When I bought my 1966 Imperial Crown Convertible, I was pretty sure I was getting a good car. For once, I actually inspected the goods in person, so I felt like I had sniffed out all of the issues before handing over the cash. Unfortunately, there were a few surprises — one of which had me thinking that this car wants to murder me.
Heavy rain prevented me from taking the Imperial on a test drive, as Californians think the world is ending every time it rains — and since I needed to catch a flight home, I didn’t have time to wait around. Still, I spent plenty of time poking around the 50-year-old land yacht inside the showroom, and the consignment agent did post a YouTube video of him driving it around. I noticed a few very obvious leaks during my cursory inspection, but otherwise, the car seemed to be well sorted.
When my newest purchase arrived in Kansas a few weeks later, the first drive was kind of a letdown. I had owned a ’66 Imperial coupe in the past, and it never had any of the squeaks or rattles that most aging luxury cars become afflicted with. My new convertible, on the other hand, had a nasty rattle coming from the exhaust, as well as from the dashboard around the center speaker. Combined with the squeaky steering wheel, the noises almost made it too annoying to drive — but that wasn’t the worst surprise.
I remember making sure the heater worked in California, but didn’t run the unfiltered 440 cu in. V8 for very long, since it would have quickly suffocated everyone in the small dealership showroom. This turned out to be a big mistake, as the first drive in my Imperial was completely ruined when the heater began spitting coolant into my face. Clearly, there was a leak in my heater core, which uses engine coolant to heat the air leading into the cabin — and it only takes a few minutes for enough pressure to build before it starts leaking. Once the stuff hits the fan, the driver suddenly gets the automotive equivalent of napalmed.
So I won’t be using the heater until my mechanic, the Car Wizard replaces it — but thankfully, he doesn’t think it will be too hard to reach. I was convinced my main engine oil leak was the dreaded rear main seal, which requires removing the transmission to fix, but I dodged another bullet there, as well. Turns out, it’s just my oil pan that needs a new gasket, and the leak in the rear differential was another easy-to-replace seal. Including fixing the annoying rattles and squeaks, the Car Wizard estimates the total bill to sort my Imperial will be less that $1,000 — so it could be much worse.
While we had the Imperial up on the lift for the mechanical inspection, the Wizard and I couldn’t help but marvel at the build quality. The body is mounted to a very thick perimeter frame, that’s also reinforced by twin I-beams in an X-shaped pattern. The frame also branches like a tree into the corners of the car, where more steel plates were welded in. It’s no wonder these barges were banned from demolition derbies — since it’s pretty much the Thor’s Hammer of land yachts.
It was also very obvious that someone in the past had gone to great expense to rebuild and restore the drivetrain, as well as replace the brakes and suspension components — so despite the bad first drive, I am still pretty happy with my purchase. Now I just have to wait impatiently to get it fixed, since much like the Land Rover Range Rover in his backyard, I’ve got the wizard buried in other hooptie repairs. Find an Imperial Crown for sale
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