1957 Imperial Customized Royal Custom Coupe

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Radical Custom

Owner: John D'Agostino

The Imperial is considered one of Chrysler's great designs of the '50s, from a team headed by Virgil Exner. In many ways, it was already custom-styled from Detroit, but when Steve Standford, John Aiello and John started blending ideas the outcome became a radical '50s 'dream car'."

John started with a primo, 51,000 mile, one-owner car from Santa Barbara. The project got under way with John Aiello at Acme Auto Body in Antioch, CA. His work was not a simple cut, fill and paint project - it was a major redesign. The top was whacked

3-1/4 inches at the front and 4-1/4 inches at the rear.

Front View

The front fenders were swapped for '59 Imperials, which were sectioned and customized with '57 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser headlights. The headlight bezels were trimmed with perforated chrome mesh screens and fitted with Lucas headlights. The grille cavity was extended and rolled into the lower opening and the hood, doors and trunk corners were rounded.

Front CloseUp

The body was de-seamed, molded, nosed, and decked and the rear tail fins were radically redefined at a much steeper angle.

Rear View

The body-mounted tail lights were removed and new lamps replaced into the '59 Imperial rearbumper. They were specially made by Gene Winfield. The remaining chrome and steel was replated at Sherm's Plating in Sacramento.

Creating new glass for the car was a major proposition. John called on the services of Timo Tanskanen of Riverside, CA, to make a new windshield. Timo made a pattern and shipped a mold to Finland where new windshield glass was created. The side glass was cut by Ken "The Glassman" Godboid of Concord, CA, using curved sections of laminated windshield glass. According to John, 'it was an amazingly difficult task, but Ken did a great job'."

The rolling stock on the Imperial is Chromed Roadster Wire Wheels, which are capped with replica 760x15 BF Goodrich rubber by Coker Tires.

Engine Compartment

Powering the '57 is a freshened 392 Imperial Hemi which features 2-4's on a polished aluminum manifold and rare factory chrome valve covers. John had Madison's Air Conditioning of Concord, California install a Vintage Air A/C system and a radiator from US Radiator to keep the Hemi at the right temperature. Dago's Machine Engineering in Pacheco, CA, did all the engine prep and installation.

The paint is a Gene Winfield special. Darryl Holleneck prepped the Imperialfor painting and helped Gene do the final paint application. THe design called for a Jade Idol-type fadeaway in a Candy/Pearl copper, gold and cinnamon toner over a light cream base color.

Front Seat and Dash

The interior was handed to another Bay Area car expert, Jerry Sahagon, in Concord. Using a pair of '59 Imperial swivel-mounted bucket seats, a custom console, and a rear seat, Jerry trimmed them all in white pearl leather and imported Italian copper fabric. The console was also custom built, as were the brushed-stainless and chrome-perforated inserts.

John and Jerry built new door panels and headliner into the package along with a very rare '61 Imperial white pearl "square" steering wheel. The dash was painted in bodycolors.

From Skip Ogden:

Pics are from "Rod and Custom" Magazine, July 1997 edition.

I don't normally buy this magazine, actually, I have never bought it until now. But when I paid for my gas yesterday, there it was in the magazine rack, with that unmistakable body style, and the magazine was screaming my name!

One thing about the article - it gives names and locations of fabricators and top-notch people. If they can do such a good job to this car, think of what they could do with a stock restoration.

I personally think it is a shame to take a primo car and "ruin it" but it does preserve a '57 Imperial in one form or another.

Sounds like this article may, at the very least, provide some leads for those who could afford custom-made replacement parts. Well, if no one tells Chrysler - geesh!

This page was last updated October 8, 2003. Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club