Land Yacht: 1961 Imperial Crown Convertible

One word that will probably never be used to describe a 1961 Imperial Crown Convertible is “subtle.” From the protruding headlights through to the enormous fins, it is a car that embodies the design philosophy that earned Virgil Exner his legendary status. This Imperial is in nice all-round condition and would suit the enthusiast who wants a car that is ready to go. It is located in Saint Edward, Nebraska, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has now made it as far as $45,100, but the reserve hasn’t been met. With 131 people currently watching the listing, it is a classic that has generated its fair share of interest.

The combination of Persian White paint and a White top give the Convertible a very classy appearance. The panels are arrow-straight, with no signs of any dents or previous accident damage. The paint is solid and consistent, and photos that are taken with the car in shadow show that it has a really nice depth of shine to it. The owner provides a wide array of photos, and these indicate that this is a car that is free of any rust issues. The external trim and chrome appear to be in great condition, while the tinted glass also looks to be extremely good.

Climbing into an Imperial usually meant entering a world of luxury and opulence, and this car is no exception. The red leather upholstery generally looks soft and supple, and the only obvious flaw is what looks like it might be a small seam separation on the driver’s seat. The dash and door trims look really nice, as does that really funky steering wheel. It looks like the carpet has been replaced at some point, and the fact that it is black against a predominantly red interior isn’t actually unusual. The fit of the carpet is a bit odd and lumpy in spots, and this would need to be fixed to do the car true justice. Standard equipment inside the Convertible includes power windows and a six-way power front seat. In this case, you can add the Electric Golden Touch-Tuner radio, power locks, a remote driver’s side exterior mirror, and cruise control.

Standard fare under the hood of the Imperial is a 413ci V8 engine, 3-speed TorqueFlite transmission, power steering, and enormous 12″ power drum brakes. That engine pushes out a healthy 350hp, but it needs all of that given the fact that the Convertible tips the scales at 5,040lbs. The presentation of the engine bay is reasonable, although I would be inclined to address the corrosion issues around the brake master cylinder sooner, rather than later. The good news here is that the Imperial is said to drive like a dream, and it comes with a significant collection of documentation. This includes the original purchase paperwork, along with the original Window Sticker.

In 1961, Imperial produced 12,258 cars, which was nowhere near their expectations. Of these, a mere 429 examples were the Crown Convertible. That makes this a relatively rare car, and really pristine examples can actually fetch prices pushing into the six-figure territory. This one is a nice example, but it has enough minor issues to prevent it from heading into that sort of price region. Having said that, none of the problems are severe or urgent and could be addressed as time and circumstances allow. In the meantime, it offers the potential for a world of enjoyment on any sunny day, cruising with the top down.

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Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    I wonder why they only produced 12,258 cars. That seems like barely enough to break even on the tooling costs for such a large car.

    As I’ve mentioned before, it seems that there were so very many permutations of the finned Mopars from ’57-’61, between the 4 divisions, and wagons, sedans, hardtops, convertibles, trim levels etc., I can’t imagine how Chrysler kept track of it all, let alone made a profit. But I love these cars, they are all excessively beautiful and outrageous.

    4
    • Will Fox

      Rex, it may be hard to tell, but most Chrysler products shared inner structures and roof assemblies, making production a little easier anyway. Look at various Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler 4dr. sedan roofs; they are one in the same. So were the roofs of all 4 division’s station wagons (except `60-`61 Chrysler hardtop wagons) Inner door assemblies too; it was the outer sheet metal & trim that may have changed. One odd but true fact: the `61 Imperial had taller fins than a `59 Cadillac making them the tallest in the industry, and a true Virgil Exner styling cue.

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      • BJ

        Will, the Imperial line of cars were built in a totally separate location from Chryslers, at the time Imperial was it’s own brand like Lincoln were, people wouldn’t let go of the fact it was built by Chrysler so they kept calling them Chrysler Imperials, ever hear of a Ford Lincoln Continental? Not too many Imperial panels interchange with other Chryslers before 1963, that was when the 2 plants joined and parts then started to interchange after Exner left, and the Imperial ended up looking like an over sized packing crate along the similar lines of the early Lincolns designed by Lee Iacocca, who took over !

