Imperial Home Page -> Mailing List & Club -> Member Spotlight -> Mike Sutton
Here is a brief interview we recently had with IML member Mike Sutton. All the pictures displayed on this page are from Mike's collection. If you have any questions for Mike, please feel free to send him a message!
I was born a poor sharecropper child to humble origins. I was not always a child prodigy, early on I was simply a boy genius but then I bloomed. My heroes are Don Rickles, Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin, Groucho Marx and Homer Simpson. I still don't know what I want to do when and if I grow up, so until then I will do mechanic stuff since I seem to be pretty good at that. I am married to the love of my life ( no, not me ) and have 4 wonderful and marvelous children, at least that's what they always say on Jeopardy.
On a more serious note I am glad that I stumbled onto the IML, and like most of us had figured that as an Imperial owner I would be lucky to ever find anyone with a common interest, or any other information besides the manuals, on the net or anywhere else. I take great pride in being a member of the IML/OIC and am thankful for the people I have met and the things I have learned since joining. I accept the oscar on behalf of all the little people out there who have made this day possible.
OK, now on to the interview. - MS
Question: When did you purchase your first Imperial?
Answer: The first Imperial I ever purchased was in 1989, it was a 63 4 door that I bought for $200.00. I actually was looking for a hood ornament to replace one that some low life scum sucking single helix DNA inbred worthless pos stole from my 62. The seller, Weird Harold ( a local hot rodder I have known for years) wanted to sell the car instead of the ornament, so I considered that as a good investment for spare parts.
Now, if you had asked when did you ACQUIRE your first Imperial I would have
had to answer like this:
My first Imperial was acquired by me on July 6 1986. I inherited it from my mother, it was the last new car that she and my father purchased prior to his death - which obviously was a long time ago. It was THE car in our
family when I was growing up, and the car I learned to drive with.
Q: Do you still own it?
A: YES! They will probably have to bury me in that car, hopefully not any time soon. I will under no circumstances relinquish that car, even in the worst possible case I will bring home the pieces that are left over and make a coffee table out of it. When all the things that make life fun and worthwhile have been ruled inappropriate and big brother wants me to drive some cookie cutter bean pod mobile, I will still have my Imperial stashed away somewhere. Sorry...its a personal thing. Guess that should go to the salon! :)
Q: What, if any, restoration did you do to that car?
A: Restoration...restification, its an interesting concept. Those who have seen my cars can just go ahead and laugh now, I really don't care. I have done literally nothing to it, other than preventative maintenance and one or two modifications. ( We will get to those later so just don't bug me ) I have had to replace the material on the rear package tray, my mother had the carpet replaced and the front seat redone..which I have never cared for since its not correct....I have replaced a hood ornament and hood release cable. Now, if you want to consider stuff that wears out like brake shoes, wheel cylinders, wheel bearings, batteries, hoses, belts, tune up etc etc...then yes, that's all been restored once or twice by now.
Q: What is your favorite year Imperial?
A: My favorite year of Imperial, well....the 67 comes to mind, as does the 56. ( Did I get that right Les?) Thankfully they left my mind just as quickly. I'm gonna go ahead and alienate those folks who haven't met me before and already been alienated, but I am very drawn to the 62 for obvious reasons, the 69-71 I like very much, and the 75 is another one I am particularly fond of. Lets just say that to each their own, some styles appeal to me very strongly and some just don't. You know there is no correct answer for this !
Q: Why is it your favorite? What do you find appealing about that particular year?
A: Ok, the why is it my favorite. I like the 62 tail lights and the split grille. The grille needs something to break up that huge expanse across the front. The tail lights are just a quirky thing that I am particularly fond of, though I have had my share of irrational worry that I'm going to find a broken one some day. Now that I bit the bullet and bought a set , these should last indefinitely. That's also why I like the 75 so much, that split waterfall grille and the basic fuselage shape is still apparent. I'm also one of those few who like the coupe more, I guess its because of that old stereotype of the 4dr being a Grandma and Grandpa thing. ( I can see the hate mail in the inbox already )
Editors Note: These we're taken at Rhody Days (Florence Oregon in 2001) When Mikey had the Displeasure of having his car break down 6 hours from home. You can read this story on on Events Page. I being the mean editor I am just happened to enjoy seeing Mikey's car on a Tow Truck a whole lot :-)
Q: Do you have a favorite Imperial gadget or styling feature?
