One Of 119! 1956 Crown Imperial Limousine

What looks like a cross between a Presidential parade vehicle and a mob staff car? An eight-passenger Crown Imperial, C70, four-door limousine like this 1956 example. One of only 119 produced, I believe this is the first one that I have encountered. Manufactured at a time when the Imperial was a separate brand under Chrysler Corporation and not a model under the Chrysler marque, this unique limo does not carry Chrysler branding. This interesting study in executive cartage is located in West Milford, New Jersey and is available here on eBay for a current bid of $710, reserve not yet met.

When one thinks of mid-century limousines, images of a Cadillac Fleetwood or a Lincoln Continental are usually conjured. While either a Chrysler or an Imperial is very deserving of that exalted status, they seem to have less frequently occupied that role. And as for airport limousines, those goofy looking eight door extravaganzas, they were usually built on stretched commodity car platforms like Ford, Checker or Pontiac. This Imperial limo is quite a discovery!

The exterior images provided are limited and mostly in portrait format so it’s tough to get a comprehensive exterior view of this Imperial. The body of this limo looks pretty intact but the seller has little to say about it. The finish is typically faded and there looks to be some rust in the lower doors and driver side fender as well as a buckled passenger side fender. The chrome plating is thin and the trim is corroded but it all seems to be there. Imagine how hard it would be to find missing pieces – tough enough for an Imperial, made more complicated by the items that are unique to the limousine body. How about those “gunsight” tail lights? We probably won’t see the likes of those again. This limo hasn’t run in a long time, more on that later, but it would appear to be parked in a wrecking or storage yard of some sort, not a place conducive to proper auto storage. That thought leads to concerns about how this car was stored i.e. for how long, where, under what conditions, etc. and thusly, in what kind of shape is the underside/frame/floors?

The interior is an interesting study. While the chauffer’s compartment is covered in deteriorating black leather upholstery, the rarified air of first-class is sheathed in saddle tan leather. Front or back, it doesn’t matter, both sides of the glass divider are going to need a lot of attention. In typical limousine fashion, there is a folding jump seat for those who are not quite at the top of the totem pole yet. Even with a 149.5″ wheelbase, a ride in that jump seat looks less than accommodating for a long haul. There are two images of the fold-up seat included, one where you can clearly see it (above) and another where every bit of detritus imaginable is piled in and around it. It’s dispiriting and probably should have been excluded from the listing.

As is standard affair for a domestic car of this period, this Imperial possesses a traditional front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. That might seem obvious but there is no engine under the hood and a bunch of its parts are in the trunk. This Imperial originally housed a 354 CI, “HEMI” V8 engine that produced 280 gross HP. Hard to say where it is or what happened to it, no comment from the seller on that front. Gear changes, which occur twice when engaged, are courtesy of a PowerFlite, pushbutton actuated transmission – it may or may not still be in place.

The good: This is a rare and unique car! It’s a monster in length with that huge wheelbase and is fitted out with genuine limousine features like a jump seat and a glass compartment divider. It’s also trending at minimal value ($710) but the reserve amount is unknown. The Bad: It needs a lot of work and there are many, many unknowns, the engine being the most obvious. Unusual, low production cars like this can be nightmarish to return to driver quality, much less to a restored level. And then there is the issue of where do you store such a gargantuan car? So, assuming this limousine could be returned to a reasonable facsimile of its original stature, what could one do with this Imperial? It could serve as a private limo for an upscale hotel; leased out for wedding parties; a “night on the town” limo or….? What do you think would be its best use?

 

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Comments

  1. JACKinNWPA JACKinNWPA Member

    In my humble opinion the best way to save this car would be to set the body on a late model Ram 1500 two wheel drive chassis. Finish the interior with modern fabrics yet keep it classy. Tri-tone the body and finish the resto-mod with show chrome and some 18 inch wheels that mimic the original hubcaps then blend right in at SEMA.

    Like 10
    • Sam61

      Great idea…long bed crew cab frame with a “normal” hemi…the hellcat hemi stuff is getting old.

      Like 4
    • Mike

      The top looks already chopped, not tall and awkward like some other 50’s limos. Definitely have wheels done in the style like ICON’s Derelict series.

      Like 3
    • canadainmarkseh Member

      Exactly what I would do with it.

      Like 1
  2. Howard A Member

    That hemi was swapped into a hot rod many moons ago. Maybe some parts for someone redoing a regular Chrysler, nobody going to want this. Be a tough sell even if it did run.

