Royal Flush: Twenty Four 1980’s Chrysler Imperials

Have you ever wanted your very own car collection to brag about? To be able to regale folks at cocktail parties about your dozens of fine automobiles? Well, here’s your chance to swirl your Manhattan around in its glass, smile knowingly and gloat, “Why yes, I do own twenty-four Chrysler Imperials.” Hat tip to Ayan K. of the Radwood Classifieds group for discovering this fleet of early 1980’s Imperials being auctioned off here on eBay – however, it’s a bit of an odd listing (a shocker, I know). The auction itself is for the purchase of ONE of the vehicles, of your choosing. The high bidder also gets first dibs on any additional cars. Also, they’re not all 1981 vehicles as listed, they range from 1981 to 1983 in vintage.

Seller states the cars have been stored in the “perfect California desert climate” and are rust free, “99% complete” examples of the short-lived early 80’s revival of this storied marque. Beginning in 1926, Chrysler has offered (off and on) the Imperial as its top of the line conveyance. Its return in 1981 after a five-year hiatus saw them equipped with the 318 V8 and pretty much every luxury feature under the sun. According to Automobile Magazine’s excellent overview of the model, they came standard with such amenities as a fully digital dash, power everything, remote trunk release & built-in garage door opener, and even a Mark Cross luxury gift set.

Evidently, there was even a Frank Sinatra Edition, complete with an exclusive paint code and a collection of cassette tapes featuring the crooner – I wonder if any of these happen to be in the mix? The seller does elaborate that of the 24 cars, 6 were optioned with sunroofs. After complaints regarding the reliability of Chrysler’s electronic fuel injection system, a carbureted option was added for the 1982 model year – 8 of these are so equipped. Customers had an option of leather or cloth interior, and a mix of both are present here.

Currently, none of these Imperials are running or driving but the seller indicates all components are present and they are ready for restoration. Frankly, if you’re in the market for an Imperial to fix up you could certainly do a lot worse – while they’re certainly in need of a good cleaning, the cars to all appear to be in pretty decent cosmetic condition and look to be free of rust. Surely with two dozen to choose from, there must be a few diamonds in the rough here. Could this be the beginning of your personal concours d’elegance?

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  1. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Hey Matt – nice find and write-up. An striking elegant design from a time largely polluted with forgettable cars. Many were converted to carburetors so it would be interesting to have a running, driving fuel-injected one. Or take a clean one with leather interior, drop in a stock SRT-8 drivetrain, and otherwise don’t touch a thing, original wheels with stickier tires, etc. It might be challenging to get it to work with the original digital instruments, but that would be slick.

    • Billy 007

      This is my favorite J Car from 1983, and almost as rare.

      • Oingo

        Had an 81 plain jane, fuel efficient and comfortable.

    • Den Giese

      This 81 still has oem injection with over 180,000

      • Glenn

        Yes Denny I can testify to that, seeing I sold it to you back in 92? Its been in good hands with you at the wheel piling up the miles with gusto!!

  2. Emmy J

    Well no wonder they’re difficult to find! Apparently this guy has them all.

    • Howard A

      Meh, wasn’t really looking for one,,,

  3. Gay Car Nut

    I remember this generation of the Imperial. I find them more attractive than most previous generations, except for the 1967.

  4. poseur Member

    agree completely on these being the best looking of the ’80s luxury cars; restrained styling with classy flowing lines.

    what a shift from the behemoth ’78 New Yorker Brougham Coupe my cousin drove!

    if i were a Mopar guy i’d love to have one with a built 360 or a modern Hemi!

    • Kevin McCabe

      The car pictured is NOT a 1978!

    • r s

      I would take that NY’er Brougham IN A HEARTBEAT over any J(unk) car.
      I promise to not get everyone agitated all over again on that subject…

  5. Pete Kaczmarski

    I owned a 1981 Imperial and had ton of fuel injection problems to the point the car would not start. They are sharp styling but failed in the engineering that Chrysler was once famous for. Give me my ’78 New Yorker St Regis Coupe any day over the 81-83 Imperial.

    • Oingo

      For sure, pals Dad had 78 newport custom with the 400.

    • Glenn

      Peter that is your old car that I bought from you in 88 and sold to Denny in 92! Its still going strong and with its factory fuel injection, That’s my Frank also with factory fuel injection. You just didn’t have the patience to figure out it was the fuel pressure sensor on the support plate, it looks like a brake light switch! 28 years later and Denny is still enjoying this car and its still fuel injected! Love your 78 New Yorker!!

      • Danny

        I have these same two now, a brown one and the FS I just purchased.

  6. Max

    I have 80 NewYorker Fifth Av with 15k original miles !
    not for sale just shating love for hobby!

  7. Bob C.

    They only built 12,385 of this generation for those three model years. Can’t be many more survivors out there.

  8. the one

    had one.. 81..same problem, FI not up to par.. Fix? revert to carb
    sold it..

    • theGasHole

      Carb revert was covered by Chrysler, it would have cost you $0 out of pocket.

