Saturday, April 3, 2010

Honey, Let's Take the Convertible Today

Chrysler hasn't produced a factory Imperial Convertible since 1968. This didn't stop me from creating one. Click to see this long, luxurious Crown Convertible in all of it's glory.

C H O P S — I don't chop convertibles very much at all. Convertibles are always a striking ride, but I find myself working on cars that somehow personally mean something to me, ie pillarless coupes, suicide door sedans, woody wagons. As huge a car fanatic as I am, I've only ridden in convertibles twice that I can remember. The moment I saw the current 300's styling however, a new Imperial appeared in my mind's eye, and a convertible just seemed a natural step beyond that.

When I was born, my parents owned a pink and black 1956 Ford Sunliner, recreated below, but I have zero personal memories of that car. I rode in my college friend Annie's lime green 1969 Pontiac LeMans convertible once, way back in the 1970s at Vassar. Then sometime around 2005, I rode in the tiny back seat of my friend Susie's gorgeous blue Porsche 911 convertible. Yes, I said Back Seat. With the top up, lol. To use the cliche 'packed in like a sardine' would TOTALLY not work, as that would imply it wasn't pleasant. ANY ride in a new Porsche 911 is a journey well worthwhile. Frankly, I would have enjoyed being strapped to the hood like a prized deer if that was my only choice, lol.

But I digress. Though my personal experiences are limited with convertibles, I love the bodystyle and wish there were more of them still being produced. Open cars, "ragtops" to some, herald back to the early origins of the automobile. They feature in the multitudes of vintage movies I love to watch. They're just sexy—they make the lucky drivers and passengers seem sexy and smart, and in on one of life's best-kept secrets—the joy of being out on the open road with the sun at your back, 'somewhere west of Laramie' to use Ned Jordan's classic tagline for his Playboy roadster of the 1920s. 

This Imperial Crown Convertible was made from the 300 sedan, and dates back to 2007 or so. I changed the bodysides to ape the 1969 Imperial, one of the last Imperials I still covet. This was the year that the Imperial was folded back into the regular Chrysler lineup, losing it's status as a separate marque, and losing much of it's unique sheetmetal, but I've still always loved the long, clean lines of Chrysler's fuselage styling of that vintage.

The lap of luxury, my Imperial Crown Convertible is idling outside, ready for my early Spring Saturday drive in the country . . . See y'all later! : )

This is a photoshop re-creation of the car my parents drove when I was born. They bought a pink-and-black 1956 Ford Sunliner right before they were transferred to Germany, and had the car shipped over for them. As fifties a color choice as there ever was, my Dad liked the fact that from the drivers seat, all he could see were the black front fenders and hood. The interior was black and white with nary a pink accent. The car's striking Salmon paintwork was only used below the Fairlane's now-classic 'checkmark' chrome trim and this hue was a one-year only color choice. The pinks that came before and after this '56 were more of a cotton-candy pink, without the subtle peach or orange undertones of this Salmon. I found this photo of the correct model and year, in black and white, and I 'painted' it in the correct colors in photoshop. I added a stylized background showing the Alps of southern Germany where I was born, and the frequent backdrops from family photos of that time. I filtered the entire piece to have it 'shimmer' as memories often do—neither sharp nor out of focus, but somewhere in between. Click to enlarge.

U P D A T E — I just checked my online source for Ford paint color names/choices, here, and interestingly, black/pink doesn't appear in the list for available '56 Ford regular production. The color, Sunset Coral, is listed as a Thunderbird-only choice. The two tone options for the Sunliner with black on the upper surfaces lists only Snowshoe White or Fiesta Red for the lower accent color. Was my father's car a special-order? I remember my mother telling me that their new convertible cost more than my father's yearly Army salary, close to $3300, which would indicate a fully-optioned Sunliner as the V8 convertible's base price was closer to $2600. I know it was equipped with the "Thunderbird Special" 312 V8, as opposed to the 292 V8 that came standard, so perhaps my Dad, or the dealer, had it painted with a Thunderbird hue as well. It does explain why I've never seen a pink/black Sunliner at any car show or Hemming's Motor News want ads. Let the research begin!


  1. There's a factory promotional photo of a pink and white '56 convertible being produced in the book "The Ford Road, which commemorated the 75th anniversary of FoMoCo. It shows the car in the body drop phase.

    Best regards


  2. Thanks a lot, Jeff! I haven't gotten any further with my research as to pink/black cars, but I know that dealers painted cars pretty often back then to make then easier to sell. I just read that Chrysler actually asked dealers to repaint some 2-3 tones in the '50s to update the cars to Spring spec. I hope you keep checking out my blog!

  3. Thanks Jeff! I have a '68 Imperial convertible; the last year for the convertible. I thought you used it as the model for the rear quarter panels until I read that you used the first "fuselage" Imperials ('69). In case you missed it, there was an Imperial concept in 2006 (never went to production, but previews much of what went into the 300). RE Imperial being a folded back in in 1969 to the Chrysler division, it can be confusing. Basically, you are correct that as of '69 Imperial shared frame and body with large Chryslers ('66 was last year for unique frame) or in body shell ('68 was last year for that), but it was still a separate division until the seventies. That's boring details. The important stuff: This is a beautiful design exercise -thanks!