”. I used to own that car, serial # 110

      I know the # 101 car well, and I was the only person to drive that car except for the owner, a good friend of mine.

      In 1987 I was asked to provide an antique limo to the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, for some special guests. The guests were David & Julie Eisenhower, in town for the re-opening of the Eisenhower theater in the Kennedy Center. In speaking with Mrs. Eisenhower, she mentioned how David used to enjoy riding in his grandfather’s Presidential limo and they sometimes wondered what happened to the car.

      I told her that I had the #110 car, but I also knew the Presidential limo, and let her know it was in good hands. I also said if they came back to the Kennedy Center again, she should call me and I could arrange for them to ride in Ike’s car.

      Well we did it the next year. Mrs Eisenhower and I worked in total secrecy to surprise her husband. They were staying at the Vista Hotel in DC, I went to their room to escort them down to the lobby. I had placed the limo directly in front of the lobby, and at that time the lobby front was all glass windows.

      As we walked towards the front door, David stopped dead in his tracks and said something like “That looks like grandfather’s limo”, and Julie said “Surprise!” I had a professional photographer there to record the event, and I have photos of them both standing up thru the sunroof. [One of them is included here for your enjoyment.] I also have photos of me dressed in a tux, beside the car, with my white Rolls-Royce & driver behind the limo.

      When David & Julie got ready for the short journey to the Kennedy Center, she sat back and luxuriated in that grand seat, but David sat in the middle, up front on the edge of the seat. When Julie suggested he sit back and enjoy the ride, He said that’s the way he rode in the car with his grandparents on either side of him, and that’s how he rode that night!

      Both of them were delightful to talk with, very down to earth, and as a surprise they began sending me personally autographed pre-first editions of their books, and for years they sent a Christmas card.

      Like 2
      • Bill McCoskey

        Let’s try sending that pic again

      • Bill McCoskey

        Here is the pic

        Like 3
  2. memikeyounot

    Looks like something out of the Eisenhower era

  3. Carroll overton

    Man alive!!! Would I not look cool cruzin Sunday afternoon with a hired driver in a monkey suit?

  4. John H from CT

    The 331 and 354 Firepower Hemis were notorious for burning holes in the two pistons closest to the firewall, likely based on an intake manifold design that left those two cylinders running leaner than the rest. Usually occurs between 80K and 95K depending on how they were run.

    I learned to drive on a ’55 New Yorker Deluxe St. Regis. Great car that I still reminisce about.

    The 55 and 56 Imperials are beautiful cars. Hope someone saves this one.

  5. Joe

    The Imperial has big drums and shoes. When in good condition, adequate stopping power—this is a cruiser anyhow. No need for disc brakes. Save your money. Nice find.

  6. Rustytech Member

    I can see a limousine rental company restoring this for use in their fleet for those that like the nostalgia of riding in a period car. While they still build limousines, and some are even bigger than this ( i.e. Stretch Hummers ) they don’t have near the style and class of these. This needs lots of work though, and it’s not going to be cheap.

  7. That Guy

    This has been on CL for a while now. It’s in my area so I see it every time I search for Imperial stuff. The fact it hasn’t sold suggests the price isn’t a bargain, but it does seem to be a very worthwhile project and a really rare car. I think it’s just a matter of finding the right butt for this particular seat, not pricing. The photo of the restored car is impressive; it really is elegant and handsome, which not all limos are.

    • Brad C

      Looked at another way, I don’t think the entrance fee is the issue – but the restoration and any unforeseen missing parts will be difficult to source.

      1 of 153 made that year. And I thought I had a hard time finding trim for a Chrysler wagon they made 1300 of.

  8. boxdin

    There was a restored one of these running around Albuquerque a few years ago. Have not seen it for a while. He had a couple of other Mopar limos too.

  9. Adam Wright

    It will probably end up at one of those sit in the car as you eat restaurants like in Pulp Fiction.

  10. jeff6599

    Jamie, it is apparent that you still don’t understand what he is trying to say. Both the formal sedan and the limousine were identical on the exterior, longer wheelbase and all. The difference is inside. If there is a divider window in the seatback of the front seat, it is a limousine. That was done for the few wealthy who had employees to drive them but wanted rear seat privacy. The formal sedan was for families or companies who did not wish to isolate the front seat occupants from the rear. Too many folks notice the longer wheelbase and simply assume that it is a limousine. In fact in most cases the formal sedan outsold the limousine. Don’t be so quick to jump to that erroneous conclusion.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Jeff, I did understand Howard perfectly. The two sources I read on the internet (and I’m NOT claiming they are necessarily right–please read the wording of my comment) both stated that the only cars to get the wheelbase extension were the limousines. Please share the source of your information if it’s different, I’m always willing to learn.

