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Kerry's '50 Crown Imperial Limousine Restoration - Part One

Imperial Home Page -> Imperials by Year -> 1950 -> Kerry Pinkerton

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Well, here we go.  This is a 1950 Chrysler Crown Imperial Limousine, one of 206 made and who knows how many remain??  If anyone knows of one, PLEASE get in touch with me.  The Crown Imperial is built on a 145 1/2 inch wheelbase and came in two versions, 8 passenger and 8 passenger limousine.  The limo has a powered divider window.  He weighs 5305 lbs and cost a little more than a dollar a pound in 1950, that is 5334.  The extra cost is probably the buzzer for the driver.  The limo has a powered divider window.

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This is the mighty Chrysler flathead straight 8.  I had heard this engine run on the FIRST trip up to Rockford and hoped we could drive it on the trailer.  However, when I turned the hey, the lock cylinder came out in my hand.  Oh well, the winch managed to get him on the trailer and the trip home was uneventful if tiring.

Once home and the ignition key cylinder was reassembled, the key turned and to my AMAZEMENT, the engine started!!!!  There was no smoke at all!  Impressive to say the least.  He sounds great, valves a little noisy but that's easy.  My friend Ray Hickey thinks the 50 had hydraulic lifters.  The right side inner fender well is missing so obviously someone was working on them.  I'll have to find or make a new inner liner.

Jun01_05.JPG (65665 bytes)Jun01_13.JPG (69935 bytes) Here is the problem.  All the chrome plated trim is shot.  The pot metal is all badly 'popped'.  This is an expensive, time consuming process.  The IML recently had a home plating thread that I followed with great interest. I will certainly send the bumpers out for plating but I'd like to try and do the pot metal repair myself.  We'll see.  I hate to spend money on things I can do myself.  Someone on another list recently said that one should "spend what you have.  If you have money, spend money.  If you have time, spend time."  I have time.

Jun01_23.JPG (86959 bytes)  This is the below trunk mounted spare tire.  The gas tank is a huge "C" shaped thing below the trunk with a slot for the spare tire.  The center of the bumper rotates out and down for access.  There is sheet metal damage but it's no big deal.  The rear bumper has a couple dings and tears but the bumper shop can handle that.

Jun01_24.JPG (88692 bytes)Jun01_25.JPG (76507 bytes)Jun01_26.JPG (69853 bytes)  The trunk is full of engine parts, valves, pistons, etc.  Floor appears solid and the upholstery  on the inside of the trunk lid is in amazing condition and is probably restorable.  Tail light housings are 'popped'.  By the way, ALL the exterior lights work including the turn signals.

Jun01_06.JPG (92894 bytes)  Ah, here is the real deal, the dreaded "Lambert disc brake".  While I don't yet have a 50 shop manual (Elijah Scott is loaning me his until I can find one), the 54 manual covers these brakes as they were standard on all the Crowns and optional on other Imperials through 54.  After reading up on them, I think it's a simple elegant design and unless I have to have new linings bonded, should present no problem.  This will be job 1 so I can get him mobile.

Jun01_09.JPG (79203 bytes)Jun01_10.JPG (81295 bytes)Jun01_18.JPG (75292 bytes)  Front seat views.  The front "driver compartment" is done in black leather, including door panels.  The steering wheel is not too bad and the instrument panel is solid.  Ammeter, and temp gauge works but that is it.  Speedometer doesn't.  Fluid Drive appears to shift correctly.  My friend Ray says that as long as the car has less than 3,000,000 miles on it, the Fluid Drive is probably fine.   I assume that means it is very durable...Jun01_22.JPG (97419 bytes) This is the drivers side floorboard.  If not careful, a foot will go completely through the floor.  Rust is apparent all across the front compartment floor but that is the extent of the rust other than a couple bubbles in the drivers door. This will get fixed with metal shaped to match the original as someday this car may be restored to show condition. The car is amazingly rust free.

Jun01_11.JPG (73547 bytes) Rear compartment with the jump seats folded up.  The wheelcovers came with the car but are NOT Imperial. I'd guess Olds Fiesta.  They'll be on ebay soon.  Jun01_12.JPG (67270 bytes)  Rear seat is cloth and enough is still there to make a pattern but a complete padding and upholstery job will be necessary. Jun01_14.JPG (83837 bytes)  Back of the chauffeur's seat showing jump seats folded up.  Jun01_15.JPG (68258 bytes)  Jump seat folded out.  Actually not in bad shape.  If you look closely below the jump seat, you can see the foot rest.  This thing folds to several positions so the ladies won't break their high heels,  It also folds up to nearly disappear at the front of the back seat.  It has some wear in the center for some reason.

Jun01_17.JPG (106349 bytes)  The rear compartment has three ashtrays and a clock. Jun01_16.JPG (69945 bytes)  Windows are all power including the divider window.  They are hydraulic and the pump runs but there is obviously a leak in the system.  The divider window did go down while I was messing with it.  This is nice as I kept banging it with my elbow when backing up.  Oh, the little white button below the window switches is a buzzer to get the attention of the chauffeur.  "Oh Jeeves, it's a bit chilly, would you turn up the stove a bit?"  Buzzer doesn't work...yet.

The upholstery will not be a major expense.  I'd guess a grand will see it as new with correct fabrics and material.  The rear carpet is very nice and will be restored.

Jun01_19.JPG (51966 bytes)  This is the reason I passed on the car the first time.  There is a TON of very finely detailed 'chrome' trim in the interior.  It's all green and grody looking and I first thought it was pot metal and would cost thousands to restore.  Wayne Davis, owner of a 51 Crown, informed me that it is actually nickle. A little spit and polish shines it right up.  Hooray!  That will save a few thousand bucks!

Jun01_20.JPG (56586 bytes)Jun01_21.JPG (29206 bytes)  Even most the interior lights work

So, what's the plan?  Well don't have a firm plan yet but here are the priorities.

1- Brakes...Restore the Lamberts, replace the brake lines and master cylinder.

2- Rust repair... fix the rotten front floor with original pattern sheet metal.

3- Body work... fix the spare tire door and misc dings and scrapes.

4- Decision I keep him or sell him to someone who will spend the several thousand dollars on the chrome required to do it right.    I'm in the car very "right".

Dwight Eisenhower did own a 1950 Crown Imperial but I don't know yet if this is it.  Since we already have a 54 we call Eisenhower, we're thinking of calling the Crown "MacArthur".  General MacArthur was driven around post war Japan in a 50 Crown Imperial.

next chapter

Kerry's '50 Restoration Saga Main...


This page was last updated 22 June 2002.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club