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Les extraordinaires ailerons des 61  In 1961 Virgil Exner is on the point of departure. Elwood Engel moves over from Ford, where he took part in the design of the ’61 Lincoln. Engel, assisted by Lynn Townsend, takes Exner’s place. His influence on styling will be noticeable only in 1964, and the 1961 models can be seen, for better or worse, as the apotheosis of the Exner style. A year before, Chrysler’s competitors had abandoned tailfins and restored a straighter, purer line to car bodies. Exner, by contrast, put up a defiant last stand. For 1961 he delivered overwhelming tailfins (Imperial), tormented shapes (Dodge, Plymouth) and a style that was at best questionable for Chryslers and the Dodge Dart. Public reaction was cold, and starting in 1962 the excesses were stripped away, to the great disappointment of Exner, who saw the result as "plucked chickens." In effect, 1961 was the last of a line that had begun in 1957. Drawings and a model were produced for a "new" Imperial in the manner of the Valiant: Shorter wheelbase, big hood, short trunk lid, ridges running along the sides, and so on. The new chairman of Chrysler, L. L. "Tex" Colbert, rejected these proposals and told Exner to whip up something new-looking out of the old ingredients. Hence the "plucked chickens" of 1962.

Convertible 61 dans un décor bucolique. Publicité issue du catalogue Imperial 61

Returning to the 1961 Imperial: Everybody recognizes the audacious front end, with headlights detached from the body and perched on the bumper. This peculiarity leads to another - the front fenders are integral with the grille and are no longer independently detachable. Otherwise, the grille is relatively simple, and the bumper regains its horizontal line. In back, the tailfins become truly imposing in size as well as shape, and their concave rear surface wraps around the "microphone" taillights of the year before. The flanks of the car are dressed with thick stainless-steel moldings. Inside, the dashboard takes on a space-ship aura, with a linear speedometer and bizarre tilted ovals containing the pushbutton shift and climate controls, all behind a nearly rectangular steering wheel. After these eccentricities, the pivoting seats and the false spare wheel on the trunk lid seem almost ordinary!
No change is seen in the 413 "Wedge" under the hood. The Torqueflite transmission is now in an aluminum housing and has had some internal improvements. For the rest of it, little evolution since 1957, with torsion bar and leaf-spring suspension, drum braking, and conventional steel frame. Imperial is by now the only Chrysler car not using unibody construction.
The disappearance of the sedan with doorposts from the Imperial line is notable - it’s available only in the four-door Southampton. The Ghia-built limousines still have doorposts, but in reality they are unsold 1960 models, so there’s no Imperial limo with free-standing headlights and tailfins. You don’t have much chance of finding any 1961 limousine, for only 9 of them were shipped from Italy!



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 3108 S
Electrical: 12 V


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


Wheelbase: 129 in. (Ghia: 149.5)
Length x width :  227 (Ghia: 248) x 81,5.
Weight: 4715 to 4875 lbs (Ghia: 5960 lbs)
Height: 56.7 in loaded
Tires 8.20 x 15 (Ghia: 8.90 x 15)

Production, prices

RY1-L Custom Southampton 4dr: 4129 at $5111
RY1-L Custom Southampton 2dr: 889 at $4925
RY1-M Crown Southampton 4dr: 4769  at $5649
RY1-M Crown Southampton 2dr: 1007 . at $5405
RY1-M Crown convertible 2dr: 429  at $5776
RY1-H LeBaron Southampton 4dr: 1026  at $6428
PY1- ? Crown Imperial limousine: 9  at $16000

Options  (some of them..)

- A/C. ($ 590)
- "Sure Grip" differential
- Pw. windows and seats on RY1-L (std on others).
- Pw. vent windows (std LeBaron)
- Solex glass
-  Power "Swivel seat" or 6 Way power seat.
- automatic rear view miror "Miror-matic"
-  "Electro touch" Radio
- Auto pilot.
- Electric door locks
- Highway HiFI RCA 45 rpm

Serial number (on right front door post):
Custom: 9114 100001 à 9114 1.....
Crown: 9214 100001 à 9214 1.....
LeBaron: 9314 100001 à 9314 1.....
Ghia Crown Imperial: 9914 100001 à 9914 1.....
Engine number (on the block in a flat space behind the water pump):
P 41 .......


TO KNOW MORE : Body numbers, paint and trim codes
Ghia Crown Imperial limousines 61 LeBaron: "1998 Louis Vuitton winner"
61 "french" Shriner's convertible (owner: R.L. Brezout) 61 LeBaron: "1998 Louis Vuitton winner", new pics


1961 IMPERIAL photo gallery
Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the pictures.     

"Shriner" Convertible (pic: 04/98)
(see also here)
and its dash 2dr H/T Crown and its upholstery Custom coupé Convertible
This convertible was formerly bought by the Shriner Temple. It's now in France in phase of restoration. Owner: RL Brezout Russet upholstery. No swivel seats, the Shriners don't like ! This car is for sale (see "for sale" page) Intérieur cuir / tissus pic from Prestige Catalog Convertible
Crown Imperial (Ghia) ad Sandra Dee + Imperial.. 4dr H/T LeBaron Wheelcover eagle LeBaron wheelcover Crown wheelcover
It's in reality a 1960 who wasn't sold in 1960 . The 8 remaining cars were sold for 61 models .. Do you remember Sandra Dee ? The LeBaron "Louis Vuitton winner"; see "to know more" ... LeBaron wheelcover eagle Only the LeBaron wheelcover were gold plated.. Crown conv. hubcap
Sticker "Microphone tail lite" conv. upholstery Pushbuttons "FliteSweep" Eagle handle
This sticker shows price and option list. It was stuck on the windshield The Ken Miller 61 convertible upholstery. Torqueflite pushbuttons  "Flite Sweep deck lid" from a 61 Imperial This handle was used on non-FliteSweep car.


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