Space Age Classic: 1959 Imperial Custom Coupe

Two of my favorite yet very cheesy sci-fi movies were made in 1959: Plan 9 From Outer Space and Teenagers From Outer Space. If you’ve ever seen one or both of them you know that there is basically no middle ground, you either love them or hate them. I don’t know anyone who would not like this space-age work of art, a 1959 Imperial Custom Southampton hardtop coupe. This beauty is listed here on eBay in Sheridan, Wyoming and the bid price is just over $6,800 but the reserve isn’t met yet.

Here are a couple of my other favorite sci-fi movies from 1959: The Killer Shrews and 4D Man. What a great year for cheesy movies and an unbelievably great year for cars. We all know the 1959 Cadillac Coupe DeVille and Cadillac sold over 10 times the number of them than Chrysler did with the Imperial Custom two-door hardtop. The Cadillac was only a few hundred dollars more but it’s by far a more popular car today.

Two more favorite 1950 sci-fi movies? The Robot Vs. the Aztec Mummy and The Wasp Woman. Most of them are on a certain streaming service near you. The unusual grille treatment of the 1959 Imperial is almost otherworldly with the new-for-1959 toothy grin/grille. This is not a pedestrian-friendly face what so ever and the chrome bill would be bigger than the cost of a cheesy 1959 movie budget. Speaking of budget, Hagerty is at $26,100 for a #3 good condition car so there’s a long way to go on this auction.

I have to keep going: First Man Into Space and Have Rocket, Will Travel. Ok, that last one doesn’t quite live up to the incredible standards of a 1959 Imperial. Check out this interior, it’s out of this world! The seller mentions that the fabric isn’t stock but is period style and that it is. I like it and it looks like the whole interior is in nice condition. The trunk also looks nice and it’s huge. This Imperial is completely rust-free according to the seller.

Last two: The Atomic Submarine and the classic Journey to the Center of the Earth. The engine is cleaner than I expected it to be but a weekend of detailing and changing those red hoses would make a world of difference. It’s Chrysler’s 413 cubic-inch V8 with 350 hp and this car has had a lot of work done and it sounds like it’s ready for take-off. Are there any Imperial fans out there? How about fans of cheesy 1959 sci-fi movies?

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Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    “Teenagers From Outer Space”. Aren’t they all?

    But all seriousness aside, I love this Virgil Exner wacky creation. Does anyone know if that hexagon upholstery is original? If so, man, that is probably some hard stuff to come by nowadays.

    Like 15
    • nlpnt

      “*Very old* teenagers from outer space…” as Mike and the bots from MST3K put it, I think everyone in that movie was over 30.

      Like 6
    • Wayne

      Ad says no. Read it. That’s what it’s there for.

      Like 1
  2. Rex Kahrs Member

    Ooops, I missed the sentence about the material not being stock. I just thought it might be related somehow to that paisley vinyl roof that came later.

    Like 10
  3. Howard A Member

    In case you haven’t noticed, Scotty, aside from an outstanding automotive journalist, also is a whizz at vintage TV. He knew the name of Barney Fifes landlady ( Mrs. Mendelbright) for cryin’ out loud. He knew the casts full stage names on Gilligans Island. I saw a comedy once, 2 Asians looking at the back of a ’59 Imperial and laughing and said, “it looks like big fat American woman in stretch pants”,,How would they know? For American cars, it didn’t get any better than this. Top of the line. If you ( or your wife) drove an Imperial, it meant you made it. Unlike today, where a signature gets you a BMW,,,or whatever. Another great find to show future generations, this is what the hoi-paloi( successful business owners, like Milburn Drysdale) drove in 1959.

