Let me introduce myself: I’m a long time geek working in the computer industry on open source software. I spend too much time in front of a computer. Way too much time.
I needed to do something to get away from the computer. Something physical – something to get dirt under my fingernails and sore muscles. Something where you can actually touch and see results at the end of the day.
So I decided to restore a car. [Insert scary music here]
But what car? A 1960’s or 1970’s American muscle car seemed the obvious choice. I used to have a 1968 Dodge Charger; shouldn’t have ever sold that car! But after thinking things over I decided on something suitable for long trips – a cruiser that you could load up with people and their stuff and head out. Something comfortable, maybe even luxurious. Something with character and presence, distinctive and memorable.
While I like the bodies of many 1960’s cars, I don’t care much for their interiors. The dashboard on many of these cars is bland and boring. I wanted something with character, inside and out.
After considering many alternatives I decided on a 1963 Chrysler Imperial. I liked the podded headlights of the 1961-1963 Imperial. The 1961 had tailfins – attractive, but more retro than I wanted. The 1962 had “gunsight” tail lights mounted on top of the rear fenders, which I didn’t care for. The 1963 was ideal – great lines, great presence, and the tail lights integrated into the rear fenders.
The dashboard definitely has character – a V shaped pod with pushbuttons on each side and an attractive instrument panel. I like this more than the interior of other cars from the same era.
So, the die was cast – track down a 1963 Imperial and start the multi-year journey to restore it!
Since 1963 Imperials are rather rare I expected to spend 6-12 months looking for a car, flying out to check out a car, probably in California, Florida, or Arizona, and then paying $2,000 to have the car shipped.
While planning the workshop I happened to check Craigs List. And discovered a 1963 Imperial 30 miles away. At a good price.
Having no real choice in the matter, I headed over to check it out. It was, indeed, a 1963 Imperial Crown 4 door hardtop. The body was straight with only a few spots needing work. Checking it over it was solid – no rust in the frame, solid floorpans and trunk, and little to no rust in the fenders. The only rust spot on the whole car was a small hole in the bottom of the drivers door.
Further, all of the pieces were there! All of the chrome trim was present (and there is a lot of chrome trim on this car!). All of the underhood pieces were in place, including air conditioning and the AutoPilot (cruise control). The interior was missing carpets and the trim panels for the rear doors were in the trunk, but all of the important pieces were there. Even the jack was in the trunk!
I was able to drive it around the block. The suspension was worn, the brakes were scary, and the engine had a knock. Just what I was looking for!
This was not according to plan. I was a year away from being ready to start working on a car. And this was too good a deal to pass up. So I made an offer on the car. And in July of 2015 it was delivered to my driveway.
So, time to build a workshop and start the 3-5 year (or longer…) journey to bring this behemoth back – an Imperial Journey.