In 1950 Chrysler was celebrating its silver jubilee, an anniversary year with a sting in its tail. The Office of Price Stabilization had frozen car prices, there was a four-month strike, and serious coal and steel shortages were affecting the industry.
The ’50 Imperial was a Chrysler New Yorker with a special roof and interior trim from the Derham Body Company. The jewels in Chrysler’s crown, the Imperials were meant to lock horns with the best of Cadillac, Packard, and Lincoln. With Ausco-Lambert disc brakes, Prestomatic transmission, and a MoPar compass, they used the finest technology Chrysler could muster.
The trouble was only 10,650 Imperials drove out of the door in 1950, the hemi-head V8 wouldn’t arrive until the next year, buyers were calling it a Chrysler rather than an Imperial, and that frumpy styling looked exactly like what it was—yesterday’s dinner warmed up again.
BEASTS OF THE ROAD
Bulky, rounded Chryslers were some of the biggest cars on the road in 1950. The Imperials had Cadillac-style grilles, and the Crown Imperial was a long limousine built to rival the Cadillac 75.
The Imperial had Safety-Rim wheels.
The windshield was still old-fashioned two-piece flat glass, which made the Imperial look rather antiquated.
The Imperial was able to manage 16 mpg (5.7 km/l).
Rear fenders got longer for 1950, and lights were now nicely faired in.
Chrysler’s interiors were as restrained and conservative as the people who drove them. Turn-key ignition replaced push-button in 1950, which was also the first year of electric windows.
The inline L-head eight developed 135 bhp and had a cast-iron block with five main bearings. The carburetor was a Carter single barrel, and Prestomatic automatic transmission with fluid drive came as standard.
180 bhp hemi-head V8 wouldn’t arrive till next year.
The semi-automatic gearbox allowed the driver to use a clutch to pull away, with the automatic taking over as the car accelerated. Imperials had a waterproof ignition system.
The Imperial four-door sedan cost $3,055 before optional extras were added. The most expensive model in Chrysler’s 1950 line was the eight-passenger Crown Imperial sedan, which cost $5,334. In keeping with its establishment image, an Imperial station wagon was never offered. One claim to fame was that MGM Studios used an Imperial-based mobile camera car in many of their film productions.
Wheelbase measured 131.1⁄2 in (334 cm), which was 14 in (36 cm) shorter than the Crown Imperial.
The Imperial weighed just under 1,000 lb (454 kg) less than the Crown Imperial.
Windshield washers were available as an option.
Imperials were seen as the cream of the Chrysler crop. Advertising for the Crown Imperial purred that it was “the aristocrat of cars.”
The celebrated designer Virgil Exner joined Chrysler in 1949 but arrived too late to improve the looks of the moribund Imperial. Despite Chrysler’s problems, 1950 was a bumper year for American car production with the industry wheeling out a staggering 6,663,461 units.
New “Clearbac” rear window used three pieces of glass that were divided by chrome strips.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Chrysler Imperial (1950)
PRODUCTION 10,650 (1950)
BODY STYLE Four-door sedan.
CONSTRUCTION Steel body and chassis.
ENGINE 323cid straight-eight.
POWER OUTPUT 135 bhp.
TRANSMISSION Prestomatic semiautomatic.
SUSPENSION Front: coil springs; Rear: live axle.
BRAKES Front and rear drums, optional front discs.
MAXIMUM SPEED 100 mph (161 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 13 sec
A.F.C. 16 mpg (5.7 km/l)