    Like 18
    • Mountainwoodie

      I had a two tone ’63 Crown Southampton back in the eighties. A more subdued Exner, I think, design. Another one I shouldn’t have traded……….for a ten speed and some money ! What an idiot! But I was on a 2002 jag.Oh Well. Somebody call Ed Wood :) or at least Johnny Depp

      Like 1
  4. Moparman Member

    Scotty: What about the “The Giant Behemoth”, or “the Giant Gila Monster” both “imperial” sized and then some! Of course, there was also “the Angry Red Planet” with the huge walking spider/rat/bat things. And finally, in keeping with your movie theme, closing on a more serious note also from 1959, were “On the Beach” and “The World, The Flesh, and The Devil” This Imperial looks to be a solid buy. GLWTA! :-)

    Like 4
    • Gaspumpchas

      Moparman, I saw this custom at SEMA, got to talk to the owner/ builder, He had to cut the body 53 times to get everything to work. The talent and imagination of these folks is amazing!
      Stay safe
      Cheers
      GPC

      Like 5
      • Rick Rothermel

        Sci-fi flicks are fine, but a ’58 Imperial was dirt-tracked in HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL. Flung a wheel cover at one point, took out the side of a house!

        Like 3
    • Lance G Nord

      That car is rolling art… period.

      Like 3
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      I read this article a couple of days ago. What impressed me is that, after all this custom work that was put in, he drives it and enjoys it.

      I love seeing the customs that compete for the AMBR and RIDLER awards, but so many of those are probably socked away in collections.

      Like 1
  5. Farhvergnugen

    You so missed another classic that locked into my psyche as a teen – The Creeping Terror – which resembled a giant ‘flop mop’ (anyone else worked in a supermarket in HS??) that slowly crawled on top of barely-moving (and barely-clad but def barely-believable) humanoids.

    This car is certainly NOT a terror – it’s a wonderful and fantastic voyager!

    Like 7
    • Paolo

      The Creeping Terror is a horrible movie. Saw it recently on MST3000.

  6. JoeNYWF64

    Actually the above car coud have been made in ’58, the same year of the movie that inspired “Alien” – “It, the Terror from Beyond Space”.
    Did DASH mounted rear view mirrors become illegal or just not popular?
    Odd looking bellows over the brake mast cylinder. & a tank of some sort in front of it.
    If you see better quality RED heater hoses, there’s a good chance that 1 of the cheaper black hoses(back then) sprung a leak & possibly stranded those in the car. Always carry spare hoses & belts, nonetheless! – & tools.
    Power windows but no a/c in Chrysler’s flagship!
    Can you get ANY car today w/o a/c or w/o p/w?

    Like 5
    • Miguel

      Joe, why do you say the bellow is odd looking. All of these cars had them.

      I had to use electrical tape on mine to patch a leak.

      • JoeNYWF64

        I’m not too familar with cars from the 50s & i have never seen bellows where i’m expecting a 60’s or later type mast cylinder & maybe power booster – i still don’t know what the bellows are for, or what is that odd steel tank in front of it. lol

        Like 3
      • Howard A Member

        Yeah, that was Chryslers early attempt at vacuum assist brakes. It’s essentially the same as modern power brakes, except that “bellows” is hidden in a steel surround. That tank is an auxiliary vacuum tank, as there were other vacuum devices, like heater, that used vacuum.

        Like 1
    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      They offered both styles – the bellows send here and the booster type we are most familiar with – I’ll try and get a picture of the other style on my 56 D-500 and 56 Chrysler – I think it has the style.

      The tank is for brake air storage – mopar would use an extra tank in to the 60’s – you’ll see them on Darts and Valiant s.

  7. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    How did I miss Wasp Women?

    Like 5
    • Stevieg

      Sounds like my ex wife lol

      Like 1
  8. dave brennan

    Also in 58, ” the trollenburg terror ” or the crawling eye!!

    Like 5
    • PJH

      Now there’s one I remember, or I should say: “feared” when I was a kid – THE CRAWLING EYE ! Scared the pants off me and my older brother even!

      Like 1
  9. Bob McK Member

    I was offered one of these 25 years ago for $3500. Thought the price was too high at the time. Perhaps I was wrong.

    Like 8
    • Dougie Member

      That’s $6000 adjusted to today’s dollar. And in 1995 you couldn’t give this car away. You definitely made the right move walking.

