Ah, America and its love affair with the automobile! And perhaps none more classically defines the aristocratic style and luxury than the Chrysler Crown Imperial, introduced by the Chrysler Corporation in 1926. This was literally the “crowning jewel” of the manufacturer’s line at the time, and it featured all the bells and whistles that were available to the connoisseur of the day.
The Chrysler Crown Imperial ceased production in 2006, but along the way there were a number of high sought-after models and styles. Offered as the rival of other top-of-the-line models from Ford’s Lincoln and the Cadillac models, the makers represented their commitment to excellence with their choice of the word “Imperial” - meaning supreme.
The 1926 brainchild of Walter P. Chrysler, the Chrysler Crown Imperial aimed at ultimate luxury; but they targeted all needs by providing a coupe, sedan, the sporty roadster and even a limousine that could easily accommodate seven passengers and was replete with a glass partition to separate the driver and afford privacy. Along with its beautiful lines and unmatched luxury, the Chrysler Crown Imperial made history by covering 6,500 transcontinental miles in a week, earning it a speed record and the honor of being the 1926 pace for the Indy 500. Speed way part of the package when you bought a Chrysler Crown Imperial in 1926 - it could go 80 miles an hour (guaranteed!) and hit 60 in 20 seconds.
The Chrysler continued to be a dominant presence in the American automotive industry over the next several decades, contributing style and speed, luxury and status. In 1953, the Chrysler Imperial began incorporating the newest luxury - air conditioning - in its cars; although this had been achieved in previous years by Cadillac and Packard. But it was the Chrysler who began offering the Airtemp as an option as opposed to a conceptual improvement. Maybe we can thank Walter P. Chrysler, who insisted on A/C in his Chrysler Building and then in his automobiles for today’s climate control in all our environments.
As times changed, styles changed and the requirements of fuel efficiency impacted the automobile industry, the Chrysler Imperial continued to maintain its standards of excellence with Mark Cross leather, fully-powered features like windows and locks, climate control, cruise control, safety features and the Landau roof. Hidden headlights were included in both the Imperial and the Chrysler LeBaron. Sound systems, security and other state-of-the-art technology were included. And the “Crystal Key Owner Care Program” was a selling point, with its (then) extensive warranties and roadside assistance.
In 1993, Chrysler discontinued production of this slice of American pie. Its Chrysler K series in the 1980s made a swing at the demand for smaller cars, and the LH cars and Chrysler LHS were the 1994 offerings. Low sales figures and its failure to meet the demand of smaller, less expensive transportation seem to have been the demise of its popularity to the masses. But Chrysler’s unyielding attitude created a reverence among those who remember the Chrysler Crown Imperial as true royalty.
Today, proud owners of a Chrysler Crown Imperial have a possession that is of tremendous value in dollars, and it’s priceless to the collector of American automotive manufacturing at its finest in the days that the future of our nation rolled on four wheels.