Live Auctions

Last Of The Fabulous Fins: 1961 Imperial Crown

Wow. I don’t know how else to describe this 1961 Imperial Crown sedan other than just plain wow. The size, the luxury, the fins, the color, the everything. This wow’mobile can be found on Craigslist, or here on the CL archive, in Berkeley, California. The seller is asking $9,000 cash, and no low ball offers. Thanks to Pat L. for tracking down this gorgeous Imperial!

1961 would be the last year for the big fins, they were already mostly out of favor but Chrysler held on tight, at least until the 1962 Imperials came out. These cars were known for not having the best build quality and for having rust issues. In all fairness, other makers were saddled with similar negative press.

The Imperial really held on to the past with the jewel-like separate headlights and tail lights and the fins, but I think that’s what makes them unique now. This is a mid-level Imperial Crown, a step above the Custom and a step below the LeBaron. This car looks great from the photos and the seller says that it “has hardly no rust at all.”

The separate headlight buckets and tail lights are a nice detail touch but by the early-60s they were already outdated. Chrysler held on until the 1964 Imperials came out. Just don’t call it a Chrysler Imperial! The current owner is “selling the car because I’ve been collecting for a long time and it’s time to reduce my inventory.” They also say that it has “been stored indoors for all of it’s life.” With no engine photo we have to guess what it looks like under that long hood. This car would have had a 413 cubic-inch V8 with 350 hp, the only engine available. The seller says that the “V8 Hemi engine fires right up and drives real strong”. The 413 is a wedgehead, not a hemi.

Finally, power windows on a luxury car from this era! Actually, they were standard equipment on the Imperial as were a power seat, power steering, and power brakes. There is no mention whether it has AC, a $590 option. This is it for overall interior photos – other than this slightly closer image of the driver’s side, which shows the power window switch hanging – and a detail photo showing the push button automatic. There are no back seat photos, no trunk photos, and no engine photos, I know, I know. Online car sellers of America, we need to have a serious talk. The Imperial Club lists a 1961 Imperial Crown 4-door as having a value of $3,500 for a #4 car, which this sure looks like to me. But, estimated values don’t mean a thing if a car is highly desirable and there is someone looking for the exact model. Thoughts on this great looking Imperial?


  1. Rick A. Loera Member

    This car has no A/C. It would have small vents on top of the dash as well as chrome vent registers on the left and right just under the dash. The front seat has been recovered in eighties velour, which looks fairly decent in this application. I always prefer the original pattern interior because I like originality in my cars. But I understand that in this case it would cost a lot if money to replicate the original interior. Also by 1961 Chrysler Corporation had improved build quality so much that Chrysler offered a 50,000 mile warranty which was unheard of in the auto industry back then. The rust issues were pretty much gone by the time the 1960 models came out. The Imperial was practically hand made in those days as well. The Imperial had its own dedicated assembly line where each worker had at least twenty to twenty five years with the company in order to be able to work at the Imperial plant. They were also subject to a 25 mile pre delivery test drive to make sure the car was perfect. Considering the Imperial was priced like similar Cadillacs and Lincoln’s, I would say that the Imperial was one great car

    Like 2
  2. Rod K

    Always liked the big finned cars but they started to lose their lustre with these models. Still I wouldn’t mind having this as part of my collection. Nice car.

    Like 1
  3. CCFisher

    This writeup presents a different view of Imperials of this era than I’m used to seeing. I was under the impression that they were rather finely crafted in comparison to other Chrysler products, and didn’t suffer the same quality issues, which had largely been addressed by 1961. The man-hours (it’s a ’61 – nobody gave the gender-specific nature of that term any consideration back then) involved in that seamless front end alone would build an entire car today!

    I’ve always found the free-standing headlights and taillights to be a bold retro move in an era when everyone else seemed obsessed with futuristic styling.

    Like 1
  4. David R.

    There’s a guy around the block from me with one of these. His, however, is no where near this nice. It’s white, and used to be covered with a tarp but it isn’t any longer. The seats are red, and it must have been leather or something because it looks like they’re cracked. It hasn’t moved in the entire time that I’ve discovered it. Along with it is a black 1963 model. They’ve been on and off craigslist a few times, both of them as a package with the 1963 as a parts car. The guy’s got all of these “No Trespassing” signs, and a long, skinny driveway, but they’re close to the property line and you can see them from the other side. It breaks my heart to see them rot away, they were such fine cars in their day, and exceedingly magnificent today. I’ve always thought of Imperial as a step above Cadillac and Lincoln – an American Rolls Royce.

