MotorCities National Heritage Area

By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the Chrysler Archives
Published 3.11.2020

1927 Chrysler Imperial 80 sedan 11927 Chrysler Imperial 80 sedanAmong the most popular Chrysler automobiles of the past were the late 1920s classic Imperial models that offered great styling. The graceful contour body lines were custom built and manufactured by hand.


1928 Chrysler Imperial Chrysler Archives 21928 Chrysler Imperial (Chrysler Archives)

The 1920s represented classic style and an era that most automotive historians thoroughly enjoyed. The custom bodies were built for Chrysler by Locke, LeBaron and Dietrich in a special manufacturing plant.


The first Imperial model was introduced to the public in December 1925. The talented man who led the process and successfully engineered these great looking cars was Fred M. Zeder, Chrysler’s chief engineer at the time. The talented Zeder received his engineering degree from the University of Michigan. Carl Breer and Owen Skelton were also a part of moving Chrysler forward with many new ideas and great looking engineering during the company’s early days.

1928 Chrysler Imperial five passenger sedan Chrysler Archives 31928 Chrysler Imperial five-passenger sedan (Chrysler Archives)


The “Roaring 20s” were prosperous before the stock market crash in 1929. When Chrysler introduced its new line of automobiles in 1928, the company was still very profitable in the consumer market.


The 1928 Chrysler Imperial Touralette was built by Locke & Company. The model cost $4,485 -- a lot of money for that year. The Chrysler Imperial Series 80 Six models were carryovers from the 1927 models. There were no changes in styling or specifications. The Imperial Series 80L-Six models were built on a 136-inch wheelbase and retained the scalloped type radiator and hood design which proved popular. All of the custom bodied designs were all richly appointed vehicles intended for a prestigious class of automotive buyers.

1928 Chrysler Imperial Model 80 ad Chrysler Archives 41928 Chrysler Imperial Model 80 ad (Chrysler Archives)


Maurice Hendry, automotive writer, said this: “The Chrysler Imperial 80 was the final flowering of the big six concepts in the so-called ’Classic’ era. In smoothness, power and performance, it was a worthy competitor for the best eights of the day, and a magnificent automobile by any standard.” The Chrysler Imperial interior offered a great looking design with roominess and Bedford cord upholstery with genuine pig-grain leather. For the On the Town sedan, the interior also offered Broadcloth, mohair upholstery or Bedford cord with genuine pig-grain leather. The models also came with a double bar front bumper, a spare tire mount, a heater and many other accessories.    


1928 Chrysler Imperial Model 80 ad Chrysler Archives RESIZED 51928 Chrysler Imperial Model 80 ad (Chrysler Archives)

The new Imperial models were exhibited at the national automobile shows and at special displays in the Commodore Hotel during the New York shows in January during the late 1920s. Imperials were also displayed at the Congress Hotel in Chicago and other places around the country.

1928 Chysler Imperial 80 Chrysler Archives RESIZED 61928 Chysler Imperial 80 (Chrysler Archives)


On a historical note, all series of the 1928 Chrysler Imperial models, except for the 80L models, were introduced in July 1927. The 80 L Series was introduced in November 1927. Annual manufacturing production was great, and many automotive historians said for many years that this was Chrysler’s all-time highest production year of the prewar era and the highest until 1950. Chrysler also made automotive when the company entered four Imperial roadsters in the 24 Hours of LeMans race, placing third and fourth in their class.

1928 Chrysler Imperial coupled sedan illustration Chrysler Archives 71928 Chrysler Imperial coupled sedan illustration (Chrysler Archives)


In 1924, Water P Chrysler introduced the first vehicle to bear his name on a touring car in 1924. Later, he became one of the world’s greatest automotive pioneers who will be remembered by many generations to come.




Automobile Digest magazine. “Engineering Developments in the Chrysler Factory.” Pg. 33 - 1928.


Hendry, Maurice. “Chrysler Imperial Six.” Cars & Parts magazine. April, 1974. Vol 17 No. 5 Pg. 130-B.


Langworth, Richard M., & Norbye, Jan P. “The Complete History of Chrysler Corporation 1924-1985.” The Auto Editors of Consumer Guide.


Walter P. Chrysler Museum. “The American Heritage of Daimler Chrysler.” October, 1999.