Clark Thomas' 1966 Imperial Crown 4-door Hardtop

a.k.a. "Moparius Maximus"


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(Please click on any of the small pictures to see a larger image of Moparius Maximus.)

 

Last December '99, my wife and I decided to visit with my Mom in Lynchburg, Va. to take her for a ride in our 1966 Crown 4-drhtp that we had purchased in the spring. She's not much of a car buff but she said she really wanted to see it. (Mom's will do almost anything to get a visit). We had been driving the Imperial on several day trips and were at the stage that we thought all the bugs were gone. Of course, before we got it the car had been sitting in a garage since 1985, and it needed the basics-- new tires, new exhaust system (duals, by the way. Great sound and a 440's gotta breathe), new shocks (air lifts in the rear), redo the brakes, realign the front end and raise the torsion bars, clean the radiator, and, of course, take the gas tank off and clean out the rust. We did all these, but the car had really not been driven at night because the dash lights didn't work and the old headlights were sorta dim. I had tried Dick Benjamin's advice for several months about rotating the headlight switch while driving- but had given up by about late Sept. and thought that I could just do without dash lights since we only were going to take day trips anyway. It's about 300 miles to Lynchburg- not a really long trip, but one that could be a challenge if things went wrong. But, we were confident- at least I was. My better half was not so sure. Anyway, on Sun. morning real early, we were on our way from above Baltimore and - what a car!! As you all already know, the experience of driving one of these rare vehicles makes you soon realize that this is not your basic piece of metal and wheels that just gets you there. Oh, no!!- This is as close to a mystical event as one can have with what is supposed to be just a car. And to add to this, it was making the most gorgeous sounds from the duals as we sailed along down the I-95.2 Till then, we hadn't done our duty about naming the car since we didn't really know it good enough yet. So as we're cruising along, we talked about what it's name was. My wife-knowing how to relate to this topic said that this car is definitely not a female. The car was too big and powerful to have a female name. I thought that something had to be added regarding it's rarity. So after a few moments the car decided that he would let us know his proper name: Moparius Maximus-- a name that befits the genus and the very essence of what an Imperial is all about. We were allowed to use Max, but only if we didn't abuse the privilege. Having been made aware of just who we were being transported by, and thinking that we were fortunate indeed to be enclosed in such supreme company and comfort, we were just getting settled in for the trip when things got a little scary. We were going around the Washington beltway and it was about 6:30 AM when the engine starts to starve for fuel. My first idea was that there was water in the fuel. We could still move at a fairly low speed (35-40 mph) but could not accelerate since Moparius Maximus was not getting much to drink. What to do? Just kept on for a few miles and made a stop for fuel and a meal for us. That seemed to solve both problems - our need for food and MM's need for gas. Nothing else of consequence for the remaining 200+ miles to see Mom. Just the high of driving the greatest expression of American power and luxury to cruise the US highways. (This seems to be a stretch till you've done it and then you'll know). So then we visit with Mom and take her for a ride. She really likes Max and he seems to like her just fine( at least he runs smooth and acts like a real gentleman- I believe the duals were even a little more subdued than on the highway). It was a great visit- but we only had the day- so we had to leave that evening. I set it up with my brother to stay with him that evening. He lives South of Lynchburg a few miles and as we headed that way things started to get ugly again. First, the rain came. Moparius Maximus does not like the rain. After spending most of his 33 years in a nice dry garage he was not happy getting wet and splattered with mortal dirt and road grime. To make matters worse it was now dark. So he did the only thing that he could do to show us just how much this ticked him off. He waited till we were in the middle of a really messy area where there was major road work underway and there was no safety lane- just barrels along the right side of the road- and just flat out died. We still think he let out a muffled laugh as he quite running. I managed to fire him up again after a minute with all the traffic in Central Virginia lined up behind us and going around us with angry glares. As soon as possible I got off the road and filled up the tank with 93octane juice-- hoping this would pacify Max again. It sort of did, but he was still not right- but was nice enough to get us to my brothers home for the night. Next morning, my brother said that we could take Max up to a local "good-ole-boy" shop not far from where he lived and find out what Max's major problem was. After spending most of the morning in the shop, and getting re-introduced to all the nuances of Southern culture-- How's your family? What about all this rain? (A topic I didn't want to discuss at all) and so forth and so forth., we finally got the gas tank removed( a 20 min job that took about 3 hours to do because of the conversations with everyone that came in and about 6 or 8 phone calls) and found that it was loaded with rust. My original cleaning job was obviously not done right. The mechanic - to his credit - wanted to send it to a radiator shop buddy of his and have it dipped. I wasn't for that since it would take 2-3 days by their estimate. So we just took it over and had it steam cleaned and put it back on Max. Neither place charged nearly enough- but who am I to complain? This took most of the day to get done. If it had been done according to the amount of work time to do- it would have been about an hour or so of work. But my wife pointed out to me later that Max did this as a special favor to me and my brother since neither of us have had the chance to spend a day together for over 25 or 30 years. His business and my career just never seemed to allow it to happen. We're both in our 60's now and maybe Max will set us up for many more happy days together. So as we're putting the tank back on Max, I notice that there's a missing gasket on the hole for the float assembly. We made another O-ring type gasket out of some scrap rubber that was there and hoped that it would do till we're back home. Max is running fine again- at least he was after we replaced the fuel line filter and cleaned out the pick-up strainer on the float assembly. By this time it was getting dark and we had to be back home in the morning for a session with a computer, so we point Max North and start home in the late afternoon with the skies looking rather ominous and he now seems over his bad mood and is making all the lovely sounds that thoughts of a warm and dry garage at home should produce. He is covering ground at a nice pace and is making deep contented exhaust sounds as we cruise towards Washington. But all our fun is not over yet. It seemed that we're making good time but the fuel gauge is going down a little too fast. Plus it's now real dark as we get to about 30 miles South of Washington. The time is about 9:30PM and I said I need to stop and get some coffee so I won't get sleepy. Max hadn't missed a beat since we left so I stopped for fuel- filled him up and then stopped for the cup of Java. As we're sitting there sipping our brew, I ask for the flash light and step out behind Max and look under his rear end and see a solid stream of gas pouring out of the front of the tank where we patched the seal. I get back in and say to my wife: "We're leaking like a sieve from the tank- but I'm not staying here. Max is running fine so lets just drive and see how long it leaks". Well it sounded like a good game plan, but now we're faced with the dreaded "no-dash light syndrome". The solution was simple: I drive, she handles the flash light and shines it on the fuel gauge every few minutes to see just how much we were losing and how soon would we have to refill. This game went well for about 30 or 40 minutes and she said: "I'm tired of doing this flashlight thing, you reach over and twist that headlight switch and I'm going to visualize the dash lights coming on." I thought to myself: "Oh, yeah, after months of cranking that stupid switch, it surely won't work- but what have I got to lose?" Apparently, her psychic powers and Max's natural tendency to be nice to women came together at the exact moment - for believe it or not - the first twist that I gave to that switch all the dash lights came on at once.  I almost ran off the road. What a trip! What a car! Now as I write this Max is parked in the garage enjoying his rest and waiting for the return of warmer days and open roads to explore. He seems to be very content, he got to meet my Mom, gave both of us a memorable ride, let my brother and I share a day that we hadn't done in years, and even gave us his personal blessings by letting us know his formal name and be honored to take care of him for a long time to come.

 


Here are some more pictures of Moparius Maximus:

 


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