    Like 7
  3. geomechs geomechs Member

    This would definitely be one of those special interest cars. I helped my late friend restore his ’41 Cadillac 75 limo and he later picked up a ’64 model. Nice cars if that’s what you really like to drive. Defintely agree with Howard as to the fate of the engine, and probably the transmission. So many nice cars were bought up only to give up their precious powerplants. A lot of “Numbers Matching” Cobra Jets, Super Sports, Cudas and Challengers running engines that originally powered family sedans, wagons, limos and trucks…

    Like 15
  4. jerry z

    That is a lot of car! Perfect for weddings, how many can say they rode in an Imperial limo!

    Agree with with JACKinNWPA, this needs a modern drivetrain to be a fun runner.

    Also funny part is I worked in West Milford for 20 yrs!

    Like 2
  5. Will Fox

    If the reserve isn’t ridiculous, this may be worth getting. There aren’t more than a few of these left, and you are guaranteed that once restored, this will hold its value.

    Like 5
    • theGasHole

      The problem with Imperials (and I’ve had many of them), is the pool of people who want one is very, very small. I credit this to the fact that so few Imperials were ever produced in the first place, their sticker price was very high, and nowadays finding parts is a frustrating and expensive endeavor. One will have way, way more money into this than they will ever get back out of it. But of course, we do this for the love of the car, not to make money!

  6. Ralph

    I’m going to take a stab and say the rear compartment is most likely some sort of wool/broadcloth and NOT leather. This was typical of most limousines with a divider, the drivers compartment was leather and the rear was fabric.

    Like 9
    • Wayne Graefen

      Yes, the rear compartment is wool coachcloth, like Hirsch and Lebaron-Bonney have long offered. Came tan like this car or gray. Formal sedans (no division glass) came with patterned broadcloth throughout.

  7. PaulG

    I’m in agreement that at this point, a modern drive train is the way to go.
    The eBay photo of the interior taken from the passenger side shows an unusual clock perched above the rear view mirror, and the trunk holds what appears to be a large amount of interesting parts and pieces from who-knows-what.
    I am glad it’s 2000 miles away, or else I might have to call it my new home!

    Like 8
    • Weasel

      Apparently all the cool kids call it Fleabay now. Figure it out dude.

      Like 1
  8. Brent

    Sitting here in my shop looking at my homeless 440.
    Satan get thou behind me.

    Like 24
  9. Steve Bush Member

    Looks to be mostly complete other than its missing engine and perhaps fixable but likely somewhat costly depending on what’s underneath. Would be much more helpful if the seller provided some decent pics and description. Remember seeing a beautiful dark blue mint condition 1958 Imperial limo at the Crawford Auto/Aviation Museum here in Cleveland back in the 1970s.

    Like 3
  10. BlondeUXB Member

    Tail lights aside, 1956 was a high point in Mopar design history…

    Like 4
  11. Chris M.

    Parts. Regardless of rarity who would consider such a bohemoth as a project?

    Like 3
  12. Troy

    The reason I buy lottery tickets……

    Like 4
  13. Jim Mc

    Agreed, 354 was yanked for a hot rod a long time ago. Looks like headers and most of the trans is still in the trunk.
    My moneypit suggestion: go full Neil Young on this beast and make it an EV. Instead of LincVolt, call it an ImpVolt. If only I were stupid rich instead of moviestar handsome and dead broke…

    Like 5
    • Kenny

      Well, you’d certainly have plenty of room for batteries…

  14. 370zpp

    My, my, what a beauty. Imagine the goings on that took place in that faded lady oh so long ago . .

    Like 3
  15. Jack

    My family had a Chrysler dealership in a small Missouri town for 75 years, and in 1955 the local funeral home ordered 2 of these “town sedans” – allegedly receiving the the pair after the President got his. When they traded them back in in the early ’60s I bought one and stored it in my sainted mother’s garage ’til ’69 when I took it to Atlanta, selling it in 1971 to a Buick dealer in NY. The interesting engineering feature about them as it was explained to me was that they had disc brakes – which worked by two discs being forced together. No calipers. Who knows?

    Like 7
    • bone

      This ones in Jersey , maybe its the one you sold to the Buick dealer in NY ?

      Like 2
    • Wayne Graefen

      Yes, the long wheelbase Crowns all came with Ausco-Lambert disc brakes standard through ’56. But parts for them rapidly were obsolete in following years so all that stayed on the road were converted to the standard Imperial drum brakes. I have a ’56 Crown Limo by Derham that had this conversion, for example.

