Chrysler CL Custom Imperial – 1933

Wow! The Chrysler CL Custom Imperial must surely be one of the most impressive classic American car series ever, with the phaetons in particular being breathtakingly beautiful.

Chrysler’s luxury Imperial line was introduced in 1929 to challenge Cadillac and Lincoln at the top end of the market, and remained around in various shapes and forms for years. But enthusiasts are truly thankful for the 1931 revamp, which saw the second generation ‘Imperial 8’ with its new’ engine produced in four delightful standard body styles – a four-door limousine, a four-door sedan, a two-door roadster and a two-door coupe, all with signature wire wheels.

But four-door CL Custom Phaetons of 1933 with bodywork by LeBaron are the unchallenged Imperial superstars – and like all superstars they are certainly precious, as just 36 phaetons with bodies commissioned from the prestigious New York design-and-build company were included in the total of 151 Custom Imperials manufactured in 1933. With its endless hood and rounded trunk, this is a truly eye- catching vehicle. It was technically advanced, too, with Chrysler’s ‘Floating Powder’ system (added to the Imperial range in 1932) coupled with near-perfect weight distribution making a smooth ride even smoother, and ensuring that, this large vehicle was a pleasure to drive.

However, a glass partition could be raised to separate front and back seats for those who preferred to let a chauffeur have the fun. Unfortunately, with The Great Depression in full swing, there weren’t too many of these around to support continued production. So the flowing lines of the Imperial would soon be banished by Chrysler’s more advanced, commercially successful but infinitely less appealing Airflow. Given the choice, today’s classic car driver would choose the Imperial every time … hoping against hope that the magnificent machine would be an ultra-desirable Custom Phaeton.



FIRST manufactured:



6.3 I (385 cid) Straight Eight


Up to 100 mph (161 km/h)


This will be a really tough nut for ‘must drivers’ to crack – only eight of the superb LeBaron Custom imperial phaetons are known to survive.


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