Henry Hopkins' 1960 Imperial Crown Convertible

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In 1996, I purchased a 60 Imperial convertible from the mid-west. The restoration took about two years and was finished in Sheffield Silver with a red interior and a red top. It turned out very well. At the time, I thought that one completed a restoration and that was that. Done! Not so as I became frustrated with the many little things that needed "doing" and just keeping up the car. I don't know how many times I took off those door panels to fuss with the electric locks. So I decided to sell, put a whopping price on it, and sent the ad off to Old Cars Weekly. To my surprise, there were several serious buyers and one went for my asking price. Foolishly, I sold it. As the truck started off, I realized that I had a pile of money, but I no longer had the car!!! Of course, you say. Well, I had to experience that particular crisis for myself.

After a couple of years, my seller's remorse did not go away. One day in October of 2001, I found a 60 Imperial convertible on eBay. The car was located in the Portland, OR, area. We live in Richmond, CA, just across the bay from San Francisco so Portland is 600 miles. It so happened we had a long standing commitment to hauling my partner's 55 C300 to Portland for an exhibit of hemi cars that very week-end during the time span of the auction. So we went to see the convertible while we were there. It was one of four 60 Imperials being offered by the seller, a convertible, a two door hardtop, and a couple of four door hardtops. I decided to go for it. I tried to make the deal for the cars, even gave the owner a check. However, he did not want to close the auction so I had to go through the bidding process. In the end, someone else outbid me. I was able to negotiate with the buyer for just the purchase of the convertible. Sigh, the buyer recouped his dollars spent on the four cars with just the sale of the convertible to me. What could I do? It was the last 60 Imperial convertible that was ever going to be available, right????

The first picture is the auction page, the second picture was another auction picture. The third picture is of me with my new purchase loaded up in Portland ready for the drive to Kalispell, MT, where I would leave the car off with the restorer. Why Montana? A long story, but basically for more affordable labor rates and an expert Molar restorer. This all connects to Gary Goers, who has provided parts and interiors for our letter cars over the years. The restorer is a friend of Gary's and highly recommended by Gary and others. Quite a bit of driving there. I first hauled our 61 300G hardtop up to Kalispell for mechanical work and new seats by Gary, then drove from there to Portland, picked up the Imperial, drove back up to Kalispell, dropped off the car, and then headed back home to Richmond.

The next picture shows the 60 with the front clip removed. Then we have a picture of the engine pulled from the car. Since the restoration was not completed until August of 2004, if my memory serves, the initial work didn't start until the summer of 2002, with the mechanical work starting that winter of 2002-03, and then heavy duty body work during the summer of 03. By April of 04, the mechanical and body work was just about done as the car was running and driving at the time. Getting the interior done had to fit with Gary's schedule. As you may know he is very, very busy and finding a good pattern for the Imperial was not that simple and easy. So that's why the car was not complete until early August of 2004. As you know, one must be patient with a restoration project. Always takes much longer than originally thought and always is waaaaaaaaay more expensive than one's original wildest guess. BUT, the result, in this case, was definitely worth it.

The following picture shows the body lifted off of the frame. This is what is meant by the phrase "frame-off restoration". Next we see the massive frame ready for cleaning and painting which we see in the next picture.

The next series of pictures show how complete and detailed the restoration was. First we see the rear end completely taken apart with all the pieces ready for clean-up and paint. Next, we have the parts painted, and put back together again. Then we see the front half of the frame all done up with the rebuilt steering box set up along with the new brake lines. Having scraped and scraped while cleaning up a few A-arms in my time, I especially like the next picture of the spotless right front A-arm being put back together. Even the springs were removed, separated, cleaned, painted and re-assembled. Next we see the rear half of the frame all done up.

The next five pictures show the engine stripped down and then just about back together again with all new parts including new pistons and a re-machined crank. The cylinders were re-bored. I also include a picture of the rebuilt transmission.


The next pictures get into the body restoration, starting with some sandblasting, then showing the left and right quarters which needed replacement panels. Also, the right rear-section between the bumper and the taillight was loaded with Bondo so a new piece was needed there and to replace the rusted out right lower trunk sill. A lot of work had to be done to repair the whole trunk sill besides using a replacement piece for the trunk lip. The next picture shows a replacement floor piece for the right front. The left front and rear floor sections were replaced as well. All of the replacement body parts were purchased from Lowell Howe of Patterson, CA. I cannot praise Lowell to highly. Can't remember how many times I called to request body and mechanical parts for this restoration. He was always glad to hear from me. For body parts, I would explain and we'd discuss, then he'd ask me to send a drawing just to make sure he would cut out just what I wanted. Sent the pieces right up to Kalispell for me and sent me the bill. Lowell loves to sing and hum that wonderful song "We're in the money.....". Perhaps some of you have heard his special rendition of the tune. Don't get me wrong here. Just trying for a bit of humor. To me, Lowell is, the best thing we Imperial restorers and preservers have going for us.

