Automotive Mileposts  
Production Numbers/Specifications
1960 IMPERIAL
1960 Crown Imperial Limousine


In 1960, with perfect time management, there was only time enough to build 25 Crown Imperial Limousines. Regardless of how many orders were taken, only a maximum of 25 could possibly be built.

Chrysler built and sold 16 of them in 1960, each hand-assembled in Italy by Ghia. The 1960 Imperial wore its Limousine styling much better than its competitors, with styling that was in proportion to its size, and not too flamboyant for this most conservative of automobiles.
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INTRODUCTION DATE
September 9, 1959

TOTAL PRODUCTION:
17,707

MODEL/BODY STYLE CODE
PRODUCTION/PRICE:


Custom Two-Door Southampton (912)
1,498 built/$4,923

Custom Four-Door Sedan (913)
2,335 built/$5,029

Custom Four-Door Southampton (914)
3,953 built/$5,029

Crown Two-Door Southampton (922)
1,504 built/$5,403

Crown Four-Door Sedan (923)
1,594 built/$5,647

Crown Four-Door Southampton (924)
4,510 built/$5,647

Crown Convertible (925)
618 built/$5,774

LeBaron Sedan (933)
692 built/$6,318

LeBaron Four-Door Southampton (934)
999 built/$6,318

Crown Imperial Limousine (N/A)
16 built/$16,000
ENGINE TRANSMISSION
CODE/DESCRIPTION

P-41     413 CID 4V V-8
Bore & stroke: 4.18 x 3.75 inches
Comp. ratio: 10.1:1
Horsepower: 350 at 4600 RPM
Carburetor: Carter (Model AFB-2927S)
CODE/DESCRIPTION

TorqueFlite Automatic, 3-Speed Planetary Gear Set

Torque converter ratio: 2.2:1.
Transmission gear ratios: First gear, 2.45:1; Second gear, 1.45:1; Third Gear, 1:1
ADDITIONAL SPECIFICATIONS
WHEELBASE 129" (Crown and LeBaron) 149.5" (Crown Imperial Limousine)
OVERALL LENGTH 226.3" (Crown and LeBaron)
WIDTH 80.1" (Crown and LeBaron)
HEIGHT 56.7" (Loaded; Crown and LeBaron)
WEIGHT 4,923 (Custom Two-Door Southampton) 4,700 (Custom Four-Door Sedan) 4,670 (Custom Four-Door Southampton) 4,720 (Crown Two-Door Southampton) 4,770 (Crown Four-Door Sedan) 4,765 (Crown Four-Door Southampton) 4,820 (Crown Convertible) 4,860 (LeBaron Sedan) 4,835 (LeBaron Four-Door Southampton) 5,960 (Crown Imperial Limousine)
TIRES 8.20 x 15 (All except Crown Imperial Limousine, which used 8.90 x 15 tires)

1960 Imperial: How's Your Sporting Blood?

If you were to gather a group of Imperial aficionados in one room and ask them to list their top three favorite years, undoubtedly, you would find the 1960 Imperials on most of those lists. The 1960 model is generally held in high regard among today's collectors, but many of them may be hard pressed to tell you why it's attained such high status. The Imperial had a new look for 1960, which was almost a requirement since the 1959 models resembled the 1957 models, which were part of the "Suddenly It's 1960!" ad campaign by Chrysler Corporation. The ads touted that the 1957 Chrysler Corporation cars were years ahead of the competition, styling wise. Chrysler could not afford to have its flagship car line still wearing stale "1960 styling" in 1960, so a new look was in order.

Since the 1960 Imperial was new, one might assume it has quite a bit in common with the 1961 models. Although there are many components shared between the two, there were numerous changes that make the 1960 Imperial unlike any other. The 1960 Imperial instrument panel, for instance, is a true work of art. Used only in the 1960 model year, it features two large circular gauge clusters that are positioned directly in front of the driver, and house the important instruments. In the left pod is the speedometer, odometer, and trip odometer. In the right pod are the indicators for fuel level, engine temperature, oil pressure, and generator. Two banks of pushbuttons flank either end of the panel, with the TorqueFlite automatic transmission buttons on the left, and the pushbutton controls for the heating and air conditioning on the right. A coved brushed stainless molding runs horizontally across the panel in front of the passenger, and the map light as well as controls for the map light and power antenna are conveniently grouped near the center of the panel, over the radio.