  16. Bob_in_TN Member

    This vehicle undoubtedly was classy in its day. Surely it would be a labor of love to get it to any sort of workable condition. But it does offer the possibility of being a revenue-generator, to some degree.

    By the way, $7737 in 1956 is about $74,000 today. And I can’t imagine how Chrysler justified tooling up for the 149.5″ wheelbase production run which ended up being only 170 vehicles.

    Like 4
  17. Husky

    If one should swap in another engine, why not go all the way and put in a bored and stroked to about 8 Liter Jaguar V-12, not for the horsepowers, but for that turbine like ride and comfort…

    Like 1
  18. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Funny…doesn’t look to have the trunk A/C option.

    Like 2
  19. charlie Member

    The two disc brake was similar in theory to the New Departure coaster brake on my 1950 Rollfast bicycle – since I took everything apart in those days to see “how it works”, there were multiple discs that when pressed together stopped the bike. I am thinking that the Lockheed disc brakes for aircraft of the time were similar as well, but I am not at all sure.

    Like 3
  20. Terry J

    Old adage: Just because something is rare doesn’t mean it’s valuable. Up until recent times this car would be a dilemma. A Limo ( or any Cadillac, Lincoln, Rolls etc) could only be restored to it’s former glory at massive (usually unrecoverable cost) so many such were not worth the buy in and met their doom at the crushers. Today however, about anything can be usable as-is under the term Rat. I will now duck behind my desk to keep from being hit by rocks. :-) Terry J

    Like 3
  21. Maestro1 Member

    Terry, you are correct but if I had the room and time I maybe would take this seriously. It’s bizarre enough, when restored has no numbers matching value but would attract the bizarre and maybe a rock band. Anyway, if it were to be a keeper then one would have to go the whole way with it, probably just South of $100,000.00.

    Like 1
  22. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Speaking of bizarre. This popped up this morning on a Facebook page devoted to “Abandoned Places.” Obviously a professional car but what a hyrbrid mishmash of GM parts from the 50s. And that roof with boiling hot skylights all over. Can’t believe a hearse would have been crafted like this, even for a celebrity.

    Like 5
    • Paolo

      Reminds me of some Argentinian hearses that I’ve seen.

      Like 1
      • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

        Paolo, I believe this one originated in Central America somewhere. On the page devoted to its “restoration” there is this photo of it as some sort of latino altar-funeral pyre contraption…sombrero wheelcovers, crosses, bling everywhere.

  23. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Dante Fontana has a whole page devoted to this beast.

    Like 4
    • Chris

      That is a beautiful car hopefully someone with deep pockets can save that . I have never seen one like that .This comment was for Dante Fontana & Little_Cars

      Like 2
  24. Gregory Borzewski

    I personally think if it was restored i would love to have it. I feel these were better then Cadillac’s or Lincoln’s. I’m 65′ Yrs old. I’m also disabled. I sure can use a limo to get around. I hate the 1990’s and above. i want original car’s. I don’t think i can afford one anymore the way prices went crazy. I have a 1990 Cadillac Brougham with 74K on her she’s mint. You can eat off her anywhere. I had it about 15 years. in that time i don’t think i put 8.000 miles on her. Always garaged never seen rain or snow. I just want a Limo be fore i die.

    Like 1
  25. Hemidavey

    I know of a near complete (no intake/carb) 1956 354 Hemi engine if someone wants to get this back on the road?

    Like 2
    • Silverfox

      (Silverfox) – DeSoto about this time period had a special HEMI Engine like this as an option in some lines and standard in others. I know of one which is parked and a complete car with this complete engine in it. Nothing missing. Could be possibly bought as Original owner has since passed away couple yrs. back now. Car is located in Keysville, Virginia.

      Like 1
      • Wayne Graefen

        All top model DeSotos from ’52-57 had Hemi engines. So what is special about the one you’ve seen?

  26. Peter

    The parts in the trunk have tape on them. It is possible they are new old stock items as the mufflers look ok. The engine might still be in place.

  27. Gregory Borzewski

    Sure would love to have it. But i’m disabled and my SSI couldn’t buy it little lone tow it here to ILL. I need a limo to get around to the Doctor’s and Hospital for my spine appt’s. I wish for a miracle everyday. But Thank you.

    Like 2
  28. Pete Phillips

    There’s a black one of these Crown limousines that shows up at the Hershey, PA. swap meet every year. I walk past it and admire it every year.

    Like 1

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