Well , if you were recently asked me what car had the best instrument panel , at least in my opinion , and I had to rack my brain a little bit on this one because at least cars with over the top interiors like the Fleetwood Talisman or the First Buick Electric Park Avenues come to mind , you know , and some as you've seen in other videos like the early seventies Thunderbirds also I think have over the top interiors , but in terms of the instrument panels , it's something that oftentimes is pretty plain Jane in a lot of cars , even those with very expressive external styling .
But after I thought about it for a while , I came up with one car that certainly stands out in a sea of great and strange interiors and that is the instrument panels and the overall interior of the 1961 to 1963 Imperials by Chrysler .
Now the 1961 Imperial was really an evolution of the second generation Imperial that was introduced in 1957 and that car had all new suspension set up .
Chrysler went to the front torsion bar , rear leaf spring set up and the Imperial platform would continue with its body on frame construction through the 1966 model year .
While the other Chryslers would gradually transition over to unibody in the coming years .
1961 the imperial was again the longest production non limousine ever made .
And it stood at 227 inches in length at 129 inch wheel base weighing in at about £5000 .
The cheapest imperials in 1961 retailed for just under $5000 with the Southampton hardtop coop retailing for 49 23 .
And the top of the line baron hard top sedan retailed for $6426 .
Quite a princely sum in 1961 .
Unfortunately , in part , due to the price as well as some perceived issues with quality Imperial really didn't sell many units in 1961 and in many years of its overall lifetime in 1961 production totaled about 10,000 units across all model lineups excluding the limousines .
And this compares to Cadillac who sold about 10 times that amount in 1961 for cars that were priced quite similarly .
The base price on series 62 Cadillacs , the lower ends was around $5000 as well .
And at the upper end of the spectrum , the Eldorado retailed for about $6500 .
The 60 special retailed for about $6200 .
So the Imperials were not great sellers , certainly by the standards of the time , although they are certainly , well , at least , I think they're beautiful .
These cars best exemplify the end of the ax era and excess in terms of styling , particularly the 1961 model that has these amazingly tall fins in the back , which would gradually get toned down in 1962 .
And then again would get toned down in the 1963 model year before the car became much more conventionally styled with the 1964 car that was introduced upfront .
The Imperial had new individual freestanding headlamps that were really pocketed into concave front fenders .
Another strange design that kind of complemented the overly tall fins out back in 1961 .
But these were not changed throughout the car's life from 1961 to 63 .
However , while the exterior of the Imperial is certainly a sight to behold , I have to say that really what strikes me about the car beyond its amazing exterior styling is the interior and particularly the instrument panel on this vehicle .
Looking at this instrument panel , there's really only one word to describe it and that is it's indescribable , imagine trying to convey to a friend what this instrument panel looks like , absent them , actually seeing a picture of it .
There are so many deviations from the norm that it's almost challenging to explain and give somebody a visual picture of what this instrument cluster would look like .
And it was strange not only by today's standards , but also by the standards of the time .
And indeed Chrysler must have felt the same way about the Imperials interior .
Because on this picture from the 1961 brochure that depicts the interior , the text reads , no book can describe all the majestic power or the subtle nuances of Great Symphony .
Nor can a book completely describe an automobile .
Therefore , this challenge drive an imperial as you would your present car compare it by any standards you deem valid with any car , you can choose no imperial .
We rest our case on your personal evaluation .
That certainly would have been an interesting challenge to somebody test driving the Imperial , particularly once they sat down in the driver's seat .
I mean , look at first of all the steering wheel , now , square steering wheels are coming back and becoming all the rage again , particularly on performance cars because give you a bit more sightline out the top of the car and also give you some more leg room on the bottom .
But this was veritably strange in the late 19 fifties to have this square steering wheel and imagine trying to turn the corner as your hand kind of bobs up and down as the different sections of the wheel return back to normal once you've made the turn or even as you're trying to execute it .
However , beyond the steering wheel , the turn signals are also quite interesting .
You can see there are little green triangles at the top of both of those pods of the left and right of the wheel .
And yes , they provide interesting directional help .
Although they both signal that you're going up as opposed to left or right , I suppose that you can discern which is left and which is right from the overall placement of the light in the pods .
However , also you have as was typical for the time Chrysler's push button torque , flight transmission activation in the left Podd .
Now the right pod , you have the climate control set up .
Another interesting feature is for air conditioning equipped cars , you have these vents that pop out and protrude from the upper portion of the dash that would blow the icy cold air from the air conditioner on to passengers .
These cars could also be optioned with not only a front air conditioning system but also a rear air conditioning system that could be , each could be operated independently or together .
And I can tell you from having sat in one of these cars with dual air conditioning with both of those operating still on R 12 .
You have about five seconds on the hottest day of the year after you turn on both air conditioning systems simultaneously on full blast before you are completely frozen and feel like you're in the middle of a blizzard .
Another interesting feature of the instrument panel for those cars .
So equipped is the automatic headlamp dimmer and it's kind of periscope like styling , you can see it here poking up from the middle section of the instrument cluster that's in front of the driver .
On the more conventional side , these instrument clusters did feature full instrumentation with oil pressure alternator temperature and fuel gauges .
The speedometer is also an interesting kind of rolling drum type speedometer that as you increase in speed , this drum rotates and indicates your speed as opposed to having a sweeped needle or something else .
So in summary , if I had to pick one super wonky interior that I just absolutely love , it'll be this interior from the 61 to 63 imperial and beyond the interior itself .
I just think the car looks especially cool , particularly the 61 62 versions before the rear ends were super toned down and the 63 also got a new grill that I just , I don't think is quite as handsome as the 61 62 s regardless .
Hope you enjoyed this feature on the 1961 Imperial and its instrument panel .
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