      Like 2
  10. dr fine

    I love the look of this car, but I think the Imperial and Chrysler had ugly grilles compare to the other ’59 Mopars. Susan Cabot, the Wasp Woman, had a tragic life. She had a son with dwarfism, supposedly sired by the King of Jordan. He bludgeoned her to death, possibly because of drugs he had been given to encourage growth. She had no defensive wounds, and the house was absolutely filthy.

    Like 8
    • Gloin

      In her later years she made extra money by restoring and selling classic cars(!!)

      Like 2
  11. Mark P

    Brake booster looks like it was stolen from Robbie The Robot.

    Like 5
  12. Maestro1 Member

    Wonderful, outrageous, I think the interior is wrong. I’d try SMS for a match to see if i was correct. I had a Letter Series Hardtop a year I don’t remember
    that had the same front seat option. Very difficult if something goes wrong.
    But who cares? I have no room.

    Like 4
  13. TimM

    I’ve said this before and I’ll probably say it again but after the Roswell cover up and the launch of Sputnik the American car companies brought it spin themselves to create some of the best rocket inspired cars of most of are lifetimes!! That early age of rocketry gave us the fins and after burner taillights that gave a whole new idea to design and function!! It was a little before my time not being born until 64 but I still remember these works of art traveling are hiways!!! One of the greatest eras in automotive history in my opinion!!!

    Like 9
  14. redwagon

    It’s late 1958 or 1959 and you are shopping for an expensive car. It’s a Cadillac Eldorado, a Lincoln Continental or this monstrosity. I have not checked sales figures but I cannot imagine ordering this on purpose. I know many love these cars but the styling on the Imperial from this age range just looks like a kid put different circles and elipses together on paper and an engineer somehow made the design work.

    Like 3
  15. Racingpro56 Member

    I’m sure Ed Wood would have been proud to cruise Beverly Hills in one of these. Maybe with Bela Lugosi riding shotgun?

    Like 4
    • Mark C

      Shame that Lugosi died halfway through filming “Plan 9”. Then Wood got his chiropractor to fill in for the remaining scenes, but he looked nothing like Lugosi. Also, I love this beast of a car.

      Like 3
    • nlpnt

      I once spoke to the owner of a pristine ’59 Imperial four-door that was delivered new to an owner in Beverly Hills; he calls the car Mrs. Drysdale. I observed given the origin and Imperial’s market share there was a definite non-zero chance the original owner was the star or showrunner of a movie or TV show with Mopar product placement.

      Like 3
  16. 370zpp

    Best 50s sci-fi movie: “KRONOS”

    Best line from “Kronos” (referencing the now mad scientist): “SHOCK TREATMENT UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE”.

    Like 3
    • Mtlieb

      Got the DVD on the shelf.

  17. Dave

    Sounds like the lineup from Mystery Science Theater 3000…

    Like 3
  18. Ken Carney

    Hi Mike! How about Attack Of The Puppet People, or Kaltiki: The Immortal
    Monster AND The Attack Of The 50 Foot
    Woman? As for this car, I had a ’58 LeBaron 4-door HT. After redoing the 392
    hemi, it was a great car overall. It was fast, comfortable, and a real chick magnet. Should’ve kept it, but I got a wild
    hair up my ass and sold it back to a friend
    of Dad’s whose father was the original owner. I also recall my Mom driving it to
    work one day and wound up accidentally
    backing into a new Datsun 1200! Believe
    me when I tell you it wasn’t pretty. That poor
    Datsun took a broadside hit from my rear
    bumper causing very substantial damage
    to it. Damage to my car: absolutely nothing. Oh, and let’s not forget The Leech Woman with Colleen Gray and the
    Attack Of The Giant Leeches.

    Like 4
  19. DN

    The Virgil Exner designs from the Forward Look era such as this Imperial outclassed all the competition. They all still look amazing all these years later!!!

