Frank Zendell 's 1964 Crown Coupe

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My 1964 Imperial Crown Coupe,

by Frank Zendell

I've had a love affair with cars since I can remember. I remember the year of an event or trip by the car I had at the time. When did I take the family to Canada? 1970, of course, right after I bought the fully equipped Electra. What a dog of a car! A brand new car, and we literally limped home…. The engine had lost compression. I had always longed for a big, luxury sedan and finally could afford one. The paint was dull, too. And it was the first car I had let my family choose the color. White vinyl and medium blue metallic. The white always looked dirty and the blue always seemed faded.


Through the years, I'd peruse the antique auto ads in the local paper. Now and then I would respond to one and go looking, knowing full well I could not afford to buy it. But it was fun and fantasy. I never really sought a particular car or model. They all sounded good. As far as Mopars go, Dad drove DeSotos in the late 40's and 50's and my first car was a 1949 Plymouth, 2-dr. fastback. I was fresh out of college and the supply had not caught up with the demand yet. Dad took me down to the friendly DeSoto/Plymouth dealer and I had a choice of black or tan. Lots of options….like radio and heater. I chose the tan and borrowed the purchase price of $1700. Wow! It was to be the last Mopar I ever bought. Until 1992.


After checking out an ad in the local paper, I made a phone call about a '64 Imperial Crown Coupe. Truthfully, I had forgotten what that year's design looked like. The young lawyer, car buff, owner lived less than 15 minutes away. Though he was at his office he agreed to meet me at his home after telling me about the car. He said he had three old cars that he needed to sell since the wife was due to deliver a baby in a few weeks, and these no longer could be considered much of a priority. We went next door to a neighbor's old garage where the car was stored, very tightly I might add. We could barely open the doors let alone get into the car. When the owner pulled a big, white sheet off of the Imp, I could hardly believe how good it looked. And, how huge it was.

Persian white with a beautiful black vinyl top. He showed me how to work the pushbuttons and I gingerly pulled out of the undersized garage and into an alley, where I proceeded very deftly. The front leather seats were full of blackened cracks and looked pretty bad. But as I looked around, the rest of the interior and dash were in superb condition. The headliner was perfect, too, as well as the chrome. The exterior was excellent and original. He said it needed new brakes, and the emergency brake was out altogether. No matter. I was falling in love. It was determined there was a slight valve cover leak, a turn signal bulb needed to be replaced, and the air conditioner needed recharging. After I bought the car, it was found that the compressor needed to be replaced.

The first priority was the brake system. I called a store that had been in business since 1924 figuring they should be good. They said they do most auto repair and maintenance. I thought, hey, a one stop, reputable place. O.K., check everything under the hood, oil leaks, gaskets, etc. They had finished the brake work, began the rest of the work, and I get a call. All the wiring burned up. Someone shorted out the system accidentally. I was sick. The best electrical shop in town was too busy to take the car. The brake people sent it to a little, one-man shop. Weeks went by, and I drove to this grungy, dirty, converted old gas station. I was sick again. The thought of this greaser working on my Imperial amidst all the dirt and mess. Ugh!


Ultimately the wiring was finished, next the air conditioning, then the front leather replaced. The car had like-new bias tires, which I replaced with radials. I hated struggling to keep the car on the straight and narrow. Sometime later, my alternator went out and that was replaced. In '97 I had the front suspension rebuilt and finally had some scuffs and scratches on the rear of the driver's side attended to.

The longest and neatest trip was to the WPC National Meet at Auburn Hills, Michigan in 1996. Would you believe the car won 1st Place in its class. And parked right next to a trailered 4dr! Scuffs and all. So much for peer judging. But, too, it just shows well because of, I think, the white paint and the striking black vinyl. And, it's a Coupe.

Well, it's been a real love affair for almost 7 years. Many times I walk into the garage and just stare at the old girl. I have yet to see a '64 Coupe since owning this beauty. And it does exude class and luxury. And it's such a kick when I think that, back then I was driving a '62 Tempest sedan, 4 cylinder yet. They didn't call it downsizing then. It was compact time.

My favorite story about my Imp. Sometime last summer, waiting at a red light, all the windows down, I heard a voice holler, "Excuse me!" Turning my head in the direction of the voice, I saw a grinning young man behind the wheel of a pickup. "Would you have any Grey Poupon?" I broke into a big smile, "No, I'm afraid I'm fresh out." With that, the light changed, and we both drove away…both grinning. He had made my day!

My car is not a "show" car, more a "50" feet car. From 50 ft. away, it looks perfect. But if I had a 100 point show car, it would be a garage queen. I'd rarely drive it, and constantly be chagrined at finding another paint chip or other imperfection. I drive her any dry day all year long. I pick my driving times and my routes. It gives me so much pleasure. As far as car shows go, they're O.K. It's driving to and from them that is fun.

This page was last updated November 16, 2003.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club