Automotive Mileposts  
IMPERIAL 1963 - America's Most Carefully Built Car
Production Numbers/Specifications

1963 Imperial Custom Two-Door
Available in:

Two-Door Hardtop
Four-Door Hardtop
1963 Imperial Crown Four-Door
CROWN Series
Available in:

Two-Door Hardtop
Four-Door Hardtop
Two-Door Convertible
1963 Imperial LeBaron Four-Door

Available in:

Four-Door Hardtop
INTRODUCTION DATE: September 26, 1962
912 Custom Two-Door Hardtop $5,058
4,640 lbs. - 749 built
914 Custom Four-Door Hardtop $5243
4,690 lbs. - 3,264 built
922 Crown Two-Door Hardtop $5,412
4,720 lbs. - 1,067 built
924 Crown Four-Door Hardtop (924) $5,656
4,740 lbs. - 6,960 built
Crown Convertible $5,782
4,795 lbs. - 531 built
934 LeBaron Four-Door Hardtop $6,434
4,830 lbs. - 1,537 built
N/A Crown Imperial Sedan $18,500
6,000 lbs. - 1 built
N/A Crown Imperial Limousine $18,500
6,100 lbs. - 12 built
S41 413 CID V-8
340 HP at 4600 rpm
Bore & stroke: 4.18 x 3.75"
Carburetor: Carter model AFB-3256S
  TorqueFlite Pushbutton Automatic; Three-speed planetary gear set with Torque Converter
Breakaway ratio: 5.39 to 1
  2.93 to 1
8.20 x 15 BSW Rayon Hydraulic flared drum; automatic adjusting; power assist
Total area: 287.3 sq. in.
Chrysler introduced the 5-Year/50,000-Mile Powertrain Warranty in 1963.

What makes IMPERIAL 1963
so special? Is it:

Imperial design
Imperial roadability
Imperial performance
Imperial quality
Imperial craftsmanship
Imperial value

or a combination of them all?
1963 Imperial redesigned taillight and rear quarter
Gone forever was any hint of a soaring fin, and tail lamps perched atop the rear quarter panels. 1963 would be the year that ushered in the beginning of Imperial's clean, elegant styling period, which would continue until the last Imperial rolled off the assembly line in 1975. Imperial would return in the eighties and nineties, but its production would be very brief each time. Imperial's distinctive styling cues were still very much evident during these periods, however.
1963 Imperial on the test track
Focus On Quality Control

For those of us old enough to remember Fall 1962, it was a very different time for the world. Americans didn't realize until many years later how close we really came to war with the Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962. John F. Kennedy was the President, and the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, was admired by men and women around the world for her charm and elegance. In spite of the uneasiness that Fall, times would only get more hectic and disturbing as the sixties progressed. If you take a step back in history, you realize Fall 1962 was the beginning of events that would change the world as we know it, and it was the last time, perhaps, that Americans would have the chance to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of life without being constantly bombarded with bad news. This was before Kennedy's assassination, the war in Vietnam had just begun and no one knew for sure what was ahead. In December 1962, there were 11,300 American troops involved; by 1968 this number would be 536,000. As we entered 1963, things were about to change.

The Imperial for 1963 entered the marketplace competing with familiar names: Cadillac and Lincoln. The Lincoln Continental was largely carryover from 1962, although there were changes made to the instrument panel, especially in the center area around the radio and air conditioning vents. In 1961 and 1962, Lincolns equipped with optional air conditioning had a pull-down section to expose the air conditioning vents. This was eliminated in 1963, with the vents being exposed all the time on Lincolns equipped with air. The biggest change in the top offerings from the big three for 1963 would be at Cadillac. Stylists at GM and Chrysler were caught off guard when the sleek 1961 Lincoln Continentals were announced. Cadillac and Imperial, both somewhat slow to lose the tail fins that had been so popular in the fifties, suddenly looked out of date. It almost seemed that Americans were looking for something—anything—different, even if it meant giving up a styling feature that set the standard for luxury cars in the late forties and throughout most of the fifties.

The man largely responsible for the beautiful 1961 Lincoln design, Elwood P. Engel, had been hired by Chrysler in the meantime, and would make a major impact on the Imperial's styling in 1964; but for the 1963 model year, he didn't have the time nor the budget to make sweeping changes. Realizing immediately that the Imperial was beginning to look dated when compared to newer designs, he worked to integrate the new vertical tail lamps into the rear quarter panels, a new design for Imperial, which had utilized separate gun-sight tail lamp assemblies since 1955. The look of the rear roofline was also changed, with a smaller back window on the Custom and Crown models that offered more privacy for rear seat passengers, and provided a blind rear roof quarter, which was a popular styling trend at the time.