    Like 5
  20. Pete Phillips

    So many of these are over in northern Europe now, where they are really appreciated. This will be the star of any antique car show you bring it to, and most likely the only one there. The 413s are good for 200,000 miles without an overhaul, and you couldn’t say that about many other engines of this era. Outside and inside door handles are weak points of this car, and any body parts needed will be tough to find. Very worthwhile restoration project, in any event or it looks like it could be driven and enjoyed as-is.

  21. Geoff C.

    The “413” 350HP will certainly get one into the next galaxy…. vvvrrroooom…

  22. Terry

    Jay Leno’s has videos on his Youtube channel of a 57 and a 58 Imperial, both are close enough to this model, to get an idea of the type of car this was at the time. Imperial was quite unique back in the day.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iaMinFaLQo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rwur6xqYcM

    Like 1
  23. Jesus Mendoza

    Is this car for sale?

  24. Pete Kaczmarski

    I enjoy early sci-fi and 1959 Imperials. My comments will be limited to the Imperial since I own one and don’t own a life size B-9 robot. My opinion is the Imperial looks great and done right compared to the other makes that year. The amount of stainless and chrome is just right.

    Like 2
  25. Big Mike

    Siskel and Ebert has nothing on you.

  26. Paolo

    “The Mole People”, “The Creature With the Atom Brain”, “The Hideous Sun Beast”, “X The Unknown”, “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms”, The Mysterians, Earth Versus the Saucer Men”

    Like 1
    • Paolo

      And, from Toho Films of Japan in 1958, “The H Man” Excellent movie.

    • Paolo

      Correction: The Hideous Sun Demon.

  27. John Oliveri

    My dad had a white 57, w blue interior, I loved that car, Jay Leno has 1 convertible, brakes were a big issue, they don’t work too good, he changed the entire brake system, did you know these cars had no Park, only neutral, emergency brake is on the driveshaft, Jay forgot to set the brake one day, and his car chased him a little bit

    Like 2
  28. Paolo

    Actually the Bendix Dual-Plane brakes are pretty good for that era but you need to know the proper way to set them up and adjust properly.

    Like 1
  29. David G

    True indeed Paolo, Chrysler’s “Total Contact” Drum Brake designs were just fine once properly set up, which ain’t that common it seems. (So as with many classics these daze, some install Discs which aren’t even necessary considering how these cars are usually driven.)
    Careful application of Brake grease to allow the Shoes to freely ‘float’ between their mounting plates for full contact on application, then for quick retraction via their shoe-return Springs once the Pedal’s let go is KEY.

    Imps used 12″ x 2.5″ version of this fantastic Drum Brake design, massive!

    Like 1
  30. Angel Cadillac Diva

    Ya’ll are so busy talking about ’50s cheesy movies, no one caught the detail that this Imperial has 1959 Cadillac taillight lenses. Minus the chrome.

    BTW, I have use this time to mention, I hate the new format.

    • Daved

      Nope, those are factory 1959 Imperial tail lamp lenses. 1959 Cadillacs, while similar in shape, are longer and have a slightly smaller circumference

    • Imperialist67

      No, this Imp has its correct taillight lenses, which are of the same general shape as those on a ’59 Cad, but are larger. They are indeed, correct for this car. What is NOT correct however, is the fabric on the interior, which is otherwise complete. The fabrics Chrysler used then were notorious for not lasting long. Correct fabric (likely available from SMS) and carpet will cure most of what it needs. Movies aside, this is one nice Imperial, and doesn’t need a lot.

      Like 1
    • Imperialist67

      No, these are correct Imperial taillight lenses, despite their remote Cad similarity. What isn’t correct though is the fabric, which is easily remediable. Correct replacement is likely available from SMS. Otherwise, this is a pretty nice Imp Coupe, especially considering the COMPLETE lack of rust, a tall order on Imps of this era. Beautiful, period salmon color too. Hope it finds a good home.

    • Dougie Member

      I guess he’s wrong about the format then too. lol
      I’m young enough to be your guys grandkid. That being said, my grandfather had a ‘59 imperial since new that I drove in 1989.
      And my favorite film of that era was “Earth Girls Are Easy”. Ima guessing y’all might have missed that one.

