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1964 Chrysler Imperial Crown, The American Rolls Royce

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I was a truck driver and as an over the road driver I went to most parts of the USA. Some 5 years ago I kept going down I-35 into Dallas Texas where I would pass Junkyards along the way.  I kept saying to myself man I should be restoring those old cars instead of this job. So finally I quit and moved to Texas. (I had given up my apartment and sold my car because I never made it home anyway.) I found a 3 bay garage that was commercial property and at the time it only had a toilet a sink and an office. I still just live in the office, but part of the building was turned (with my help) into a kitchenette, it cost to much to heat and cool it so I am still in the office, but now I have a shower.  


First thing I did with my savings was go to one of those junkyards to buy a 1941 Packard. We had all the papers signed I handed over my $5000 to buy it and a lady came back and said, I can't find the title for it, are you sure we have one for it. (It was bought in a lot at auction with other cars.) No title, no sale. So there was 5 other cars I wanted maybe, no titles. Finally I got them to sale me this 1964 Chrysler Imperial Crown and a 1965 Thunderbird for the same price. That is how and why I own this Imperial Crown. So for me this is more than a hobby it is now a way of life.


Some history of a 1964 Chrysler Imperial Crown. The Imperial line after 1955 was to be a rivals with the Lincoln and Cadillac.  It was designed by Elwood Engel who designed the 1961 Lincoln Continental, and why the back of the 1964 Imperial looks like a Continental.  In 1964 only 23,295 Imperials were made (their second best year so far). It came with a padded dash, power seats, power steering, power brakes, power windows, electric antenna, two air conditioners (front and back), an AM/FM radio, a reverb delay system to mimic stereo,  a Telephone, and a small 45 record player. A 129 inch wheelbase with a 413 ci V-8. This was a Top of the line car in it's day.


Here is the 41 Packard (and my logo is my concept of it finished), the 64 Imperial, and the 65 Thunderbird. I will post more later since there is a limit to posts here.






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Your story has some similarities to my father’s. He had been stationed in SA in the AF and retired NW of there. He raised me in NH, but purchased this garage in the 80’s and moved down there a few years later. 

I have his garage for sale. At first he lived in an RV beside it, but then he bought a 5 acre particle and put a home on it close by. I still have that property as well. 




I look forward to following the progress of your restorations and I’m sure others will also. 

Edited by victorialynn2 (see edit history)
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So the first thing I do when I have a fine POS like this (which of course means Previously Owned Sweetheart) is start tearing out the cancerous items. Those that the rats have been living in and made their nests and that wonderful Texas smell they give off. 


Here are some more pictures of it's previous home. The place they go to Rust In Peace RIP.zCAM05642m.jpg.99bf59a9718e756ff0c7504d53d47ac4.jpg




More pictures of it's condition.





A sneak preview of things to come



And in the case of this car, where almost nothing electrical worked, and I'm sure why this car ended up in a car graveyard, I needed to shoot electricity down the wires to see if something lit up or a fan whirled, or even worse nothing happened. The wiring diagram served no purpose because they decided to cut all the wire and try to rewire it without a clue what it went to, real fun job.




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Ok back to the electrics. For around 3 months I had my head up under the dash in usually painful positions, trying to figure out what was going on under there. As I said the wiring diagrams seemed to have no connection to this car. Someone got under the dash and just started pulling. Most all of the wires were unconnected. And there seemed to be two of everything. As it turned out they tried putting other wires in, usually just red wire to everything, and another wiring harness. That was why there seemed to be two of everything. They did not take out all of one, no, they just tried to add to it. What a nightmare. As I said I had to shoot electricity down a wire and see if something lit up. Even worse they went to each turn light and stop lights and cut them real close to the socket. It was like how am I going to get anything working again. I had never done this before. And I am sure that is why it was sitting in a junk yard waiting to rot away.


So I started as best I could to get the right color wire from the diagram and hook it back up where it is supposed to go. One by one things started to light up. Dashboard lights, turn signals, stop lights. I changed out the radio because it did not work, for a modern USB capable radio, which I use the UBS to listen to lectures in physics. Oh also I took off the padded dash cover.
















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After the electricals were sorted out, I moved to the interior seats.




Taking them all apart (take lots of pictures it will help along the way and putting them back together).



Using the pieces (if there is enough left) as a template, on the vinyl.



Then cut them out, and make sure to add a half inch all around to sew back together.



Putting the pieces back together,  I use a stapler for the job.



Then sew along the lines you make that are a half inch in. Here I am using the highly specialised equipment you can only buy at a Good Will Store for $12.zCAM05644b.jpg.48cb1c2b68dfd3a7bb3524b7e802847c.jpg 


If you have done the job right the seam should look like this.



Then when you put all the pieces back together it should look like this.



And after you secure it back onto the frame with hog rings it should look like this


And when you are finished it should look like this.


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One of the interior items we probably all have to tackle is the steering wheel made out of Bakelite. Bakelite was called the "MATERIAL OF A THOUSAND USES". All of which today are probably either cracked or broken. This most certainly includes the steering wheel.


The beginnings of Bakelite was by the inventor, Belgian-born American chemist Leo Baekeland. He was playing around (what scientist really do but call it work) with carbolic acid (a.k.a. phenol) and formaldehyde, Baekeland noted that the condensation residue left after his experiments was hard and almost impossible to remove from his test equipment. Later he formed a company in 1910 called the General Bakelite Company.


