1964-1966 Imperial

Technical Tips

Chris Hawkins
  A/C compressor noise and vibration - You should not feel any vibration when your air conditioning compressor comes on, only a slight drop in RPM. If there is vibration and noise, do not immediately assume your compressor is at fault. Tighten all the mounting bolts associated with your compressor. If you find they were already tight, don’t give up. 9 times out of 10 the source of vibration will be your alternator brackets. Oddly enough, I have discovered that the lower mounting bolt on the alternator is most often the primary cause of any compressor vibration and dancing fan belts. Be sure this bolt is tightened securely and your vibration problem will quite likely disappear.

Fanbelts - Be certain you are using the correct length belts - the shorter the belt the less chance for vibration. If your parts counter person cannot find a specific fan belt listing for your Imperial, do not assume the equivalent year Chrysler with the same sized engine used the same alternator-A/C belts. They did not. The Chrysler Parts Manual gives the same alternator-A/C fan belt part number for the equivalent year Dodge or Plymouth with a 361 or 383 engine w/ AC. For whatever reason, a longer length belt is used on all Chryslers!

Decals - Several years ago I took my ‘66 LeBaron to Jim Osborn Reproductions in Lawrenceville, Ga. and had all the decals reproduced in the engine compartment and the trunk. The reproductions are superb and provide a wonderful finishing touch to your restoration efforts. Call for a catalog at 770-962-7556. (P.S. Some of these decals are not yet listed in his catalogs so don’t assume it doesn’t exist if you don’t see a listing. Call and ask!)

NOS / NORS parts  - It is surprising how many Imperial mechanical parts are carried by purveyors such as Year One, Inc. Unfortunately, their catalogs rarely indicate that fact. However, a little investigation reveals that a surprisingly large amount of their inventory is also used by Imperials. Thus, all Imperial owners would do well to acquire a Chrysler Parts Manual for their year Imperial and see which Plymouth or Dodge muscle car used the same mechanical bits -- and order accordingly. My favorite Year One item is an NOS Chrysler Trunk Release Kit (about $32.00) It is a simple MoPar bolt-on kit quite similar to the original Imperial factory unit - except for the lack of the black plastic shroud that fits over the solenoid in the trunk and a slightly different release button. I also like the Year One NOS-style hose clamp kits, tan distributor caps, spark plug wire grommets, and reproduction black Chrysler oil filters. Order the Year One MoPar catalog at 770-493-6568.

Parts Manual Revelations  - Another advantage to having a Chrysler Parts Manual is the many odd discoveries you make regarding interchangeability. One of the more unusual discoveries I’ve made concerns the rear bumper. Rear bumper pieces take a real beating on Imperials of this era and as a result I had to replace virtually every piece of trim on mine. I encountered a real problem when I started looking for back-up lights and lens on my ‘66. Then I discovered that the vulnerable back-up light housings and lenses for a ‘66 Imperial are the same parts numbers as those used on a 1965 Dodge Monaco. When I switched to looking for Dodge backup lights I got immediate results and found an inexpensive NOS set the same day.

Another interchange I discovered is that the fragile brushed aluminum "propeller" appliqués are the same for 1964 and 1966 Imperials. (1965 used much more sturdy and attractive 2-piece diecast inserts.)

A Parts Manual for your year Imperial will soon become indispensable. You will soon recognize that parts numbers tend to reflect the year of initial manufacture. New part numbers appeared approximately as follows: 1960 - 2000 000 and up, 1961 - 2100 000 and up, 1962 - 2200 000 and up; and so forth through the mid- sixties. Thus, if your 1965 Imperial needs part number 2036 453, the numerically low part number means it is very likely that the part was used on all Imperials (and sometimes Chryslers) from about 1960 through 1965. This broadens the number of available parts donors considerably!

Pinging - Many Imperials have this problem with today’s lower quality gas. If the timing is correctly set -or even backed off a couple of degrees - and 93 octane gas is used and pinging still occurs on light acceleration, it is often due to a tired distributor vacuum advance. (Pinging under heavy acceleration is usually the result of incorrect initial timing.) These vacuum advance units are rather unusual because they are strongly spring-loaded to give minimal advance. Little advance is needed because at 10-12 degrees BTDC (depending on the model year) the initial timing is already pretty far advanced. After 30 years of use the advance springs can start to weaken and the result is excessive vacuum advance. This will bring on pinging during light acceleration.

Clean Air Package cars and later 440’s retarded the initial timing setting by a full 17degrees (!) and used much more vacuum advance to compensate. This later-style vacuum advance is the only one typically still available, and is likely to be installed in any replacement distributor you might acquire.

Year One sells correct NORS vacuum advances. Check the distributor part number in your Parts Manual and order accordingly. Another solution is to install a Chrysler Electronic Ignition Conversion Kit. This is a wonderful bolt-on factory retrofit unit that is visually identical to the original distributor and has the advantage of an adjustable vacuum advance.

