CHASSIS NO: LY1-1001
• 1 of only 31 bespoke Imperial Crown Limousines crafted by Ghia in 1958
• Believed to have chauffeured Queen Elizabeth II during her Royal Canadian tour in 1959
• Presented in near all-original condition
• 1 of only 132 Imperial Crown Limousines over a nine-year production run
Lot 56_1958 Imperial Crown_SErvice Certificate 2.pdf
Lot 56_1958 Imperial Crown_Service Certificate.pdf
392 cid Hemi V-8 engine, single four-barrel carburetor, TorqueFlite automatic transmission, power brakes and steering, dual air-conditioning; wheelbase: 149.5”
The marriage between Chrysler and Ghia gave birth to some of the most bespoke automobiles in American history and the Imperial Crown Limousine by Ghia easily shines through as the golden child in terms of luxurious handcraftsmanship. It was created in limited production for only the world elite. Among the most storied passengers, Queen Elizabeth II is believed to have ridden in this very car.
Still considered one of the most beautiful limousines ever built, the Imperial Crown may never have existed had it not been for a myriad of unusual factors. When designer Virgil Exner joined the fray at Chrysler, the company’s vision of production was controlled by engineers who had lost sight of design in terms of current aesthetics and styling. Exner pried control from their hands and thrust the company into the mid-century with his “forward look.” With an affinity for subtle fins and clean angles, the standalone division, Imperial, was primed to greet the arrival of the Sixties in style and Cadillac was in their crosshairs. A factory-built limousine was vital to the luxury image Chrysler and Exner had in mind for Imperial. The development and retooling of low-volume limousine production was cost prohibitive at the time so they looked to their unique relationship with Italy’s Carrozzeria Ghia. The company was primed for small production; their craftsmen were incredibly skilled, and labor was quite cheap following the ongoing upheaval after the war. A running joke called the relationship, ‘the longest factory line in the world’ – from Detroit, Michigan to Turin, Italy and back again.
The lengths partners on both sides of the Atlantic went to in creating this magnificent car are as fascinating as the famous passengers that rode inside them. Chrysler shipped Imperial hardtop coupes with long wheelbases, reinforced x-frames and complete chassis and drivetrains. They shipped appropriate bumpers, trim, upholstery, air-conditioning units, doors, wired dashboards, station wagon leaf springs and more - talk about a whopping bill of lading. With artisan craftsmanship going back millennia, the Italians proved it was worth the trip. Ghia stretched and reinforced the frame by 20.5”; the floor pans and roof were lengthened. The graceful yet space-aged body was shaped by hand. To get that flawless, smooth body, the shell was coated in 165 pounds of solder, joints were filled, dilute acid reduced rust and flux then it was coated in primer, sanded and several coats of lacquer were hand-finished with a polish between coats. It took 17 hours alone to ensure the doors’ perfect fit. One breathtaking limousine fetched over $15,000. Even at such a hefty sum, Chrysler retained right of refusal to buyers. Over the course of nine years, only 132 units were made; this historic example is 1 of only 31 produced in 1958.
According to the accompanying original warranty card, Chassis# LY11001 was delivered to its first owner, T. Eaton Co. Limited, via the Ontario Automobile Co. Limited in Toronto on April 21, 1958. The Eatons, close friends of the royal family, ordered two 1958 Imperial Crown Limousines for the Queen’s Royal Canadian Tour in 1959 – one for parade use, the other for fairs and events. Mr. Eaton’s original warranty card provides strong evidence this is one of the two cars. The Imperial Crown remained in the family for 32 years. Stored at the summer residence until 1990, it was purchased by an avid collector who sparingly showed the car and maintained it with kid gloves until the current owner bought it in 2019. Aside from a light, tasteful refresh that included a respray in the original black, this Imperial Crown is in predominantly original condition. It presents in a remarkably well-preserved state with excellent body, paint, landau-style upholstered roof, bumpers, brightwork and doors that continue to snap shut with Italian precision. Inside the cabin, the driver’s compartment reveals appropriate creasing and a well-preserved sheen to the leather. The space age instruments show light patina but are in beautiful all-original condition. In the passenger compartment, the blue-grey fabric covering the rear bench seat, door panels and folding opera seats is met with mouton carpet, all of which is original and illustrates the rare, subtle patina of its pampered existence. As was standard on the bespoke limousines, this car comes with a myriad of luxury amenities including power windows and glass partition, rear clock, and rear-compartment air-conditioning. Beneath the hood lies every inch of American rumble with a 392-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 equipped with a single, four-barrel carburetor and an automatic transmission with pushbutton controls for the driver. With power brakes, steering and factory air, the driver enjoys all the amenities of his passengers.
An iconic example of the magic that transpired from the unique American-Italian co-production of Chrysler/Ghia and a testament to the aesthetic brilliance of Exner’s “Forward Look,” the Imperial Crown Limousine is as captivating and fresh today as it was when it chauffeured the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, Jackie Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, and the mid-century world’s list of who’s who. Very few of these beautiful automobiles are still around and even fewer are road-worthy and in condition this original. Add to that the car’s history and you have one of the most special and historical examples in existence – a rare opportunity unlikely to present itself again.