IML: 58 custom?
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IML: 58 custom?

In the ongoing thread about 58 carpets, there have been a couple of references to the so called base model as customs.  This is a nit picky point, but there is no such thing as a 58 Custom.  There was a LeBaron - the top of the line car, the Crown Imperial - the stretch limousine, the Imperial Crown - the mid-range version which was by far the most popular, and, simply, the Imperial.  You can scour the sales literature and magazines but you won't find the word custom as a descriptor of the so-called base model in any of them.  I believe the term was introduced in 1959.  To add to the confusion, some people think that Southampton also refers to a trim level but it is actually a name for the hard top body style, both two and four door.
The complexities multiply because you might be tempted to think the "Imperial" was some sort of stripper car.  However, as just about all Imperials were bespoke, which is to say ordered to specifications available in the catalog, there were no limits on how you might order your car.  My "Imperial, just Imperial" has just about all the goodies to be had except cruise control, including front and rear A/C.  The big exception deliberately avoided by Mr. A. Kroesche, the first owner, was leather seats which, apparently, he did not care for.  I may be wrong but I don't think you could have an Imperial Crown, or indeed, LeBaron, without leather.  As all the other "extras" were available on the so called base model, it was a logical decision to follow that route, if you wanted cloth seats.
I remain vague on the differences between a Crown and the LeBaron. Except for just a wee bit extra you got different hub caps and a different script on side of the front fender, which said LeBaron and not Imperial.  There are some interior differences between the Imperial and crown, such as map pockets built into the door armrests, a metal vee similar to the one on the exterior roof which necessitated a different interior light.  All engines were identical.  I have heard of fuel injection on the 58 Chrysler 300 but not the Imperial.  So many subtle varieties for such a small output of cars.  Three different hub cap styles, for example.  You finally find a car in a scrap yard only to find it doesn't match yours.  I guess these details come with the territory, which gets me back to my original point.  I know that using the word custom has descriptive value but it is not, technically, correct.
In passing, while researching another project, I came across another picture of the dealership that sold my car new on July 3, 1958.  It is of the interior, and includes Pete Smith, the owner, and several members of his staff.  I put some effort into trying to find a picture of the first owner with the 1958 or any of the other Imperials he owned.  I was told by his niece, the family historian, he rarely kept any car longer than one year and owned a string of Imperials in succession.  He was a bit of a snob and enjoyed owning the only Imperial in town, Seguin, Texas, where he owned a propane gas supply company.  Up till now, no such picture has emerged but, I suppose, you never know what may turn up down the pike.  I'd dearly like to find out who acquired it second, and third, as it slipped down the food chain, from brand new car for the wealthy to just an old beater.  It's great to know about who purchased it first but I find myself more interested in who saved it.  I do know who donated it to the museum in the early 1980s along with a 57 and a 62 that were sold around 1990.  He was an Imperial aficionado.  I have tried to pursue its history through official channels but as the changes of ownership occurred before computers, accessing the records has proven to be next to impossible.
58 Imperial (just Imperial)
San Antonio, Texas

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