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1981 Chrysler Imperial Frank Sinatra Edition?


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It was an option package on the Imperial. I think the only color was a light blue metallic (ol' blue eyes supposedly picked out the color) and it came with several 'Sinatra' badges and a Sinatra tape.

I don't know if it has any special or collector value; the guys over in the Chrysler forum might know more.

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Well, for an early 80s Imperial (built on an Aspen/Volare platform) they are considered desirable, especially if you like Frank (I'm a huge frank-o-phile).

They came with a special center console tape case filled with Frank cassettes. They have not had their big "ah-hah" moment where the market wakes up and realizes that they were a low production, special car and that they might be worth more than they are currently going for, so buy now.

<span style="font-style: italic">"It's Frank's world, we just live in it"</span> -- Dean Martin, 1960

<span style="font-style: italic">"you gotta love livin' baby, 'cause dyings' a pain in the a__"-</span>Frank, 1965

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: keiser31</div><div class="ubbcode-body">My book from 2004 says the 1981 Imperial would be worth about $6,000.00 in number 1 condition. The 1982 would be worth about the same. Both would be worth slightly more now, especially with the complete "Sinatra" option. </div></div>

Given that prices have come down in the last year or so, why would something like this be worth more today than 4 years ago? I doubt there is much of a market for such a car.

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Chrysler Club guys would argue that one. Just because some of the cars are going down in value doesn't mean they all are. The average collector car has gone down in value in the last year, however low production cars will usually remain in the highly collectible category. People are still buying antique cars and gold because stocks and other papers are becoming less valuable. Lets face it...the rule of thumb is that the rarer the item, the more it is worth.

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  • 1 year later...

I have one of those rare 81 Imperial FS. Mine came with a factory moonroof and was ordered by an entertainment industry professional in Southern California. I bought it and shipped it to NC where I live now. It has original EFI and yes it was a chore to learn the system and keep it up but it drives like a dream and well for that era of a car its fabulous.

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90% of them have had the EFI changed over to carb due to problems. Most of the conversions were done under warranty by the dealers back in the early 80's. Like a lot of cars in this age bracket prices are very reasonable. Especially Chrysler's. Still a nice looking ride, but memories of the problems I had with my 81 Dodge Mirada (sister car) still haunt me. I really was in love with these when new but that was when Chrysler was on the ropes and they even halted trading in Chrysler stock. The cars were built like crap!

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Hi-I'm a long time member of the WPChrysler club and can tell you the latest issue has a history of this 3 year model as its main focus.

Try the WPC website of the club and see if you can read the issue.

Sounds like you only want to buy one which is in excellent condition as parts are probably very tough to find. The original fuel injection was trouble from day 1 and most cars have been refitted with a carb.

Martin Lum

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The FS cars also came with very deep pile carpeting, if I recall. I worked at Chrylser dealerships for almost 20 years, some of which encompassed the EFI Imperial years. The systems were really misunderstood, and actually worked quite well until people started screwing with them. When the carb change-over kits came out, most people jumped on the bandwagon because they got such a bad rap. It was a huge box of parts to change these over, usually taking the better part of a week. We're talking fuel tank &lines, intake manifold and exhaust, plus all the carb and ignition related items. Chrysler pulled the plug on the kits when a customer sued the company after his car was converted, stating the "the collector value of his EFI car was diminished by making it carburated". At least that's what we were told by our factory reps!

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90% of them have had the EFI changed over to carb due to problems. Most of the conversions were done under warranty by the dealers back in the early 80's. Like a lot of cars in this age bracket prices are very reasonable. Especially Chrysler's. Still a nice looking ride, but memories of the problems I had with my 81 Dodge Mirada (sister car) still haunt me. I really was in love with these when new but that was when Chrysler was on the ropes and they even halted trading in Chrysler stock. The cars were built like crap!

Alot of Chrysler products were poorly built around 79-80 especially the big sedans like the Newport/New Yorker/St. Regis because Chrysler had its attention on keeping afloat. Most of those cars were built in St. Louis. The Windsor plant always had good quality at least better than the Chrysler average. The Imperials were produced with attention to detail unlike any car at the time and aside from the EFI I would agree. My car even after 30 years is solid no rattles and the only thing that seems flimsy is the plastic dash trim. Other than that feels more substantial than my 81 Eldorado Biarritz.

Over the years the only real trouble I have had with my EFI was when the Mass Air Flow went on the blink. It started intermittant and then eventually the car wouldnt run right. However we eventually diagnosed the problem just like one would for a more modern car with MAF. My car was well maintained when it came to me and I have maintained it well. I have acquired spares just in case but other than the MAF and a new rubber seal for the air cleaner it is as it came.

