Swallow Strainers – 1962 Imperial Crown Sedan

If you’re interested in jet-age or mid-century modern design, you should definitely be familiar with the work of people like Virgil Exner and Elwood Engel. Exner actually designed one of the first post-war cars, the Studebaker Starlight coupe, which definitely had jet themes, and then created the futuristic forward-look cars for Chrysler. Incidentally, he was also responsible for the design of the 1956 Imperial featured last week. Elwood Engel is most famous for his work on the 1961 Lincoln Continental, but also worked on the similar looking Chrysler slab-sided cars, as well as having a hand in most of Chrysler’s muscle cars. With that context, here’s Exner’s last opus, or the reason Engel was called in – this 1962 Imperial Crown sedan is for sale in Oakland, CA for $3500.

1962 Imperial right front

There is no way you can forget this car once you’ve seen it (if it gives you a nightmare tonight, you’re welcome!). People thought Chris Bangle’s 2002 BMW 7-series was divisive, but this is on another plane. With strange, googly free-standing headlamps set in an alcove either side of the grill, a combination of smooth rounded shapes and hard corners, fins and sparrow-strainer tail lights out back, it’s bound to attract unsolicited opinions. From this angle, it looks like the hood is only about half the horizontal surface area of the car’s front.

1962 Imperial interior

Hmm. This interior was once nice, with leather seats, deep carpeting, and more period luxury features than you could shake a stick at. It’s actually not clear from the listing whether this was a Custom (base) or a Crown (mid-range), but the leather seats suggest Crown. Neat details include the odd square steering wheel and switch pods (significantly predating similar pods in 1980s cars) recalling the fins at the back of a car. There’s also the push-button transmission, and Panelescent gauges – a current was run through electroluminescent paint to illuminate the instrument panel.

1962 Imperial engine

Imperial was known to be the most driver-oriented of the major American luxury manufacturers. This was due in part to its torsion bar suspension, but also to the 413 V8, which put out a stonking 340hp and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. Thank you, Cuban Missile Crisis, we’re going to keep living like there’s no tomorrow, since there might not be! Things don’t look too bad under the hood, and the car is said to have a rebuilt transmission, new u-joints, and new emergency brake shoes.

1962 Imperial left rear

The line of the trunk lid recalls some Cadillacs of the same period. How much can you get in that trunk? Would you ever need to borrow your friend’s pickup again? The dark paint going up on the roof is an interesting look, suggesting the door opening actually goes up into the roof. What would you do with this old lady in her faded glory?


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