    • r s

      Revert to carb – and what was it, like 125 horsepower? The horns on my Mirada should have gone ‘woof woof’.

  9. Brent

    In regards to the fuel injection problems, Chrysler fell victim to the war between engineers and bean counters. All makes fall victim to it now and again. What comes off the drawing table ain’t always what comes out the door. Junk solder in ign. modules.(Ford) Making door hinges from one model fit another.(AMC) Soft cams.(GM) The list goes on and on. To put blame where blame is due put it on bean counter not the engineers. However, companies have to make a profit. So….

    • jack frost

      Brent I disagree. The engineers were rushed by Lee to JUST DO IT. They didn’t have time enough to test it on the open road. Lee demanded a Cadillac challenger when he moved over to Chrysler. True the company was floated by the US Govt at the time, but bean counters didn’t rule even in those tough times. Chrysler was engineer driven even under German guidance. Under the Italians, now that’s a nightmare all it’s own, there vehicles are junk now.

    • Kevin McCabe

      Had a friend who was an engineer who bought an ’82 and performed a ground up restoration on it. He tracked down not only all of the service equipment and documents needed to repair the car, he also tracked down the Chrysler engineers who developed the whole system. He essentially reverse engineered what Chrysler had done, worked the bugs out of it and claimed the car was as reliable and bullet-proof as any car he’d ever had. Tried to convince him to market his “kit” to make every Imperial owner’s life easier but could never succeed.

  10. Ikey Heyman

    Seems like a dopey way to auction off a car (winning bidder takes his pick), but maybe this guy is crazy like a fox and I just haven’t figured out his strategy?

  11. Maestro1 Member

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of these in one place. Not even in traffic in general! Yes, the FI was a nightmare and I did what everybody else did and sold the car. That and the digital dashboard. But I like the Model, and would probably have another one if i had the room. If you are a mechanical/electronic guy this car is for you. Solve the problems initially and the thing will run forever.

  12. Jeepster
    • Rusty


    • Dovi65

      Tho it seems nicely done, just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean that you SHOULD do it. Hopefully, this one was in a wreck, or otherwise not salvageable before the cutting.
      I love the land barges from the 60s & 70s, the bigger, the better! I’ve always wanted one of these Imps, but when they were ‘used cars’, the ones I was finding reasonably priced [for a just out of college, entering the real world] were in need of FI replacement. My budget wasn’t able to handle that when combined with life expenses

      • dweezilaz

        That 70 Imperial has been butchered. Completely unbalanced now.

        Saw a custom car magazine take a 57-58 Imperial Southampton two door hardtop, which was well over 30 years old at the time and 40-50,000 miles use it for a chop top custom.


    • Little Cars

      So short, and yet the seller can’t seem to get the whole car in a frame of his camera phone. What a laugh. Looks like it started as a really nice example from the “fuselage” period.

    • Kevin McCabe

      I couldn’t begin to comment on the car in this ad. I’d end up writing pages and pages.

  13. boxdin

    The “bustle back” was an odd styling detail, the Cad Seville had a rounder one. Neither looked good.

  14. Coventrycat

    I love those Imperials, but not that much.

  15. Blueprint

    24 Imperials = one bad case of malaise ;)

  16. Axeltrap

    There was a guy who had at least 6. Saw them all in the junkyard a few years back. Interesting place for a fuel pump and module.

  17. Mike

    Corner the market if you bought the 19 cars from last year.

    • Alexander

      I knew I’d seen another BF write up in the past year that included multiple malaise Imperials. Funny they are on either side of the country. Certainly a carburated mod among the 30+ choices!

  18. Joey Buzz

    I am from Brooklyn, back in the day, this was a Wise Guy car, 😎😎😎.

  19. Spencer Arthur

    I owned a 1981 Imperial. It was a nice car and rode like a dream. Only had 13,000 original miles. Sold it to an older gentleman in Maryland. Mine was blue just like the first pic.

  20. Del

    Someone had a serious collection addiction.

    None running.

    No thanks.

    Some good parts cars.

  21. Kevin McCabe

    These cars are NOT a “Chrysler Imperial”. They are an IMPERIAL. The 1980-1983 Cordoba and Mirada are “J” body cars. The Imperials were identified internally at Chrysler as “Y” body cars. ALL of these cars are derivatives of the “M” body LeBaron, Diplomat, Gran Fury/Caravelle, Fifth Avenue cars which in turn are derivatives of the “F” body Aspen/Volare.


    THIS is a REAL Imperial:

    …and my first car. True Imperials ceased to exist around 1975.Dude would’ve been better off collecting Trabants over these designed-by-first-generation CAD-travesties.

  23. Imperialist1960

    People tend to freak about the EFI. It was a relatively simple system, and suffered because it was brought to dealerships who were not trained to service it.

    There is a master manual called the “Gold Book” (because it was worth its weight in gold due to scarcity) that lays out the whole system and allows it to be fixed with persistence, if not ease. The copy that’s on the internet for free at the Online Imperial Club has notes from Chrysler Engineering people in the margins specifically predicting that the dealership network would flub service.

