The 1960 Imperial was thoroughly restyled, along with its less prestigious corporate siblings. The 1959’s toothsome front end was replaced in favor of a smoother visage. Overall lines were smoother too, especially on the two-door Southampton and Crown convertible.
By 1960, Chrysler was extending the Imperial’s luxury credibility to its fullest; a year earlier, Imperial production had been moved to a dedicated factory on Detroit’s Warren Avenue.
At this new location, special care was taken with assembly and finish quality, a fact heavily touted in Imperial literature and advertising. These were solid cars with proven mechanicals and every conceivable power assist. Who needed a Cadillac? Well, apparently many did, as under 18,000 Imperials were built. And you know, 1960 Cadillacs were pretty fine cars too. But we’re talking about Mopar’s luxury make today!
I also love the instrument panel–particularly that bold, dual-binnacle gauge cluster. Imperials also used electroluminescent panel lighting; while common today, it was a unique selling point in 1960. Naturally, push-button Torqueflite was also standard equipment. Pink broadcloth, a push-button transmission and an oval steering wheel–I like!
There’s just something about an Imperial. I’ve always been fond of the ’60 Imperial, and every model looked great.
But as is oft stated, there’s just something about a convertible. And as the flashiest, brashest and sportiest Imperial of them all, the $5, 774, 4,280-lb. Imperial Crown convertible was something truly special–and with a mere 618 copies sold that year, you were highly unlikely to see yourself in traffic.
Apparently the original owner of our featured ’60 took a shine to the identical red-over-white Imperial pictured in the brochure. All Imperials, regardless of body style, were powered by a 4-BBL 413 CID V8 that made 350 hp at 4,600 rpm. The sole Imperial convertible was the mid-range Crown, which featured the standard equipment on the entry-level Imperial Custom plus a six-way power seat, vanity mirror and outside rear-view mirror.
In truth, however, there was no “base” Imperial, as even the most standard model had plenty of room and comfort-and gadgets, as one shopping 1960 lux cars would expect. Every Imperial came with power steering, power brakes, dual exhaust, undercoating, an electric clock and windshield washers, along with the aforementioned 413 V8 and Torqueflite automatic transmission.
Lovely little details abound, including the little gold crowns on the fins, fluted chrome taillight bezels.
This one also has the bucket seats with the “buddy” center section. Due to overcast weather, it is not immediately obvious in the photos, but the leather is pearlescent white. Like various and sundry Cadillacs painted in White Diamond from the 90s to the present day, the trim has a metallic luster to it.
As was expected in Chrysler Corporation cars during this time, the push-buttons for the automatic transmission are just out of sight in this picture, along the left side of the instrument cluster. The heater controls mirror them on the right side.
In 1960, the Imperial reigned supreme. But the same year brought Chrysler yet another one of their semi-regular financial crises, causing the Imperial to lose its own factory. Although the later 1964-66 Imperials set new sales highs, the make never really did put a dent in Cadillac’s armor. It just didn’t have the cachet of the Cadillac nameplate, and people confusing their brand new Imperial with a Chrysler probably didn’t help.
But they sure were sharp! It was a real pleasure to see this fine example, rainy weather conditions notwithstanding.
But by now you’re probably interested in the second car for today’s feature, the 1956 Imperial convertible. It was thoughtfully parked right next to the ’60.
Of course, there was no factory catalogued 1956 Imperial convertible. The Imperial lineup that year was restricted to a four-door sedan and four-and two-door hardtops.
At the time, I thought this was the car written up in Hemmings Classic Car a couple of years earlier, but I went through my back issues and found that car had been a 1955 model, not a ’56.
This is apparently one of only a handful built (sources indicate a total of three) built for Chrysler Corporation execs toward the end of the model year.
The interior, which matches the blue paint and white convertible top, is very appealing. Note the little Imperial eagles in the cloth seat inserts. Very cool. That rectangular object below the radio, by the way, is the optional Highway Hi-Fi, which played 45 rpm records! It was your grandfather’s CD player, essentially.
Apart from the décapotable body style, all the usual Imperial refinements are present, including the famous gunsight taillamps. Note that yet another Imperial crown emblem is set into each taillamp bezel.
In 1957, Imperial would be totally redesigned, and would finally receive a factory convertible. Hopefully I’ll run across one of those spectacular finned unicorns. When I do, you can bet your bottom dollar it will be featured right here on RG!