Jim Martin's Story

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I have the 1939 Custom Imperial C24 Limousine you may have seen at some of the California Imperial statewide meets.

I have located five "39" C24's, and would be interested in any others I am unaware of. They consist of a 5 passenger in Texas, a 5 passenger in Iowa that I have lost track of, two parade cars in Michigan and my seven passenger limo. There is also one advertised in the Jan. Hemming's as a parts car.

I am always on the look out for this model and information pertinent to it as many of the parts are not interchangeable with other Chryslers and DeSoto's of that year.

An example. On rebuilding the front end I found the only common part was the upper "A" frame. Also the differential is available only from the 37, 38 and 39 Custom models, and the list goes on!


I am pleased that my 1939 C-24 information is on line. Perhaps it will put me in contact with other C-24 owners I am unaware of, which is my primary interest. I must confess, the car can be impetuous for an inflated ego.

However I consider it to be my hobby and my therapy. I feel the car should be displayed for the enjoyment of those who enjoy the old car hobby, and consider myself fortunate that it sits (some of the time) in my garage. I have enormous time, money and effort invested and am not displeased with the results, although I'd like to have all the money back! I did not restore it for show and am nearing 20,000 mi. on the car since starting the restoration in the fall of 89.

I purchased my "39" Custom (changed to "Crown" in 1940) Imperial 7 passenger limousine in 1980 from Bill Adams in Livermore, Ca. I had brought my "37" Airflow C17 home from San Francisco on a Saturday. It still awaits restoration!

The following day a friend notified me of the limo for sale. Information was limited but I did find a picture showing the dual side mount spares, which I believe greatly influenced my decision to buy the car.

Previously the car had been owned by a G.I. in Fort Ord, Ca. Bill had purchased the car in the 70's in Ellensburg, Wash. and driven it home using over a case of oil. When overhauling the original engine. (I bored 30 over) I discovered 6 of the 8 Pistons with broken rings and/or ring lands broken. Although not a frame off restoration the following mechanics have been attended to; radiator including addition of electric fan for hot weather and congested traffic, all engine. accessories, fluid drive unit, (1st yr. for fluid drive) transmission "U" joints, drive shaft balanced, center drive shaft. bearing insulators replaced, differential, entire brake system., including vacuum. assist power assembly, new wiring harness (dir. signal added), dash instruments refinished, radio restored with FM. conversion, bumpers rechromed, body, paint, and Interior re-upholstered in original fabric (changed color to gray) replaced original front floor mat with carpet, complete front end re build and new shocks,

For my ease of maintenance I have added or relocated the following; the oil filter to the front left side of the head (replaceable element type); Plumbed into the master cylinder. And mounted a remote reservoir on fire wall for easy access with out removing the carpet or floor pan to add or check fluid, attached a quick disconnect to the battery cables to facilitate charging the battery under the hood rather than removing the front seat and battery. cover.

I have installed a cast iron head due to deterioration of the aluminum head. The over drive is a necessity on the open road as it tops out around 60 mph in third gear. I have unintentionally reached a speed of 90 mph in overdrive. I thoroughly enjoy driving the car and recently completed a 530 mi. trip from the bay area to Fort Bragg on the north coast of Calif. It handled the coastal and mountain roads with ease. Great for upper body strength. No need to work out in the gym! Power steering would have been a plus. My 1st long trip was a 1300 mi. round trip to San Diego to attend the Calif. State Imperial Meet in 1992. I hope to attend the "98" WPC National meet in Portland.

Other than my "39" I have been told of 5 other C-24's:

Two convertible town cars ( or are they "Parade" cars?) and 3 five passenger sedans.

I would be interested in locating any other "39" Custom Imperial C24's that I am unaware of.

The model C24 had a production of 306 or 307 depending on what you read or who you talk to. It consisted of 88 five passenger and 95 seven passenger sedans, 6 or 7 chassis-cowl units sent to special body builders to have custom bodies fitted.

My car is complete (I think) with the exception of the following parts for the glove box door; upper molding part number 793855 and the medallions that grace the glove box door. I am also in need of the side mount medallion (cloisonné). The color is "Royal Purple" and not blue as is the Chrysler Royal. I am rebuilding a spare transmission, and need the following parts for the solenoid; solenoid base gasket part number 689885, gasket part number 689886, core part number 689884, and solenoid core spring part number 692207. Any leads will be greatly appreciated.

Had I known the cost of restoration I would not have started it which seems to be a familiar theme in the old car hobby. I had a choice of restoring the C-24 or the 37 Airflow sedan C-17 that I have for sale. I am very pleased I made the right decision (I think). The limo rides like the Queen Mary and the kids are going to have to keep their jobs because I'm driving their inheritance.

I may add, I purchased the auto over the phone three days after I was notified of its availability having never seen it. Dumb luck! I was not aware it was or was to be recognized as a Classic at the time of purchase. The auto has the potential to give its owner an ego trip when a 10 min. gas fill can be a 30 min. one man car show. However I drive it for the pleasure it gives. Nearing 20,000 miles since going on the road in 1991, I enjoy it as my hobby and my therapy and regardless of the cost it's cheaper than a "Shrink" and much more comfortable. Another plus is my ability to look under the hood and fix a problem (unlike newer cars that leave me baffled!)


In a fruitless search for the history of my car I have determined that it may have first been sold in the Seattle area, as the original radio station push button designations seem to confirm. It was purchased in Ellensburg, Washington by the previous owner.

The car is one of a production of 306 or 307(?). The model C-24 Custom Imperial production consisted of:

- 88 five passenger

- 95 seven passenger

- 117 Limousines and

- 6 or 7 chassis/cowl units sent to special body builders.

I have been told 81 limousines were built with the front compartment in leather as is mine. The remaining 36 were furnished with the rear fabric continued to the front seat and panels.

My car's data shows V.I.N. 7806287 and engine # C-24-1091. It also came with a Virginia plate FEW-338 with 74 tag # VA042539. I believe the car was in the Virginia Beach area at one time.

It is also my understanding that these cars were sold to corporations for use as executive transportation vehicles. After World War II they were often used as Jitney's, much like present day vans.

In my book "70 Years of Chrysler" by George H. Damann, revised edition, 1974, Crestline Publishing, pg.223 it shows a "Derham" convertible town car, as well as a Canadian-built custom town convertible reworked from a 7 pass. sedan body. There are other custom bodies by Derham that year on page.224.

It appears Derham was their choice of custom shops in 39 as I could find no reference to LeBaron, Hayes Co. of Grand Rapids built (or altered ) 1,000 coupe bodies to be divided between Dodge., DeSoto and Chrysler that year but I can't find any indication there were any built for Imperial.

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