True Classic: 1931 Chrysler Imperial Limousine

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This is not a typical barn find by any means and is out of the price range of mere mortals like all of us here at Barn Finds. But it is such a spectacular and historic car, and has such a great story, I hope you will forgive the fact that it is not a car most of us can hope ever to own.

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This beautiful full classic Imperial CG Custom Eight Limousine is for sale on Hemmings.com, with an asking price of $250,000. It is still in the hands of its original owner’s family. Here is the terrific story the current owner tells about the car:

This Imperial is put on sale by the owner, grandson of the man who purchased it in 1931. It arrived in a large box via Antwerp at the railway station in our hometown and has been in our family’s hands ever since. It has therefore an uninterrupted history with us as firsthand owners.

This car has some custom features. As export version to Europe, the following special features were fitted ex factory which are not seen on other cars of this line:

odometer with km reading instead of miles
Stromberg carburetor with adjustable main jets instead of fixed jets
double action current limit relay
“Bosch” headlamps (Germany)

In Switzerland, a folding canvas roof which can be cranked all the way back was installed by the Swiss coachbuilder Gangloff. The dividing “Limousine” window is still in place and can be cranked up and down. Also, electric turn indicators were required by Swiss law, as well as the filing off of the wings on the radiator cap. The gazelle is removable.

The car has always been stored in dry conditions. It is very original in all details including upholstery, is rust and rot-free and wears the original color scheme. It comes without chrome plating where there was none, or whitewalls, which were not used at the time. Original trunk was lost in a fire and replaced by a similar size one. Paint and sliding roof were renewed in the 80s; mechanical components and brakes as well as engine were last completely overhauled 2007 to 2011. Exhaust not original. The car runs well.

In summer, our Imperial is regularly driven on Swiss streets. For modern roadworthiness, double rearview mirrors in the front door hinges, and taillights for brakes and blinkers have been installed. All these can be removed without trace if desired. Mileage: 112,000 km (ca. 68,000 miles).

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Imperials were first manufactured as the top of the line marque for Chrysler in 1926. In 1931, as the Depression was underway, Chrysler released a newly designed car, which included a 385 CID straight eight engine, automatic heating, safety glass and wire wheels. Racing driver Harry Hartz set numerous speed records with a 1931 Imperial on the sand at Daytona Beach, Florida. The eight passenger limo weighed 4915 pounds and only 271 of them were manufactured out of a total of 3228 Imperials for that model year. The base price of the limo model was $3,145. By comparison, Cadillac sold more than 16,500 cars that same year.

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The 1931 Chrysler Imperials are all given “Full Classic” status by the AACA. You can read more about this particular 1931 Imperial here on the Imperial Club website (which is a great resource if you are interested in these cars). That sliding roof looks fantastic and must make touring with this car quite enjoyable. The original interior looks great too.

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This is what passengers get to see, true luxury for 1931.

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These rare cars don’t come up for sale or auction all the time, so values may not be easily determined. Based on some online research, it looks like the asking price for the car that is for sale on Hemmings is actually quite reasonable for this model and year. It’s in extremely fine driver quality condition, and with its documented one family ownership history, this is a very special car that a wealthy collector or museum will want to own and display, and since it’s not a restored garage queen, this is a perfect cruise car for a person of means.

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Comments

  1. Wayne

    wow

  2. Dairymen

    Beautiful car and fascinating story but not worth $250k! Wrong body style for that kinda $.

  3. Dave Wright

    Magnificent example of true automotive art. These great old classics always make me think of how many were melted during the WW2 scrap drives.

  4. John

    My mouth literally dropped open! What a truly beautiful vehicle! Enough to silence any critic’s negative comments about American automobiles.

  5. jimbosidecar

    One of my fondest memories growing up in NH was a neighbor who summered in NH used to bring his collection of antique cars up from MS every year. Among the cars he brought every year were a 1931 Imperial convertible with a rumble seat, and a late 1920s air cooled Franklin. I may have had over 5000 miles riding in that Imperial between 1961-1968. We never regarded thme as valuable collector cars back then. Just cool old cars.

  6. Chris in Nashville

    Beautiful!

  7. The Walrus

    My dad’s first car was a 1931 Chrysler CD-8 Series II Rumbleseat coupe. The Chrysler line in 1931, perhaps the only time it’s ever been done, had 3 lines of cars with identical styling, just in different scales. The 6’s were the smallest, the 8’s were ‘mid sized’ and the Imperials the largest. all of the styling cues are the same on each. In my, perhaps biased opinion because I grew up with it, it is among the best looking pre-war American cars. Period.

    The pic was taken circa 1975. He ended up deciding restoration was not his retirement dream and parted with it in 1998 after 41 years of ownership. He paid $35 and it sold for $8K.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Wow, that is awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Steve B

    Iconic, and I agree the price is quite reasonable given its rarity, status and condition.

