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1957-1959 Imperial

1957 Imperial Design

Set into, but not atop, the fins were the 1957 Imperial design's signature "gunsight" taillights. Brownlie explained why Exner chose to abandon the distinctive freestanding fendertop lamps used on the 1955-1956 Imperials. "Ex admired the integration of form found in jet aircraft," he said. "He was emphatic that the taillights be integrated, not just stuck on, as in 1956."

1957 Imperial
The optional dummy spare tire cover on the deck lid
of the 1957 Imperial was a classic touch.

Thus on the 1957-1959 Imperial, the projectile-shaped circular taillight lens led into a similar elongated form that was faired into the fin. The gunsight look was astutely implied by fitting diecast chrome half-rings to the outside and inside surfaces of each fin.

As tall and elegant as the fins were, their drama was enhanced by contrasting them against a low deck lid which sloped gracefully down to the bumper. The sloping deck was an extravagance that dictated a space-robbing horizontal spare tire mounting and limited the height of items that could be carried in the trunk, but the look was well worth any loss of flexibility.

That deck lid could be ordered up plain or fancy. The standard job was nicely accented by a crisp peak down the center. But for a mere $39.60 additional, which more than two-thirds of Imperial buyers spent, came the Flight-Sweep deck lid, into which was stamped a tire impression. Outlined in chrome, its center was accented by an attractive brushed aluminum cap topped with a small circular medallion whose black center showcased a gold crown.

Inspiration for this bit of visual derring-do came from Exner's K-310 and D'Elegance, where the actual spare tire was set into the decklid. On the Imperial, it permitted Exner to add a touch of "pure automobile" styling to his beloved wedge.

The finishing touch, set low on the right side of the deck lid, was a bold but elegant "Imperial" script nameplate whose flowing strokes revealed that someone at Chrysler had excelled in Palmer-Method penmanship during his school days. Similar scripts graced the front fenders of most Imperials.

Side ornamentation was discreet: a chaste bright rub strip along the lower body that traveled above the rear bumper and on around to the other side. Exterior door handles were flush-mounted and fitted with "drawer-pull" grips.

Up front, the new Imperial presented a thoroughly modern luxury appearance, yet a careful analysis reveals Exner's love of design elements from the classic era. The forward fender-top surfaces, for example, echoed the "upside-down tablespoon" fenders of the L-29 Cord and imitative classic Chrysler Imperials of the early 1930s.

The illusion was enhanced by a bright molding that wrapped around and trailed along the fender. In side view, the bright-edged fender ends were rakishly cut back to expose the headlamp bezels and grille ends, furthering the illusion of a fender top thrust forward over the bumper, which itself was another design element that echoed the first Cord.

Massive yet delicate, the Imperial's front bumper featured a depressed center section housing the license plate, which, like the L-29, was flanked on each side by long dual horizontal bumper bars, one seeming to float above the other, connected at their outer ends by the parking lamps as they wrapped around the sides.

Unfortunately, the bumper's uniqueness and handsome appearance were achieved at great production costs. Additionally, the "biplane" bumpers proved notoriously vulnerable in parking lot scrapes. They were gone after the 1957 season.

Find more about the 1957 Imperial on the next page.

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