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Is It Worth Restoring? 1959 Imperial Southampton


When it was new, this now down-and-almost-out 1959 Imperial Southampton (Chrysler granted Imperial it’s own brand in 1955) was quite a looker with a stainless steel roof. Now the seller considers it a candidate for “rat rodding,” although I’m personally hoping someone decides to restore or refurbish it instead. It’s listed for sale here on craigslist for $800 and is located in New Palestine, Indiana. Thanks to Barn Finds reader and frequent commenter Tirefriar for this fun submission!


Unfortunately the seller only included the one picture in the ad, but this is what the car originally looked like (photo courtesy of kilbeysclassics). With the stainless steel roof panel and an unusual C-pillar/back window shape (and no B-pillar) the car certainly has a distinctive roof line. Virgil Exner was responsible for this design, called the “Forward Look” by Chrysler in it’s marketing efforts.


Here we see what the interior should look like. However, the description in the ad of the interior of this car is priceless: “The condition looks like the inside of a port-o-let at the State Fair, but all of the patch panels are readily available for $600 total on eBay.” The seller also mentions that the hood blew off while the car was in transit to them, which wiped out a new Corvette, so they never got a hood. I’m guessing then that the picture is the one they bought it from. Other items noted are that the drivers door has a few bullet holes and the interior is missing (so I’m guessing the holes in the floor are pretty easy to see right now!) The seller also describes the 413 V-8 as being “surely a steaming brown pile of uselessness,” so I’m guessing an engine rebuild or replacement is in order. You’ll have to read the ad to see what they would be willing to swap the car for, but we don’t think they are going to have a lot of luck, especially for the last item on the list! Still, it is that magical 2-door configuration and the price certainly isn’t very high–maybe some of you would think it’s worth saving?


  1. MH

    Good thing it’s far away from me or I would buy it. My wife would probably make me live in it though. Rare cars for sure. I would do a 100% original restoration.

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  2. Dave Wright

    Truly magnificent cars……..I used one as a tow vehicle for my Lotus 11 race car in the early 70’s. The only problem is they are complicated and pretty difficult for an armature restorer to tackle. I am sure restoring the leather interior alone could be 5,000 and you have not started on the electrical or pneumatic systems yet. Add the miles of chrome and paint work, you mit be better to buy a better example. That said…….one of the finest cars ever built.

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  3. Vince Habel

    Parting out may be his best option.

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  4. David Wilk Member

    Beautiful car, especially in the relatively rare two door configuration. Good price even though as Dave Wright says, this car will cost a fortune to restore. Hopefully someone will. I will post to the Imperial Owners Club in hopes someone there will grab it.

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  5. fred

    Not a realistic candidate for restoration, but could be extremely useful to someone restoring a better one.

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  6. cory

    It’s an hour away from me if any serious buyers want me to take a look

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  7. Oldcarsarecool

    I hope someone grabs it before the demo derby crowd gets wind of it . . .

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    • DREW V.

      No worry there… Imperials were banned from Demo Derby use years ago… They are too indestructible… :D

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  8. Jason Houston

    It has no ‘B’ pillar because it’s a hardtop. You’re thinking of a Sedan. Hardtops never had center pillars and never will. Imperial became it’s own line with the 1957 introduction. Virgil Exner had exemplary talents, but he also had his lapses in good taste, as demonstrated by these unsightly behemoths.

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    • Bobsmyuncle

      FWIW the car has a ‘B’ pillar it’s simply pushed further back in this design. You would not call that a ‘C’ pillar.

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  9. gary

    I recall one of my Elementary school teachers driving one of these big beasts, it was a head turner for me even back in the day. I like it as much today as I did back then, if I had the room and unlimited funds to tackle this it would be quite the looker when done!

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  10. David Wilk Member

    After I posted this to the Imperials group someone wrote in with the following news about this car:
    “I have talked to the man who owns this vehicle personally and I believe that it would be worth trying to restore. He said that the floor boards are cut out and there is some rust but the frame is solid. It has the original engine and trans, stainless steel roof, sounds like a great project. He wanted a lot more a year or so back and he said that he is just trying to sell it to make room in his crowded yard, so it is probably one of those moments where it may be a great deal for a project.”

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  11. Mark S

    I like the look of 50’s Mopars. By the look of the pictures this could be a beautiful car again. I’d love to have it, but one project car is enough. As for this car, I would install a modern Hemi and trans. I think a white leather interior with black carpets would be nice. The exterior I would go with turquoise green with a white roof behind that stainless roof. Factory wheel covers with wide white walled tires to finish things off. Cheers

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  12. Howard A Member

    Many years ago, ( mid 70’s) my dad rented a warehouse for his building business, and in it were several cars, one being an Imperial, only a ’61 ( with floating headlight pods.) I believe it was a Southampton, as it had the stainless roof. It had suffered an engine fire, but was otherwise quite intact. Being teenagers, we gazed at the sheer size of the beast, which, to my recollection, had every available option known to man. The engine fire was not too bad, but had obviously scorched most of the underhood wiring, and the owner clearly didn’t have the guts to junk it, nor the resources to repair it. One day, it was gone, not sure what happened to it, but will always be one of the most elegant, modern day cars I ever saw.

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  13. piper62j

    Lots of styling on this one.. Would look really sharp when done.. Maybe, just maybe 8-10 miles per gallon.. but style…

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    • Aussie Imperial

      I own a 62 Imperial with the 413 engine and it’s driven often, on the open highway if I don’t get at least 14 or 15 to the gallon it’s time for a service and tune up. The secret is the stock Carter AFB carby, they only suck in what they need according to throttle demand, not like a Holley that pours it in and then spits out what it doesn’t need through the exhaust pipe !

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  14. Woodie Man

    I wonder what the seller wants the bang sticks for!

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  15. HeadMaster1

    This IS the one to have if you’re an Imperial fan…….and I am, dam it

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  16. Ed P

    There is a lot of work to do on this Imperial, but I hope someone takes it on. At least the price is not out of reason. Generally the option list on these cars were short as almost everything was included as standard equipment.

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  17. Charles


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  18. Bryan

    I’ve owned my 59 Crown Coupe for almost 29 years now….bought it when I was 23! It wasn’t my first car, but it was the first car that ignited my passion for old cars.

    Mine has factory swivel 6-way power seats, Mirrormatic rear view mirror, power antenna, power windows, etc, etc.

    These cars handle a heck of a lot better than most big cars, courtesy of Torsion aire suspension. This thing corners like a race car compared to my 78 Lincoln Mark V!

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  19. Joe

    Beautiful car, hopefully someone sees something deeper than its’ current condition and saves it.

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  20. james burton

    my buddy bennie has 2 of these in his salvage yard of mopars. he said chry. built more of these than people think and are not that rare.he said the price and cost of shipping plus cars condition wouldn’t be worth his time. if it was a convert. like the one in this pic. he said he’d be interested.

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  21. james burton

    pic. of one of his junk verts

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  22. Steven wood

    Or you can do what pfaff designs did to a ’59 imperial

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