A: A favorite gadget....geez, there's a ton of them I like. I would really like to have the ....I ALWAYS get this name wrong, the electric eye photocell on the dash for the headlight dimming, Paul Niemi has one on his 62 and I was really jealous of that. Id even be happy if it didn't work, its just a kewl gadget up on the dash. I also world like to find an autodimming mirror but those are becoming rather spendy. I guess Ill just have to bite the big one some day and spend the extra dough...".sorry kids, you can eat macaroni for another month or so, this is for me"!
Q: Any other automotive gadget or styling feature that you like or would like to own?
A: Off brand gadget or styling feature....you purists better just stop now! As much as I love my car and want it to look like a stocker in outward appearance, I do like having more modern things on it. I admit, the older technology works fine and its not hard to maintain, but I do like the electronic ignition and later style mopar alternator. I wouldn't mind a disc brake thing, as soon as someone makes one that I like . AAJ has one for the 63 spindle, but I haven't checked back with them on the 62. The one thing I don't care for on that, is I believe you use a GM rotor and
wheel....so for now, the electrical stuff is mainly it. I am planning on a dual master cylinder, I have had the pleasure of driving a nearly 3 ton car with no service brakes and I really don't want to do that again.
Q: What does your Mopar collection consist of?
I have the 62 coupe, just over 71000 miles on the clock ( subject to interpretation, I had about 8 months with out a speedometer gear several years before, before I was aware of the IML, that could add another 500-800 miles it ) . Subjectively speaking, its a 2.5 cosmetically and about a 4 mechanically.
Being a mechanic by trade I did the running gear back in 89, from stem to stern I replaced brake parts, u joints, bearings, seals, driveline support, etc etc. I haven't touched the transmission other than the usual cleaning the screen, replace the filter and adjust the bands. I have had the instrument cluster out to check wiring, repair a fan switch, that kind of thing.
On the other hand, the paint...or lack of paint....sucks. No other way to describe it, it was chalky and fading and starting to wear thin. We were living in Seattle at the time, and rather than have it start to rust I covered the car. That saved it from rust, but the cover beat the crap out of the paint. Soon after that I decided to just cover what was left with primer, over the faded out ugly stuff. I had done some minor body work on some odd bonks here and there, so it was either a calico car or a grey car.
If you're still awake at this point, the other major change I have done was
to install a late 60's 440 in place of the 413 a few years ago. The 413 had a very weak cylinder and was definitely in need of at least a valve job and rings. I still have it, its in surprisingly good condition but if I had kept on pushing it I would have regretted it. The 440 swap was a breeze, all the accessories fit like they were designed for it ( which they basically were ) except the 440 has 6 bolt valve covers and that's the giveaway if you look.
The Dearly Departed - I parted this 1963 out in 2002.
My other Imperial, the 63....its about a 6 on its way to maybe a 10. ( Aren't low numbers better on this ) Its out at the farm, safely covered up and if it doesn't end up as a convertible some day then it will just be spare parts. It is a very plain jane car, no options other than power windows and the radio. I know some will say to fix it back up, but one is all I really want. (Sorry no Pictures) Other collector cars.........Linda my beloved wife will say collection of junk! Lets just say I have a 66 Charger with unknown mileage that is sitting in the garage, I want to repaint it and fix an accumulation of stuff like windows that don't roll right, threadbare carpeting, some inoperative instruments, etc. I have had that car for nearly 19 years now, but I haven't driven it a lot in the last 2 or 3 years. It was and is possibly my second favorite car to drive next to the Imperial. I have my wife's69 Barracuda, 162000 miles showing, if it was 262000 I would not be surprised. A very basic 318 2bl automatic with no options car. I used to actually dislike driving it, but its surprisingly nimble for what it is and I drive it nearly every day.
Lastly I have a 70 Town and Country that was my wife's grandmothers car. It had been parked for probably 8, 10 years and was slated to be hauled away. I couldn't see Mrs Brady's wagon going to the crusher, so we trailered it here. It had been her Grandmothers car since new, it has somewhere in the 80000 miles on it. Unfortunately Linda's Grandfather was some kind of JC Whitney junkie and there's doo dads and gadgets galore on the car. He also was apparently a stockholder in Earl Scheib because the car has absolutely the worst, ugliest, peeling and faded green and brown paint scheme on the planet. So far, the 16 x 24 blue tarp has been the best thing that's happened to that car in a long time.
Q: What other collector cars (at least 20 years old) have you owned in your lifetime?
A: 68 Le Mans
60 Falcon 2 dr Wagon
67 Sport Fury
68 Sport Fury
74 Duster ( I know....only 19 years, I cheated )
Q: Which car has been your favorite and why?