Part of the interest in the car is the EFI system. Unless you are a dedicated Chrysler fan there just isnt much reason to own an 81-83 Imperial without EFI.

Some things you can change like using radial tires and modern batteries to keep up with safety technologies but few cars were perfect back in the day and not even today and when you own older cars you learn to take the good with the bad.

Remember back then EFI was new. Most technologies have teethings pains and it is surprising that aside from the constant feed pump on the Chrysler system the same type of principles for EFI are in use on today's cars. Even with my 81 Eldorado with its V8-6-4 people mock it as a mistake yet there are at least 6 cars that I know of built today with variable displacement like features.

I like unique vehicles. When I go to my local Mopar club meets with the car it always draws interest in the sea of `Cuda and Darts.

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"The Imperials were produced with attention to detail unlike any car at the time and aside from the EFI I would agree. My car even after 30 years is solid no rattles and the only thing that seems flimsy is the plastic dash trim. Other than that feels more substantial than my 81 Eldorado Biarritz."

planetcadillac, I seem to remember the Imperial assembly line was made up of very experienced UAW workers who were hand picked for the job on the FS cars Anyone else remember this? The advertising had Lee Iacocca shilling it and Frank tunes in the background. It's nice to see one with the EFI still on it and running well. It was probably better than the GM Cross-Fire Injection system and most of them have been tossed also. I'm a huge fan of these cars, and some day when I get tired of one of my Cadi's I'll be looking for one.

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The Chrysler injection system was unique in that it counted every drop of fuel burned.

Incoming gas went through a glass window with a plastic pinwheel inside. As the pinwheel turned an electric eye counted each blade.

Other systems estimated gas flow from an oxygen sensor and went to default mode until it warmed up.

I remember a contemporary road test in Car and Driver. On the next page was a test of a Volkswagen Rabbit. The 1600cc 4 cylinder Rabbit got exactly one MPG more than the 5200cc V8 Imperial, 26MPG vs 25, EPA official measurement.

They made an electronic tester that made diagnosing problems simple but only Imperial dealers had it. The injection system was used by no other car besides Imperial.

With all the electronics devices, and geniuses there are today I'm sure you could keep one running if you wanted to. But back in the day it was easier and cheaper to rip out the injection for the slightest problem.

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The Chrysler injection system was unique in that it counted every drop of fuel burned.

Incoming gas went through a glass window with a plastic pinwheel inside. As the pinwheel turned an electric eye counted each blade.

Other systems estimated gas flow from an oxygen sensor and went to default mode until it warmed up.

I remember a contemporary road test in Car and Driver. On the next page was a test of a Volkswagen Rabbit. The 1600cc 4 cylinder Rabbit got exactly one MPG more than the 5200cc V8 Imperial, 26MPG vs 25, EPA official measurement.

They made an electronic tester that made diagnosing problems simple but only Imperial dealers had it. The injection system was used by no other car besides Imperial.

With all the electronics devices, and geniuses there are today I'm sure you could keep one running if you wanted to. But back in the day it was easier and cheaper to rip out the injection for the slightest problem.

The Imperial was tuned and geared to maximize fuel economy and highway cruising. That it does well and that is why it is a bit of a dog off the lined compared to other cars. The 318 isnt a slouch but 2.20 rear end doesnt make for quick starts. However that coupled with the EFI makes for extremely smooth and efficient highway cruising. I regularly get upper 20s on a level steady 65MPH highway. I am sure Chrysler could have done better with a 3.23 rear end and an OD automatic but they simply didnt have that available at the time. I have often thought about changing out my pinion to a sportier final drive just to squeeze a little extra enjoyment out of it. MPG is less of a concern now since its not a daily driver and still keep it basically original. At least for AACA specifications! :D

I would agree that there were probably a lot of cases where the EFI was simply retrofitted to carb due to customer demand and tech familiarity. The EFI tester from Sun (like many diagnostic items) was very expensive and wasnt all that effective. Such technology wasnt heard of then to most techs yet the stuff that is worked on today is 100 times as slick as an EFI Imperial. I used to have a 76 Seville with EFI and that was the first year of true EFI on a car available in the US and it was unique.

The usage of veteran UAW personally (minimum 20 years for most procedures) was not exclusive to the FS edition. That was Imperial wide. The FS edition was treated like any other Imperial other than it being a specific package. Given the relatively low production volumes especially as time went on the cars were practically hand built at least hand finished.

While the Imperial was planned prior to Iacocca taking over Chrysler, once he came on board he made it what we know of the car. He wanted a halo car like the Lincoln Mark III was back in 1969. The demise of the Imperial has been much talked about by Mopar people however I am not convinced that the EFI did the car in as much as other factors.