  9. Charles

    Beautiful classic.

  10. Mark S Member

    I find it unusual that a car like this, that has that much history with one family would be ever sold. I guess there are no sentimental family members that want the torch handed off to them. This is absolutely beautiful and at this point belongs in a museum, where it can be seen by All. This might be out of most of our league but it is a treat to see and read about.

  11. Dolphin Member

    Would love to own this car, just for the experience of owning and driving a large car from the early ’30s. Given that was the Depression, I guess there were not too many of these sold, but I was surprised by the numbers reported in the SCM Guide for 1931, which were:

    3,228 CG models, both open and closed
    1,402 CH models, all closed

    There were more made than I would have thought back in those dark days. I’m guessing that a lot of these didn’t make it past WW2, and ended up being melted down for the war effort.

    The median auction sale prices seem reasonable for such rare and special survivors:

    $45K for the closed CGs, with high sale price of $99K
    $376K for the open CGs, with a high sale price of $450K
    $68,800 for the closed CHs, with a high sale price of $68,600
    Quite a premium for the open cars.

    This car is special in that it has a known 1-family history and doesn’t need to be restored to be enjoyed, but still, quite a bit higher than they go for over here in No America.

    • The Walrus

      Walter P’s dream for the Imperial was to mass produce a Duesenburg… That’s why they had a V-shaped radiator in 1931… no other mass produced car that year did. Same with split windshield. Oh, and hydraulic brakes on all 4 corners. Chrysler was pushing mass production to the current technological edge with urgency nobody else has since. 1931 Chrysler’s are special in many ways when considering the evolution of mass production.

    • Bobsmyuncle

      Just like these days, when the economy tanked, the guys at the top remained relatively untouched.

  12. David Frank david Member

    What an incredable car! Let’s see, $250,000, I’ve got plenty of equity in my house to refinance and the payment would go up less than $1500 a month. LOL!

  13. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Great write up, wonderful car and terrific comments! What a pleasureable post to read!

  14. Jim

    I saw this yesterday on Hemmings, she’s a beauty, let not put in an Allison v12 or big block Chevy, this is a pet of automotive history. She’s a beauty

  15. Jim Marshall

    Back in 1952 my parents purchased a new home in a development outside of Philly and the Pennsylvania Turnpike extension to the Jersey Turnpike was under construction about a thousand yards from out street. I noticed on the other side of the construction an old auto graveyard so being a car buff even in my youth I wandered over one day. There sat several old Cadillac’s, Lincolns and a few more extremely large early 30’s limo like cars very much like this Chrysler. They were in excellent condition with no visible rust and interiors of mohair in excellent condition. They even had bud vases on the C panels. No one chased me so I went to the office and asked what is going to happen to those cars. They told me they are being scrapped and the yard was closing being so close to the turnpike. This was in the early 50’s and apparently cars of this type being 20 years old had no collector value. I often wandered if someone came along and saved them but that seemed unlikely. If only!.

  16. Vic Stein

    About a year ago, I saw an ad on Craigslist for a bunch of auto body equipment: English wheel, planishing hammer, bead roller, hammers and dollies, paint guns, straight line and DA sanders, etc. I drove out and met with a gentleman that was selling them as his place was for sale. He had purchased them to rebuild a 1926 Chrysler Limo as a retirement project when he retired from Boeing. The exterior and glass were in great shape but it needed a new floor, interior and paint. He had had a heart attack right after retiring and was having trouble getting started back on the car. On a weekend trip over from Seattle, his son asked him if he could finish it for him and he said yes. The next weekend, the son showed up with a guy with a trailer and after they loaded it, the other guy gave the son a fist full of cash. Then the son asked his father if he could have his body tools to give to the guy that just bought the car and he kicked his son off his property. I told him he should have told the other guy it wasn’t for sale but he said that his son doing that to him let him know what he thought of him. That was the straw that broke his spirit.

  17. james burton

    i don’t understand the last post. how can the kid sell something that he has any paperwork of ownership for that amount of cash. if i buy something that is worth that amount of cash i’d want to see some proof of ownership. the father could have put up a hell of a good argument against this deal. he probbably has let his son get away with this kind of bull all his life.

  18. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    W hat O thers W ish….dang…..I’ve only owned 1956 Imperials and a 68 coupe….smooth they are…..

  19. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    So is this car in the states or Switzerland? The narrative makes it sound like it was driven on Swiss streets up to this moment. Not many, if any, remaining in this condition but I agree $250k a bit on the high end for a sedan regardless of provenance. My papa built dozens of variations of this car in 1/25 scale as a professional modeler.

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