1981 Imperial Spotter's Guide

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Especial thanks to Dick Benjamin for much of the following information and many photographs!  Dick owned the 4 coupes at left -- the white one is a 1982, the rest are

Here are 3 views of a 1981 Imperial in Black, with red leather interior and "pinstriping" (actually decals -- note that some other cars shown here are missing these decals, which usually indicates the car has been repainted). This car is 100% original.
The fabulous "bustle back" rear end treatment. One wheelcover option for 1981 was a wire spoke cover.  The center cap reads "IMPERIAL" and sits slightly outboard from the wheel. The other option was the cast aluminum wheels with the Imperial jewel in the center, often  referred to as "snowflake" wheels. They are very sturdy, and maintain perfect roundness even after many miles.
The '81 Imperial was finished down to the finest details: at left, notice the chrome brightwork surrounding the headlights when the headlight doors are open; at right, notice the Imperial badge above the backup lights, visible only when the trunk is open.

Standard "Mark Cross" interior, in red leather for this car. The carpeting is long pile "sheepskin" carpeting, very plush! This car has 120,000 miles, and the interior is still nearly perfect, with everything still operating as new.
Note: The radio is a dealer replacement supplied ETR, not the factory ETR, which is shown below. The bulge in the dash pad above the instruments is incorrect. This is a common problem with these cars, probably caused in this case by the car having spent its life in the very hot high desert of inland Southern California. The rubber band on the gearshift lever is a non-factory accessory.
Interior of a blue 1981 Imperial, complete with original leather seats and original factory ETR radio without cassette player.
Shown here is a brown '81 Imperial with the "standard" AM/FM/Cassette Player.  Note also the cloth interior in the brown 81 - this car has almost 300,000 miles on it -- the seats are still near perfect, and VERY comfortable, as you can probably tell from the picture.

Above are the driver's control switches (from rear to front):  Door lock/unlock, left and right front windows, driver's seat cushion front up/down, driver's seat cushionrear up/down, whole seat forward/reverse and up/down (4 way joy stick), left and right mirror controls (4 way joy stick).  The area below the courtesy and rear warning lights is carpeted with the same carpet as the floors.

The pictures above show the open power moonroof and the headrests. The roof has three modes: open, glass closed but shade open, and completely closed. The power moonroof is one of few accessories offered on these cars; nearly everything was standard.  The moonroof was ONLY offered on 1981 Imperials, and was installed on only about 30% of the model year production run.


The 1981 seats are much more comfortable than the later cars, as the cushions are of the "floating pillow design," whereas the later cars used a more simple construction for the bottom cushion (the top cushion remained the same). The 81s with cloth seats are superbly comfortable, and very durable.

All interiors have separate front seats with arm rest attached to the driver's seat, but in the exact center of the car, a true 50-50 seat.  Also, all have 6 way power on the driver's seat, 4 way on the passenger seat.  None of these models came with consoles in the armrests.

Shown here is the '83 Imperial interior -- compare the lower seat cushion with the '81 seats at the left.

Shown here is the underhood area of an original EFI car. Everything shown is authentic and original, with the following exceptions: The heater hose, the radiator cap and the upper radiator hose has been replaced, and the thermal shield housing for the battery was not on the car when this picture was taken. Elsewhere on this site are under-hood pictures of a factory conversion to carburetor -- it may be interesting to compare the two.

At left is a picture of the certification sticker on the left door jamb which is required on '81-'83 Imperials that have undergone the factory conversion to carburetor.

For further comparisons of the '81, '82, and '83 Imperials, be sure to see the Differences Among the 1981 - 1983 Imperials.

This page was last updated December 13, 2004. Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club