      Like 1
  31. Stevieg

    There is a new format?

    Like 3
  32. John & Sue Corey Member

    FWIW, that’s a replacement engine – the original would have been black, this is a later one in Mopar blue. I have a 61 Imperial Crown convertible.

    • Paolo

      1958 engine and transmission is Chrysler Engine Silver with black oil cap, plug wire covers and fan.
      1959 is black engine with gold air cleaner.
      The change reflects the transition from the Hemi 392 to the big wedge 413

  33. HelenaNOLA

    I love the swivel seat.

    Like 1
  34. Angel Cadillac Diva

    I stand corrected. I was thinking of the ’57 & ’58 taillights, which are stubby not pointy.

  35. Rex Kahrs Member

    Scotty, help me out here if you know horror movies….. Years ago I was watching a cheesy old horror flick where some horrible thing was terrorizing the town, so of course they call in the professor to figure out exactly what it is. After some study, the town mayor or cop asks the professor “What is it, Doc?”.

    The Doc replies with the best line ever…..”I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s more putrid and foul than the slime that clings to the walls of hell”. What a line. Any idea the name of the film?

    • Paolo

      Your description could be of a number of movies.Is that the exact quote? The “What is it Doc?” trope is common. Black and white or color? What’s the location? England? Small town midwest America? Approximate year judging by vehicles seen? Any recognizable actors?
      Is it the original “The Blob”? You would have recognized Steve McQueen.
      Could be “X The Unknown” a very good 1956 English film from Hammer Films about radioactive “mud” from the earths core that breaks through to the surface to seek and feed on any radioactive material it can find. Black and white starring Dean Jagger and Leo McKern

      I think I’ve got it. It’s from a Night Gallery episode called “Pickman’s Model” from an H.P. Lovecraft story.

  36. Russell Ashley

    I grew up with Chrysler products and people were always saying that Chrysler brakes were no good. We never had a problem with the brakes because my Dad, and later me, would tell them that they just didn’t know how to do a brake job on a Chrysler. I was surprised that several folks that I thought were very knowledgeable about cars would think that. It’s good to see that some here on the forum understand how Chrysler’s “Total Contact” brakes worked.

  37. Steve Bush Member

    Surprised no one has mentioned the “toilet seat” on the trunk.

    Like 1
  38. Rex Kahrs Member

    Wow I never had a problem with the brakes on any Chrysler product I’ve ever owned or my Dad owned…..66 Monaco, 73 Dart, 66 dart, 65 Dart, 64 Dart, 72 Dart, now my 67 Newport. Every single one of those cars had great brakes.

    I re-built the Newport brakes last year (4-wheel drums), and man you just breathe on the pedal and the car stops right now, straight and true, perfect. Now, my 63 Riviera is another story……I plan to upgrade to front discs and dual circuit before something bad happens.

    • Paolo

      Rex, the 1950s and early 60s “Forward Look” cars used a Bendix dual plane “Total Contact” brakes. These were a little more complicated. Front brakes used two wheel cylinders and they need to be assembled correctly and adjusted carefully. If you mix hardware regarding lead and trailing shoes you will never get them adjusted right. Hardware needs to be in good shape or new. I’m no expert, I did a pretty good job with my 56 Coronet. I struggled with my 57 D100 and wasn’t satisfied with them. I’m going to have to do them again and might upgrade to disc. I want to be able to decrease stopping distance going downhill with a load in the bed. Right now I have a firm pedal but don’t get enough force at the wheels. I need to tear them down and go through the entire system.
      The introduction of the early A-body cars brought the drum brakes that you are familiar with on your mopars. These are less complex,probably less expensive to manufacture, easier to service and don’t require as much careful adjusting as the Bendix brakes.

  39. keith carson

    Re Si-Fi movies and this Imperial a similar or same can be seen a couple times in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner from about 1982. Love that movie but always thought the car was out of place.

    • Paolo

      I’m going to have to watch that again because I don’t remember seeing an Imperial. It’s been too long since I saw that great movie.

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