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Don't forget the early eighties recession, Chryslers shaky image, the immense popularity of the then-current Eldorado and the (mistaken) perception that its styling was cribbed from the Seville... throw in the EFI troubles and the Imperial was doomed in fairly short order.

I always loved these cars and if I had the space I'd have one occupying it.

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  • 4 weeks later...
"The Imperials were produced with attention to detail unlike any car at the time and aside from the EFI I would agree. My car even after 30 years is solid no rattles and the only thing that seems flimsy is the plastic dash trim. Other than that feels more substantial than my 81 Eldorado Biarritz."

planetcadillac, I seem to remember the Imperial assembly line was made up of very experienced UAW workers who were hand picked for the job on the FS cars Anyone else remember this? The advertising had Lee Iacocca shilling it and Frank tunes in the background. It's nice to see one with the EFI still on it and running well. It was probably better than the GM Cross-Fire Injection system and most of them have been tossed also. I'm a huge fan of these cars, and some day when I get tired of one of my Cadi's I'll be looking for one.

I have an 81 Eldorado Biarritz with the funky V864 system. Mine works but you can simply unplug it if it gives trouble. Which most did out of warranty. Otherwise its a nice but different car than the Imperial. The Imperial of course is RWD and with a tall rear end is more of a cruiser than a play car. Chrysler always was know for relatively overplush interiors and the Mark Cross seats lavalier straps and the crystals certainly do it. The Eldo is more Hollywood - FWD - stainless roof - wire wheels - etc. I prefer Cadillacs as my hobby although I enjoy this Imperial immensely. If only because everywhere I go it gets looks because either no one knows what it is or they remember it far far back.

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The 81 to 83 Imperial was one of the best looking cars of its time, and one of the most expensive at $25,000. I don't know how many sold for that price but that was the MSRP when they were announced.

For that sum they were fully equipped even down to the garage door opener. I think the only options were moon roof and aluminum wheels.

I nearly bought one about 20 years ago, the owner said he still had the leather bound owner's manual and would call me as soon as he found it but I guess he never did because I am still waiting for him to call.

If you are a Sinatra fan and like the car, buy it. Especially if it comes complete with all the factory accessories and tapes. That is a big chunk of the value right there, and that stuff must be about impossible to replace.

They will never be cheaper than they are right now. Whether they will go up in value I can't say without a crystal ball.

If I found one in decent shape but with a modified engine and not complete. I would be seriously tempted to install the latest 5.7 Hemi V8, overdrive trans and a lower geared rear axle and call it "The Imperialist".

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Guest mystarcollectorcar.com

We are talking about the legend known as Frank Sinatra, a production car that was nearly hand built,an FI system unique to this car,options unique to this car and other state of the art (at the time) technology wrapped in a nice looking package.

Gentlemen-this is a no brainer at current prices for the FS Impy.As Lee Iaccoca said at the time -even if he was referring to the K car "if you can find a better car for the price buy it".

Edited by Rawja (see edit history)
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From checking prices on car sale mash it appears prices have already doubled from what they were 5 years ago. At that time I saw nice complete low mile examples offered for $2500 to $4500. Run of the mill,average mile average condition $500 - $1000.

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A guy casually offered me $6500 at the Charlotte show a couple of weeks ago. I suppose the market may bear more if you really worked the sale. I am sure prices will rise accordingly once the economy fully turns around and people spend money again (it is funny even people that have plenty of money even act broke in this bad economy) and the cars age more.

Currently it doesnt cost me anything more than the small insurance fee (Hagearty charges me $250 a year for 2 cars) and incidental amount of gas I use for shows and what not. So it can sit until I retire (lol...). Mostly it attracts attention because of the novelty. Even MOPAR guys look at it because in a sea of `Cudas and Chargers its still unique.

I assume the prices quoted were for Imeprials in general and mostly carb-converted models. I can only imagine that FS and pure original EFI models would command premiums because of their additional rarity.

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$6500 is about the mark today for a real good one. Average ones in rather worn condition may be had for $1000 to $2500.

The prices I was quoting were 5 years old, illustratiing your point that they are gathering collector interest and appreciation.

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$6500 is about the mark today for a real good one. Average ones in rather worn condition may be had for $1000 to $2500.

The prices I was quoting were 5 years old, illustratiing your point that they are gathering collector interest and appreciation.

That's a fair price for such a unique car. It would pay you to buy only a very nice FS as the cost of even a good quality paint let alone hard to find parts will quickly outpace the price of the good one.

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I had one of these 81 Imperials in 88. One owner, low miles and it was by far and away the worst car in every possible aspect I have ever owned.

