1957 Imperial Models

Together with the cutting-edge styling and innovative engineering, the fact that the 1957 Imperial models finally fielded a full range was an important part of the marque's coming of age.

1957 Imperial Crown ragtop convertible
Prices for 1957 Imperial Crown ragtop convertibles
began at $5,598; orders came to 1,167 cars.

In addition to the six-window sedan and two- and four-door hardtops, a convertible was added to the line. It was everything an Imperial convertible should be: big, luxurious, powerful, and drop-dead gorgeous. For sheer sex appeal and visual impact, Lincoln and Cadillac convertibles paled in comparison.

Equally important, instead of a single price level, these four body types were for the first time arrayed in three series. The Imperial customer now was offered a broad choice of body types and equipment levels, just as king Cadillac had been doing all along.

Interestingly, final selection of series names and model availability took place quite late. According to a descriptive internal engineering booklet current as of May 18, 1956, only two series were released for 1957. One was simply "Imperial," with the sedan and the two Southamptons available in two levels of interior trim and equipment-standard and deluxe-and one price level for the convertible.

By announcement time, however, the standard and deluxe equipment levels had been spun off into two distinct series. The entry-level sedan and Southamptons remained "Imperial" with no modifier. The originally conceived deluxe-trim cars, including the convertible, were dubbed "Imperial Crown."

They featured upgraded interiors and were identified on the exterior by three-pointed gold crowns on the fender tops and adjacent to the external Imperial scripts. The name was an inauspicious choice.

Since 1940, Chrysler's biggest, most luxurious limousines had all been labeled "Crown Imperial" and the name remained on a magnificent limited-production long-wheelbase limousine custom built by Ghia in Italy. Its continued existence gave the series lineup a tongue-twisting confusion, including as it did an "Imperial Crown" for the owner-driver crowd together with a "Crown Imperial" for the chauffeured set.

Per the original two-series scenario outlined in the May 1956 document, the new top of the standard-wheelbase line was to have been called Crown Imperial. By that time, Chrysler had already decided that a conventionally tooled, domestically built limousine had become prohibitively expensive and, indeed, the booklet states, "Neither the Crown Imperial limousine nor the eight-passenger sedan are available for 1957."

Believing the limousine dead but not willing to abandon the honored name, the planners stood ready to place the Crown Imperial tag on a standard-wheelbase car for the first time since 1941, when a Crown Imperial town sedan was offered alongside the limo.

But when the decision was made to go ahead with a 1957 limousine program executed in Italy by Ghia (a story worthy of its own telling), that vehicle by definition had to bear the honored Crown Imperial name. A search was hurriedly begun for another appellation for the premium standard-wheelbase car.

The winner was "LeBaron," which resurrected an even more revered name from Imperial's past. During the 1920s and 1930s, some of the finest custom-built bodies mounted atop classic Imperial chassis were designed and built by the coachbuilding firm of LeBaron, Inc., which became a Briggs Body subsidiary in 1928. When Chrysler acquired Briggs in December 1953, it gained the rights to the LeBaron name.

To learn more about the 1957 Imperial LeBaron, continue to the next page.

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