        3
  2. DayDreamBeliever Member

    Ahh yes, the old pillow-shaped steering wheel. Attached to the over-boosted power steering, naturally. Who could forget the push-button gear selector?

    And of course the “Continental” Spare Tire, which no longer resided in the extended rear bumper, but now was merely a styling cue in the trunk lid, an outline for the impressive Imperial Crown Mascot/Insignia.

    What a beauty. All 2.5 tons of her!

    7
    • B.J.

      One would have to wonder why back when this was sold new the purchaser didn’t opt for cruise control and air conditioning, if you could afford one of these wouldn’t you order every option you could get, it wouldn’t be that you were hard up for a dollar? Two way a/c was available as were rear speakers, rear defroster, headlamp sentinel, etc, etc?? The ‘TV Screen’ steering wheel is a hoot to drive with, one minute your hands are close together and the next far apart during cornering, it feels strange, I’ve got a ’62 2 door.

      5
    • B.J.

      In 1962 the trunk lid and garnish was deleted, buyers refused to buy the cars and the dealers ended up installing 61 trunk lids and chrome to make the sale, the factory never installed them but the dealers did and in 1963 the ‘in your face’ trunk lids came back for the last year of production, they’d been a feature since 1957/8. Mine has the lid and it gets a lot of comments.

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  3. Brent

    The front view is stylish and daring, the side view is sleek – giving the viewers eye the notion of motion and the rear view is futuristic and elegant. Put them all together and it is one of the ugliest damn motor vehicles I have ever seen in my life. It be things like this that gives this MOPAR fan nightmares.

    7
    • Rex Kahrs Member

      That is hilarious Brent. Beer came out of my nose when I read that!

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    • B.J.

      Aaah yes Brent but nightmares you don’t get with other ‘ho hum’ car brands that you couldn’t give a stuff about. At least these slap you in the face and tell you to sit up and take notice, you’re amongst royalty in no uncertain terms !

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  4. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    But then again….it’s pushing 50 big one’s…..going across the pond fer sure…….

  5. Rex Kahrs Member

    BJ, I was not aware that Iacocca was an automobile designer. I’m thinking those ’61 Lincolns were designed by Elwood Engel, whose Chrysler B-body cars from ’65-’68 do very much resemble his ’61 Lincoln, and that slab-side design can be seen in Mercs and Lincolns into the mid-1970s. All hail Elwood Engel!.

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    • Rex Kahrs Member

      I meant to say the C-body Chryslers.

      1
    • B.J.

      Sorry Rex, I meant Engel, couldn’t think of the guys name. You have to admit Exner wasn’t afraid to put a lot of flair into his designs, something others seemed to be afraid to do, as if they didn’t want to outrage the public, something Chrysler didn’t seem to worry too much about, just so long as it was ‘different’ to the run of mill other stuff out there, the public either loved it or hated it.

      4
  6. Sam61

    I know it’s the wrong year, but this car made me think of Milton Berle driving a 62 in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”. Great movie to spot old cars/trucks, etc.

    8
    • Bill McCoskey

      Sam61,
      One of my favorite movie spoken lines was when Ethel Merman stood up in the back seat of the Imperial Convertible, during the beginning of the big race, and yelled “We’re in the Imperial and we’re last?”.

  7. B.J.

    Prior to owning my ’62 Imperial I had a ’65 Thunderbird Landau which I was happy to own for 6 or 7 years, one day I went to a friends home and he showed me his ’62 Imperial 4 door in the garage, well needless to say I was in love, couldn’t get rid of the T-Bird quick enough and bought the Imperial from LA and had it shipped to Australia. Tell me what other car has headlamps like that sitting on the front and slapping you in the face, tail lamps like bullets sitting up on top of what’s left of the fins and a toilet seat on the trunk lid? Ya gotta love it’s brash styling that’s waaay out there in so many ways.

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  8. Rex Kahrs Member

    I agree BJ, Chrysler under Exner led the way for late-50s design. But Elwood Engel’s ’61 Lincoln design was simple and understated, without all the bling of Exner. When Ford passed on Engel as head designer, Engel went to Chrysler with his slab-side design, and the ’65-’68 C-bodies are a perfect example.