I didn't trust that rattling, wandering, stinky unreliable uncomfortable hunk O' crap as far as I could throw it.

And I'm a Mopar guy.

After 3 yrs of ownership, 8 months of driving I gleefully watched as the local metal recycler crushed that evil demon into a 2 foot high block.

The reason they are all low milers is they won't go anywhere without SOMETHING breaking or literally falling off (like most of the trim). Hence most owners parked them.

Wouldn't take one for a gift.

Also had a Newport of the same body...same thing. Junk.

Now the 76 Imperial I had was another story altogether. Not perfect by a longshot but a very very nice car. The 70 New Yorker 4 dr hrdtp was nice, too.

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I had one of these 81 Imperials in 88. One owner, low miles and it was by far and away the worst car in every possible aspect I have ever owned.

I didn't trust that rattling, wandering, stinky unreliable uncomfortable hunk O' crap as far as I could throw it.

And I'm a Mopar guy.

After 3 yrs of ownership, 8 months of driving I gleefully watched as the local metal recycler crushed that evil demon into a 2 foot high block.

The reason they are all low milers is they won't go anywhere without SOMETHING breaking or literally falling off (like most of the trim). Hence most owners parked them.

Wouldn't take one for a gift.

Also had a Newport of the same body...same thing. Junk.

Now the 76 Imperial I had was another story altogether. Not perfect by a longshot but a very very nice car. The 70 New Yorker 4 dr hrdtp was nice, too.

Just like any car on the planet you can get stuck with a lemon (this was clearly an example). Not surprising given that the parent company was in some pretty serious whitewater.

But the fact remains that these FS Imperials are a really solid, low-end, roll of the dice investment in 2010.You won't retire in another tax bracket but your money won't go backwards either.

Edited by mystarcollectorcar.com (see edit history)
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  • 7 months later...

I own a low mileage 82FS w/carb and a beat up 81 imp. The 81 will end up with either a 6.1 HEMI or maybe a 8.3 Viper motor.

The 81-83 Imperials are pretty much worthless right now, so I say buy the best one you can to enjoy, and buy every $100-$500 parts car you can. As a real car guy I LOVE the styling and ride of the Imperial, it's better than my 91 Fleetwood Brougham or my 76 Eldo convertible. Nobody knows what it is and when you tell them the little gold "FS" is a Sinatra model they snicker until you show them Frank's signature on the center console. Fast, no way, comfortable, very. The carpet is way over the top, reminds me of those fuzzy toliet tank sets my parent had in the 70's, but I tell you these cars are just cool. Buy one and enjoy it, or tell me where it is and i'll buy another :-)

If you want to increase value of these cars it's easy, just keep the ones on the road and at the shows looking good, and hide all other from public view.

You guys remember the IROC Camaro's of the late 80's. They were great, and everywhere. Now you can find one that has matching wheels and is driven by a LEGAL resident.....that's what happens to cars as they age. As collectibilty is a very difficult beast to predict. Just buy what appeals to YOU and makes YOU happy. Whoever thought Yugo's and AMC's would be worth money??? They are now though :D

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First:

I like Frank's music~

Just have to wonder how much involvement Frank really had in designing the "FS Edition" special features ?

What and How was he paid to lend his name to this project ? Lump sum payment or so-much per unit sold ?

And Finally~ Do you really think that old Frank drove one of these on a regular basis ?

As for me~

I'm holding out until they finally release the much anticipated Very Special Joan Rivers Limited Edition KIA that will ONLY be sold very late at night on QVC ! ;-)

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)
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I've heard Frank got a Million bucks, as a lump-sum, but i believe it was much more of a friend helping a friend type of deal. Ol' Blue eyes and Lee Iacocca were buddy's from back in the day.

As to Frank's input on the car, I'd guess there was none. I'd suspect he was presented with the concept, had his ass kissed a LOT and said, sure looks good to me.

The cars were standard Imperials, only came in Glacier Blue and could have leather or Cloth (mine is cloth). The "FS" got you 3 gold plated emblems (1 on trunk, 1 one on each front fender) and then the center console which was NOT available on non FS models. The final touch was a set of Sinatra cassette tapes in a Mark Cross leather cassette carrying case (remember those?)......

If you want to gamble on an 81-83 Imp ever being worth anything, the "FS" model would be your best bet for sure.

I'd love to see these Imperials become collectible, i think they have all the right stuff. they were the 1st car with this type of EFI, they were the LAST rear-wheel drive mopar coupe (until recent history) and the styling of the car was just that, STYLE. It wasn't about function, it was all about looks. The front of that car looks both classy as a luxury car, and down right mean looking as a hotrod.

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