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Logo page Imperial 59

LeBaron sedan 1959 (photo usine)

What do you think of the ’59 Imperial ? I like it. Isn’t that toothy grille striking? Excessive, it’s true, but without the bad taste and caricature we see in that same year’s Cadillac. Unfortunately, automotive history likes to recall the extravagant ’59 Caddy, not the Imperial.

After a disappointing 1958, Imperial felt the need to refresh its appearance, yet not to spend millions in doing so. GM changed its chassis and body, while Chrysler applied only some thrifty retouching: The front of the car’s body is redesigned, and some chrome and stainless steel is added, as suits the times. That’s about it. Oh yes, the engine – production cost of the "Hemi" has grown burdensome so the company has developed, and introduced in 1958 Chrysler and DeSoto models, the "big-block Wedge." So for Imperial, the 392 Hemi now goes out and the 413 cu.in. Wedge (meaning an angled or wedge-shaped combustion chamber, rather than the convex Hemi) comes in. This motor, with "Max Wedge" refinements, was destined to power Chrysler "muscle cars" in the horsepower-race years of 1961-’64, and it propelled the Imperial until 1965. In any event, Imperial customers were more drawn by what they found in the passenger compartment than under the hood! The big "dinner-plate" instrument clusters are supplanted by a substantial panel combining a linear speedometer, gauges and various controls. On the left is the pushbutton gearshift, on the right the heat and air conditioning controls, also pushbuttons. The rear-view mirror placement remains rather awkward. There is an imposing list of options, including "swivel seats" that rotate in a limited arc toward the door, for easier getting in and out. "Mirror-Matic" adjusts the rear-view mirror automatically to day or night conditions, and another automatic feature dims headlights as a courtesy to approaching cars.

Roofs of the hardtops have three optional decorative schemes. Silvercrest presents the front of the roof in stainless steel; Landau coats the rear part in black paint textured to simulate leather; Silvercrest Landau combines the two. The rear bumper and taillights are redesigned in a more "Cadillesque" manner. The strip between the rear bumper and wheel-well is protected against corrosion and decorated with stainless steel. An option this year are huge 11-by-14 tires (std: 9.50 x 14) running on only 22 lbs. pressure, the idea being to give a softer ride, but these were soon dropped because of their poor tracking. They were replaced on the option list with 8.20-by-15s, the larger rim allowing a larger, better-cooled brake drum, hence better braking. Comfort concerns also brought forth air suspension as an Imperial option, following GM’s example. Chrysler’s version was better thought out, with the experience of the ’58 Buick and Cadillac in mind: Keep the springs and add "inflatable cushions," but only in the rear suspension! Even so, reliability was not good and the device was dropped the following year.

The Ghia-built Crown Imperial was the only 1959 Chrysler car to retain the 392 Hemi engine, and that was because of the slowness of production in Italy. Seven were built that year, one of them for the Queen of England to use on a visit to Canada. We don’t know who paid the bill for that limousine - $16,000!

Engine

V8 Wedge "Golden Lion" 413 CI (6769 cc)
Bore x stroke: 4.18 x 3.75 inches.
Horsepower: 350 hp at 4600 rpm
Torque: 470 ft/lbs at 2800 rpm
Compression ratio: 10.0  / 1.
Carburator: 4 BBL Carter AFB 2797 S
Electrical: 12 V

Transmission

Automatic transmission  "Torqueflite" 3 speeds
Converter ratio: 2.2 /1
gear selection: 5 pushbuttons (left-hand side of inst. panel): N, D, 1, 2, R.
Ratios:  1 : 2,45 ; 2  : 1,45 ; Drive: 1 ;  Reverse : 2,2.
Rear axle: 2.93 / 1.

Suspension, brakes

Front, type  independent, torsion-bar with ball joints, power steering : "Constant Control Power steering".
Rear, type semi elliptic leaves
Brakes: power, 4 drums ( 12 in.)
Parking brake (drum) at rear of transmission

Dimensions

Wheelbase: 129 in. (3,28 m)
Length x width :  226 x 81,1.
Weight: 4675 to 4875 lbs
Height: 57.5 in loaded
Tires 9.50 x 14 then 8.20 x 15

Production, prices
 

MY1-L Custom sedan 4dr: 2071 at $5016
MY1-L Custom Southampton 4dr: 3984 at $5016
MY1-L Custom Southampton 2dr: 1743  at $4910
MY1-M Crown sedan 4dr: 1335  at $5647
MY1-M Crown Southampton 4dr: 4714 . at $5647
MY1-M Crown Southampton 2dr: 1728. at $5403
MY1-M Crown convertible 2dr: 555 at $5774
MY1-H LeBaron sedan 4dr: 510 . at $6103
MY1-H LeBaron Southampton 4dr: 622 at $6103
MY1- ? Crown Imperial limousine: 7 at $16000

Options  (some of them..)

- A/C. ($ 590)
-  "True level" rear air suspension ($ 156)
- "Sure Grip" differential
- Pw. windows and seats on MY1-L (std on others).
- Solex glass
-  Power "Swivel seat" or 6 Way power seat.
- automatic rear view miror "Miror-matic"
-  "Electro touch" Radio
- Auto pilot.
- Electric door locks
- "imperial eagle" hood ornament

Serial number (on right front door post):
Custom: M617 100001 to M617 1.......
Crown: M637 100001 to M637 1......
LeBaron: M657 100001 to M657 1...... except below:
Ghia limo: M657 100 131 M657 100 140
Engine number, except limo (on the block in a flat space behind the water pump):
MR 413 1001 MR 413 ..... Limo: see 57
Serial and engine numbers are not the same.

 

 

1959 IMPERIAL photo gallery
Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the pictures.
   

   
Crown Southampton same, rear view 2 dr H/T and Tour Eiffel French Convertible dashboard Convertible
Crown Southampton from Florida. This car has the "silvercrest" option Eiffel and the fins ! The only french 59 convertible Linear instruments are "in" for 59 Convertible at Sonora (CA)  4/1/97
     
Hood ornament The 21 "Shriners" convertibles.. 59 "custom" from Sweden Indonesian parade phaeton A lot of 59 ! Sedan H/T
Hood ornament (same as 57/58) When the "Shriner Temple" bought cars, they bought only convertibles and especially Imperial. Good taste ! Do you like ? Based on a 59 Ghia this Imperial phaeton (with shaved fins) belonged to the Royal family of Indonesia A lot of 59. Crown Southampton 59 (Sonora , 4/1/97)
 
Tom Green's Crown 2dr HT and its engine The wonderful convertible of Tony Bevacqua
59cpe1.jpg (51063 octets) 59cpe2.jpg (43812 octets) 59cpe3.jpg (34200 octets) bevac9.jpg (44483 octets) bevac6.jpg (47347 octets) bevac7.jpg (62050 octets)
  
           
  Bill White's LeBaron The Ruffalo's conv. Peter's conv.  
  Rare convertible 59 ...  

 

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