    But still, Ford carried that slab-side design for nearly 20 years from ’61 through the ’70s with the Mercs and Lincolns.

    Here’s a shot of my Engel ’67 Chrysler Newport custom. Notice that the knife-edge front fenders are nearly identical to the mid-70s Lincolns.

    4
    • B.J.

      Rex, does your Newport have the inverted curve along the side panels, can’t quite make it out in the pic? A friend of mine has one and I just can’t seem to get the shape right in my head, they should be either flat/vertical or with a slight outward curve in my book. It’s just me I suppose, damn nice car all the same, don’t you just love the sheer size of some of the 60/70’s cars? I liken my Imperial to driving an aircraft carrier with that huge square deck/hood sticking out in front of you and mine’s silver/grey like a carrier as well. My buddy has a 73 Imperial and it’s absolutely huge.

      1
      • Rex Kahrs Member

        BJ, the Newport surely does have the concave – side slabs, and they are absolutely awesome!

        5
    • Gloin

      Are those the chrome reverse baby moons?

      1
    • BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

      Rex, shame there’s no Volvos showing in the photo.

      1
      • Rex Kahrs Member

        Hi Bob! The V-70s are out front. Too many cars….

        1
  9. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    ‘Quartic’ steering wheel.

    2
    • Bellingham Fred

      Looking at it today I coined the term “Steering rectangle”.

      2
  10. Tom Bell

    If I recall automotive history correctly, the free-standing headlights were intended to mimic those of the great classics of the 1930’s. Quite a contrast to those wonderful tail fins.

    In the early ’60’s there was a different mindset regarding air conditioning. It was available but it wasn’t considered a necessity as it is now, especially on a convertible. Buyers with performance in mind believed this accessory would rob too much horsepower.

    3
    • B.J.

      Tom, I get what you say about A/C in the early days, if it got too hot you just opened another window or turned the quarter vents in a bit more to redirect the air onto your face. Now we have it we can’t live without it but in the old days it wasn’t an option so we didn’t miss it. Everyone who sees my car always comments on the headlamps, photographers love them.

      4
      • Frank Perez

        My 1964
        Lincoln convertible did not come with A/C.
        People who bought convertibles thought A/C was a joke.
        If it got too hot just drop the top:

  11. Rex Kahrs Member

    Here’s a better photo of those awesome sides, I think it’s Barry’s car from the C-body forum. It’s my screen saver.

    5
  12. Del

    Because of its weirdness this car is a work of art.

    I love them

    3
  13. Bob McK Member

    Did not like these new, but love them today.

    1
  14. Wayne

    I had a 60 Imperial Custom coupe with absolutely no options. It had crank windows, manual seat no air and radio delete! Back then you could just about order your car anyway you wanted. Love Imperials!

    2
  15. John Corey

    I also have one of these (mine’s NOT for sale). Whatever you think of the aesthetics (and they are polarizing), it is also a very advanced car technically. With torsion bar front suspension, curved side glass, electroluminescent instrument lighting, fully radiused panel openings, tunable power antenna and signal-seeking radio, among other interesting features. And they handle far better than their contemporaries from FoMoCo or GM! I have run mine four times in the Great Race cross-country TSD rally: coast-to-coast, border-to-border, lap of the Lakes, and the length of the Appalachians. Excellent machines. The one for sale here is an excellent example, by a seller I have known for years – and an expert on Imperials. If you ever wanted one of these Exner masterpieces, this is the one, and this is the time.

    4
    • B.J.

      John, with regard to the handling, a motoring journalist was given a 62 Imperial to test drive for a week or two when they first came out, one of his comments in his magazine article was that driving the Imperial was like ‘driving a tournament billiard table’ the ride was so flat, regardless of the speed and the curves of the highway. I have to agree with him completely, I’ve driven Cadillacs, etc, and even my old T-Bird and they’re like driving a feather mattress, they roll all over the place!

      2
  16. James Turner

    In the early 60,s my mom had a 1957 Desoto Adventurer and later a1960 Purple Imperial. I remember that the door latches used to freeze up in these cars in our south east Pennsylvania winters. I still have to laugh remembering when she had to rush into town 5 miles away to work holding the door closed while driving.

