Abandoned: Chrysler Imperial with Shoddy Homebrew Bodywork

The top-of-the-line Chrysler for the late 30s, complete with Fluid Drive

6d ago

I recently visited the eclectic junkyard-turned-roadside-attraction Old Car City USA in White, Georgia. This has been my custom for 3 yeas now as it combines relaxing hiking with the thrill of exploring an overgrown car graveyard. You can find my review here:

One thing I saw for the first time this past visit was a 1937-1929 fourth generation Chrysler Imperial. This model was the absolute top dog Chrysler for most of the company's history and the name had possibly the most prestige in the late 1930s when this car rolled off the assembly line.

It's in rough condition and clearly has had some shoddy homebrew bodywork done in the past, which I'll get into. It also might have been painted crudely with a roller. But let's take a moment to admire these amazing proportions. With a massive 140 horsepower 5.3 liter flathead straight 8 up front connected to a futuristic 3 speed Fluid Drive transmission, this was a seriously fast and luxurious car for the time. These cars only came with the Fluid Drive transmissions at a time when automatics were still exotic technology not commonly found on cars.

They don't do hood ornaments like this anymore. I suppose this is an abstracted propeller. It's not originally from an Imperial I don't think so perhaps it's aftermarket.

This rust repair is hard to look at. It's bare metal riveted on in some places and in others it's just massive chunks of bondo. Such an expensive and elegant vehicle shouldn't be treated like this.

The area where it was butchered the most is the rear though. Awww, no, NO, NOOOOOO! Why are there hardware store trailer lights slapped on the rear?

And upon closer examination, it appears these shoddy custom rear fenders are designed to imitate the 5th generation rear. However, we know this started off as a 1937 or a 1938 because of the humpbacked rear trunk since the 1939 models went to a more swept tail look.

Like, just, please, no! The lower lights seem to have come from some OEM but they aren't original to the car. One clearly has a replacement lens. And the top round trailer light with tiny reflectors is ugly at best and blasphemous at worst. Who would do this to this poor car?

At least they didn't put the interior of a 5th gen Imperial into this late 30s one. Wait, they put the dashboard, steering wheel, and, shockingly, the gear lever out of a late 1940s Chrysler Imperial into this late 1930s one. It's got the original door handles and window winders out of the 1930s one but the door card has been recovered poorly in blue cloth, losing the texture of the originals. I just, can't they leave well enough alone?

I'll leave you with this shot of the front of the Imperial. For some reason this is the best front view I took that wasn't blurry.

What do you think about this butchered example of an iconic luxury car? I'm glad I saw it but I'm not glad that someone performed this bodywork.

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Comments (9)

  • I was sure I'd seen that hood ornament somewhere, so I spent a few minutes with Google. It looks like a Buick "gunsight" ornament used in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This guy has a collection:


    I wonder if the trailer lights happened when somebody said "Those taillights aren't street legal because <something>" and the builder grabbed the first thing that came to hand. I've seen rebuilt/replica versions of old cars with center brake lights that were very obviously stuck on as an afterthought.

      6 days ago
    • Oh, good work IDing that hood ornament.

      I don't think the taillights were a rush job. The hammered metal brush painted with those lights from another car might have been added first and the trailer lights were a "oh, so now you're happy" FU to...

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        6 days ago
  • A sad sight for such a car to end up that way.

      6 days ago
    • Like, I understand why it's there. It's totally ruined and isn't economic to repair, especially assuming what rusty horror lurks beneath that riveted metal and Bondo. Maybe it was rescued from an earlier junking by those mods and it's only...

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        6 days ago
    • Hmmmm...perhaps that's so. 🤔

        6 days ago
  • You have to remember that before a car becomes classic, it spends a long time just being old. Especially a car that would have been new shortly before World War II, when they stopped making new cars for five years. Necessity is the mother of invention, and some of these changes are probably the result of doing whatever was necessary to keep it on the road.

    Then, ten or twenty years later, someone buys it, still running but with the interior in tatters, for $25 or $50 or something, goes to a junkyard, finds any old Chrysler with a still halfway decent interior and shoehorns it in, to keep the car on the road another ten or twenty years.

    You see blasphemy; I see seventy years of stories I wish I knew.

    Keep the junkyard posts coming; you're finding some fascinating cars!

      3 days ago
    • On the Hyphen, RanWhenParked suggested it was a cheap way for a fleet vehicle to look more current. You'd expect for the car to be well maintained when they weren't making any more Continentals at least but the shoddy bodywork is clearly...

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        2 days ago
  • <rubs hands>

    Ah man, if I had the dough and the expertise, I’d have hooked that up to a trailer and taken it to the Fountain of Youth.

      6 days ago
    • That seems dangerous. You could end up in a pursuit as futille as that of someone on our other site who over the course of many years now has turned a car made entirely of Bondo below the windows into a car made entirely of metal....

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        5 days ago