Bakelite was the first commercially available synthesized plastic. Bakelite is moldable, lightweight, heat-resistant, nonconductive, noncumbustible and thermosetting material which Baekeland dubbed Bakelite in 1907.


One thing I can say about bakelite is don't use Bondo on the steering wheel, it does not have enough strength, use fiberglass (or something as strong if you are trying to repair it). I went with replacing the bakelite for the most part. (To tell you the truth if I did not try to turn the wheel without the engine going the Bondo probably would not be cracking,  with power steering, which there are some new cracks now.) And here is how I did it.


For more historical information on bakelite see the Hemmings article.


The broken Bakelite steering wheel.



I took a hammer and broke the rest of the Bakelite off the chrome hoop.



Then I made two rinds to place around the hoop.





Then I cut rings of plywood to place on top of the rings.



I then shaped the wood.



I then put wood stain on the wood and sealed it with Polyurethane.




And now the car has a new steering wheel.




Edited by Michael-Restomod (see edit history)
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Dashboards, usually on an old car like this 1964 Imperial, sitting out in the Texas sun where our summers are ones at 100 degrees all summer long, they turn into flat, wrinkled, broken eye sores. Here is how I repaired mine.


Here you see what our sun and time can do to a dashboard.





I then just ripped the whole thing off (see above) and then taped news paper together, and used a sharpie to outline the area of the dashboard and cut it out. (You may need to add little bits to it to make sure it is right.)



Then I used that as a template on the plywood that is used as the base (for in your case) a mold for a fiberglass dash board. (I did not do this but if I had it to do over again that is what I would do, and put aluminum foil over this mold then fiberglass.)






Then use material to form the curve piece on the front (for your mold).



Then let's pretend I made a fiberglass dashboard base to then apply material and vinyl to this. This foam like material is used in big sheets in between the product being shipped and the pallet. Don't know what it is but it works great.



On both the foam and your vinyl use an adhesive to bond them to your fiberglass base. (I used regular contact cement, I later found, on my work truck, in the Texas sun they don't get along and the vinyl detaches. Either use something else or contact cement made for heat.)




Mold it to your base.



And this is what it should look like when you are finished.




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I said in the first post that the Imperial had an option of having a 45 record player. Here is a picture. I have no idea how it did not skip on every bump you hit. The Imperial  is the only car I have seen with one. And they had an AM/FM radio, not sure they even had any stations on FM at the time (here in Texas).






And a phone.





Edited by Michael-Restomod (see edit history)
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The nightmare door panels. Here is how I made cardboard templates for the particle board door panels. (But at least this car had panels, my 1957 Chevy has no panels and I will have to just wing it. I will use the same method on it as well.)












First I used newspapers to get the general shape of the door panel to transfer to the cardboard and cut the cardboard out. Plus I tried to line up the holes and things onto the cardboard.



Checking the fit.



Getting everything lined up on the cardboard.



Then transferring this cardboard template to the particle board. And using adhesive to attach the vinyl.



And when you are done it should look like this.




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I really like your innovative can-do attitude with this car, particularly because it is my favorite year Imperial. While many are disciples of authenticity above all else, some like to simply have a car that can be used and looks great. To that end you are succeeding more than admirably.  Keep up the great work!

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Great acquisitions! Really hope the title thing works out for you. I've heard of that company back east (Mass. maybe) that claims to be able to make a title for your untitled car. Don't know how it works exactly, but it apparently involves you selling them the car for some nominal amount ($50 maybe) and they get a title through their state and transfer it back to you. Have no idea how legit it is, so take it with a grain of salt.


I agree that that's the best year of Imperial. 65 and 66's are cool, too, though. Interior is looking great!


BTW, from what I can see, I'm pretty sure that Thunderbird is a '64, not a '65 (I own a '65.) Emblems and placement are the key. You could check on the warranty info tag to make sure, though. Sometimes hoods and fenders get swapped around.

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Most rearview mirrors do not stand the test of time, the silver coating (as all silver does) becomes tarnished. Because this mirror cannot be opened to replace the mirror, I made one to fit. Then if you paint a black rim around the mirror and the sides, and use urethane or silicon to attach it to the old mirror, most people will not notice.


First I put paper on the mirror and traced the outline with a pin an cut that out. And cut some bathroom mirror to the same width and height.





Then cut the curved pieces by carefully scribing straight lines around the curves and break with flat wide pliers.



Then I carefully used the grinder to shape it, then used sandpaper to fine shape it and smooth it. (One mirror broke during this process and I had to start over.)




Here is the Thunderbird mirror I made by the same method, with the black paint rim it is hard to notice (and no scribbly edge).








Edited by Michael-Restomod (see edit history)
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This pretty well covers this car. I will turn to another car for your entertainment. Stay tuned to this channel for more exciting episodes of Ice Road Trucker, wait that's not right, Gas monkey Garage, no that's not it, Michael-Restomod's Frugal Repairs.


To finish this car, some paint.




Some house carpet.




Degreasing and painting the engine.








And another old car is back onto the road, It's Alive!




I hope you have enjoyed this series. Stay tuned for our up and coming episodes.


I am not an Animal, I am a human being! (Ok I watched too many old movies when I was younger. It's Alive, is of course Frankenstein.)


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