Meanwhile, over at Cadillac Division, GM styling was said to have been shocked by the new 1961 Lincolns, and went on a crash program to clean up the styling of its top luxury marque. The result was introduced in 1963, a design that set the tone for Cadillac for the rest of the sixties. While the Caddy's front end was reminiscent of the 1959 Cadillac, and the tail fins were still very much evident from the side and rear views, the car exuded a very clean, streamlined appearance when compared to the 1962 models. This left Imperial out in the cold, having to compete with a completely new Cadillac, and a very much loved, and very classic, Lincoln Continental.

For 1963, Imperial continued to promote the quality of its construction. Sales brochures featured a separate insert announcing Chrysler Corporation's new 5-Year/50,000-Mile Power Train Warranty, the longest warranty in the industry at the time. 1962's black and white print advertising campaign was continued for 1963, with ads directed toward "America's most successful independent businessmen" and other members of upper crust society, who were in a position to buy an Imperial. In February 1963, the Imperial Division mailed out invitations across the country, inviting successful individuals to personally test and compare the new Imperial. Dealers were advised to loan the cars out overnight, or for several days if necessary, to allow prospective buyers adequate time to evaluate the car.

Although Chrysler did take significant steps to ensure every Imperial met strict quality control standards, more than a few were delivered with problems that should have been caught before the cars were released for shipment. Motor Trend Magazine tested a 1963 Imperial LeBaron for its August 1963 edition. While Motor Trend liked the Imperial's comfort and handling overall, they did criticize the car for brake fade, carburetor flooding on tight turns, and stalling after a hard stop. Motor Trend also noted that the fit and finish didn't seem to be up to par with other similarly-priced cars. This observation is verified by Agnes Connors, formerly of LaJolla, California who purchased a new Imperial Convertible in 1957, and traded it in, with less than 50,000 miles, on a 1963 LeBaron. "The 1957 Imperial was such a beautiful car, there was nothing like it on the road at the time. The Cadillacs just looked so old and fat when compared to the Imperial," she said. "I really liked that car, but it did give us a few problems. When I traded it in for the 1963 model, it had quite a bit of rust on it, and I always kept the car clean and garaged. My 1963 Imperial hadn't rusted when I traded it in 1967, but there were quite a few places in the interior where things just didn't line up properly, and a few pieces of chrome on the exterior were crooked as well. The dealer couldn't seem to get them to line up properly when I took the car back for service, so I figured the pieces were just made wrong and couldn't be repaired."

Did Agnes buy another Imperial in 1967? No, she traded her 1963 LeBaron for a 1967 Cadillac Sedan deVille. "That was a bad choice," Agnes laughed, "I couldn't stand that car! The brakes were very touchy, I always jolted everyone riding in the car when I stopped." She added, "I know it wasn't larger than my LeBaron, but it seemed that way to me. I traded it in less than a year. I should have kept the LeBaron a few more years." And what did Agnes finally end up with? "I decided to get a smaller car, as I'd scraped the front of the Cadillac once or twice," she said. "Nothing that you could see by looking at the car, but I knew I'd scraped it." Agnes traded the Cadillac in on a 1968 Ford Thunderbird Fordor Landau. "The Thunderbird was the smallest car I'd ever owned, and at first I thought I'd made another mistake by buying such a small car. But after a few weeks, I became accustomed to it and I never did have any trouble with it whatsoever." Agnes kept the Thunderbird until 1979, and replaced it with a 1979 Cadillac Seville, which was traded in on a 1989 Cadillac Sedan deVille, which she has to this day. "My husband was a Chrysler man, and his friends all seemed to like Cadillacs. We really took a ribbing whenever we bought a new Imperial," she said. "And I thought they were all going to pass out when we traded the 1967 Cadillac for the Thunderbird!" Agnes laughed again and said, "A few of the guys commented they always thought girls looked cute in those sporty T-Birds."

In spite of its few flaws, the 1963 Imperials were good cars. Imperials always seemed to catch the attention of passersby wherever they go, and this held true in 1963. Motor Trend commented in its road test that when six people could ride in a test car all day, through stop and go traffic and crowded freeways, and emerge without one complaint, it spoke well for the comfort of that car. Also mentioned in the article was the performance of the engine, which idled smoothly all day long, started repeatedly without complaint, and could attain a top speed of 110 mph. Not bad for the largest car in the land, taking exception to the big Limousines from Cadillac and Lincoln, as well as Imperial. Imperial also had its own body, one that wasn't shared with lesser cars, and Imperial made sure prospective buyers knew that. The idea here was that other luxury cars somehow cut corners to accommodate the needs of other (lesser) cars that shared the same body.

