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  •   Jay Leno reacted to this post about 8 months ago
    Jay Leno uploaded a new video
    Why do I suddenly like cars that I used to detest? This question occurred to me recently when, for some inexplicable reason, I bought a low-mileage two-door #1957-Imperial . To the uninitiated, Imperial was a luxury brand built by Chrysler to compete with Lincoln and Cadillac. Virgil Exner was the designer who turned Chrysler around when he joined the company in 1949. KT Keller was the president and chairman of the board at the time and, prior to Exner joining the company, Chrysler’s styling was stodgy, to say the least.

    / #1958-Imperial-Convertible / #1958 / #Imperial-Convertible / #Virgil-Exner / #Chrysler / #392ci-Hemi / #Hemi

    For example, Keller liked a higher roofline on his cars because he believed men should always wear a hat while driving. Exner had other ideas and by 1955 he was able to introduce them, starting with the Forward Look. By #1957 , at the height of his powers, he had designed the Imperial.

    By that time Imperial was its own brand with no Chrysler reference anywhere on the car. It was also Imperial’s best year because the Styling was so fresh and new. It even had a great slogan: ‘Suddenly It’s 1960!’ It gave everyone the impression that Imperial was three years ahead in the industry.

    These cars were built at a time of unbridled optimism. Gas was 25 cents a gallon, the interstate network was opening up, the space race was starting, climate change and cigarettes causing cancer were all so far in the future that nobody even thought about them.

    They were huge, too, built like tanks. I remember Imperials being banned at Demolition Derbies because Their massive frames, far stronger than anything else, were deemed an unfair advantage. Hot rodders in the ’60s cannibalised these cars for their 392ci Hemi engines. When I was a young man, these cars represented everything we hated about American automobiles. They weighed two-and-a-half tons, they got abysmal gas mileage, they couldn’t stop and could barely get around corners. While Jaguar had polished wood and Connolly leather, these American behemoths featured chrome put on with a trowel and an interior like Elvis’s coffin.

    ‘IT HAS A MASSIVE AIR-CONDITIONER, MORE LIKE A REFRIGERATION UNIT FROM A MEATPACKING PLANT’

    By the time I was able to drive, cars from this era were already over a decade old. They were built before steel was galvanised and they rusted almost immediately. By the time the ’70s and ’80s came around, gas prices had started to rise and most of the cars from this era looked like crippled-mastodons flailing around in some tar-pit. So why the attraction now? AmI trying to regain some part of my youth? Possibly. Or is it because it’s just so different from what we think of as an automobile today?

    First, let me tell you about the car I found. It’s all original and painted in Desert Sage, which is really just another name for pink. A man bought it new for his wife but it was too big for her to drive. It’s 19 feet long and it weighs just shy of 5000lb. She rarely drove the car, and it was parked sometime in 1964 with 64,000 miles on it. There it sat, indoors, for almost 55 years, so there is zero rust and the chrome is perfect. I drove it home on the tyres that were fitted in 1963.
    Modern cars have almost no exterior brightwork. In contrast the Imperial looks like a Wurlitzer juke box. There’s even a massive chrome strip that runs over the roof like some sort of roll bar. The steering wheel is enormous and the gauges are the size of dinner plates. If you have to wear glasses to see the speedometer, you should not be allowed to drive.
    It has push-button drive and all sorts of goofy switches; believe me, they couldn’t have cared less about ergonomics. Trying to figure out how to operate the turn signal took 10 minutes. It has a massive air-conditioner which looks more like a refrigeration unit from a meat-packing plant. You actually have to press down hard on the accelerator to compensate for the 25bhp needed to drive it.

    If you like buying cars by the pound, this is the way to go. Ferraris are about $1000 per pound and cars like this are about $5 per pound. When you hit somebody in a Ferrari the damage is life-altering. Hit somebody in this thing, and you don’t even know it till you get home and find the other car crushed up under your wheelarch. I don’t think I’ve ever had another car that stops traffic like this thing. In a town like LA, where Bentleys and McLarens barely get a second look, folks jump out at stop lights to ask me what it is. One guy in a hip part of town asked if he could buy my interior so he could make a suit out of the sparkly brown-material.

    It’s fun to jump between different automotive worlds. For example, last Saturday was the perfect day; I took the McLaren P1 out for a ride in the hills above LA and then took my wife out to dinner in the Imperial. After all, you need to have one sensible car to drive.
    1958 Imperial Convertible - Jay Leno's Garage
    With it's "Forward Look" design and massive 392 Hemi, Jay takes us on a ride in his Imperial Convertible that was the biggest and widest luxury car you could...
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  •   Ben Koflach reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    NOW AND THEN, A BAD-ASS MUSCLE CAR ROLLS INTO TOWN AND TRUE TO TRADITION, WE’RE THE FIRST TO GIVE YOU THE SCOOP!

    Gavin Wilkins gave us a call explaining to us that he has a very important car laying in his workshop. In true Gavin Wilkins' tradition, he gave us a few basic clues, like the car was supposedly an American muscle car with a hefty 8-cylinder motor, and was supposedly modified there too. But a few weeks before, we came to hear of a rather unique #1971 #Plymouth #Cuda , a 2-door coupe which had arrived on our shores, and I began wondering if this was the said Unicorn. Now, dear readers: photos and print media do not tell the true mastery of this Cuda. It has to be seen in person to understand this car's enormity. A few years back, a chassis building company in the USA named Morrison were commissioned to oversee the project of restoring an old Plymouth. Over and above the channelling process where the Cuda's body was lowered to hang 4" over the frame, subtle mods such as shaved drip rails, a custom front valance and air dam, and those erotic side fender grilles were all crafted by the team at Morrison.

