Motoring Trailblazers - Chrysler Crown Imperial

Sat 27th Jul 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Chrysler Crown Imperial
Launched in 1926, the Imperial was Chrysler’s most luxurious model and would be in production for more than a quarter of a century and the marque even made a comeback from 1990 to 1993.

Named the imperial for its supreme excellence and size, many variations of the car existed through the 1920s, 30s and 40, including a large sedan which was capable of carrying up to eight passengers.

It was company founder, Walter P. Chrysler who came up with the Imperial concept, with the aim of competing with the Cadillac, Lincoln and Packard. By the late 1940s we had already seen five iterations of what by that time was an iconic motor.

In 1948, the Crown Imperial, as it was now known, broke new ground in the motor industry as one of the very first production vehicles to employ disc brakes, an innovation which whilst many consider standard, even today some economy cars choose only to employ the braking system on the front two wheels.

Though many credit the Crosley Hot Shot for the braking innovation, their version of disc braking came with very little research and had huge reliability problems, especially in areas of the US where the roads were salted due to wintery conditions.

Chrysler’s four-wheel disc braking was more expensive, but was also more reliable and efficient. Chrysler’s disc breaks were also hugely innovative in that they were ‘self-energizing’ in that the braking energy itself helped push up small ball bearings which in turn helped increase the brake pressure.

The revolutionary disc braking system was standard on all Crown Imperials from 1949 and as reliability became less of a problem, the system became the norm in braking replacing the traditional drum brake systems.

The end of the Chrysler Imperial came four years after the disc brakes were introduced, again Chrysler were keen to keep up with luxury models and chose to use the Imperial name as a separate brand to Chrysler, ensuring Walter P. Chrysler’s project would live on for decades more.