Row of Imperials

Spotlight on Henry Hopkins and Richard Palmer

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Here is a brief interview we recently had with IML members Henry Hopkins and Richard Palmer.  All the pictures displayed on this page are from their's impressive Imperial and other car collection collection.  If you have any other questions for Henry and Richard, please feel free to send them a message!



There is a scene in the movie "Romancing the Stone" where Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner are in a small poor Mexican village and when a local invited them into his walled compound and they are surprised to find a palace beyond the gates. This is a little of what it is like to visit Henry Hopkins's and Richard Palmers home in downtown Richmond, California. When viewing their home from the street you have no idea of the wonderful cars behind the gates.

Having read the story of Henry's restoration of a 60 Imperial convertible in our Imperial club website Imperial by Year section, I was excited to see the car and his other Imperials. I had no idea they have 20 cars between them most of which are Chrysler products. They enjoy bringing their cars back to life and currently have six in restoration.

Question:  When did you purchase your first Imperial?  Why did you purchase that car?

A: Bought in 1995, a 1960 Imperial convertible. My partner, Richard, had a 62 maroon two door hardtop that was a great car, pretty low mileage well cared for car out of Sacramento. I was very impressed with it. I had no experience prior to this with Imperials. We joined the Imperial club and I began to appreciate these cars even more. I'd long ago seen an Elvis Presley movie and Lizabeth Scott drove this huge white convertible. Finally connected that it must have been an Imperial. Guess this image had been buried away for quite awhile. Found the car in Hemmings and had it shipped out to CA. Needed a complete restoration.

Q:  Do you still own it?

A:  I no longer own that particular 60 cvt. I sold it in 1990 or 91 for what then was a big price. A few months ago the very same car sold on ebay for just about double that price.

Q:  What, if any, restoration did you do to that car?  How much did you do personally?

A:  We were renting a work space in Richmond working on our cars in the evenings after work. Next door was a good body man who had done work years before for me when I was into Edsels. So asked him about the Imperial. He surprised me by suggesting that, since the cvt. was so rusty and would need so much body work, I ought to purchase a two door hardtop and use the body from it. Totally new to me. He said he could do it and the price was not as out of reach as I had expected so that's what he did. So that car used the cvt. frame, VIN number. cvt. header bar or unique to cvts. metal piece over the windshield, and the convertible tub. He cut out the section behind the rear seat and saved it. After removing the cvt. body, the hardtop body was placed on the frame, the greenhouse cut off, and then the unique cvt. parts welded in. A beautiful job. I stripped the paint, trim parts, sent the pieces out for rechroming, and with Richard took the engine and transmission out and carted those off for rebuilding. All of this except for the strippping was mostly Richard since I am not much of a mechanic. He did the brakes, we put the exhaust system in. I'm fetching tools mostly through this part. Found a affordable painter who came to our space and did all of the paint prep there. We rented a booth and he painted the car. He then color sanded and buffed out the car. Then Richard and I started to put the trim back on, reinstall the engine and transmission, get the power windows working and all of the wiring connected and on and on. Finally was able to drive the car to Fresno to an upholstery shop there. Another beautiful job. We finished the car in time for the May, 1997 Sonora State Wide Meet. I was really amazed and totally floored when the car was awarded Most Improved and Best in Show. I enjoyed it for several years and then very foolishly tested the market for it putting a price on it that I thought no one would pay. Was I wrong! Guess I was flattered and let it go. Knew that was wrong when I saw the rear end of the car in the transporter.

Q:  What is your favorite year Imperial and why is it your favorite?  What do you find appealing about that particular year?

A:  My favorite Imperial is a made up convertible, one with a 62 front clip, 61 fins, and a 60 Interior, especially the dash. But after owning a 62 and a 61, I realized the 60 really is my favorite. The controversial grill, one you either love or hate, is beautiful to my eyes. The dash with its two big round sets of guages with the green directional signal lights that blink out of the long thin chrome pieces in the middle of each big round set of guages is just right and beautiful to me. The "sparrow strainer" taillights are over the top which most Imperial styling of that era is. That's why I love 'em.

Q:  Do you have a favorite Imperial gadget or styling feature?