  11. packrat

    The long black limousine in the movie Hudson Hawk was a 55 instead of a 56 (I believe), but every time I see one of these beauties I think of the villain’s line: “What can I tell you? I’m the BAD GUY!”

    • Bill McCoskey

      Packrat – I was approached by a moviecar scout about selling my 1955 Imperial limousine, but he made a mistake and told me they were going to make huge changes in the car, both trim and mechanically, and I refused to sell the car to anyone until I knew the Hudson Hawk movie was already finished.

      Like 1
      • Paolo

        Bill, I approached by some picture-car guys for an Eddie Murphy movie who wanted my 57 Dodge Truck. They wanted to paint it red and put 1958 front sheet metal on it too. No thank you!


  12. John D

    Just thinking about picking up some side cash renting yourself and your car out for summertime Saturday weddings.

    What I like about these and other Imperials when they had their own franchise, was the were essentially hand built.

    • John H from CT

      John D. Unfortunately the government and insurance companies have made part time limosines a losing business. You can’t legally charge for a passenger on antique insurance which means you need commercial insurance. And if you only have one car and it breaks down, you are sunk. So only way to do it is to have a backup car on call, or another antique limo as a spare on call. IMO, only way to make money is with a small fleet and a dedicated business.

      • Brad C

        Good points — however, starting with one in this shape, it wouldn’t be unthinkable to repower it with a current Hemi (or something with better gas mileage like a 3.8 Pentastar and 8-speed trans combo). But your small fleet point is probably true, if you’re going to base a nice little business off this concept.

        Otherwise, too many weddings… and not enough Saturdays each summer.

  13. KeithK

    This would make an UBER , uber.

  14. gardener

    I think this is one of the best looking cars of the 50’s limo or not this one would be a joy to own and drive or be driven in.I would have to put a custom plate on it saying I’m the bad guy so cool hope who ever gets this loves them as much as some on here do.

  15. Brad C

    Good enough for Cagney and Stanwyck in 1956’s ‘These Wilder Years’.

    • Brad C

      Worth a double-take from Elvis in ‘Loving You’.

  16. Brad C

    And the backdrop of Madison Avenue power in ‘Funny Face’.
    Ok, I’m done. ; )

  17. Chuck Foster 55chevy Chuck F Chas Foster

    Elvis was a Cadillac man all the way. This first made me think of the Animal House car they converted to the Deathmobile for some strange reason, I remember seeing a late 40s Desoto that was stretched like a limo, but was the 8 passenger sedan. This would be great for a rental wedding car, too hard to get it straight for black paint, but white with silver trim as a rental and car show cruiser is what I would do, Chuck’s Car Show Party Express. Drop a new Chrysler Hemi in it, modern suspension on air bags, Cruising the Coast here I come. With vinyl wrap you could advertise it as Wedding custom color coordinated, cover the base silver with matching bridesmaids dress colors, decorate the inside with flowers and ribbons, big $.

  18. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Animal House was a Lincoln Continental. The trim’s not so much a big issue….like he seller said one can be made from a two door hardtop….and the bars….who’s going to know how many there is suppose to be? Yes the big brakes were 12″ and mother mopar did offer disk brakes a few years earlier on these big guys….put a later 360/400/440 and move about…….

  19. Bill McCoskey

    I’m surprised this car hasn’t been snapped up and sent off to Saudi Arabia like most of them. Seems about 15 years ago one of the Saudi Royals became interested in the 55/56 Imperial Crown Limousines, and was buying up everyone he could find. Had several of them restored by White Post in Virginia.

    The 3 pictures of the ’56 shown above are the same car, it was owned by one of the Movie Studios for many years. [Don’t remember which studio.]

  20. sparecr

    Friend of mine in Northern VA has over the last 10 years restored 4-5 of these with White Post Restorations. Some modern modifications such as current AC have been added. Many unique parts but he is someone who is restoring them and has experience with them so this inst as lost of a cause as it could be. All of the cars he has done have went to the UAE as one of the sheikhs there is a huge collector of 50′ era Chrysler/Imperials. I do believe one the parts that was sourced was one of the former Eisenhower cars. I had trouble following the above history of the Eisenhower cars.

  21. Charlie Member

    Petersen Museum in LA has one Eisenhower car, white, open car, I think the tour guide (it is in the basement) said there were 3 spotted around the country at the time. It is a long chassis.

  22. Roger Meisenbach

    For a case of authenticity, I offer (to a prospective restorer) one factory-original AC system complete with the exterior air scoops. All in salvage condition, so everything needs to be refurbished and/or rebuilt. Contact me for more details.

  23. Wayne Graefen

    To the buyer, I am a buyer for a few parts from your newly acquired car if it is being parted out. Thanks.

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