    2
  17. Bill McCoskey

    Back when the big Imperials were $100 cars & gas was about 35 to 50 cents, I used to drive them as my everyday cars. One of the first things I would do when buying another one, was to clamp a tow bar hitch onto the rear bumper, so I could use these big Imperials as a long distance tow vehicle, as no other luxury yacht could perform better at the task.

    The combination of the best brakes in the industry and a suspension that gave the driver a damn good feel of the road without being too rough, along with a “living room” interior, made it the perfect tow car. I would tow my 20′ trailer with dual axles, and put big Packards, Cadillacs and Chryslers, [and a few Lincolns] on the trailer, and the Imperial would say; “That’s all ya got?”

    And yes, all that weight resting on the rear bumper! [I wouldn’t think of doing that today!]

    2
  18. Miguel Member

    The sale closed at 50K with the reserve not met.

    How much more could they want?

    1
  19. Bill McCoskey

    Based on a recent NADA guide, The AVERAGE price is over $50k, and the HIGH [but not a national award winning car] is over $110k. So yeah, its gonna take a whole lot more for this one to go home with someone else! My guess is the reserve is in excess of $75k.

  20. bog

    As a preteen kid when these came out, and a budding car-guy and artist of sorts, those floating headlights and taillights really “hit the spot” for me. Chrysler corp really took leaps of faith in design..oddly canted headlights with different sized lamps etc. And quite polarizing. Folks either loved or hated them. No doubt about their engineering prowess, as mentioned by others. I always liked the idea of the “typewriter/push-button” shifting mechanism, and had one in my ’57 MERCURY two door hardtop. Haven’t researched which manufacturer had that idea first….and I’m not counting early pre-selectors in that function. ps – love the back seat passengers having their own ashtrays and lighters.

    1
    • B.J.

      Bog, you’re right about the ashtrays and lighters but in this day and age where are the bl–dy cup holders, I mean how could anyone live without a heap of those in their cars today?

      3
      • bog

        B.J. – really bleeding funny re: cup holders. (Had a “dually” American/English fiancee some years ago, so I’m allowed)
        I don’t know if any new cars sold in the US even have ashtrays. Cigar lighters have been replaced by power points of some sort. Back to cup holders…believe I heard an ad for one of the minivans that had 23 ! WHY ???

        2
  21. Rex Kahrs Member

    Is “bloody” a cuss word?

    1
    • BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

      Rex, depends on where you are & probably what generation you come from. My mother-in-law, who was born in the small Scottish village where, purportedly the last witch in Scotland was burnt but I say no, one still lives if you know what I mean would admonish my poor, but really not poor anymore after the divorce, ex-wife when she would say ‘bloody’. Also waaaay back when in high school we had an exchange student from New Zealand who would say ‘bloody f**king’ at the drop of a hat & that was cursing for him.

      2
    • TC.

      Rex, depends how sensitive you are, if you listen to the kids of today they use a lot worse than that in normal conversation and no one seems to care. It’s a sad world we live in but we can’t change it I’m afraid. If you don’t like cuss words don’t watch any movies, you’ll be horrified and the girls are as bad if not worse than the guys most times.

      2
  22. B.J.

    Bog, I’ve figured out why cars have side curtain air bags too, it’s because the metal, (or tin foil), they’re made of isn’t strong enough to withstand a minor impact, and other drivers keep trying to park inside them, also the reason for the odd shaping and bulges on new cars is to help keep the ‘tin foil’ in the shape it’s pressed in, if the sides of cars were flat or slightly curved like they used to be, they’d probably get a ‘ripple’ effect from the wind passing over it at high speed. I drove a VW Kombi van once at high speed?, well as fast as it would go, and the roof kept vibrating from the wind sliding over it out on the highway.

    2
    • bog

      B.J. – pretty funny stuff, that. One of my Army buddies in Germany had a Kombi, so I know what you mean about “high” speed. He got blown off the Wurzberg Autobahn twice, combination of cross-winds and semis. After that I drove everywhere until he sold it and bought a brand new OSI. That was a neat little car, Taunus (Ford) mechanicals…in his case a V6..and Ghia pretty much did the rest. It was pretty and quite aero for the day.

      2

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