The Automatic Beam Changer, if ordered, was perched on top of the panel, placed between the two gauge pods for ease of adjustment, and maximum response to oncoming car headlights. Controls for headlights, wipers, and optional Auto-Pilot are placed with equal consideration. But the most wonderful piece of new engineering associated with this panel is something you can't see until night falls. Chrysler called it Panelescent Light. Advertised as being more restful to the eyes, Panelescent Light produces a soft green glow when lit, eliminating glare and bright spots. We have a special page about Panelescent Light.

1960 Imperial LeBaron Four-Door SouthamptonThe LeBaron models received their own special distinction in 1960 in the form of a limousine-style rear window. Designed to provide additional privacy to rear seat passengers, the new smaller rear window gave the LeBaron an ultra-sophisticated, very formal town car look when viewed from behind. This extra distinction was an easy install for Chrysler, as underneath the slender rear window, a standard Imperial rear window opening exists. A panel was simply placed over the existing window opening, and the gap leaded over, smoothed, and painted. Inside, the headliner and rear window trim disguised the add-on. Years later, to the bane of collectors, the lead in the gap between the rear window panel and the car would begin to crack and separate due to years of body flexing and exposure. This is somewhat problematic during a restoration, as some of the materials originally used are no longer available. This formal rear window would become a LeBaron trademark through the remainder of Imperial production, until Chrysler regrettably, but temporarily, discontinued the marque in 1975.

The frontal appearance mimicked the rest of the Chrysler line for 1960, with the front bumper and grille dipping in the center to form a distinctive V-shape. Although the front bumper is massive, this styling technique gave the front end a sporty appearance, and prevented it from looking too heavy. In fact, the 1960 styling was executed very well overall, and for a 226.3 inch car, the 1960 Imperials somehow didn't look as "heavy" as its competition. The Imperial Division resisted the temptation to decorate the Imperial with unnecessary chrome and even with the soaring rear fins, everything seemed to "fit" without any additional lines to mar the clean, classic beauty.

Cadillac and Lincoln were not so fortunate in 1960. Cadillac was trying to undo what it had wrought on the automotive world in 1959 with its rocket ship tail fins. Generally considered to be the height of styling excess in the 1950's, the 1959 Cadillacs kept the traditional, conservative Cadillac customers out of the showrooms, and convinced more than a few to hold on to their 1956 Cadillacs for another year until the stylists came back down to Earth. For 1960, the Cadillac exhibited greatly reduced tail fins, and much cleaner overall styling. Lincoln was still suffering through its final year of styling that was introduced in 1958. In the mid-fifties, Lincoln wanted to better Cadillac in every area: engine displacement, length, width, etc. To accomplish this, the 1958 Lincolns were huge, and had unibody styling that was somewhat confused. Cantilever headlamps up front, a coved front fender design, reverse-angled rear window on some models, and small tail fins out back were all styling contradictions. Lincoln spent gobs of money in 1959 and 1960 in an attempt to clean up its styling, and garner public acceptance. Their attempts failed, and poor sales for the 1958-1960 Lincolns would cause Lincoln to do an about-face and rethink their plan to compete with Cadillac for 1961. The result was one of the most dramatic and beautiful automobiles ever built, the 1961 Lincoln Continental.

Tail fins on automobiles may have begun with the 1948 Cadillacs, but Chrysler really called attention to them with its 1957 models. While most other cars were shedding the fins in the early sixties, the Imperial would make a styling blunder in 1961 and make its fins even more dramatic. This error in judgment was corrected in 1962, with the fins being shorn off leaving a much smoother appearance to this part of the car, although the 1961 Imperial does have a loyal following that will tell you the 1961 fins are the best ever.