The next picture shows the body back together and prep work beginning for painting. I chose Dusk Mauve this time and a pearlescent white leather interior. I was so tempted to go for the wonderful bright, correct "Regal Red", the only year Imperial had a decent red, in my opinion, though Embassy Red(62) is handsome. Guess I like flash too much. Anyway, on me the urging of friends and remembering the 60 Imperial ad of a four door hardtop in Dusk Mauve with the words "Enter----Imperial...." above it won me over. And am I ever glad I did go with the Mauve. It turned out beautifully. Just a knockout. You can see the color in the next photo showing the completed engine compartment.


Meanwhile, jumping back a bit, I include a picture of a good deal of the chrome taken as I left it off with the chrome shop during 2003. Now that's where LOTS of $$ go during a restoration, especially on the huge bumpers we Imperial folks love, eh??


The next series of photos show the completed car in various poses. I had hoped to have the car completed by the end of 2003 or early in 2004. I made plans to enter the car in various shows in the Spring but had to back off as Gary Goers was having difficulty making time to complete the interior. Finally , we agreed that the car would be ready on August 1st. So once again, I hitched up the trailer to the back of the Durango and I started out in the early morning of the 30th with my faithful traveling companion, Lola, my Springer Spaniel. She loves to ride in the with me spending most of the trip either in my lap or wedged between the driver's door and my left side with her nose in the vent sniffing away at all of those wonderful scents only she can distinguish. While at home, she often spends a good part of the day sitting in the Durango looking at me hopefully ready for a drive.

Gary completed the interior a 5 AM that Sunday morning on the 1st. It was a beautiful two day drive and gorgeous weather in Montana. Spent the day hanging out and enjoyed a specially prepared dinner for me and friends to celebrate the restoration's completion. Very kind of my restorer to go out of his way like this. I guess we've become friends as we've progressed through this business relationship. Goodness knows we've spent enough time on the phone going over stuff so I could go ahead and order all that was needed during the process. This time Gary had outdone himself. His leather interiors are always superior, but my 60 looks so, so good. He even found material that is right for the door panels that goes along behind the interior door handles. He had to go through great difficulties getting the carpet right because of my choice. I couldn't find any auto carpet in the right color so I purchase several yards of just the right shade from a local home carpet warehouse. Of course, home style carpet, at least this stuff, is thicker and less pliable than auto type carpet. I heard a few grumbles about that over time, but Gary persevered and it came out beautifully.

Lola and I AND the Imperial had another beautiful two day drive home getting in on the 4th. That Sunday, the 8th, was the day for the third annual "Classics by the Sea" Concours held in Half Moon Bay on the coast south of San Francisco on the grounds of the Ritz-Carleton Hotel. Quite something! It's a fundraiser and the Chamber of Commerce and the Hotel folks work extremely hard to put on a very special day. A good friend of mine worked very hard to put this thing together. Definitely worth a special trip to enter and/or attend the show. This year a Saturday drive tour was included. My Imperial performed beautifully. Mercedes-Benz, a show sponsor, had a Maybach on display. At the swanky lunch stop, lots of pictures taken of the Imperial next to the Maybach. Most everyone decided it was a toss-up as to which car was longer.

For me, the most exciting part was when I received the "Best in Show" Award for my 1960 Dusk Mauve Imperial. I was really surprised and very, very pleased. I'd never received a Best in Show award before. The awards are by popular vote, not judged, but there were some very, very fancy and expensive Mercedes-Benzes and Rolls-Royces and outstanding American cars. I was parked next to a beautiful, huge 58 Buick Limited convertible which received and award for the best in our particular class. Sure did gulp when I saw that park next to me.

Later that month, the Imperial earned a 1st Junior Award at the Western Regional AACA Meet in Santa Rosa. On Labor Day Weekend, we drove to San Luis Obispo for the 20th Annual West Coast Meet in San Luis Obispo. This is a joint Meet put on by Great Autos of Yesteryear, an LA club, and the Freewheelers Car Club of Northern California. Each year one or the other club holds the event. This year there were over 400 attendees and almost 200 cars. Many members of Lambda Car Club chapters from around the country attend as well. By popular vote, my Imperial was chosen "Best in Show". Having attended 19 of the 20 Meets, it has been my dream to have a car of mine considered to be on the level of the previous winners. Still walking on air a bit for all the attention the car has received. Certainly a tribute to the excellent restoration.

So now I have my dream car, my 60 Imperial convertible, once again, this time in Dusk Mauve. You can be sure I will hang on to this one for quite some time. I now understand a lot better about how these cars need our loving attention long after they are "done". As many of us often say, are they ever really, really done????

This page was last updated 27 January, 2005.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club