Dan Melnik's 1966 Imperial LeBaron and Crown Convertible

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It’s always interesting to me to read the ownership history of a classic car. The Year-by-Year section of the Imperial Club has a number of these articles about different year Imperials: their owners, why the owner had purchased the vehicle, as well as running maintenance histories about a vehicle’s restoration or journey back from a ‘rust bucket’ to a Object of Art. The 1966 Imperial has long been my favorite ever since I had owned a 4-door Crown as my ‘daily driver’ back in the early 1970s. I had even purchased a ’66 convertible (named ‘Brandy’) in the mid 1990s with plans of doing a complete restoration…someday! Well, as many of us know. life has a way of taking all those plans we have made and changing them completely around.

After my wife, Donna, was diagnosed with cancer, it was decided we would move from central New Jersey to southern California so she could be closer to her kids and grandkids. The house was sold as well as the ’66 Imperial convertible plus my old ‘daily driver’ 4-door Crown (which was now a ‘parts car’). Donna’s cancer got much worse and 5 months later she passed away. I decided that instead of staying depressed I’d look for a replacement for my Imperial convertible to help keep me busy and my mind occupied. Over the previous few years I had been in contact with an IML member who owned a ’66 Imperial convertible up in the Seattle area. To make a long story short, the owner (Bill Ulman) was now in a position to sell his Imperial. He and I eventually came to an agreement and after checking out the many photos he sent me, as well as those on the IML website, we decided to make the official ‘exchanging-of-the-keys’ at his mother’s place in San Francisco. Bill drove the car down from Seattle to San Francisco on Thanksgiving weekend. The only problem he had was when the underhood insulation had come loose and was blocking the air intake on the air cleaner snorkel. Once the problem was identified, he removed the insulation and the car drove fine once again. I flew up from southern California and he picked me up at the airport. In typical San Francisco fashion, the weather was overcast, foggy and rainy. After exchanging various documents and maintenance records, I drove ‘Doris’ over to my brother-in-law’s place in Pleasanton, CA. The weather cooperated and as soon as I was 30 minutes out of San Francisco, the sun came out. Upon arriving at my brother-in-law’s, a really good washing and interior scrubbing was needed due to the rainy trip from Seattle plus the previous owner being a chain smoker. The next day, with ‘Doris’ looking and smelling like a brand new car, I hit the road heading back home. As luck would have it, the Santa Ana winds were showing just how strong they can be almost the whole 450 miles from Pleasanton to Beaumont, CA. Doris drove beautifully all the way home except for having to stop often for gas. Going up through the mountains (called ‘the grapevine’) was a piece of cake, and I was really impressed with how much power ‘Doris’ had. I figure we got 10 mpg that trip.

As of mid-2006, Doris has been joined with a stable mate: a ’66 LeBaron that used to belong to Chris Hawkins. I have very unimaginatively started calling this car ... ‘Baron’.

Doris is in need of new ‘pearlescent white’ seat covers as the originals have worn so thin that they will tear if you look at them sideways. She is a beautiful, classy lady…just like her namesake. Baron has a special place in my memory as he has the ’66 Deep Plum paint (with the gold pinstripes on the side) which is the same color of my original ‘daily driver’ ’66 Crown. I have started going through Baron from front to back with the intent of making him “roadworthy and reliable for a 1000 mile trip!”  Doris will be next, including, eventually, new seatcovers.

Why have TWO of the same year Imperials?? Well, I always wanted a ’66 convertible, but I truly love the 4-doors, especially the LeBarons. If one would fit in my garage I’d be looking for one of the Ghias or Limos!

Keeping two Imperials up to the standard that I believe these vehicles should be maintained at is not a simple (nor inexpensive) project. For now, though, I truly enjoy having Doris and Baron to keep me company…also, as you might imagine, here in southern California there are ample Car Shows for just plain “showing off!"

This page was last updated June 19, 2008.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club