  5. John Newell

    “Wow. I don’t know how else to describe this 1961 Imperial Crown sedan other than just plain wow.”

    Here is your first suggestion: call it a four door hardtop. Other than that, nice job.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Thanks, John! The hardtop was the only option in 1961 – either a 2-door or 4-door, there was no longer a 4-door sedan version. Although, a Crown convertible was available.

      Like 1
  6. Karguy James

    I love the excess of these cars and the steering wheels is fantastic.

    Like 1
  7. David C

    I’ve worked on quite a few of these and I would say the build quality was comparable to the Lincoln or Cadillac of the same era. Nice cars for sure.

    Like 1
  8. Zapp

    30 years ago, I rented an apartment from a lady who kept one of these in her garage–also pink, but with a beige interior. It was her pride and joy…

    One glance and you could see that more effort went into making that Imperial than any Cadillac of the day.

    Like 1
  9. normadesmond

    It’s pink. Can’t do better than that.

  10. Rube Goldberg Member

    Many years ago ( 70’s) my old man rented a small warehouse for his building business, and several vehicles were stored there, including one of these that had an engine fire. It had every option you could think of, including a stainless steel roof. For the time, this was one of the best American cars you could drive. Milburn Drysdale knew what to drive. :)

    Like 1
    • gary

      Miss Jane, back seat, hubba hubba!

      Like 2
  11. Pat

    I didn’t know Mary Kay was around in 1961

    Like 1
    • Rob M.

      Damn! Beat me to it!

      Like 1
  12. JGeezer Member

    OK, no underside pics – but they couldn’t even open the hood?

  13. Maestro1

    Scotty thanks for this and you are absolutely right about online sellers. Either they learn to be honest candid and succinct about what they are selling or give the thing to a Pro and let him/her do it right. And spend the money to give potential buyers good views of different aspects of the cars.
    I,too, love the excess and Imperials were certainly that. Great cars.

    Like 2
  14. Miguel

    The only thing I can say is Bee-You-Tiful.

    Like 1
  15. RicK

    back in the early 70s when I was in high school some old lady gave us one of these, not sure what model, was either a 60 or a 61, anyhow had been sitting in her carport not running, was pink originally but repainted white and was really rusty, she had it when she had previously lived in Hawaii and brought it to Washington with her, but we got it running, turned out reverse didn’t work – anyhow a bunch of us piled in and we drove it out of town to place where would take cars like this and took turns driving through heavily brushy & undeveloped land, crashing into stuff until it finally overheated majorly and wouldn’t drive no more so we trashed it, i.e. kicked whatever chrome that was left off of it and smashing the windows before abandoning it. As some point later it got towed away from where we left it and impounded and auctioned off, and the woman that gave it to us got the bill. We found that out when it turned out her son was one of classmates at school, anyhow he squawked at us about it to us that we should somehow pay the towing bill, needless to say we refused. You have to remember that in those days older cars were junk and and off the road by the time they were 10 years old especially cars made in the 50s and especially off brands like Rambler and Chrysler products, seemed like it was the transmission that always went out and back then it was $700 for a new transmission for a car that was worth 50 bucks and was why when you went into a wrecking yard all the cars were mostly intact nobody wanted them and nobody wanted the parts off them they just weren’t desiracble (except 55-57 Chev TWO doors) and up until the early 70s it seemed older mainstream cars had been made out of crummy materials and paint and chrome and turned to junk pretty rapidly.

    Like 1
  16. Fred D

    owner claims the car has a Hemi . Mopar stoped using the Hemi in 1958,annd brought it back in 64.The car should have a 413 wedge.

  17. Rick A. Loera Member

    Yup, and after the 413 was the 440 for the Imperial.

  18. Jim Z Member

    I had a couple of 63’s which got me started on my love for Imperials. The only problem with them was the tail lights were perched atop the rear fenders. Sorta like they built the car, forgot to incorporate tail lights, then someone said, “Hey, we’ll just screw them on top”. Sigh!
    I really do like the looks of this 61. Almost as much as my beloved 1960 model (pictured above), now residing in a Miami car museum. Head turner, where-ever we went!

    Like 1

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