A:  Imperial styling piece--the 1961 rear fins. They are very large and then when you notice the taillights, just incredible to me. My least favorite styling piece is the 61 grille.

Q:  Any other automotive gadget or styling feature that you like or would like to own?

A: Other styling? Love the 55 with the full wheel cut-outs, the massive grille shared with the 300 series, and, of course, the bullet stand-up taillights

Q:  What does your Imperial collection consist of?

A:  My own Imperial collection is just the 60 Imperial convertible, my second. I finally succumbed to seller's remorse and bought another resto. project on ebay and had the car restored professionally. I just wrote checks and managed finding parts, getting the chrome done and other stuff. . I have had a 61 and a 62 convertible, both of which we restored in a manner similar to my first 60 convertible. I regretted selling them but there comes a time one needs to re-cycle money to complet more current projects. Just cannot keep them all.

Q:  Do you remeber a time in your life when you saw a car and said one day I will own that?

A:  I don't remember a time in my life when I said that one day I would own that specific car. I did say to myself that someday I would have a convertible whenever I saw one, but not just one specific one. I never met a convertible I didn't like, sigh.

Q:  Have you ever sold a car you regret selling, and if so why?

A:  I regret selling each car that I have sold. Most cars I have now and have owned previously were connected to my life during the time when the cars were new or nearly new. For example, my parents purchased our neighbor's 49 Mercury club sedan in 1951. I'll never forget that car. I was just 10 and I remember just sitting in it and looking and looking at each detail as the car sat in our driveway for a few days before my Dad obtained the license plates. I learned to drive with that car. So I have owned a 49 Mercury convertible, a long restoration project of a car that really was a parts car. I loved its looks but driving it was nothing like my memory of our club coupe, sigh. I had a 58 Edsel convertible we restored. Also a 59 Buick convertible. These were cars I begged my Dad to purchase when they were new. Of course, we couldn't afford them as he was a teacher.

Q:  What other collector cars do you own?

A:  Besides my 60 Imperial, I personally own a 57 Thunderbird, a 1941 Buick Special Convertible, and a 1940 Pontiac Woodie Wagon. My Dad would show up on his day off from his Camp Counsellor's job in the summer of 1946 when I was 5 and not even in Kindergarten until that Fall in a 40 Pontiac Woodie Wagon his boss owned. We didn't have a car then as my Dad was just home from the war. I remember just sitting in that car, opening and shutting the doors, the smell of the wood and seat material. The one I have now is every bit as wonderful as the one from my memory.

Q:  What other collector cars have you owned in your lifetime?

A:  Other collector cars I have owned--a 58 Edsel Citation 4 dr. hdtp, a 49 Cadillac fast back sedanet(sedannet??), a 58 Edsel Pacer cvt., a 49 Mercury cvt., a 59 Mercury cvt, a 47 Buick Super woodie wagon, a 59 Buick LeSabre cvt., 66 and 69 Mustang convertibles, a 56 Desoto Firedome cvt., a 1950 Hudson Super Six sedan. Together Richard and I have owned a 1933 Packard 1001 Coupe Roadster, a 1929 Desoto Ropadster, two 1961 Chrysler 300G hardtops, a 1960 300F cvt. and a hardtop, a 1957 300C hardtop, a 1940 LaSalle Model 52 Convertible, a 1956 DeSoto Adventurer two dr. hdtp

Q:  Which car has been your favorite and why?

A:  Each one was a favorite because each car had a special connection to my life. For example, I inherited the 59 Buick from my first long time partner who died in 1988. While I have them and remember the ones I've had, each one is the "favorite". But if I had to pick one, it would be the 57 Thunderbird. That, to me, was always an unattainable car, one so far out of reach for my family when I was growing up. When I drive that one with my Springer Spaniel, Lola, hanging out the passenger side with her ears flapping in the wind, it's one of those special moments when a person thinks life couldn't get much better.

Q:  What are your future plans for your present collection?