The Imperial advertising campaign for 1960 was probably the most glamorous in the history of the marque. Combining black and white photography with gorgeous full-color photography, the ads were almost perfection. Photographed on the grounds of exclusive estates, including the one featured on the television show The Beverly Hillbillies, the ads combined high fashion models wearing glamorous creations from The Imperial Collection by Nina Ricci. The upscale locations suited Chrysler's finest automobile, and the Imperials featured in the color ads were striking in their color combinations. A Formal Black Crown Four-Door Southampton with Red interior was used in one of the ads, complete with Two-Tone canopied Landau roof painted Sheffield Silver. A Regal Red LeBaron with Gray interior made for another dramatic advertisement, which asked the question, "How's Your Sporting Blood?" Pictured at a country estate complete with thoroughbred race horses, this ad illustrated how Imperial owners lived. Another photo in this same ad shows the LeBaron at the racetrack, indicating its owner demands good performance from his automobile, as well as his horses. A third memorable ad positions a Four-Door Crown Southampton in Alaskan White with Formal Black Landau side roof treatment parked at the shooting range of the country club, its female passenger comfortably ensconced on White Pearl leather upholstery. Her husband is pictured leaning over, dutifully checking on her welfare. Or, perhaps its a friend of the couple, flirting with her while her husband ignores her as he chats with friends. No doubt she plans on getting the Imperial as part of the divorce settlement! (View 1960 Imperial Four-Door Crown Southampton photo—opens in new window or tab.)

The focus of Imperial's advertising for 1960 was the careful assembly procedure each Imperial received. Ads admonished not only how carefully each Imperial was assembled, but also how Imperial doors were hand-fitted for precise alignment, and how each Imperial endured over 600 tests and inspections before being shipped. There's little doubt this focus was necessary, as Chrysler was not known for its quality assembly and fit and finish in the late fifties, although the problems were mostly limited to the Plymouth and Dodge lines. Complaints from 1957 Imperial owners over quality control items were not as widespread, but did exist, and the Imperial Division was set on undoing the damage. Quality was greatly improved in the 1960 models, but the Imperial was outsold by both Cadillac and Lincoln.

The Imperial had a secret in 1960: it was a superior product to its rivals in many ways. Its styling was an inspiration; its doors opened higher and wider; there was more interior passenger space; its engine supplied more torque to the rear wheels; its Torsion Bar suspension provided superior ride and handling characteristics; but it took third place in the sales race for 1960. With Lincoln's fussy 1960 styling, and Cadillac's departure from conservatism that its traditional customers seemed to dislike, 1960 could have been Imperial's year. But it was not to be. The 1960 Imperial was the underdog, the one that should have been on top. For many, it was the "one that got away." Perhaps Chrysler was hinting at Imperial's secret when it posed the question, "How's Your Sporting Blood?" If you were looking for luxury and performance, Imperial was your choice. For such a large car, the 1960 Imperial doesn't feel large to the driver. It is responsive, and it handles at a level superior to other cars of its day. Perhaps the hint was too subtle for many. The Cadillac was the universal symbol of achievement during this time. A Cadillac signified that the person behind the wheel had--indeed--made it. Lincoln and Imperial both made that same statement, but indicated the person behind the wheel was a bit more selective in their purchase of a luxury car. Imperial's secret was safe in 1960, for only the truly well-informed luxury car owner understood the advantages of Imperial ownership. This made the Imperial a rare sight in 1960: an elusive, exclusive work of craftsmanship that was set apart from its competitors by its very nature. A luxury car that impressed without being ostentatious. The Imperial impressed the driver as much as the onlooker. And therein may lie the secret to the 1960 Imperial being at the top of everyone's "favorite year" list: they know the secret.

1960 Imperial LeBaron Four-Door Southampton at the race track
IMPERIAL - America's Most Carefully Built Car

The 1960 Imperials were built on the slowest moving production line in the country, assembled by the most skilled workers in the motor world. Imperial Eagle emblem circa 1960
1960 Imperial water test Weather sealing of Imperial doors, windows, deck, and hood is tested by an on-line hurricane: tons of water create a violent storm that each car must pass.
IMPERIAL
America's most carefully built car


1960 Imperial Contents

Paint | Trim | Standard Equipment | Optional Equipment

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