The Incomparable Imperial

by Andrew Angove


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Author Andrew Angove has written a number of wonderful articles about different Imperial years, including this one about the 1964 Imperial.  He also has a very nice website devoted to all luxury cars.

          The new model introductions in the fall of 1963 must have confused people. Ford's Thunderbird was all new, but its styling was somehow strangely familiar. It was more squared off than its predecessor; very much reminiscent in some respects of the 1958-1960 models. Cadillac had done an about-face for 1963, lost the somewhat fussy styling it had displayed in 1961-1962, and its 1964 models were a nice facelift on its refreshing 1963 styling. Even Lincoln made styling changes for 1964. They were limited to new grille and deck lid trim, a squared-off roofline, flat side glass, a linear instrument panel, and more rear seat and luggage compartment room.

          And then there was Imperial--or was it a Lincoln? It looked more like a Lincoln than an Imperial. No doubt more than one observer did a double-take upon observing the 1964 Imperials for the first time! They didn't appear very "Imperial," not that Imperial really had a specific look to base that opinion on. But they surely didn't look anything like the 1961-1963 models.

          There is a reason for the resemblance between the Lincoln and the Imperial. Chrysler hired designer Elwood Engel from Ford in 1961, and he immediately saw to it that the Imperial of 1964 would bear little resemblance to previous models. Sales shot up 65% for Imperial in 1964, so the public surely liked what they saw.

          And what wasn't to like? The front fender tips and rear quarter panel ends on the Imperial had an angular taper to them when viewed from the side, the lines were very clean and there wasn't any sign of free standing headlamps or taillights mounted on pods. The square roofline was all the rage in 1964, and from behind there was more than a casual resemblance to the deck lid kick-up that was such an identifying feature for the Continental Mark II.

          Inside, a completely new interior appeared. The Torqueflite pushbutton transmission controls would make their final appearance; a Sentry Signal on the instrument panel would inform the driver to check the gauges for something amiss; and the instrument panel itself became a statement to simplicity and elegance in design. Chrysler saw to it that the Imperial passenger would be properly pampered. Courtesy lights were placed in the door pulls to light the way in and out of the car, and thick foam padded front and rear seats with center fold down arm rests made long trips a breeze.

          Quality control was quite rigid on these cars; even Lincoln, which exhibited better quality control than Cadillac at the time, paled in comparison. Interior fabrics were specified with special dyes that would resist fade--even in tropic sun conditions. And, if the fabric ever should fade, it must do so evenly, so that the color value throughout the interior would remain true.

          Every Imperial was rust-proofed in seven dip-baths and six spray treatments. Some of the rust preventatives were so potent that they actually increased the inherent rust immunity of the steel itself! This was followed by nine coats of paint, each finish coat of acrylic enamel was hand-sanded, except for the last. This coat underwent a special machine-buffing process that provided a brilliant luster not possible by hand.

          Three separate groups of inspectors ensured that Imperial was built to the highest standards in the land. 106 technicians kept vigilance on each car as it moved through the assembly plant. The completed car was then inspected by a separate team that road tested each car and checked every component for proper operation. Finally, top-tier quality control supervisors maintained standards in work procedures and finished car quality. All summed up, these steps made Imperial the best-built motorcar in America.

          Imperial engineers even used super-sensitive microphones, tape recorders, analyzers,  oscilloscopes, and new electronic equipment to measure sound conduction through metal. By doing so, they were able to define 154 improvements that would isolate and eliminate noise from vibration. Some of the noises weren't even audible to the human ear, but could cause tension and fatigue. Body mounts were also analyzed and moved to eliminate the vibration patterns of road noise which served to isolate the passenger compartment, creating an almost silent interior.

          Underneath the car, three layers of steel were used in exhaust pipes, and double thickness was utilized in exhaust pipe extensions. Imperial was the only car built in America at the time to use a flexible coupling in its steering column to filter out road shock, but still provide good road feel through the steering wheel.

          Imperial was certainly positioned to be a top seller for 1964. It was the only traditional luxury car to be completely redesigned, and it certainly had a confident air about it. The styling was right on target for the times, and it continued to be the best handling of the lot. A member of the press spoke highly of the new car after a press review: "The more you drive this car, the more impressive are its differences from other fine cars. And finally you realize that this is what luxury cars always were meant to be, but somehow never became until now."

          We couldn't say it any better, and Imperialists already know you will never forget your first drive in The Incomparable Imperial of 1964.

This page was last updated October 12, 2003.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club