Neal Herman's 1966 Crown 4-Door

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My specific interest in Imperials goes back to my grandmother's Wedgewood Blue '64 Crown 4-door, which she owned from 1969 until 1986. She loved that loaded car, and impressing the riff raff that drove lesser vehicles. One of the first cars I learned to drive was hers, and she instructed me on the proper way to pass someone on the freeway: When overtaking someone in a downmarket Mercedes or Cadillac (a proper Mopar lady, she HATED Cadillacs!), v-e-r-r-r-y slowly pass them on the left so they can fully appreciate the stature (and length) of the Imperial. When you are fully in front of them increase the speed subtly so they acknowledge the power of the Hemi/413/440 engine. Only when you are half a dozen car lengths in front do you pull into their lane such that they will remain a respectful distance behind you. We did this many times on Highway 101 from San Francisco to LA.

She drove the car in the Bay Area until moving to Fort Worth to be near family in the mid '80s. I'd hinted around that if she ever wanted to get rid of her Imperial, I was interested. Unfortunately, when having the car serviced at Meador Chrysler-Plymouth, she walked into the showroom to wait and saw a Fifth Avenue she liked (God knows why) and determined the dealer would give her for the Imperial what she paid for it 18 years earlier, $3,000. She drove out with a new car (her first ever), and the dealer flipped the car to a local Imperial collector. I didn't know about the transaction until several months had passed and she moved back to California.

Grandmother's first Imperial was a two-tone green '53 hardtop. My grandfather was a Chrysler dealer in Texas who regularly farmed out the good trade-ins to family. He also had a reputation as a philanderer. In the fall of 1958, when the '59s were coming out, he got a trade-in of a red '57 DeSoto convertible. Grandmother wanted a flashier fun car, so the DeSoto was hers. She'd had enough of the staid '53, and her cheating husband, and a week later she walked out and moved to San Francisco, no doubt top down all the way. The '57 DeSoto was traded for a pink '60 DeSoto 4-door hardtop around 1964, which in turn was traded for the '64 Imperial in 1969. I still remember her driving up our driveway in LA in this oh-so stately car. My mom's '64 New Yorker 4-door hardtop was no slouch, either, as I recall.

I bought a '59 Imperial Crown 4-door Southampton (christened the "Aquitania") in early 1999. In August 2003, the wheel cylinders were leaking to such an extent that the brakes seized up and I couldn't drive it. Once I got it to my mechanic/restorer, I decided to bite the bullet and get the car completely done. The seats were re-done with NOS materials, and (as of 1/05) the chrome is being removed for replating and she's getting ready for body work and an eventual repaint.

After a couple of months without the car, I felt there was a huge void in my life, not to mention the parking space in the garage! I thought it could be filled by a lovely turquoise & white 1965 Pontiac Bonneville 4-door hardtop I found on eBay. However, after having the Bonneville for about 4 months, it was clear that only an Imperial would do. Then I spotted a '66 Crown 4-door on eBay. It looked like an extremely nice car in the pictures, which was confirmed by some friends who were able to inspect it for me before I bid on it. While not a '64 Crown like my grandmother's car, I rationalized the purchase by the fact that this car was as close to hers in style and as nice as I would probably find for the price. Plus, it was a pretty color - Haze Green, the color of grass - with a vinyl roof (I'm a sucker for contrasting roof treatments on cars) and beautiful pearlescent white leather seats that are in extremely good condition.

Named "Miss Dorothy" in honor of Grandmother, she had her front end rebuilt and some other minor mechanical work done in San Diego throughout the spring 2004. I flew out in late August to take her to a car show, and then shipped her home in time for an October debut at another car show in Rockville, Maryland. Now she resides comfortably in the '59 Imperial's parking space, and will kick out the Bonneville when the '59 comes out of restoration later in 2005.

Miss Dorothy was initially purchased in April 1966 by a man who owned a roofing company in San Jose. The owner's manual has the service records - oil changes and such - until the early 1970s. There's a Certi-card in the slot in the front of the engine bay where the work was done at Normandin's Chrysler Plymouth, the oldest Chrysler dealer in the United States). The car was titled in the name of the roofing company, and from the mid-1970s was garaged in the warehouse and used only occassionally. This is borne out by the regular service records showing he put about 12,000 miles a year on the car during the first 6 years of its life. She had about 122,000 miles as of March 2004. The roofing company owner believed in having his cars' engines rebuilt at 100,000 miles, so that's one thing I don't have to worry about. When he died, the car languished in the warehouse for a couple of years, during which time the original California black license plates expired (cars must be continually registered to retain "black plate" status; once registration lapses, then the car must obtain new plates).

A gentleman from San Diego contracted to do work for the roofing company, and he'd long admired the owner's '66 Imperial. When the man died, the San Diegan arranged to buy it. His wife, though, wasn't too keen on having this car "cluttering up" the driveway, and finally forced him to sell it along with an early '50s Chevy sedan he had. And this is where I come in. It will be nice having an "Engelicious" '59 Imperial when I want to drive with flamboyance, and an "Exnerific" '66 when I prefer to cruise with more dignity!



This page was last updated 19 January, 2005.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club