1960 And 1956 Imperial Convertibles: Simply Sumptuous

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.

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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.

60 Imperial factory

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!

1960 Imperial-13 (800x670)

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!

60 Imperial ad

There’s just something about an Imperial. I’ve always been fond of the ’60 Imperial, and every model looked great.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Lovely little details abound, including the little gold crowns on the fins, fluted chrome taillight bezels.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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But they sure were sharp! It was a real pleasure to see this fine example, rainy weather conditions notwithstanding.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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9 Replies to “1960 And 1956 Imperial Convertibles: Simply Sumptuous”

  1. stingray65

    Both are in amazing condition, but the 56 is the much better looking car in my opinion – but not too surprising since my favorite Mopar product of all-time is the 56 300B.

    Reply
  2. Josh Howard

    I think I’m in love. The attention to detail in the design of these is incredible. Pillarless windows on the 4 doors? Be still my heart!

    Reply
  3. Mitchell MacLeod

    1960 my fave year for Imperial. They got the fins just right..what followed in 61 was clumsy and looked tacked on.

    Reply
  4. Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer

    These are amazing cars, but I can’t wrap my head around them. They seem so huge, how could they have ever worked? Of course, the 1971 Delta 88 I learned to drive in probably wasn’t much smaller, and the same can be said for many of the “light” trucks on the road today, but holy cow. these are two door convertibles!

    They truly are things of beauty, especially on the inside. That Blue/White interior on the ’56 with the imperials woven into the fabric looks like something right out of Versailles. Stunning.

    Reply
    • -Nate

      Both are stunning cars, the ’56 rag top isn’t really all that big .

      I’d take the ’56 but both are fantastic reminders of a time long past .

      -Nate

      Reply
  5. George Denzinger

    Wow, these are some of my favorite big Mopars of the era. If I’m honest, I like the 300 letter series more, but the Imperials were over the top.

    Reply
  6. Glenn Kramer

    Tom,

    Ah, the details. Can you imagine the time and meetings that went into the placement of the little gold crowns on the ’60? Or whether to include the extra medallions on the fender trim over the headlights? It’s just so a snapshot of the times and one big reason why we love these cars! Now it all goes into boring things like engineering and ecology. More practical, less visceral.

    Reply

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