1959 LeBaron Derham conversion in Virginia

Imperial Home Page -> Imperials by Year -> 1959 -> 1959 LeBaron Sedan by Derham

The Online Imperial Club recently played host to a connection between the featured car's owner and some long lost photos of the same car shortly after he purchased it some forty years ago.  Laurence shared a couple more recent photos along with the story of him coming to own it, see the story after the following photos.  Information on the Derham Body Co. and it's custom work can be found here,  there is no mention of any 1959 Imperials being customized.

Click image above for larger version

Click image above for larger version


Hello, Back in the late 1960's I traded my 63 Impala SS convertible for a 1959 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron Derham with 42k miles showing on the odometer from a collector who owned a large plumbing firm and lived on the next street over.  Oddly enough, in 1963 as a car-crazy 5th grader, I couldn't help but to sneak a peak at his collection stuffed into his substantial garage.  The overflow of collectables were strewn about in his expansive driveway located to the rear of his house.  One day as I walked by, I took note that he had a new arrival: a massive car hidden under a cover.  Upon lifting the cover I saw what was the most amazing, unusual car I had ever seen in my life; sporting huge fins, faux spare tire trunk lid, tiny football shaped rear window, black Everflex covered padded top + several European car club badges mounted onto the trunk lid of this black, glistening battleship sized car.  The beast was the largest car I had every laid my eyes upon - and then some!  I told myself that one day, when I grew up, I would own a car JUST LIKE THIS... Well... 6 years later, during my senior year in high school I was amazed to see this very same car once again, pulling into the school's parking lot where new kid (Chuck) was stepping out of this amazing town car and almost immediately he asked if I would like to swap cars + he'd toss in $200 to boot.  Needless to say and without any further ado, this was a done deal the very next day.  Chuck thought it was comical how I used to sniff around his step-dad's to drool over his collection which was quite substantial at that time.

He also noted that it was originally custom ordered by Cardinal Spellman of NYC where he used it for a few years and had lent it out to Jackie Kennedy with chauffer when she was in town in 1959-1960.  I only drove it for about 2 years, having to replace the Everflex top and the roof's original Derham Coach woodwork which I completed to the best of my ability at that time, then parked it in my parents garaged where it sat for many years until 1986, then moved it to my Arlington garage where it once again has been sitting ever since.  Still runs smoothly but is in need of a complete restoration.

I had a number of great photos of the Imperial from the 1960's when it looked almost like new but these photos were all sadly lost in a fire at my building in Central VA in 1995.  The old '59 Derham is still collecting dust in my Arlington garage and promised that one day I would do a concurs restoration to it before I pass on - now how many time have your heard this one?  For your enjoyment, have enclosed a few recent photo links of the imperial sporting the incorrect rectangular rear window as at that time reproducing the original oval window was beyond my teenage skills in 1970, though my work was reasonably professional looking.

From what I heard there were three Derhams made.  Anyone know or heard of where the other 2 (if any) are, or even better, if anyone has photos of this or another 1959 Imperial LeBaron Derham, as it frequently appeared at a number of East Coast car meets during the mid 1960's and in Europe.  Perhaps the Diocese of NYC may have news release photos of the Imperial with the Cardinal?

Laurence Halstead III

May 2010


Club member Pete Daniels recently sent these photos in, taken in 1970.  See his message below.

Click image above for larger version

Click image above for larger version

From Pete Daniels:

...while recently sorting photo slides I found two of what I believe is a '59 LeBaron "town sedan". 

I took the photos in 1970 while the car belonged to a high school classmate of mine, in Arlington VA. 
I haven't seen the car since.

Webmonster note: Has anyone seen this car since or have additional information?  Please write to the club and tell us about it.


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This page was last updated 25 May 2010.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club