Contemporary Classic: 1963 Imperial Crown Southampton 77K Mile Survivor – SOLD!
October 8th Update: One week after first posting their Imperial for $7,900, the private seller just reduced their ask by $1,000 to $6,900. This appears to be a great driver-quality survivor featuring top-of-the-line luxury, 1963 style.
When is a Chrysler not a Chrysler? When it’s an Imperial. From 1955 through 1975, Chrysler tried unsuccessfully to market the luxury Imperial as a separate brand from the rest of their line. As part of that quest, through the 1960s, Imperials were built to a much higher standard than similar Chryslers of the period and attention to quality control was the brand’s hallmark. Despite these traits going for it, Imperials were never a much of a sale success and thus examples such as this 1963 Imperial Crown Four-Door Hardtop survivor listed recently in Syracuse, New York are very rare today. Offered at $7,900, a quick look at the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms this private seller has his Imperial priced between the #4 “Fair (Daily Driver) estimate of $6,200 and the #3 “Good” appraisal of $10,700. Similarly, a check of the Collector Car Market Review Online Tool shows the asking price to fall between the #4 “Fair” condition estimate of $5,200 and the #3 “Good” appraisal of $10,350.
Imperial was the Chrysler Corporation’s luxury automobile brand from 1955 to 1975, and again from 1981 to 1983. The Imperial name had been used since 1926, as a Chrysler luxury model, the Chrysler Imperial. However, in 1955, the company spun off Imperial into its own make and division to better compete with its North American rivals, Lincoln and Cadillac. Imperial would see new or modified body styles introduced every two to three years, all with V8 engines and automatic transmissions, as well as technologies that would filter down to Chrysler Corporation’s other models.
For the 1957 model year, the Imperial received its own platform, setting it apart from any other division of Chrysler. This would last through the 1966 model year. Imperials during this period were substantially wider, both inside and out than other Chrysler products, with front and rear shoulder room equal to 64 inches and 62.0inches respectively. The front seat shoulder room measurement remains an unsurpassed record for Imperial and would remain the record for any car until the 1971–1976 GM full-size models. Exterior width reached a maximum of 81.7 inches for 1961–1963, which remains the record for the widest non-limousine American car. After Lincoln downsized for 1961, this generation of Imperial had no real competitor for the title of largest car for the remainder of its decade-long lifespan.
Unlike the rest of the Chrysler Corporation makes (Chrysler, De Soto, Dodge, and Plymouth), that began unibody construction for 1960, the Imperial retained separate full perimeter frames for rigidity through the 1966 model year. These substantial frames had a box cross-section with cross members forming an “X”. The drive shaft passed through a hole in the “X” frame. The parking brake gripped the driveshaft and was not connected to the rear drum brakes prior to the 1963 model year.
The Imperial, and all Crysler-built cars, incorporated “Torsion-Aire” suspension for 1957. This was an indirect-acting, torsion-bar front suspension system that reduced unsprung weight and shifted the car’s center of gravity downward and rearward. Torsion-bar suspension on the front combined with multi-leaf springs on the rear provided a smoother ride and improved handling. Pillarless hardtops, in both two and four-door configurations, received the Southampton designation.
The 1963 models saw the split grille disappear again, replaced by a cluster of chromed rectangles, and the taillights were now inside the rear fenders, in ordinary fashion, for the first time. In addition, the designers redesigned the rooflines of Custom and Crown, two and four-door models to be more squared off with thicker c pillars. 1963 models were the last Virgil Exner–styled Imperials, however, Elwood Engel began applying some of his own touches to them, especially in the form of the redesigned base and Crown roofs. The LeBaron roofs remained the same with formal styling and closed in the rear window. 14,121 cars were produced for 1963.
The Osborn Tramain YouTube Channel features this seven-minute dealer promotional film of the 1963 Imperials:
The New York State inspection sticker good through the middle of next year tells you this car is truly a survivor. We suspect the under dash air conditioning unit as a period-correct piece and not from the factory so we’re hoping one of our readers can confirm this. Good luck with the purchase!
Here’s the seller’s description:
“This car in great condition, only 77k, everything original, runs and drives good, inspected in July, this is one of a survivor, $7900, please serious buyers, thank you “
Do you have an Imperial Crown story you’d like to share? Comment below and let us know!