I set mine on the minimum setting and have not had any pinging trouble since. (Note: that is until I began having recurring trouble with toasted "brains", so be sure to mount your control module in a cool location. Electronic ignition systems also require a strong charging system, a consistent 12.5V and above - even at idle. Chronic low voltage conditions - stop and go traffic with lights and A/C on - can also cause the "brain" to fry. Be sure your battery, alternator, and voltage regulator are in peak working condition before installing an electronic ignition.)

Shock Absorbers - These are now available from Gabriel and KYB for the 1964-66 Imperial. Personal experience with Gabriels on 3 cars have shown that they give out quickly and thus must be frequently replaced.

I recently discovered that KYB makes shocks that fits these cars (57-66).  KYB’s are twice as expensive, but are 10 times better shock absorbers. They absolutely transform the ride and handling. I strongly recommend them.

Front - # KG4507 (trim lower sleeve to 1.25" long)
Rear - # KG5511

Update, April 2000.   It has been my experience that 82072 Gabriel shock turns to mush pretty quickly. I took them off my Imperial after about 5K miles and one was so limp there was ZERO resistance left in it!

I put KYB's on and they transformed the car. The 300 club recently gave the following info. (Note: 1957-61 300's shared the all the same front suspension components.)

"Use KYB model KG 4507's in the front. KG5511 in the rear. Front shock, lower mounting tube will have to be trimmed a little to fit in its intended holder on the lower control arm. Remove one of the old shocks, measure the lower tube thru which the mounting bolt goes through, and, using a grinder, trim the KYB's tube to match. Make sure to have a bucket of water next to you, and dip the portion of the shock being ground off repeatedly in the water during grinding, to avoid damage from heat to the rubber bushing around the tube.

The KYB's are 200% better than other normal, gas-charged shocks. Well worth the little extra effort in obtaining them and modifying the fronts to install."

KYB has a website that can refer you to a local distributor.


The KYB shocks I mentioned also fit 1957-66 Imperials. It is possible they fit earlier and later Imperials, but one should verify with KYB first.

Note: because of the modification necessary for installing the front shocks, the Imperial application is not listed in any of the KYB catalogs. Thus, be sure you have the part numbers when you go to your KYB dealer.

Installation tip, from Jay Mc Kee:

I just stepped in from finishing up putting four new KYB Gas-A-Just shock absorbers on our '62 Crown. Here's a tip for installing the front shocks that the gentleman at the parts counter taught me.

Some Imperials owners have struggled to compress the gas-charged shock and race to get it into the shock tower before the gas charge fully extends them. Full extension happens within seconds, giving you little time to get the shock into position for mounting before it is too long to fit. It could and often does) take several attempts before you win this race with the shock. Save yourself the frustration by getting the shock into the proper position *before* you begin to extend it.

"What?!?" you say. "How can you get the shock into position before extending it?" It's really simple. So simple, I would have never thought of it unless someone else told me about it!

Most gas-charged shocks are shipped in their boxes in the "compressed" state. A nylon "strap" holds the shock closed. You will notice that the strap does not go through the shock's bottom mounting hole, it actually goes around it. DO NOT CUT THIS STRAP! You can use it as an installation tool!

Compress the shock a little bit further and carefully remove the strap. Install the bottom hardware (dish-shaped washer and rubber doughnut) on the shock's upper mounting pin. Now compress the shock fully and reinstall the strap. The shock now stays compressed, ready for installation!

Get the shock into position in the shock tower. Fasten the shock's bottom mount to the control arm. Leave the nut a little loose so the shock will pivot a little bit (this will make pin alignment in the top of the tower easier).  Now get a pair or scissors, hobby knife, wire cutters or whatever you like to cut things with. You will need two hands to perform this next amazing trick. The idea is to cut the strap, and at the same time remove it before it get pinched between the mounting hardware and the top of the shock tower.

Give it a try...

The shock quickly and smoothly extends itself. If the top mounting pin pops through the mounting hole in the top of the tower, you are lucky. If the end of the pin is stopped inside the top of the tower, you are not as lucky, but still in real good shape! nonetheless! If the pin does not pop through the hole, you will need a screwdriver to reach in there to move the pin a little. Eventually it will find its way through the hole in the top of the tower.

You're almost home...

Install your top mounting hardware, then tighten the lower mounting nut to factory specs.

You are done!

Piece of cake, huh?

Now you will never have to struggle mounting a gas-charged shock absorber again. Just remember not the cut that strap. It is your tool and your best assistant!

