1958 Chrysler Imperial D`Elegance

The Imperial was designed by Virgil Exner and hailed by Chrysler as 'The Finest Car America Has Yet Produced.' A very bold statement considering some of the masterpieces produced from Packard, Cadillac, and countless others. This was Chrysler's first vehicle to have a wraparound windshield. Produced in limited numbers, only 11,430 examples were created in 1955. This was Chrysler's interpretation of a true luxury automobile.

The Chrysler Imperial D'Elegance was a styling exercise designed by Virgil Exner and its existence remained a concept car. Many of the styling cues would eventually be used on other lines, such as the Valiant and Imperials. The sloping trunk profile was incorporated into the 1960 Valiant, and the sweep-spear on the side of the car would later be used by the Valiant but positioned in the other direction. The fins, suspended lighting, and dashboard were (with alterations) used on the 1961 to 1963 Imperials. The taillight pods were part of the 1962 Dodge model lineup. Other design elements were used by the Lebaron, Custom, and crowned Imperial by Ghia.

The Imperial d'Elegance Concept was a combination of forward-thinking and inclusion of popular design elements. It had a wraparound windshield, covered rear wheels, and rear tail fins that were popular during the late 1950s. The flush door handles, squared-off steering wheel, and hidden headlights were new design ideas introduced to the automotive community.

The Chrysler Imperial

The Imperial was a highly-priced vehicle for its time, costing $4,483 for the four-door sedan, over $500 more than the Cadillac Series 62. Even though it was pricy, it offered items as standard equipment that was optional on other vehicles. For example, power brakes and power steering were both included with the sticker-price of the vehicle, while other manufacturers charged extra for these luxury items. The Imperial Newport hardtop coupe sold for roughly $4,720.

A two-speed automatic transmission with a 250 horsepower Hemi engine was offered for the base models.

The 1957 Chrysler Imperial is probably the most famous and popular Imperial in history. Styling was once again handled by Virgil Exner. Tailfins could be found in the rear of the vehicle. The curved door glass was not only creative, they were the first in the industry. The long, stylish front hood hid a giant 392 cubic inch V8 capable of producing 325 horsepower. The Hemi V8 version produced 350 horsepower.

In 1956, Chrysler had introduced a TorqueFlite, three-speed automatic transmission. In 1957, it found a home in the Imperial. This transmission, coupled with the V8 powerplant could propel this large, luxury vehicle from zero to sixty miles per hour in 9.8 seconds easily beating the nearest competitor. Its top speed of 125 miles per hour was also unmatched.

Three-body styles were offered, they were the two-door hardtop, convertible, pillared sedan, and four-door hardtop.

In 1957, 35,734 Imperials were produced, the best year Chrysler would have with this vehicle. Production continued until the 1970's with both mechanical and styling changes occurring throughout the years.

In 1958, the Imperial was fitted with cruise control and electric door locks. In 1959, a new 413.2 cubic inch V8 engine was introduced, producing 350 horsepower at 4600 rpm. In 1961, large tail fins were fitted to the rear of the vehicle. This was not the first time tail fins were used on the vehicle. The tail fins first appeared on the vehicle in 1956 but they were subtle, unlike the 1961 fins that were large and commanding. Was it styling, was it more competition Was it a market that was headed towards more economically friend vehicles or Was it simply some other reason? During the 1961 model year, Chrysler only produced 12,249 Imperials. Whatever it was, the Imperial carried a bold statement, an unbeatable powerplant, superb luxury elements, and handling that could tame and control the vehicle even at high speeds.

In 1966, the horsepower was increased again with the introduction of a 440 cubic inch V8. A better power-to-weight ratio improved performance and handling. With 350 horsepower at 4400 rpm and 480 ft-lbs at 2800 rpm, the Imperial 440 was the most powerful luxury American automobile ever.

In 1967, 17,620 Imperials were produced.

Source: By Daniel Vaughan | May 2005 (via ConceptCarz.com)