    But in all honesty, I think it’s the way the meticulous matte paintwork contrasts against the bits of orange which adorn the rear fenders. Or maybe it's the way the fenders hug those devilishly custom-made Intro Wheels which are 20 and 18" large? Or could it be the way the Strange coilovers are joined in holy matrimony with the Watts link rear suspension and the Corvette C5 front suspension which together, have created the perfect stance for the perfect American muscle car? I just don’t know. But what I do know is that this blurry indecision makes me yearn for a cup of tea.

    Swing open the driver's door, and nothing much grabs your attention except for those white dials, the Momo steering wheel and those RCi 5-point race harnesses. But weirdly though, once you sit in those superbly covered sport seats, and run your hand over the suede roof lining and notice the Morrison-built rollcage, you begin to understand that everything inside the cockpit is there for a reason. Besides the welcoming addition of electric windows, those elegant billet pieces on the steering column, and the TCi Outlaw shifter - which screams to be grabbed - is all part and parcel of the Cuda's theatre.

    The front of the car is where the party happens: Over and above the grille and headlights which came off a 2009 Challenger, the hand built shaker hood (a fancier name for the air intake which moves with the engine f movement)is what lures you to the bonnet in a trancelike state.

    Unclick the bonnet latches to pop the Cuda's hood and the motor resembles something out of Hollywood. Coated in what looks like sugary candied orange, the Hemi motor is a work of art, and when it awakens, things start a-shaking...

    I can honestly say that the engine is massive. Last time I saw something this huge, I flew in it to Europe. Barely squeezed into that painstakingly smoothed and shaven engine bay, lies an angry, 605 cubic inches Hemi monster, and let me tell you, it swallows fuel at an alarming rate.

    “Look, this thing guzzles hey." laughs Gavin. “You can let it idle, and in a few minutes, that fuel gauge needle will start going down. If you had to drive from Alberton to Eastgate, you’ll probably run out of fuel." The impetus for this whole project began in Indiana by a specialist cylinder head company named Indy Cylinder Heads. In addition to their line of big and small block #Mopar and AMC heads, Indy also build complete engines and are synonymous for the being the best at what they do.

    The motor powering this 'Cuda is a spare-no-expense, take-no-prisoners powerplant using a Maxx aluminum block, an Eagle 4750 steel crank, and humungous Diamond 4.500 forged pistons-115mm in diameter (let that sink in for a while)- down below.

    Topside is a pair of their Legend series heads with full CNC port and polish, bigger valves and thicker L19 ARP bolts and studs. Naturally, a COMP Cams solid roller thumps the lifters up and down and gives just the right signal to the big #King-Demon-1,050-cfm carb sitting atop the high-rise intake. In addition to the 511 hp on the wheels - which Gavin proudly states is the highest street car reading he's ever had at GWR - this bad boy rips the dyno in half with over 780Nm of torque, even more impressive on pump gas!

    “When the car arrived at my workshop, the engine needed some TLC - it was tired and the body had to be reprayed by Dinos. There were so many other niggles which we sorted out too - mainly after hours because there was no way I was going to work on an engine of this magnitude with other distractions happening around me. One mistake can be very costly."

    When the metal industry closes up shop for the weekend, and the roads in and around GWR have quietened down, Gavin takes the car around the block for a quick test and returns with a smile from ear to ear.

    “The car rides beautifully. It's built right and it shows as it drives perfectly and solidly without any drama. It's a real cruiser and attention grabber!" explains Gavin as he switches off the car.

    The car is to be returned to the owner in a matter of days, and as Gav wipes off a bit of dirt off the fender, he ends, "This particular owner loves his cars to be done right: he's a perfectionist who appreciates the finer forms of the automobile, and I'm grateful to have worked on this' Cuda. It's a one of a kind car, with a one of a kind attitude."


    THE ENGINE BAY LOOKS LIKE SOMETHING FROM A TRANSFORMERS MOVIE.

    QUKKSPECS #1971 #Plymouth-Cuda-2 Door-Coupe / #Plymouth-Cuda-2-Door-Coupe / #Plymouth-Cuda

    ENGINE: #605-Hemi / #Hemi - Maxx aluminium Hemi block - Eagle con-rods - #Eagle 4.750 crank - #Diamond 4500 pistons – #Federal-Mogul race bearings - #ARP L19 bolts and studs - Indy aluminium hemi cylinder heads - Indy roller rockers - #Comp-Cams solid roller camshafts - 3" exhaust - #Flowmaster mufflers - MSD 6AL custom fuel tank - Edelbrock fuel pump and fuel pressure regulator – #King-Demon 1050cfm carburetor.

    TRANSMISSION / DRIVETRAIN: 2-speed auto transmission - 9" Ford rear differential - TCi heavy case #Powerglide transmission - 3" Morrison propshaft - 35-spline #Morrison driveshafts.

    WHEELS / TYRES: Custom 20" x 12j Intro Wheels (rear) and matching 18" x 8j (front) Intro wheels in the front - #Pirelli tyres. Suspension: Full Corvette C5 front suspension - Watts Link rear suspension - Strange coilovers.

    BRAKES: 6-pot Wilwood calipers -14" #Wilwood brake discs. Exterior: Full respray by Dino’s Autobody - Morrison-built full chassis - 2009 Challenger grille and headlights - hand-built #Shaker hood - billet hood hinges - shaved drip rails - custom front valance and air dam.

    INTERIOR: Full leather and suede interior - RCi 5-point harnesses electric windows with power steering - Morrison-built rollcage - TCi shifter - custom white guages - billet aluminium column stalks.

    The custom intro wheels are spectacular. Wilwood provides the stopping power. The rear is rounded off with two Flowmaster mufflers. The modern #MOMO steering wheel pops against the classic interior. RCi 5-point harnesses clip you in.
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