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Imperial Home Page-> Imperials by Year -> 1961 Imperial Home Page -> Kerry's 1961 GeeA Limo
My first Imperial was a 61 Custom. I found this car about 6 years ago ('95) in the newspaper. When I went to see it I honestly had no idea what it looked like. Imperials were NOT on my radar screen back then. Actually I was hoping it was a 61 Chrysler. I bought it anyway and drug it home.
I didn't really love it and just parked it in a shed and allowed it to 'age'. In the meantime, the 57 Imperial was found and purchased. This is the subject for my 57 saga. Next was a 73 which was rebuilt from a wreck. Followed by a 64 with 61K miles that Jeff Carrothers found here in Huntsville and put me onto. Finally, last year, a 71K mile original 54 with working factory AC followed me home. Obviously, I have caught a bad case of Imperial virus. The real cause was because I discovered the IML and met a bunch of great fellow Imperial enthusiasts including Jeff Carrothers, Donald Taccone, Robert Soule, Elijah Scott, Mark Harris, and many others. Having a relatively local (all in the South and attending the Anniston and Chattanooga meets) support group makes all the difference and we all speak frequently and manage to keep ourselves motivated and amused. Along the way, I developed a taste for the over the top styling of the 61 Imperial.
Unfortunately, the 5 years that the black 61 sat in the shed were not good to her. The chrome and trim had deteriorated badly and rust had destroyed the hood and part of the front clip. It was pretty sad. I thought the motor and running gear would be savable as I believed the car was a 60K mile original and suspected it had been a funeral home car because it was the lowest level of Imperial but had ALL the flash, including the stainless silvercrest roof insert. Everything except the flytesweep decklid.
Last summer I heard of a pair of 61 Crowns in Dallas belonging to IML member Wayne Davis. I bought these cars and drug them home in two trips from Huntsville, Alabama to Dallas last summer, accompanied by some of my friends listed above. Each car and trailer was about a 7000 lb load behind my pickup but no problems were encountered and a great time was had by all. Can you say ROAD TRIP! By the way, Jeff Carrothers makes a great meatloaf!
This is "Pinky" as we started calling her right after we finished loading it in 100 degree heat one Saturday in Dallas (primarily because the pink color (Malibu Tan actually), and also because Pinky has been my nickname since grade school.). Wayne gave Pinky a complete brake job including, shoes, wheel and master cylinders, and hoses. This car has now been stripped. All the new brake parts were removed and will be used in the project. All the non stainless trim was removed as were the window motors and other things which might further deteriorate. She is now resting in the weeds awaiting her fate. It won't be pretty I'm afraid. Organ donors, rarely enjoy the process. The motor was fired and runs but has low compression on two cylinders. I suspect stuck rings and have the engine/trans out but have not yet torn it down. I suspect the motor is in pretty good shape and will just need a touch up and new rings/bearings.
This is the beige car. (notice to photographers, don't stand where you cast a shadow...duh!) She has dual air and no decklid.. Mechanical condition is unknown but the body is the best of the three. Over the months since last summer, I worked to pull 'stuff' from the donor cars for the eventual restoration of one of the three. Since the beige car has the dual air and the better sheet metal, it was chosen for the 'core' body.
The first task was to pull the engine and trim from the black original 61. Donald Taccone, Jeff Carrothers, and Mark Harris came up one Saturday and were put to work pulling and tearing down the mighty 413. I've got some photos somewhere and will add them when I find them. At any rate, the motor was VERY locked up. We had to POUND some of the cylinders out with a trimmed 4x4 post and a 10 lb sledge. The good news is that the block looks very good and a quick hone job cleaned it up very nice. The heads look good also. The black car was also stripped of all perishable parts and is keeping Pinky company out by the tacky shed.
All this was done with the idea of combining all three cars into one nice 61 as I have have at least one good everything except the interior which will need all new fabrics etc.
While getting around to dragging the beige car into the shop for stripping I began to kick around the idea of building a limo instead of a 'run-of-the-mill' 61 Imperial. As I mentioned earlier, no limos were build using the 61 as a base so it would be very unusual and much easier than trying to restore something that had a definite "CORRECT" aspect. That is, with my limo, there would be no 'correct' fabric, trim, color, etc. I could build it as I wanted. The more I thought about this, the better it sounds. Of course, my friend Robert Soule keeps egging me on but I think it's mainly because he has a thing for limos. He has a rare 61 Ghia with the oval rear window. Our wives think we're nuts anyway.