A: Which car has been my favorite? Of what, all the cars or just the list of what I have now?? Ok, Ill still go with the Imperial as favorite, and while the Sport Fury was a kick, Ill have to go with the 64 GTO as favorite non mopar. I hate these questions, its as bad as when the kids ask who my favorite is! I cant just say " the dog " and go from there.
Q: What are your future plans for your present collection?
A: My future plans for my collection? Hmm.....I would like to become a non profit charitable organization and start taking donations for the " Paint Mikeys Cars " fund, but apparently there are laws about that. Well, mechanical things come first, but they are also an ongoing thing. Paint the Imperial is first, then start on the Barracuda...since it needs one of everything. I am split on doing a restoration on the Charger, or playing with a modern instruments, different interior, personalized kind of thing. The wagon is kind of in limbo, a friend has expressed an interest in it, some days I just want it gone and some days I think...." ya know, some paint, and this and that....."
Q: Do you have any, "I can't believe I let that car get away from me" stories?
A: I let a 70 Superbird with 45000 miles slip away in 1984. I was working at a shop/parts store and was on a delivery. I had seen the car before and this time I got curious enough to find out if it was just a shell or what it was. This was out here in the sticks in eastern Washington state and the car was parked next to a shack of a house. The owner had parked it because the radiator was shot. It was a 440 6 pack 4 spd dana 60 car, and it was complete. The guy was jobless and from the looks of things, had been jobless for some time. He wanted 4k for the car....I thought , " its gotta be hot, or have a hole in the block etc " The seller started the car for just a couple minutes and showed me a title and registration. In an incredible act of stupidity, I hemmed and hawed for a few weeks and decided, hey its only money. I went back to get the car, and in that time the owner had found a job and the price was now something like 12k.
Q: Do you have any funny or interesting stories about purchasing an old car?
A: Seeing as I have only owned 2 cars that were ever less than 10 years old, all my car stories are about old cars. Id have to pass on this one, since most of them would fall under the " Guess you had to be there " category. The one that still stands out was the 64 GTO. It was literally the " car was parked in the garage and the kid didn't come back " thing. This car had sat next to a window so long, the sun had made a pattern on the paint from shining thru the window each day. It had no rear shocks, and I had to put a battery, points and oil change in it just to start it. I bounced my way home , sans rear shocks, and found some other keys in the glovebox. I opened the trunk and there were high school books, notebooks and some papers from 1971, the year the owners son had graduated. The last name on the books was the same last name as the seller, so my presumption is that the son left home and never came back to claim the car. I didn't have the heart to ask where the son went.
Q: Are there any other collector cars (besides Imperials) that you would like to own??
A: Cars Id like to own? Isn't this long enough already?? Ok....its my fantasy! Turbine car! Turbine car, and of course..a turbine car. Then a 57 300 series, a 70 Hurst Chrysler 300, a Daytona Charger ( hemi of course ), 70 Cuda or an AAR Cuda, a 62 Imperial convertible ( snuck that in ), any WW2 Power Wagon or command car, another 60 Falcon 2 dr Wagon, 65 vette (396 with 4 spd, 4 wheel discs, and fuel injection), Stutz bearcat, Duesenberg, Cord, 41 Willlys, 67 Cougar GT, this could go on for weeks. Lets stop at the short list.
Q: Do you belong to any other antique car clubs?
A: Not officially, I have been in the local Mopars Unlimited Club here since it started, and other than the other Mopar clubs online such as the Mopar Mailing List, 66-67 Charger List, 67-69 Barracuda List, the Mopar Station Wagon List, the 62-65 Mopar List.
Q: What was the best car show you ever attended?
A: The best car show I ever attended? What was that....Florence Oregon? That's not a fair question, I hope that I haven't already seen the best one yet. For fun and diversity, Rhody Days. I have long ago gotten past the " is that hose clamp date coded to your alternator case " group. I like an all Mopar show as much as anyone, but how many 70 Cuda big block clones do you need to see. I prefer an all comers, show and shine and enjoy kind of show most of all, I like to see what other folks are doing creatively.
Q: Do you have a favorite car related book or movie?
A: All of them.....Id have to say MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD....because Ethel
Merman and an Imperial just go hand in hand.
Author's note: If you would like more information on the Rhody Festival in Florence Oregon Imperial meet, please go here to view more details about this event.
We would like to thank Mike Sutton for sharing his wonderful Treasures with us!! Please check back next month when we will be spotlighting another Imperial Club member.