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In the Garage: 1951 Chrysler Imperial

This 1951 Chrysler Imperial convertible is one of

This 1951 Chrysler Imperial convertible is one of only 650 ever made, and comes with a Hemi V-8 and "Indian Metallica Brown" body. Credit: David Fluhrer

THE CAR AND ITS OWNERS: 1951 Imperial convertible by Chrysler owned by Gery and Patti Spory

WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING: While Cadillac was America’s top luxury ride for 1951, Chrysler fielded a strong competitor in its powerful and elegant Imperials, marketed as a separate model line. The sales brochure deemed it “America’s Smartest Car,” no doubt because of Chrysler’s engineering prowess, including the Imperial’s industry-leading 180-horsepower engine. The convertible, says Gery Spory, was “new in 1951 and was listed for $4,427, the most expensive car in the 1951 Chrysler line. Only years later did I realize that this was a rare car, as only 650 Imperial convertibles were made.” The big “Hemi” V-8, he says, “easily moves the 4,750-lb. car.” The Chrysler also features a semi-automatic transmission and full power, including windows, steering, brakes and top. The all-leather “Juniper Green Metallic” interior is complemented by an “Indian Metallic Brown” body.

HOW LONG THEY’VE OWNED IT: The Sporys have owned their convertible since 1961. “The Imperial became part of my wife's dowry, as her father, a Fort Lauderdale mailman, purchased it for $100 from a family on his mail route in 1961,” says Spory.

WHERE THEY FOUND IT: It was bought from the Fort Lauderdale, Florida owner.

CONDITION: “Even though it had only about 37,000 miles on it (47,000 now),” Spory says, “the car had been neglected over the years in the hot, humid Florida environment. It took several days to make the trip to Long Island. It loves gas and gets about 12 to 15 miles per gallon. Restoration came as an afterthought, as the car was rarely driven, but simply garaged. About 25 years ago, a serious attempt was made at restoration. All rusted metal was taken care of by a fabricator and a total frame-up restoration seriously begun.”

TIPS FOR OWNERS: “Before purchasing or otherwise getting an older car, decide as to how far you want to go with the project, if at all,” he advises. “Have deep pockets, as nothing is cheap with restoration. Have a complete shop manual available, as well as any other literature pertaining to your car.”

VALUE: The Sporys estimate their convertible is worth $50,000 to $85,000.

THE BOTTOM LINE: “I think that our 1951 Imperial is special, as it was basically my wife's car of 50-plus years and that it has kept our marriage together all this time,” Spory says. “It has brought fine memories as to what one can accomplish. Driving this car is still like being behind the wheel of a 60-year-old car. One never knows whether something can go wrong. However, this is not a “rattle-trap,” as the Imperial can and does keep up with highway traffic.”

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