John Corey has been an encouragement also and further spread gas on the fire by sending me a couple drawings of what the finished car could look like. He is a much better graphic artist than I.
This was version 2.0 of the scheme. Notice that all the additional length is in the "C" pillar.
However, my current thinking is somewhat different as described below. What I'm going to do is stretch the car in TWO places, about 12 inches between the doors and 8 or so in the "C" pillar. It will look like this:
I have several requirements for my "GeeA" limo:
1- Has to have a divider window
2- Has to have a fold down jump seat
3- Has to have at LEAST as much front seat legroom as the standard Imperial. I'm 6-3, 'nuff said.
4- Rear seat entry must be easy and 'elegant'.
This means that the 'stretch' will not be completely in the 'C' pillar. The divider window needs a frame of some sort and the fold down seat will take up some space also. If the rear doors remain where they are, the access to the back seat would be very tight and not at all 'limoish'. I think the solution is to add an additional door post behind the current one and hang the rear door from it. This will make a gap between the back of the front door and the front of the rear door of about 8 inches which is about right. I will use some sheet metal from one of the donor doors to fill the gap. I guess this would be creating a true "B" pillar.
In order to make the appearance more formal, plans are to run the door post up to the roof to create more of a sedan look. Thinking about wrapping the area where glass would normally be with brushed stainless steel similar to the 'silvercrest' roof insert. Obviously this will mean the silvercrest itself will need to be redone to span the additional area also. I've also about decided to keep glass between the doors. Design studies of a solid 8" wide "B" pillar did not look good.
The rest of the 16 inch (or so) total stretch will be in the "C" pillar. The rear doors will probably be squared off on the back edge similar to the front doors for increased space and ease of entry. The back part of the roof will be a padded 'landau' style. Of course a small rear window is required and I'll have to work something out. I have a small window in a 72 LeBaron that might work. I'll think on it but have lots of time.
I'm not big on leather so my current thinking is a fabric interior. My new GMC Pickup had a neat folding rear seat that looks like an adaptable design for the jump seat. With the extended 'B' pillar. The divider window and jump seat could be fixed which is not only more rigid but simpler than trying to carry everything on the front seat adjustment scheme.
Also thinking about something neat for the rear seating. Ever seen a "wall-a-way" recliner? It's your basic lazyboy recliner but when you lean it back it does not go backward into the wall. They also look just like a chair until you recline them. What if I got a couple of the frames, upholstered them in the appropriate automotive fabrics and used them as back seats. Passengers could then recline in comfort with the dual air blowing!!!! Humm has promise!!
Still a lot of thinking and planning to do and a bunch of things to figure out. The fabrication will be pretty serious, certainly the most difficult I've ever undertaken but should be fun to do and hopefully interesting to observe. Initial project plan looks like this:
1- Bring the beige car in the shop.
Try and crank the car to determine condition of the motor.
Strip all the chrome, stainless. etc.
Remove rear doors.
2- Cut and stretch the frame
Decide on best place for the stretch.
Brace then cut the sheetmetal. Remove rear half.
Stretch the chassis.
Fabricate new driveshaft. (probably do away with original center ujoint and adapt something else easier to rebuild).
3- Get her mobile.
Install motor and trans. Will probably use the 440 and alum torqueflight prepared for the 57 project. With the extra weight, the 440 will help and few people will know the difference.
Install the brakes
4- Finish the metalshaping and fabrication
Fab the new "B" pillar.
Fab the stretch roof at the "C" pillar.
Fit and square the rear doors.
5- Fab the new trim
All new side spears will be made from scratch. This should be interesting but I think I know how. Probably use 1/4 inch thick polished aluminum over a gold plate base similar to how the rear eagle is mounted.
New top trim will need to be designed and made.
New weatherstripping will be needed for the "B" pillar.
6- Finish bodywork and paint
Fold down jump seat.
Reading lights and comfort controls.
Upholstery, carpet, headliner. Other than the carpet, I'll probably farm this out.
8 - AC & Heat
Need a complete heat and AC for the front AND rear with separate controls.
9- Details, details, details
Timeline will be whenever I feel like working on it. The goal will be to create a limo that Ghia MIGHT have created. Your input, ideas, and feedback are welcome. Stay tuned!
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