Kenyon Wills' 1964 27,000 Mile Survior Imperial


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In January of 2004, my neighbor alerted me that there were two Imperials for sale in the area. Heís been watching me work on the Black 1960 LeBaron restoration that Iím doing, and he didnít know a thing about Imperials when he met me two years ago, so the fact the he spotted a body style that hadnít even been mentioned in my presence was an impressive feat in itself. Thanks, Lee!

Anyway, it started out just like Imperial Margarine did; in that I really wasnít interested in spending money, didnít have the space, and all that, but I was curious about what Lee had spotted, so I hopped in the car with him and he led me over the hill to Castro Valley, where "I SAW IT".

IT was a 1964 4-door Crown that looked absolutely perfect. I rang the number listed and knocked at the door to no avail. It wasnít locked and I opened the door to find a nearly perfect interior, perfect interior chrome, and an odometer that read 27,861 miles. The absence of wear on the brake pedal indicated that the odometer had probably not rolled and that I was looking at a near perfect example of an Imperial.

I began to mentally salivate.

The owner finally returned my call, and after some back and forth haggling, the deal was done.

Once I picked up the car, I just couldnít believe the sensation of driving it down the street. The car was everything that an Imperial should be. It was whisper quiet, had plenty of power, solid brakes, and was VERY comfortable. The suspension was like new. Iíve been in some Imperials in my time, and I can say now that even though they rode nicely, by comparison they were hammered and probably needed chassis lube and new shocks, because this car is super solid and absorbs all manner of road surfaces without blinking or transmitting much of anything back to oneís posterior.

I got the car home and had already purchased my "Refurb Kit" that I get and install on any Imperial that is going to be in my stable.

I suggest that you consider doing these things to your "new" car upon delivery to avoid the really stupid, preventable things from stranding you (or worse).

Hereís a list of what I did to the car:

  1. New Master Cylinder (brakes)
  2. New Wheel Cylinders (brakes)
  3. New Soft Brake Lines (to wheels and rear-end)
  4. New Power Steering Power and Return Lines
  5. New Radiator and Heater Hoses
  6. New Fan Belts
  7. Chevron Techron Injection Cleaner (black bottle) into fresh tank of gas.
  8. New Transmission output seal
A few notes: These cars have a SINGLE CIRCUIT brake fluid system. This means that if any of the 10+ seals and 3 soft flexible hoses rupture, you instantly have no brakes. None. Modern cars have dual circuits, meaning that there are actually two bowls of fluid in the brake reservoir, and that each one is connected to a separate pair of wheels. Lose one circuit, and you still have the ability to actuate/brake the remaining pair of wheels to come to a stop. The car was obviously bone-stock. Regardless, unless I see a receipt with all brake parts listed and a date in the last 5 years or so, I just assume that one of the brake components is going to fail and make life hard. Assuming that any used car has secretly worn out some of its components and that youíll be paying to replace them is my philosophy. Pre-empting the stuff thatíll kill me if it goes takes top priority.

The power steering hoses are important, as they are right next to the exhaust, and power steering fluid is flammable. So is ATF. I learned that the hard way and suggest that this be the first thing that you go after once the brakes are done. Steering and brake components are crucial. Everything else is designed to avoid aggravation.

Total Parts Bill: $399

Total install time: 4 hours including pulling brake drums and installing the new brake system components.

The other thing that I did was to go to the local tire place and get a metal tire stem that is threaded with a rubber grommet that is intended for custom rims. I drilled a hole in the cap of the Master Cylinder and installed it there. I then dialed down the pressure level on my compressor to about 20 pounds of air pressure. Once the new brake parts were installed, I opened the passenger side bleeder screw and used compressed, low pressure air to force the fluid in the master cylinder through the lines. When fluid started to come out the rear wheel cylinder, I went back and tightened it down. I then loosened the other rear wheel, then did the passenger side front next, with driverís side front being last so as to always be working on the wheel farthest from the master cylinder before working my way closer to avoid residual air bubbles in the system.

Next I purloined the $1200 set of BF Goodrich bias-ply tires from the 1960. Those were the first thing that I bought for the other car, but the restoration is taking years, and Iíd rather use the tires than let them go stale. They look really terrific on the car, and they contribute to a really plush ride in a way that radials never will.

The cars that Iíve been in with radials rode very harshly by comparison. The suspension on these cars is torsion bar, with no coiled or leaf springs in the front. The chassis of the car was designed with bias-ply tires in mind. As they are more like bicycle balloon tires than modern car tires, they are an active part of the suspension, and absorb impacts and road irregularities.

After the brakes, tires, and other soft parts were on, I polished the car and made it about ĺ of the way around before bad weather set in. Once the car has been detailed completely, Iíll wax it and take it to a scenic place for some properly lit photos.

The only flaw in the car was that it was perfect until the boneheads that pulled it out of its Twin Falls Idaho barn failed to notice the irrigation sprinklers that were to fall onto the rear of the roof and deck-lid. These deep scratches to the paint were inexpertly covered with touchup paint that looks awful. I will eventually sand or polish out the filler paint and will probably take the car to someone that can pinstripe cars so that I can get the paint laid in there smoothly, and not all dabbled in like itís white-out.

This car is in super condition and still has the assembly-line inspection marks in the engine compartment!

One note: The air conditioner compressor was apparently low on oil and seized when I tried to use it. Please remember to check your compressorís oil level should you ever be tempted to depress the AC button. If itís low youíll seize your compressor like I did, and itís not much fun to look at replacing that item!

 


This page was last updated 16 February, 2004.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club