1963 Imperial wheel cover
It's All In the Details

While 1963 may have been the last year for this body style, the Imperial didn't go unchanged. In fact, the changes made between 1962 and 1963 could fill a small book. To name a few, a new Master Transmission Parking Lock was added to prevent "unsupervised" Imperial road trips; 16 new acrylic enamel exterior paint colors were offered; there were 178 new interior-exterior color combinations; new integral taillights; 8 styling detail changes; larger effective braking area—25% larger than any other American luxury car; 10 modifications to the engine to improve performance, economy, and reliability; 6 improvements to the electrical system; in all, 83 engineering improvements were made. The Imperial Division was taking steps to ensure that the Imperial would remain America's Most Carefully Built Car.

While the Imperial certainly had its devotees, there is no question that Cadillac was still the one to contend with. Lincoln was gaining on Cadillac during this time, but there was still a wide margin in the sales figures. Lincoln was the best equipped luxury car in standard form for 1963. Imperial came in second place, with Cadillac trailing in third place. Lincoln offered white sidewall tires, pushbutton radio, rear seat speaker, power antenna, power door locks, and heater and defroster as standard equipment at base price. None of these were standard on the Imperial Custom, nor were they standard on the Cadillac Series 62 models, except for the heater and defroster. Cadillac led the field in sheer choice of models, with an unbelievable 12 individual models. Perhaps this partially explained Cadillac's hold on the luxury field, but there were many similarities between some of the models.

The Imperial Division didn't seem to promote the Imperial as much in 1963 as it had in previous years. Print ads were not run as frequently, although Imperials continued to be featured in movies and on television shows. The Beverly Hillbillies was a popular venue for Chrysler products, and you could always count on Milburn Drysdale or a Beverly Hills socialite to drive up to the Clampett's elegant mansion in an Imperial. Imperials were also featured in several popular 1963 movies, including the Doris Day-James Garner hit Move Over, Darling as well as the Sandra Dee-Andy Williams comedy I'd Rather Be Rich. James Garner also appeared behind the wheel of an Imperial in The Wheeler Dealers with Lee Remick and Jim Backus. The Imperial in each movie was a Cord Blue Metallic Crown Convertible, with matching leather interior. One wonders if it just might be the same car! Doris Day's character managed to trash it in Move Over, Darling when she was attempting to hide from former hubby James Garner. While entering an automatic car wash, she accidentally hit the combination fan control/temperature lever and—guess what?—the car must have had a MAJOR electrical short, because this caused the top to go down! Gallons of water flooded the beautiful interior of the car, and one can only imagine the problems that were down the road for that car if it survived. Talk about rust and corrosion in strange areas! This convertible would've set a new world record for electrical problems and rust through!

1963 was not a stellar year for Imperial sales, but it was a stellar year for Imperial in overall improvement and styling updates. Still saddled with a dated body style, the 1963 Imperials showed significant styling refinements to update the car, and substantial engineering improvements. The new warranty was icing on the cake, showing Chrysler was prepared to stand behind the cars it built. After several years of somewhat lax quality control, Chrysler apparently knew it needed to take this step to prove to the motoring public its cars were well built. The automotive press knew the Imperial was something special, and so did repeat Imperial buyers. There just weren't enough of them to go around. So, even though Imperial retained its distinguished character, reputation for performance, keen owner loyalties, movie car status, and admiration from the public at large, it remained a rare sight on America's roadways. The mere presence of a new Imperial in 1963 attracted attention wherever it made an appearance. Few other cars have ever commanded this kind of attention. And they are still 100% guaranteed to be traffic stoppers today. IMPERIAL 1963: America's Most Carefully Built Car.
Imperial Trivia:

Did you know that the name "Southampton" was used to describe the two-door and four-door hardtop body styles on Imperials from 1957-1962? The Imperial Division stopped using the description after 1962. The 1963 Imperials were referenced only as two- or four-door Hardtops. Over the years, this has caused considerable confusion, with some collectors thinking they had a special edition Imperial, due to the name "Southampton" in the model description.

1963 Imperial Contents

Paint | Trim | Standard Equipment | Optional Equipment

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