Propeller Shaft (driveshaft) Support Bearing - Anyone who does not have a spare "propeller shaft center bearing support" should get one. Major driveline vibration problems can be caused by failure of this part, which is simply a rubber insulating donut that retains the center driveline bearing. If your bearing support is original, it is a 35-year-old piece of rubber that has been exposed to every kind of chemical and temperature abuse. Its days are probably numbered. In fact, you might want to get under your car and check it at your next opportunity. Push up in the center of the driveshaft, if there is any significant movement, you need a new center bearing support. Even if in good shape you might want to get one now while you still can and store it until you need it. (Editor's note:  The Damper Doctor and Antique Auto Parts Cellar, (phone 781-335-1579) are now rebuilding these units.)

All Imperial owners who do not have a catalog from Gary Goers would enjoy having one. As many people know, for years Gary was responsible for the restoration of all of Richard Carpenter’s magnificent MoPars. Not being able to locate many MoPar restoration parts back then he began to manufacture them himself. As a result he is the one of the finest sources for reproduction Chrysler and Imperial parts you could be lucky enough to find. Hood bumpers, molded weather stripping, trunk cardboard & carpet kits, etc., etc. are all made to order by Gary. For the most part they are exact Chrysler duplicates, are of very high quality, and most items are not available anywhere else. Additionally, he has dozens of little screws, retainers and other bits unique to Imperials that are difficult or impossible to locate elsewhere. Gary recently moved to the peace and quiet of Montana. Write to: Gary Goers, 37 Amdahl Lane, Kalispell, Montana 59901, 406-752-6249. Catalogs are $3.00. Gary has a good reputation for delivering quality goods. Be aware, however, that he is a one-man operation and many parts are handmade to order. Be prepared. He will ship off the shelf items fairly quickly, put you must be patient about the made-to-order stuff.

Use 1/4" black striping tape to revive the faded appearance of the painted areas on chrome upper fender moldings on ‘64 & ’65’s. 1/8" tape works well on Crown Coupe and LeBaron roof moldings also.

Trunk Leaks - If your trunk lid weather-strip is in good condition and still there is moisture getting into your trunk, it is likely coming from the back window. Check the condition of the rear window weather-stripping for shrinkage or gaps. Also check the chrome moldings around the base of the roof. I have applied a bead of sealer around the window and chrome moldings on my car. An easy and invisible way to do this is to carefully tape along the full length of both sides of the gap that is to be filled with sealer. Apply black sealer and work sealer deep into the gaps with your finger or a flexible plastic spatula. Smooth out any excess and, when finished, peel back the tape and you have a neat, professional, almost invisible seal. And a dry trunk! Another common source of leaks is the chrome upper fender moldings. If for any reason these have been removed, be sure they have been correctly re-attached. All bolts holding the molding on must have a ring of sealant and the correct flared-edge nuts must be used.

Transmission - Is your ‘65 or ‘66 Imperial slow or unwilling to go immediately from Park into a drive gear after it has been sitting for a few days? If so, it should not be a major concern, assuming the transmission operates properly at all other times. I have been told that the early 727 Torqueflites were designed for the engine to start with the pushbutton in Neutral. The column-shift "Park" position was tacked on during 1965 and now that these transmissions are 30+ years old they sometimes can be momentarily reluctant, when cold, to go from Park directly into Reverse or Drive. If this happens to you, either start the car in Neutral or simply put the transmission in Neutral for a second or two after you have started the engine. In the Neutral position, the torque converter will pump up and refill itself at once. (It will not so in Park.) Therefore, after a few seconds in Neutral, chances are your transmission will go immediately into gear and operate perfectly from that point on.

Carpets  - Although not listed in any of their catalogs, Auto Custom Carpet (800-633-2358) recently unearthed carpet molds for 1964-66 Imperials. (With a little modification over the parking brake hump, these carpets should also fit 1960 - 63 Imperials, however, I’ve not known of anyone who has tried.) The carpets are an excellent fit and are perfectly molded. The heel pad is a generic one, but it might be possible to supply your good original to be used in any carpet set ordered. (Or have an upholstery shop detach the generic and sew on your original.) The only other down side is that the cut pile carpet stock offered by ACC is not an exact duplicate of the original Imperial thick carpet material. It is closest in appearance and texture to the carpet used in 1966. 1964 -65 models used a deeper, thicker pile and ACC has nothing like it available. Although not suitable for concours restoration, the incorrect cut pile they do offer has a nice overall appearance and it sure beats a worn, stained, faded, dirty original. It is ideally suited for use in a daily driver. I installed a carpet set in my 1964 driver and it dressed up the interior beautifully. (Note: I have written a very detailed carpet installation guide, based on my trial and error experiences doing 3 installations. Please feel free to request a copy if you want to tackle this job on your own!)

