Onwards to 1964. As with pretty much every year so far in the CCOTY saga, new car buyers were just spoiled for choice. Not only did the usual Big Three makes offer near unlimited choice in colors, options and bodystyles, but there was also the burgeoning import maket, not to mention American Motors, International and, for at least a couple more years, Studebaker. But as a card-carrying U.S. luxocruiser connoisseur, I have to humbly nominate the beautiful 1964 Imperial Crown Coupe.
The Imperial had stumbled with its far-out 1961 restyling. Just as cars were becoming more restrained, the goggle-eyed Exner ’61 model was a throwback to 1959. Production fell to 12,258, down some 5K units from 1960. Subsequent ’62 and ’63 models were more restrained, but with Elwood Engel heading up Styling in Highland Park, the 1964 model was a beauty.
All ’64 Imperials got new sheetmetal, from the Crown series to top-trim LeBaron. It was the same old Imperial underneath though, dating to 1957. The giveaway was the ’50s-style wrap windshield, which may grate on Paul’s nerves, but never bothered me. Actually, I never noticed that the later Imperials still used the ’57 windshield, until I read it on CC.
The Crown convertible was still available, though seldom seem with just 922 built. What a way to see the country, for those fortunate few! Sales jumped to 23,295, up over 9,000 from 1963 sales of 14,121. I will posit that without the relative success of the 1964-66 Imperial, the Imperial nameplate may have vanished around 1968 instead of 1975.
Yes, there were probably more important new cars in 1964, but I have to vote with my heart and endorse the ’64 Imperial. I especially love the classy Crown Coupe. This mauve example was at the 2012 Maple City Cruise Night, in Monmouth, IL. It was love at first sight, with its unusual color choice and white leather. So snazzy! I also love the split ’64 grille, which reminds me of the original non-Chrysler ’55 Imperial.
But there are plenty of other good choices for 1964 CCOTY. To give the CC Commentariat some additional options: the 1964 Chevelle. To say that it was important to Chevrolet would be a major understatement. If the full-size Chevy bloat hadn’t started in 1958 and continued through the Sixties, the Chevelle/Malibu could well have been the ’64 full-size, with dimensions notably similar to the classic 1955-57 model. Though perhaps a bit plain compared to its A-body corporate cousins, it still sold amazingly well. And the two-door wagon was unquestionably cool.
The T-Bird was also revamped, with squared off lines that, although less sporting than the 1961-63 Bullet Bird, was still handsome. And it had perhaps the coolest interior of the Sixties.
Keeping the FoMoCo theme going, the ’64 Connie was also heavily redone. It still wore its classy 1961 shape, but the ’64 corrected several of the compromises of the original ’61–not the least of which was a somewhat cramped interior. A wheelbase stretch offered more room, much more in keeping with the Cadillac and Imperial competition. Then there’s the ’64 Rambler American, the Falcon Sprint, Electra 225…the list goes on and on.
But, my heart’s still with the Imperial. What say you?