A:  Richard and I share ownership in quite a few cars, a 57 Chrysler 300C cvt., a 60 300F cvt., a 58 300D hdtp, a 57 Imperial cvt. project car, a 56 phantom 300B cvt. project car, a 53 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe cvt. project car, a 56 Lincoln Premier cvt. driver, a 60 Plymouth Fury cvt., a 56 Chrysler New Yorker cvt., a 1940 Cadillac model 62 cvt., a 1966 Dodge Dart GT cvt., and a 1941 Hudson Commodore 8 cvt. We plan to complete the almost done cars, the 53 Chrysler and 56 Chryslers, have the 57 Imperial professionally restored, have the interior, top and paint done on the Hudson, and maintain the letter cars and the Plymouth and keep them road ready and show ready. Of course, we have too many cars and never enough money so we probably will sell the Lincoln without cosmetically restoring it. We plan to sell the 53 and 56 Chrysler cvts. and the 66 Dart cvt. as soon as they are done Richard owns a 56 half done 300B and a 61 half done Imperial cvt. He just completed a full restoration on his 64 300K hdtp. So we have our hands full. The letter cars will probably be the last to go. For my personally owned cars, I have no plans to sell. Yes there are others I fancy, but I'd have to sell one to buy another, and right now I am just not ready to do that. I'm not done, but I'm pretty well set for now.
  Scot Tartan Seat for the 1953 Imperial  

Q:  Do you have any, "I can't believe I let that car get away from me" stories? 

A:  Yes, around 2000 at the Barrett Jackson there was a 1962 Dodge Polara cvt that sold for $13,000. It was a "Had I known it would go for that figure, I would've" situations. They are weird to the point of being ugly looking, same for the 62 Plymouth, but to me the quirky design is appealing. However, 13,000 was a lot of money to me back then so I wasn't really ready to buy. Recently had to pass up a similar one at $30,000, the only one I've found for several years. But enough is enough. Can't have 'em all.

Q:  Are there any other collector cars (besides Imperials) that you would like to own?

A:  Well, my ultimate dream is a Duesenberg but that will never happen. Meantime, from time to time, I think about owning a 69 Buick Electra cvt or a 69 Cadillac cvt., very similar designs. A 38 Buick Century cvt. with sidemounts would be nice as would a 57 or 60 Chrysler New Yorker cvt. I want a resto rod, a stock looking cvt. with modern engine and driveline, AC and all that stuff at some time. I just purchased a good candidate, a rough 40 Plymouth cvt. and a solid coupe parts car so I'll see how that goes. That's about it for now.

Q:  What do you enjoy most about owning old cars?

A:  I admire old cars because they remind me of my life when the cars were new or still around. I just like driving and enjoying an older car that is in good enough shape to be safely driven. Guess I'm enjoying cars I could not dream of owning when I was growing up and as a young man struggling with career and finances. I've been able to identify, name, talk about features on older cars from my earliest memory. Somehow I have a memory of sitting in the back seat of our 39 Plymouth flat back two door sedan as my Mom was vacuuming the back seat. It was 1944, I was three, and they had to sell it so my Mom would have money while my Dad went off to war. I'm sure I don't really remember it, just the memory of my Mom telling me about it so many times over the years when I would ask about why they sold the 39 Plymouth. Never did dawn on me that money was always tight for them until I became an adult.

Q:  Do you belong to any other antique car clubs?

A:  I belong to the Cad LaSalle Club, the Packard Club, The Classic Car Club of America, The Studebaker Drivers Club, the Hudson Essex Terraplane club, the Pontiac Oakland International Club, The California Chrysler Products Club, The Walter P. Chrysler club, the Plymouth Owners club, the AACA, and the Veteran Motor Car Club of America.

Q:  What was the best car show you ever attended?

A:  I enjoy most every car show I attend. My favorite is the annual Mopar In the Park show in Rancho Cordova held each year in June. Great to see all kinds of Mopars and especially to be a part of the Imperial club members who regularly attend. The best shows for me are the Mopar shows like Mopar Alley and Wine Country Mopars. One very special memory is the May Madness show and parade in San Rafael of a few years back. I entered and drove my 49 Mercury, a thrill by itself, but I was awarded the "Mayor's Choice" trophy. I was very pleased and proud.

We would like to thank Henry and Richard for sharing their wonderful Imperial collection with us!!  Please check back next month when we will be spotlighting another Imperial Club member.

This page was last updated 9 April 2007.   Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List