The 1951-1954 Chrysler Imperial was the highest class of Chrysler, a car competing with the likes of Cadillac, Packard, and Lincoln. Imperials received the best material and componentry Chrysler had in the 1951-1954 period (Ausco-Lambert disc brakes, the biggest hemi V-8, and Fluid-Torque Drive or Powerflite transmission all standard) and naturally offered the best grades of upholstery. Like Cadillac and Lincoln, Chrysler Imperial never offered a station wagon.
The 1951 hemi-head V-8 was as notable for Chrysler Imperial as the lesser Chrysler models, though arguably more important in the Imp's luxury market. Imperial's price range ($3,661-4,402) put it farther up the scale than Cadillac ($2,810-4,142), Lincoln ($2,529-3,950), and the senior Packard ($3,234-3,662), and it certainly needed the hemi power. But Imperial regularly trailed all these in sales (even the senior Packard outsold it two-to-one in 1951) -- partly because of its image as a Chrysler rather than an Imperial; partly because of its dowdy styling.
Farther up the scale in extra-long-wheelbase territory resided the Crown Imperial -- also a Chrysler in these years, but built on a 145.5-inch wheelbase to rival the Cadillac Seventy-Five and, in 1953-1954, the Packard Executive sedan and Corporation limousine. Again, the Crown Imperial scored only a fraction of Cadillac's sales, and barely kept pace with Packard's. Its obvious image problem tells why Chrysler decided to run Imperial as a separate make for 1955.
Least common of the 1951-1954 Chrysler Imperials (and conversely most desirable today) was the convertible model, which saw only 650 sales in 1951, was dropped, and appeared only as a solitary prototype in 1954. Mounted on the longest standard wheelbase, it was quite similar to the New Yorker convertible except in price -- it cost $4,402, about $500 more. This moved it ahead of the former champion, Packard's Custom Eight Victoria, as the single most expensive non-limo production car on the American market. It also explains why so few found buyers.
For more on the 1951-1954 Chrysler Imperial and its variations, go to the next page.
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The 1951, 1952, 1953, and 1954 Chrysler Imperial also offered other models. A club coupe was offered during 1951 and 1952, a relatively trim looking model, but another slow seller (about 3,500 in two years). Another two-door, the Imperial Newport hardtop, was always in the lineup, touting convertible-like airiness, a part-leather interior, and an expansive (for Chrysler) glass area.
Virgil Exner, who had been hired away from Studebaker to join Chrysler styling in 1949, effected improvements in the look of Chryslers from 1953 on. They evolved into a more shapely form -- but most any form felt soothing to the eye after the upright-oblongs of 1949-1952. There was more glass; windshields became curved, one-piece units; and all sense of dark caverns inside the car disappeared, helped by a large, wraparound rear window. While the Chrysler Imperial's grille duplicated that of 1951-1952, the near-vertical eagle hood ornament stood out as a unique touch.
Though lesser Chrysler models had been reduced in bulk, Chrysler Imperial -- striving for a greater visual difference -- was enlarged to a 133.5-inch wheelbase for four-door models. An interesting new model debuted as the Chrysler Town Limousine, fitted with a division window and riding this standard wheelbase. Unfortunately, the idea of providing a "compact" limousine for chauffeur-driven city work had little appeal. Production of Town Limousines amounted to 243 units in 1953 and only 85 in 1954. All standard cars in these two model years were referred to as "Custom Imperials," though there was nothing custom about them.
The Chrysler Crown Imperial on its long wheelbase continued as before in these years, but production made it rare even then: a mere 48 long sedans and 111 limousines in 1953; another 23 sedans and 77 limousines for 1954. Unlike the Cadillac Seventy-Five, Chrysler did not cater to the commercial body builders with this model: Only one bare chassis is listed in company records, and that for a special parade model.
Check out the specifications of the 1951-1954 Chrysler Imperial on the next page.
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1951, 1952, 1953, 1954 Chrysler Imperial Specifications
The 1951, 1952, 1953, and 1954 Chrysler Imperial marked a new era in luxury for the Chrysler corporation. Though Chrysler offered variations of its Imperial line -- including a short-lived Town limousine -- it was the original Imperial model which had the most success. Check out the specifications of the 1951-1954 Chrysler Imperial below.
Engines: ohv V-8, 331.1 cid (3.81 × 3.63); 1951-1953 180 bhp; 1954 235 bhp
Transmission: 1951-1953 Fluid-Torque Drive 1954 Powerflite automatic
Suspension, front: independent, coil springs, tube shocks
Suspension, rear: live axle, leaf springs, tube shocks
Brakes: front/rear drums; discs optional (standard on Crown Imperial)
Wheelbase (in.): 1951-1952, 1953-1954 Newport 131.5; 1953-1954 sedan & Town limo 133.5; Crown Imperial 145.5
Weight (lbs): 4,230-4,570; Crown Imperial 5,220-5,450
Top speed (mph): 100-105
0-60 mph (sec): 11.0-13.0