Even though this site is chiefly dedicated to Imperials of the 50s, a brief survey of the preceding era may be useful. Chryslers sumptuous CG and CH series stood proud alongside Cadillac, Packard, Marmon, Pierce Arrow and other cars of the glory years.
Chryslers first Imperial was born in 1926. Its company code name was E80, the 80 meaning intended top speed in mph. It was distinguished from the G70 series by longer wheelbase (120, 127, even 133 inches on some models), luxurious body design, and a 6-cylinder, 288 cu. in. (4720 cc) motor that developed 92 hp. Production that year reached 9114 total (roadster, phaeton, sedan etc.) compared with 72,000 "regular" Chryslers.
In spite of its ambitious name the Imperial was two cylinders behind its prestigious Cadillac, Packard and Lincoln rivals, and its price was lower than theirs. Still it was an excellent car, with a reliable engine and hydraulic braking all around. Helped by its relatively modest weight, under two tons, it delivered the 80-mph (130 km/h) speed its maker promised.
In 1928 engine displacement was raised to 309 cu. in. (5080 cc) and horsepower to 112. Wheelbase climbed to 136 in. Fourteen bodies were offered, including "semi-custom" designs by LeBaron, Dietrich or Locke. The next two years brought restyling but few other changes. The last six-cylinder Imperial was produced in 1930.
The 1931 Series CG is judged by many the most beautiful of all Imperials, even with a factory body. Power came from an enormous 385 cu. in. (6300 cc) straight-8 with nine crankshaft bearings. A four-forward speed gearbox, 17-in. rims, and 145-in. wheelbase further swelled the specifications. All this was offered as the economy sank deeper into depression. The "factory" bodies came from Briggs, the semi-customs from LeBaron. Coachwork by Waterhouse, Derham, Murphy or Locke was available. These extraordinary cars today command extraordinary prices -- more than $350,000 for a dual-cowl phaeton) -- and are ranked as "Full Classic" by the Classic Car Club of America. Series CG lived only a year, disappearing at the.end of 1931. Its place was taken by Series CH, with wheelbase brought down 10 in. A Custom Imperial of the CL series preserved the 145-in. wheelbase, but only in those with bodies by LeBaron. That company had become Chrysler's "house" custom designer after Walter P. Chrysler bought it.out.
The Series CL Custom Imperial of 1933 was Chrysler's last "dinosaur" of the years of automotive hubris. They were sold to an affluent, untroubled élite that couldn't quite afford a Cadillac V-16 or a "Duesie." Only 151 CLs were sold, and the industrys great "fashion designers" watched their influence in Detroit diminish along with the names in their order books. Besides, Chrysler brought out a new Series CQ in 1933, with 126-in. wheelbase and a 108-hp engine with 299 cu.in. displacement. It cost about a third the price demanded for a Custom Imperial! Apart from the reduced specifications, it had features to rival the costly CLs -- Delco-Remy lighting, Lockheed brakes, "floating" engine mounts, a vacuum-assisted clutch, six wire-spoked wheels (yes, you got two spares) and other attractions.
Series CQ had a short life. Less than a year after it was introduced, a styling upheaval descended on the public: the Airflow.
The model illustrating this page is a 1932
Chrysler Imperial that was imported as a bare chassis, to be clothed by the De Villars
firm at Courbevoie, France.
photo gallery 1926-42
Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the pictures.
|26 Chrysler Imperial||1931 CG Dual cowl phaéton||
1939 Imperial, body by Pourtout
|1939 Imperial, body by Pourtout|
Thanks to Frank L. Peters Jr. of St Louis (Mo) for the translation of the Imperial pages ...