The Imperial was designed by Virgil Exner and hailed by Chrysler as 'The Finest Car America Has Yet Produced.' A very bold statement considering some of the masterpieces produced from Packard, Cadillac, and countless others. This was Chryslers first vehicle to have a wraparound windshield. Produced in limited numbers, only 11,430 examples were created in 1955. This was Chryslers interpretation of a true luxury automobile.
The Imperial was a highly priced vehicle for its time, costing $4,483 for the four door sedan, over $500 more than the Cadillac Series 62. Even though it was pricy, it offered items as standard equipment that were optional on other vehicles. For example, power brakes and power steering were both included with the sticker-price of the vehicle, while other manufacturers charged extra for these luxury items. The Imperial Newport hartop coupe sold for roughly $4,720.
A two speed automatic transmission with a 250 horsepower Hemi engine was offered for the base models.
The 1957 Chrysler Imperial is probably the most famous and popular Imperial in history. Styling was once again handled by Virgil Exner. Tailfins could be found in the rear of the vehicle. The curved door glass were not only creative, they were the first in the industry. The long, stylish front hood hid a giant 392 cubic inch V8 capable of producing 325 horsepower. The Hemi V8 version produced 350 horsepower.
In 1956, Chrysler had introduced a TorqueFlite, three-speed automatic transmission. In 1957, it found a home in the Imperial. This transmission, coupled with the V8 powerplant could propel this large, luxury vehicle from zero to sixty miles per hour in 9.8 seconds easily beating the nearest competitor. Its top speed of 125 miles per hour was also unmatched.
Three body styles were offered, they were the two door hardtop, convertible, pillared sedan, and four door hardtop.
In 1957, 35,734 Imperials were produced, the best year Chrysler would have with this vehicle. Production continued until the 1970's with both mechanical and styling changes occuring throughout the years.
In 1958, the Imperial was fitted with cruise control and electric door locks. In 1959, a new 413.2 cubic inch V8 engine was introduced, producing 350 horsepower at 4600 rpm. In 1961, large tail fins were fitted to the rear of the vehicle. This was not the first time tail fins were used on the vehicle. The tail fins first appeared on the vehicle in 1956 but they were subtle, unlike the 1961 fins that were large and commanding. Was it styling, was it more competition Was it a market that was headed towards more economically friend vehicles, or Was it simply some other reason? During the 1961 model year, Chrysler only produced 12,249 Imperials. Whatever it was, the Imperial carried a bold statement, an unbeatable powerplant, superb luxury elements, and handling that could tame and control the vehicle even at high speeds.
In 1966, the horsepower was increased again with the introduction of a 440 cubic inch V8. Better power-to-weight ratio improved the performance and handling. With 350 horsepower at 4400 rpm and 480 ft-lbs at 2800 rpm, the Imperial 440 was the most powerful luxury American automobile ever.By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2010