Fate can be a funny thing and it would soon step in and force my hand – so to speak. Just a couple of weeks after putting together a quick drawing creating the “Imperial Roadster” I was home in Northern New York visiting my parents. My Father was flipping through some of my new designs and he saw the little roadster. After mentioning that I based it on the parts from a 1959 Imperial, he informed me that he knew a guy that had mentioned he had an “old” Chrysler stored in a barn.
An “old” Chrysler can cover a lot of cars. I asked him if he knew anything more than that and he said he wasn’t even sure his friend knew what it was. So when he asked if I was interested in looking at it, I said “no”. Given that the owner didn’t seem to know much about it I figured it probably was an 80’s K-car. If I was lucky it might turn out to be a ’76 Cordoba. I was only home for a day and I didn’t want to waste my time on a wild goose chase.
It only took my inner car guy about fifteen minutes to re-emerge and say “you dummy”. I know better than to turn down an opportunity to look at a car in a barn. So my Dad calls the guy and we go over first thing the next morning.
It’s a short drive over to the Lake Ontario town of Sackets Harbor, NY. We pull up to a carriage house located right on the main street of town. The neglected building is shedding paint and leaning to one side. The owner “Giz” informs us that he had it straightened “not too long ago”. The whole thing is tilting so far that the doors are wedged shut and we have to unbolt the front sliding door and lay it on the ground. It almost seemed like we were raiding a tomb.
With the front of the building opened up and the daylight streaming in, we are greeted by the front of a large 50’s or 60’s car covered with a blue tarp and sinking into the wooden floor. I think to myself – this could be interesting. I lift up the first foot of the covering and see chrome letters spelling “IMPERIAL” – oh boy, really interesting! As I make my way around the side and to the back I find bullet taillights with the Saturn rings and the stamped spare tire ring in the trunk lid. I nudge my Dad and say “don’t look excited and give it away, but this is the exact car I need to make the roadster”. Unbelievable!
Is it fate? Do I really need another project? No. Do I really want another project? No. Do I have the room for it? No, and the questions don’t stop there. Will this guy sell it? How much? How do I get it home to Michigan? Do I have what it takes to build my little roadster? Should I buy it? No seems to be the answer to most of the questions.
After a closer inspection the car seems really nice. There aren’t any signs of serious rust, the floors are solid, the interior is unmolested and it is all there – every last nut, bolt, and piece of trim. Giz informs me that it was put away in 1972 because he couldn’t afford insurance on it, then there was an oil embargo in 1974. The car is 19’ long and weighs just under 5,000 pounds with a 413 Wedge powering it. With only 52,000 miles on the odometer he thinks it should start, but the rusted valley cover exposing the lifters says otherwise. So even if someone were to restore it, it would require a thorough re-build.
So at this point it is pretty unanimous that I should pass on the chrome laden land yacht – right? Wrong – that inner car guy is back and he won’t take no for an answer. I don’t want the car for all of the right reasons, but instead I want it for the wrong reason. That reason is just because I want it, plus its fate – right?
Giz says he should probably sell it. I agree and tell him he should get rid of it before winter comes and the roof falls in on it. Well we don’t strike a price that day, but a week later my dad calls and asks if I am still interested in it. Dad had just seen Giz and made a deal for just a hundred dollars more. I am ecstatic and scared all at the same time.