Collector Car Corner – Reader remembers ‘Uncle Emil’s’ 1954 Chrysler Imperial

Collector Car Corner - Reader remembers ‘Uncle Emil’s’ 1954 Chrysler ImperialThe 1954 Chrysler Crown models were based on an extended wheelbase and delivered in seven-passenger limousine style. These limo models cost about $2,700 more than a $4,260 Imperial Custom.  (Advertisements compliments of Fiat/Chrysler)
Collector Car Corner - Reader remembers ‘Uncle Emil’s’ 1954 Chrysler Imperial

This advertisement for the 1954 Chrysler Imperial Custom clearly indicates that the Imperial was still a “Chrysler” model. In 1955, the Imperial became a standalone model and dealers had specific “Imperial only” signage at their dealerships.

Q: Hi Greg I read your columns every week and enjoy them. My mom and dad got married in 1935, and I was told my uncle Emil drove them to and from the church in a beautiful 1934 Chrysler 4-door sedan. This was in Rochester, N.Y.

Uncle Emil always loved the Chrysler vehicles and since he lived one block from work at a Chrysler dealership, his Chryslers never had much mileage on them as he walked to and from the dealership.

When I was 18 years old back in 1954, uncle Emil came to visit us one day in a brand new, real shiny 1954 Chrysler Imperial. I told him “that Imperial must have cost a lot of money,” to which he said “not a dime!”

Somehow or other, the dealer (he worked for) wanted to keep it for a museum in Detroit and uncle Emil took care of the car for him until it went to the museum. I don’t remember when he had to return that ’54 Imperial to the dealer, but it sure was a great deal as he did have it for a long time.

Anyway, I feel my uncle Emil was a car collector from back then, as he sure loved his Chryslers. I moved to Georgia in 2009 from Palmyra, N.Y. and still get the newspaper from New York called the Wayne County Times that carries your column. I’ve been a car nut since 1946 and I have an old scrapbook filled with pictures of cars from magazines from the 1940s until 1952, when I got my very first ever “hot rod” 1938 Dodge.

Thanks again for all you fun columns on cars. Theodor J. Aeckerle, 1640 Loblolly Lane, Cumming, Georgia.

A: Theodor, thanks so much for your hand written letter and kind words. I’m sure your uncle Emil was quite the car lover and it sure rubbed off on you.

As for that 1954 Chrysler Imperial, it was quite the luxury car although never as popular as Cadillac and Lincoln. The original price of a ’54 Imperial was somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,260 for the Imperial Custom. These were the standard size, six passenger Imperials as opposed to the seven-passenger and Limousine models, which were designated the Imperial Crown.

Today, a nice condition 1954 Imperial Custom will probably bring a high retail of $14,000 or more at an auction according to current NADA Classic car prices. The limousine style Crown models originally cost $6,900 and would probably do closer to $15,400 or so in top condition nowadays. The average retail prices today are in the $4,600 on the low range to $8,500 average retail for these cars, so they sure haven’t made much of an impact on serious collectors as to collector car appreciation. 

As for the Imperial models overall, although the Imperial brand goes all the way back to 1926 when Chrysler built the car to compete with other luxury brands, the Imperial dates up to the 1990-1993 years when Chrysler reintroduced the Imperial after a seven year hiatus on the smaller front-drive Y-platform chassis.

Personally, I most remember those grand Imperials from the late 1950s through the 1960s, and then the 1981-1983 Imperials.  One year after your uncle Emil came to your house with the 1954 Chrysler Imperial, the Imperial then became a stand-alone model in 1955 and did not carry any Chrysler badges.

However, although the Chrysler dealers did have specific Imperial signage, there were no standalone Imperial dealers to help justify the car as being “different enough” from, say, a Chrysler New Yorker. Today, if you ask most car enthusiasts, they still regard the Imperial as a “Chrysler Imperial.”

Thanks again for your letter Theodor and may God Bless you. Have fun with your scrapbook memories and reading this column. 

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions or comments on collector cars, auto nostalgia and motorsports at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840 or email at You can check his homepage at for more columns and features.)

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