Imperial First Generation
|Assembly||Detroit, Michigan, USA|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door Newport hardtop 4-door sedan 4-door Southampton hardtop|
|Engine||331 cu in (5.4 L) Hemihead V8 354 cu in (5.8 L) Hemihead V8|
|Transmission||2-speed PowerFlite automatic 3-speed TorqueFlite A488 automatic|
|Wheelbase||1955:130.0 in (3,302 mm) 1956:133.0 in (3,378 mm)|
|Length||1955: 223.0 in (5,664 mm) 1956: 229.6 in (5,832 mm)|
|Width||1955: 79.1 in (2,009 mm) 1956: 78.8 in (2,002 mm)|
|Height||1955: 61.2 in (1,554 mm) 1956: 61.5 in (1,562 mm)|
|Curb weight||4,700–4,900 lb (2,100–2,200 kg)|
For the 1955 model year, the Imperial was launched and registered as a separate marque, apart from the Chrysler brand. It was a product of the new Imperial Division of Chrysler Corporation, meaning that the Imperial would be a make and division unto itself, and not bear the Chrysler name. Chrysler introduced Forward Look Styling by Virgil Exner, who would define Imperial's look (and the look of cars from the other four Chrysler divisions) from 1955 to 1963.
The 1955 models are said to be inspired by Exner's own 1952 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton show cars (which were themselves later rebodied to match the 1955-56 Imperials). The platform and bodyshell were shared with that year's big Chryslers, but the Imperial had a wheelbase that was 4.0 inches (102 mm) longer, providing it with more rear seat legroom, had a wide-spaced split eggcrate grille, the same as that used on the Chrysler 300 "executive hot rod", and had free-standing "gunsight" taillights mounted above the rear quarters, which were similar to those on the Exner's 1951 Chrysler K-310 concept car. Gunsight taillights were also known as "sparrow-strainer" taillights, named after the device used to keep birds out of jet-engines. Such taillights were separated from the fender and surrounded by a ring and became an Imperial fixture through 1962, although they would only be free-standing in 1955-56 and again in 1962. Models included a two-door Newport hardtop coupe (3,418 built) and a four-door sedan (7,840 built). The V8 engine was Chrysler's first-generation Hemi V8 with a displacement of 331 cu in (5.4 L) and developing 250 brake horsepower (186 kW). Power brakes and power steering were standard. One major option on the 1955 and 1956 Imperials was air conditioning, at a cost of $535. Production totaled 11,430, more than twice the 1954 figure, but far below Lincoln and Cadillac.
The 1956 models were similar, but had small tailfins, a larger engine displacement of 354 cu in (5.8 L) with 280 brake horsepower (209 kW), and a four-door Southampton hardtop sedan was added to the range. 10,268 were produced. With a wheelbase of 133.0 inches (3,378 mm), longer than the previous year's by 3.0 inches (76 mm), they had the longest wheelbase ever for an Imperial. This also contributed to an increase in their overall length to 229.6 inches (5,832 mm), making them the longest non-limousine post WWII American cars until the advent of the Imperials of the "Fuselage Look" era.
On April 28, 1955, Chrysler and Philco had announced the development and production of the World's first all-transistor car radio. The all-transistor car radio Mopar model 914HR, was developed and produced by Chrysler and Philco, and was an $150.00 "option" on the 1956 Imperial car models. Philco was the company, who had manufactured the all-transistor car radio Mopar model 914HR, starting in the fall of 1955 at its Sandusky Ohio plant, for the Chrysler corporation.