1959 Imperial

Most changes to the 1959 Imperial were neutral. Some were improvements; others were not. For one thing, 1959 Imperials sported considerably more brightwork, including a heavier bodyside molding that faired into a new chrome gravel shield covering the lower rear quarter.

1959 Imperial
Box-like headlight bezels frame a narrowed grille
of fine horizontal bars on the 1959 Imperial.

The slim molding that flowed off the fender crowns now went the full length of the front fender; on LeBarons, it continued onto the door as well. The fender tops themselves sprouted miniature V-shaped eagles, surmounted by gold crowns on all but the base models, now designated Imperial Custom. Hoods and most fenders bore block letters that spelled out the marque name, while LeBarons received a new gold script and crown, plus a crest on the gravel shield.

Out back, the standard deck lid boasted a boldly oversized eagle-in-a-ring ornament while the Flight-Sweep insert was again altered. Both decks benefitted from the striking new rear bumper, an elegant ellipse outlining a concave brushed aluminum insert that mimicked the instrument panel, a design so right it should have been there all along.

Up front was another matter. Set over the carryover bumper was a massive horizontal grille bar intersected by five verticals. To align with the new grillework, the dual headlights were lowered, the gap between them and the fender cavities filled with yet more chrome. The whole effect, while bolder and with more "road value," lacked the grace of previous efforts. Perhaps it is sufficient to note that all of Chrysler's 1959 models were styled during a period when Virgil Exner was recuperating from a heart attack and could not oversee the design process.

Exner's absence might also explain why, a few months after initial production, Imperials mysteriously began sprouting twin sets of taillight rings, with an additional set inexplicably added forward of the usual ones. Inasmuch as 1959 Imperial Customs used one set of rings and Crowns and LeBarons another, and since each individual half-ring was different to fit the fin form, build complexity was staggering.

1959 Imperial Crown coupe
Despite a slight Imperial sales upturn in 1959,
demand for the Crown coupe declined.

Former Imperial stylist Gerry Thorley explained that the idea was to add rings to the taillights every year so you could identify the model year, much like counting the rings in a tree trunk to determine its age. Sensibly, Imperials reverted to a single ring set for 1960.

Above the belt, in addition to solid colors or two-tones, two- and four-door Southamptons could be specified in three new and quite attractive iterations. Check the Silvercrest Landau Roof option and the rear canopy of your new Imperial was painted black in a textured Scotch-grain finish while the forward portion of the roof was elegantly capped in brushed stainless steel. (An Imperial hardtop had been experimentally fitted with an aluminum roof insert. It looked great, but after the first hailstorm left it pockmarked, dent-resistant stainless steel wisely was substituted.)

On the Silvercrest roof, the front portion was stainless steel while the canopy remained body color. Or if you ordered a Landau roof, the front portion was body color, with the canopy in the textured black finish. All three electives were tasteful and innovative; neither Lincoln nor Cadillac offered anything remotely similar.

See the next page to learn about the interior features offered in the 1959 Imperial.

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