    Compared to modern stuff, it’s super simple.

    The people howling about carb conversions didn’t have the options of replacing it with one of the recently offered EFI throttle bodies like the Holley Sniper or others, so that’s an alternate option, since parts for the EFI are scarcer than they used to be.

    This is a nice chassis with unique styling that looks great when it’s clean and shiny. Driveline aside from fueling is bulletproof, and it has a neat-o digital dashboard that was truly ahead of its time. Driving manners are relaxed to say the least, but good cars.

  24. Little Cars

    The digital dash of the Cadillac Allante and Buick Reatta have left many an otherwise cherry driver vehicle in owner’s back yards. I know, I stop whenever I see one for sale and nine out of ten times the car was taken off the road due to the digital dash going blank. GM also printed a dealers diagnostic manual like Chrysler did, but too little too late.

  25. Michael L Gregory

    Pretty sure the blue one featured is the Sinatra Edition. They were that color. I once read that his free Imperial died in an intersection and wouldn’t restart. He got so mad he wanted to withdraw his endorsement. Don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s a good story.

    • theGasHole

      That is a true story sir. It actually died when going under some power lines and then wouldn’t start again.

  26. Glenn

    No its not ice blue and has a dark blue interior, should be light blue in either leather or cloth. should have mini console under dash also. My 81 Frank with factory sun roof, one year option! I wonder why the sun roof was only in 81? My car has the only two options offered, making it the rarest of the three years! one of maybe 50 in 1981!

    • theGasHole

      Very nice Glenn and yes that sunroof is the rarest of the rare. Nice one!

  27. Glenn

    My 81 Frank with one year only sunroof option. No its not a Frank, it has a dark blue exterior and interior! Should be Ice blue on both! I sure hope they all find good homes! I find them beautiful!

  28. Ralph H.

    Why anyone would park 24 of these to rot in the CA sun is beyond me…They must have been so much nicer at one point..too bad they weren’t stored indoors..

    • Alexander

      Related story. So when my mom was a piano teacher. She had a single owl print hanging on the wall near the piano beginning around 1956. When she passed in 2008, the house was full of owls of every description–wall art, planters, crochet, porcelain, jewelry. Over the years people just gave her stuff because they thought she was “into” owls. Maybe this Chrysler hoarder started out with one runner and one parts car … then somebody kept tossing more Imperials their way?

      • theGasHole

        Entirely possible. I say that because I know of another person who has some of these 81-83 Imperials….I want to say he has 5 or 6 of them. Doesn’t strike me as a hoarder in any other way. I have a feeling that for so long (and okay still currently) these cars did not have much of a fan base, and so when someone came along who did want one, people were all too happy to exchange keys for a small sum of cash.

  29. theGasHole

    Weird way to do an auction. There are some of us out there who do like these cars. The models that are black with the red leather interior are the sharpest looking in my opinion. Not everyone’s cup of tea to be sure, but in the context of when these were produced, they were some of the nicest cars on the road. Fun fact: the 1981-1983 Imperials were the most expensive American cars on the market, at over $25,000 MSRP.

    • Kevin McCabe

      Yes, $25k MSRP, with dealer invoice at about $18K. Met a dealer years ago from a little tiny town outside of Calgary who was Canada’s #1 Imperial dealer. Didn’t hurt that he was in the oil patch, but the fact that he was OK with making $1500 on each sale rather than holding out for the whole $7k markup, that ensured his success. He ended up buying cars from dealers everywhere who couldn’t sell their cars.

    • Glenn

      Very nice! Is yours a Frank, what year?

      • theGasHole

        Thank you sir yes mine is/was an 82 FS Edition. I ended up selling it last year to the person who designed the interior of these cars.

  30. glenn

    if i had the money i would buy them all restore them and find an old car dealership you know the one with the huge windows and put themin there as a car museum with other imperial from years gone by

  31. Glenn

    Gas Hole here is your chance to have another, or several! they need to be saved! Any spare injection parts left over? Mine is still injected and Im down to my last computer that likes to melt down into the throttle bores in the support plate!! call me 920 887 8593 like to hear about yours!

  32. Glenn

    Well high bid was just over 1K ! wonder how many will go at that price and if he will relist the rest? Lets hear from the winning bidder!

  33. Pete Kaczmarski

    lets see….the year was 1988 and I only had one car. I just started my dream job in which I went to school for. The ’81 Imperial would not start. NO ONE had any parts or conversion kits (to carburetor) and if they did it was $2500. Nobody would work on them also. They were poorly engineered from the beginning and not up to the standards of previous Chrysler products.

    P.S. if the car was so great you should of paid me more than the scrap yard price you gave me. And not a penny more.

  34. Glenn

    I think it was $1.200.00 and with a little research had it up and running for the price of the fuel regulator. The fact that its still running on the fuel injection all these years later is tribute to the overall design of the system, yes quality and cutting $$ was its down fall!

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