On my piano I have a model of a 1955 two-door hardtop Chrysler Imperial. It was the closest model I could find to one of my favorite cars, a 1955 Chrysler New Yorker two-door hardtop with its 331 cubic inch Hemi V8.
When my wife Peggy and I got married, I was driving the classic 1961 Austin-Healey (bug eyed) Sprite. We sold the Sprite when we had our first child. We needed a car with more room. I found the Chrysler at a used car lot in back of South Tacoma Way. The car was in perfect condition. My father favored Chryslers. I learned to drive in our family four-door 1953 Chrysler Windsor (V6). When my parents bought a 1961 Chrysler Newport, I got the older car for my 16th birthday. The car had been in a slight accident. For my graduation present from Clover Park High School my dad bought me a 1953 Chrysler New Yorker (V8) for parts. I switched the crumpled fender and bumper and painted the car red, which later faded to an ugly pink. My parents continued driving Chryslers and Imperials for years.
I loved my 1955 New Yorker. The gear shift was a simple chrome lever on the dash. The car had a white top and a dark green body. The 331 Hemi wasn’t a scorcher, but it would get up and move. Once going to Ellensburg I had it up to a 105. I drove the car back and forth to Boeing. I worked the afternoon shift so would get home around midnight.
We lived on Long Lake, near Port Orchard. Long Lake was in a valley. For my own amusement, when I turned off Highway 16 I would pretty much floor the gas pedal and zoom up the hill on SE Mullenix Road and then coast down and turn onto Long Lake Road SE along the lake. One night as I was racing up the road my headlights picked up a mountain lion running along the crest of the hill to my right. From his loping and my speed climbing the hill it looked like we would intersect right at the peak. I gave the Chrysler all it had. The puma kept coming. I reached the top and as I breathed a sigh of relief there was a thump on my right rear fender. I continued down the hill until I found a side road, where I could turn around and drove back to the top of the hill. Not being stupid I stayed in my car as I drove around looking for a wounded cougar, but found none. The next day I checked out my fender and bumper. Both were clean and undented. I never saw another mountain lion while we lived on Long Lake. Years later, however, I saw huge paw prints in sand traps at nearby golf courses.
Eventually, I bought 1955 Rambler American from a neighbor and drove it to Boeing. (You can read about my adventure with my “Dirty, Stinky, Loud Little Rambler” in the Suburban Times article Dirty Diapers and Winter Driving. thesubtimes.com/2017/11/10/dirty-diapers-and-winter-driving/) The Chrysler was killing our budget with the cost of gas. I sold my New Yorker to a friend, who ruined it.
A few years later I found a good deal on a 1955 two-door hardtop Chrysler Imperial. It had a white top with a body of dark green. I bought it as a present for my wife. I dreamed of restoring it along with my original 1955 New Yorker. We would have had a matched set featuring two of Chrysler’s best cars. I let my brother-in-law work on the Imperial in his auto class at Lincoln High School. He never really got it going and I never bought my New Yorker back. I learned to only trust automotive repair shops.
Although, I went on to purchase other Chrysler products over the years, I never owned another Chrysler. One day at a hobby shop I found the metal model of a 1955 two-door hardtop Chrysler Imperial. It’s one of my favorite pieces of art and sits on my baby grand with other prized possessions: blown glass, Victorian glass, and grandchildren photos.