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In 1926, Walter P. Chrysler decided to attempt to compete with Cadillac and Lincoln in the lesser luxury car field. Chrysler offered a variety of body styles: a four-passenger roadster, a four-seat coupé on a 120 in wheelbase, five-passenger sedan, and a seven-passenger top-of-the-line limousine. The Imperial's new engine was slightly larger than the company's standard straight 6. It was a 3.3 L I6 with seven bearing blocks and pressure lubrication. The car set a transcontinental speed record in the year it was introduced, driving more than 6,500 miles (10,460 km) in the week. The car was chosen as the pace car for the 1926 Indianapolis 500.
The Chrysler Imperial was redesigned in 1931. The car received a new engine, a 6.3 L I8. Marketing materials for this generation of Imperial referred to the car as the "Imperial 8", in reference to the new in-line 8-cylinder engine. The engine would be found in many other Chrysler vehicles. The redesign also saw the introduction of new wire wheels that became a standard wheel treatment until the 1940s. Stock car driver Harry Hartz set numerous speed records with an Imperial sedan at Daytona Beach, Florida.
The 1934 to 1936 Chrysler Imperial ushered in the 'Airflow' design. The car was marketed with the slogan "The car of tomorrow is here today." It featured eight passenger seating and again an eight-cylinder engine. This was the first car to be designed in a wind tunnel. Initial tests indicated that the standard car of the 1920s worked best in the wind-tunnel when pointed backwards with the curved rear deck facing forward. This led to a rethinking of the fundamental design of Chrysler's line of cars. The Airflow was an exceptionally modern and advanced car, and an unparalleled engineering success. Both engine and passenger compartment were moved forward, giving better balance, ride and roadability. An early form of unibody construction was employed, making them extremely strong. This was one of the first vehicles with fender skirts.
Unfortunately, the public was put off by the unconventional styling and did not buy the car in large numbers. The disastrous failure of the Airflow cars in the marketplace led Chrysler to be overly conservative in their styling for the next 20 years. The "standard" styling on the lower-end Chryslers outsold the Airflow by 3 to 1.
Innovations for 1937 included built-in defroster vents, safety type interior hardware and seat back padding, and fully insulated engine mounts. There were three Imperial models in this generation. The C-14 was the standard eight and looked much like the Chrysler Royal with a longer hood and cowl. The C-15 was the Imperial Custom and the Town Sedan Limousine, with blind rear quarter panels. This model was available by special order. The third model, C-17, was the designation for the Airflow model. They had a concealed crank for raising the windshield and the hood was hinged at the cowl and opened from the front; side hood panels were released by catches on the inside. A Custom Imperial convertible sedan was used as an official car at the Indy 500.
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Check out the Chrysler Imperial wallpapers and Chrysler Imperial Pictures (pics) collection below: