The Imperial, by Chrysler

Bob Schmitt's 1966 Imperial LeBaron

My 1966 Imperial was sold in April 2010 to a new home in Palm Springs!

1966 Imperial LeBaron

(Note: The authors of all material on this web site retain all rights to their material.)

Welcome to an Internet site about Imperials, a car produced by Chrysler for more than 60 years!   This site contains contact information on Imperial clubs and events, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Imperials, a few tech tips, pictures and a story about my Imperial.  Also a few links to other Imperial sites.

Bob's 1966 Imperial LeBaron

(last update: 4/28/2010)

I acquired this 1966 Imperial LeBaron on April 1, 1995 and now am probably the third "true" owner. It has a complete history with three families in Santa Monica and Santa Barbara. It had 95,000 miles when I purchased it.  It wasn't love at first sight. I knew very little about Imperials when I first saw it - not even where "LeBaron" was in the model hierarchy! I had visualized an Imperial possibly with fins or at least pod headlights. The driving test was smooth and I was sold by the view over the hood to the "eagle" crest. After a little persuasion, I bought the car from my friends in Santa Barbara, Bob Sponsel and Patricia Chidlaw. Patricia's grandparents (John and Ester Chidlaw) were the second owners of the Imperial and it had spent most of its life with her grandfather and grandmother in the Village Trailer Park, (2930 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica). After they passed away, Patricia inherited the car and moved it to Santa Barbara.

Bob Schmitt and Patrica Sponsel, 1966 Imperial LeBaron - Blue Room, 1998

Patricia Chidlaw, me and the Imperial, on an overcast day in front of the Blue Room, San Fernando Road, Burbank.  Patricia's painting of the Blue Room was bought by the owner of the bar and hangs proudly inside!  For more about Patricia's work, click here!

While staying with Bob and Patricia during the weekend of purchase, I scrubbed the Imperial  and started polishing the paint - turning small sections of the "matte blue" into Regal Blue. It looked promising.  Cleaning continued on the paint, chrome, leather, interior and trunk. During 1995, numerous cosmetic and small mechanical items were fixed - hoses, air conditioning, torn leather, sagging driver's seat, etc. That October, I bought a much improved rear bumper and installed it in the seller's (Dr. Mike Bullock) driveway. I also acquired other parts from him at the same time - an antenna, headlight covers, headrests (not the correct ones), a service manual, leather for patching worn and torn seats, etc.

On the first long trip in October 1995, one front wheel developed cracks and leaks. The other front wheel cracked on a November 1995 trip to Las Vegas. I later bought four used wheels from Dr. Mike and now have a few in reserve.

One interesting project was installing shoulder belts for the front seats. I noticed a "ring fitting" in the middle of the roof mounted grab handle. Removing the chrome trim (for cleaning and sewing headliner tears) revealed a factory mounting hole for the fitting, but also a dealer-cut hole for access to the securing nut. Belts in 1966 were probably a dealer-installed option. I bought new fittings and had shoulder/lap belts made by Deist Safety (Glendale). The driver's side belt was easily installed and gave a feeling of great security. An access hole for the passenger's side was later cut in the inner roof panel and shoulder/lap belts installed for that side.

During 1996, the Imperial got several new mounts, a muffler, and brakes all around. The valve cover gaskets were replaced for the fourth time. Previous, partially correct work and other problems were fixed and the car seemed to be in good mechanical condition.

Late in 1996, the rear springs were restored by Hollywood Spring & Axle and new Gabriel shocks were installed. This greatly improved the ride and "attitude". After seeing restored 1966 hubcaps on another Imperial, I was inspired to take mine apart.  12 - 16 hours of cleaning have made a big difference. This is a great low-cost project for a rainy weekend.

Most of the paint looks to be still original and has polished up well, but the right side of the car had several area of strange "missing" paint and pock marks - one theory is that it was blasted with a shotgun! These spots were first touched up with paint which Bob Sponsel had mixed in Santa Barbara, but it was too light. Another mix from a San Diego paint shop to the original paint specifications in spray cans, was too dark. A third mix, done "by eye", is still slightly too dark! I'll eventually try again. All of these paints are acrylic enamel, which even from spray cans gives good results after wet sanding and polishing.

The seats got a complete "Leatherique" oil treatment in 1999 and the driver's cushion was dyed to cover the cracks and worn leather. My supply of good, used leather will eventually recover this cushion. In 2001, very nice carpet mats from ACC were installed.

Shortly after acquiring this Imperial, I visited a Imperial owners statewide meet in Oxnard, California.  I thought my car was too rough to enter, but the other owners at the meet were quite interesting.  I then joined the "local" club, the Southern California Imperial Owners, Inc.  Since that time, I've been to six more annual statewide meets in Paso Robles, Sonora, Deer Park (near Lawrence Welk Village, Escondido), Visalia, Modesto and Solvang. Until recently, not many '66's have been bought to these meets, so the Imp now has four first-in-class awards, one second place and one honorable mention!

As good Imperialists know, the 1966 Imperial is the first year of the 440 engine and the last year of the separate body and frame. It also has a full-width grill, covered headlights (with gold surround trim on the glass), full wood on the dash, hubcaps similar to a '67 and a trunk "bulge" that is more squared-off when compared to the '64-'65.

Although every Imperial owner has favorite years and models, I think the 1966 is a good compromise between a "classic old car" and a real, "use it every day in every way" type car. The Imperial is firmly in my driving rotation - it's a unique pleasure every time I fire it up and drive it away.

As with any 38+ year old car, there are many tasks left to do, but it seems like "The Blue Baron" deserves this attention! I think we'll stick together for many future adventures.

Bob Schmitt

California Imperial Owners Statewide Meet in Sacramento, May 6 - 9, 2010

I'll be there to visit my old '66!

California Imperial Owners Statewide Meet in Sacramento, May 1 - 3, 2009

Missed another one!

Previous Events

California Imperial Owners Statewide Meet in Santa Cruz, April 19 - 21, 2007

I did not attend this event, heavy rain and high gasoline costs decreased my motivation to make the drive!  Look for a report on the Imperial Club website.

California Imperial Owners Statewide Meet in Solvang, CA, April 27 - 30, 2006

This was held at the same hotel as the 2001 event, the Royal Scandinavian.  Rather than show the Imperials at the front of this great location, the meet was held behind the hotel and not very visible to the public.  The Datsun club had a show the same day in the center of town which drew hundreds of spectators.

California Imperial Owners Statewide Meet in Thousand Oaks, CA, April 30 - May 2, 2004

See the club website for details and see you there!

California Imperial Owners Statewide Meet in Monterey, CA, May 1 - 4, 2003

The largest gathering of Imperials and their fans anywhere! 

The 20th ANNUAL IMPERIAL OWNERS STATEWIDE MEET, was held in Monterey, California, May 1 - 4, 2003. The host club is Imperial Owners Association of Sacramento Valley.  See the online Imperial Club website, under "Events", for all details.

This ANNUAL MEET started at Morro Bay, California in 1984, and is now rotated among the three sponsoring clubs; The Northern California Imperial Owners Club; Southern California Imperial Owners, Inc., and Imperial Owners Association of Sacramento Valley. This year's meet is sponsored by the Northern California Imperial Owners Club.

APRIL 15 - Car registration deadline to be eligible for Class Parking & Voting Awards. HELP US order an adequate supply of awards for your class. Enter by April 15th.

I was at the Monterey meet - it rained - but have not been otherwise keeping up on the Imperial schedule for the remainder of 2003 except the Friday night "cruise-in" at Bob's Big Boy, Toluca Lake, California - every Friday! My Imperial will be there often. 

Click these bookmarks for news about older meets:

 2002 Imperial Gatherings

 2001 Imperial Gatherings

1999 and 2000 Imperial Gatherings

Imperial Questions and Tech Tips

Inquiring minds want to know!  Sometimes, the same questions come up more than once, so here's a start at collective wisdom:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Imperials

On the FAQ page is a bibliographic list of references - books and magazine articles - on Imperials:

Imperial Bibliography

If your '60's Imperial needs motor mounts, here's the straight story:

Imperial Motor Mounts

On the Motor Mount page is a list of people you can contact for Imperial parts:

Imperial Parts Sources

Thinking about converting your A/C from Freon to R134a?  Here's some good advice from the EPA and others with Imperial experience:

Automotive Air Conditioning Conversion to R134a

Here is a rambling e-mail discussion over many months on tires - radials, whitewalls, etc. - for the Imperial:

Imperial Tires E-mail

Chris Hawkins sent this great collection of general technical tips for your '64 - '66 Imperial:

1964-1966 Imperial Technical Tips

Chris also wrote great "how to" carpet installation instructions for your '64 - '66 Imperial:

1964-1966 Carpet Installation Instructions

This is a mostly restored "advertising blueprint" for the 1965 Imperial.  This is the same blueprint which appears on the IML web site, as discovered by Mike Gray, then scanned and repaired by Jeff Ingraham.  I also did a few touch-ups.  Click here for a half-size preview.  If you print this full-size, 26" x 24", send me your impressions.  If you can convert this to a vector format, please send me a copy! Click below to download the full graphic.  It's a "tif" graphic, another large file (1.4 MB) :

1965 Imperial "Blueprint"

Imperials used "glow in the dark" lighting for the dash in the late '50's - early '60's:

Repairing Imperial Electroluminescent Dash Lighting

Ross Alexander gives us practical experience and ideas for improving an Imperial for towing:

Improving Your Imperial for Towing

Also from the Imperial Mailing List, here is a partly-organized collection of e-mail on '81-'83 Imperials, mostly on fuel injection trouble-shooting.  Note - this is a big, text-only file - more than 1 MB, nearly 500 pages!  Be patient while it loads.  Contact me for a Word 6.0 file, in "Outline" format.

1981-83 Imperial Tech

This is probably the best first-hand report (ever!) of using "Leatherique" to restore dried, cracked Imperial leather seats.  I used this product also.  Kerry Pinkerton has done two sets of seats and avoided my mistakes:

Leather Seat Restoration

And here's a template for a "Imperial Calling Card", which you can give to Imperial owners you meet or put on the windshield of a newly-discovered Imperial.  There are two sample graphics included, so add what you want and copy it to all ten table cells.  You can then print 10 business cards on Avery 8376 forms using Word 6.0 or a more recent version of this program:

A Sample Imperial Calling Card

Here are two sites for very useful automotive formulas:

Martindale's Reference Desk - Calculators On-Line

and a few more, courtesy of Edelbrock:

Edelbrock - Performance Formulas

Imperial Music - click for midi files:

"Imperial March", Opus 32, by Sir Edward Elgar, 1897

"Crown Imperial (Coronation) March", Sir William Walton, 1937

Imperial Web Sites

My favorite and most elegant, informative web site about Imperials is Dave Duricy's:

The Imperialist

Dave added multimedia presentations on the 1971 Imperial and a few other years in November, 2001 that is totally unique!  You'll need RealPlayer to hear and see it:

The 1971 Imperial

Gen Aris has a great 1966 Imperial Crown 4 door hardtop and a nice page of photos with the story of this Imperial.  On this page is a link to his experience refinishing the interior claro walnut trim:

Gen Aris' 1966 Imperial Crown

Thinking of fully restoring your Imperial?  The truly the best story of an Imperial restoration anywhere that I know of - book, magazine, Internet, in other parallel universes, etc. is by Philippe Courant of Pau, France.  He is to be congratulated for the story AND the diligence and effort which he put into a wonderful project:

"The Restoration of My '57 Convertible"

Paul Heinzman, former president of Southern California Imperial Owners club and editor of the "Imperial Eagle" writes about his 1955 limousine and other Imperials:
1955 Crown Imperial Limousine

The most extensive and ambitious Imperial web site, greatly improved, with new material regularly added, is also the home of the Imperial Mailing List:

Online Imperial Club/Imperial Mailing List

And Leslie Kettenhofen has created a page with links to many, many other Imperial web sites on that Imperial Club web site:

Other Imperial Web sites

Mike has two Imperials, the convertible is "Turbine Bronze" (or close to it):

Mike Friedman's Imperials

Thanks for visiting!

Bob Schmitt, Burbank, California (web page started February 1999)

Send e-mail to me at:

Imperial Clubs


Mark Hampton, President
Southern California Imperial Owners, Inc.

The new bylaws require $20 annual dues, (on January 1), for membership.  This includes the quarterly newsletter, SCIO Newsletter and Event Announcement, but not the former club publication, the IMPERIAL EAGLE.  

The IMPERIAL EAGLE was a quarterly booklet-style newsletter, with color pictures and much Imperial information.  It was last published in 1998.  The SCIO welcomes (needs!) volunteers to help with the newsletter and re-start the EAGLE


Now merged with the Sacramento Club and renamed in 2005, as follows


PO Box 14626
Santa Rosa, CA 95402

As stated by the President, this is a "driving club" and proud of the regular tours held several times during the year.  Dues are $30 a year, including bi-monthly newsletter (6 issues a year).  There are about 85 members.


The Northeast Imperial Owners Club (NEIOC) does not yet have a web site. It is a club of approximately 150 members, primarily located East of the Mississippi. The president, David Brown, wrote, "Our twice a year get-togethers are usually in New England--in CT or MA and one time in NY. The most cars we ever had at one event was 27 IMPERIALS!" The newsletter we put out is called "The Imperial Digest." Its publication schedule is six issues per year, including a Car Show Preview issue. Ad space is free to our members. Hope you want to join us! Imperially -


Hamilton Hayes
228 Lathrop Lane
Manchester Center, VT 05255

Fax: 802-362-5333

Membership Info Contact:

Bob Merritt (former editor, "ITCH")
PO Box 279
Auburn, NY 13021

Fax: 315-252-0980


Dues are $10.00/year for U.S. addresses and $20 for all others. We have about 150 paying members and have a reciprocity arrangement with the NCIOC and Chrysler 300 Clubs.

The previous newsletter, the "ITCH", ended publication on May 5, 1999. Darrin Bailey became the third editor and changed the title to "Imperial Digest" with a six annual  publication dates (beginning July 1, 1999). Darrin turned the reins over to Rich Lee in March 2001. "The Imperial Digest" continues to feature articles, Classifieds, Messages from the Editor/Treasurer, This Month in Chrysler History, Book Review, Imperial-related web sites, and Technical Q&A's. Send all newsletter correspondence to:

Rich Lee (Editor)
67 Hall Dr
Cheshire, CT 06410-1009

Phone: 203-250-9945



"The Canadian Imperial Owners' Association is an independent group of Imperial owners dedicated to the care, preservation, restoration, and sheer pleasure of owning and driving Imperials and other fine Chrysler products. Above all else, fellowship among their owners. We are, and always will be a non-profit, non-commercial group set up to assist one another whenever possible. The members will also assist the public in any way so they too will understand why we are so proud of this impressive marque."

"Our Goal Is Fellowship, Our Means Are Imperials"

Dues were $40.00/year for 1999.

Edythe Kiehn
Treasurer/Membership Secretary
3153 Ibbetson Crescent
Mississauga, Ontario L5C 1Z1

Phone: 905-279-8004

e-Mail:  Glen Shaw, Past President/founder


Membership Application

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