Q: Greg I used to own a 1981 Imperial and currently own a 1949 Dodge Coronet Club Coupe. What is your opinion of these cars and how much are they worth today? Richard, Corning, New York area.
A: Richard, I’ve touched on those 1981-1983 Imperials before, and I still feel they are worth more than they are fetching in the current market. Recently, I’ve seen one for sale in upstate New York for only $4,500 in Auto Round-Up magazine and there’s one on eBay ending this week for $5,995 in great shape.
These “modern day” Imperials made a return to production after being absent from Chrysler's lineup since 1975. These 1981-83 full size Imperials were built when Chrysler was facing major financial woes and only 10,981 were ever assembled. To this day, I feel it is a great looking car.
Surprisingly, although they looked full size, these Imperials were built on the mid-sized Aspen/Volare rear drive platform, and stretched to share build time with its big hit and sibling Chrysler Cordoba. Unlike the Imperial, the Cordoba debuted in 1975 and sold a stunning 150,105 units that first year. The Cordoba lasted until 1983 just like the Imperial, but finished its “best seller” career as one of Chrysler's most popular full-size models with over 757,000 sold.
The Imperial, meanwhile, came with an electronic fuel injected 318 engine that developed just 140 government restrained horsepower. It had lots of luxury items and unlike Cordoba, never offered a six-cylinder engine.
Specifics on the Imperial's 1981-83 styling found a Lincoln type front grille merging with a rear deck that mimicked the second generation Cadillac Seville of that era. Called a "bustleback" rear design, it is similar to the British cars from the 1950s like Rolls and Bentley. Some of the main features Imperial offered included Mark Cross interiors, electronic digital instrumentation, and clear coat paints that had fading tendencies. A fully loaded Imperial listed for a retail of $18,311 for the 1981model. The only option available in 1981 was a power sunroof.
However, unlike Cordoba, dismal sales occurred during Imperial’s 1981-1983 run. The first year found just 7,225 1981 Imperials built, so Chrysler head Lee Iacocca hired friend Frank Sinatra to sing "isn't it time for an Imperial" in commercials. Even with Sinatra’s help, consumers just didn’t respond as Imperial sales dropped to just 2,329 in 1982 and only 1,427 the final year.
Chrysler then set its sights on saving the company, and went to work on the new minivan which was waiting in the wings. Thanks to the 1984 Industry first Dodge-Plymouth "minivan" and a bevy of compact K-Cars ala Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries, the company survived a tough economy and near bankrupt period.
Today, an Imperial from 1981-83 in good condition is valued at $5,100 by Hagerty Insurance Value Tool. I feel in the future, these prices might go up.
Your Dodge Coronet two-door Club Coupe, meanwhile, was the first new post WWII Dodge and it rides on a 123.5-inch wheelbase. It is known as the 1949 "second series" Dodge, as the big, spacious 1946-1949 model was also offered that year.
Currently, your 1949 Coronet is listed at $9,400 by Hagerty Insurance, which is a decent price for the entry model that year. If your Coronet has the "Gyro-Matic" automatic transmission, I'd add at least another $900 to the value.
Dodge also built a 137.5-inch eight-passenger Coronet limo sedan in limited numbers in 1949, and joining the limo were a convertible, nine-passenger “Woody” wagon and three-passenger business coupe, the latter as part of its Wayfarer line of two door models.
Overall, 144,390 Coronet and Meadowbrook vehicles were produced in 1949, and your car had a list price of $1,927 when delivered. All Dodges were powered by inline flathead 6-cylinder engines producing 103 horsepower from 230 cubic inches.
The most expensive Dodge from 1949 is the four door "Woody" wagon, which I’ve seen for sale for over $70,000 in excellent to pristine shape and is insurable up to $80,400 by Hagerty collector car insurance.
Remember, pricing is always subjective to how much a buyer wants a car, and could be more or less.
Thanks for bringing back memories of the post war Dodge Coronet and those Imperials from 1981 to 1983.