I recently supplied patterns to Auto Custom Carpet to create templates for carpeted floor mats for this era Imperial. (Again, they should fit 1960 - 63 also) The mats are extra large, contoured to cover and protect ALL the carpet from the door sill to the transmission tunnel in front, and covering the entire footwell opening in the rear. (Note: I made separate rear mats for sedan, coupes and convertibles to accommodate their differing footwell contours., so be sure to specify.) These mats are neatly bound on the edges with color-keyed vinyl and have a thick, hard rubber backing with hundreds of nubbies to grab the carpet below and prevent slippage. They are available in dozens of colors and give a wonderful custom look when installed. A great idea for those who have white interiors cars would be to have the mats bound in white vinyl instead of the carpet color. Nice coachbuilt touch still done in Rolls-Royces today.

Tires  - I installed a set of the 9.15 x 15" triple stripe whitewalls on my '66 LeBaron. I have had mixed results from them. On the plus side, they alter the overall stance of the car dramatically. The tires are at least 2" taller than the 235x15 Michelins formerly on the car, so the car sits at least 1" higher off the road. (For an even more imposing appearance!) Although the alternating thin/wide whitewall stripe pattern is reversed from the original pattern, the overall appearance reads quite nicely and makes the radials on my ‘66 convertible look puny. The LeBaron doesn’t hang in corners quite as confidently, but it is infinitely smoother over small impacts, completely swallowing corrugated road surfaces that previously had the ashtray vibrating. Also, the steering is lighter.

On the down side, the particular set of tires I received (eventually six in total) were out of round and proved impossible to properly balance. I even had them "trued" and rebalanced at a local performance tire shop that has a machine that will shave the tire until it is completely, truly round. (One tire was visibly out of round laterally and has already been exchanged.) I loved the looks, but hated the vibrating, squirmy ride this set of tires gave. I put on a set of Firestone FT70’s and the car was transformed to serene smoothness. On the other hand, Jeff Stork put a set of these triple stripes on his ‘65 Crown and is quite happy with the results.

Interior Trim - Chris replied to c-davidsmith@webtv.net's question:

"I'm looking for suggestions on sprucing up my '66 convert. door panels. The aluminum panel at the bottom of the door has been kicked and beat up and is in need of polishing or shining or something to put it back in good and original shape. The wood at the top is in need of help too. Can anyone help?"

I had a similar situation with my '66 convertible. I discovered the metal kick plates are not really restorable. There seems to be some kind of plastic coating over them which does not allow all scratches to be polished out. I just cleaned mine up, waxed them, and let it go at that. If your kick panels are really beat up, I suppose you could have real brushed stainless panels cut and installed. Or, you might investigate the brushed stainless-look acrylic veneers at a sign shop. They could be cut to fit and you could install over your original. I've seen this method done on the bronze trim of a '68 Imperial and the result is spectacular - identical to original.

If the wood veneers in your car are not rotted, split or buckled, they can be made to look good as new again. On '65 & '66 coupes and convertibles the wood trim on the door & side panels is completely removable. The chrome strips retaining the veneers can be taken off by bending their tabs from the back of the door panel. Usually it is only necessary to remove the upper U-shaped chrome strip to allow the veneer panel to slide out completely.

Once removed, take a sanding block with 320 or 400 sandpaper and sand the crusty finish off. Warning, the veneers are paper thin, so don't sand deeply into the wood - just sand off the top layer of varnish.

On my convertible I miraculously had no water damage or sun-bleaching, so all I needed to do was sand the veneer panels smooth and apply 4-5 coats of polyurethane, polishing with steel wool between coats. Once dried, this was followed by rubbing with finest steel wool and brown MinWax. The results would look at home in a Rolls-Royce.

If the veneers have some discoloring, even out the discoloring with wood bleach for the dark spots and walnut stain for the light spots. Use a small artists brush and blend carefully. Before applying the finish coats of exterior grade varnish, rub a little mineral spirits into the wood. This will mimic what you will see when you apply the varnish. If the wood color is still uneven, work a little longer with the wood bleach and/or wood stain. (Note: urethanes tend to yellow over time. Great if you have a dark green, red, gold or black interior. Light blue interiors should avoid this by using Varathane or some other water-based, non-yellowing acrylic varnish.)

This same re-finishing technique can be used on the dash. Just be sure to mask off the chrome trim very carefully. If you don't want to brush or spray the varnish, you can rub it in with your finger using a smooth, lint-free cloth. The more coats of varnish, the better the final appearance. Steel wool between coats and apply varnish until all pores are filled and a glass smooth finish is achieved. Also, the more varnish the more protection you have from future damage.

If your veneers are too far gone to be refinished, install new ones!! Walnut veneer is readily available. Have it matched for color and grain to a good piece of your old veneer. Cut to size and apply over your originals with contact cement. Then just varnish as above. For final color matching to your dash you can practice varnishing a scrap piece of new veneer to see if it matches. If not, you can apply wood bleach or walnut stain to bring it to the color you want.

How's that for a winter project?!

Chris H. (The one from GA)



Updated 8/24/2001