Imperial Home Page -> Mailing List & Club -> Member Spotlight -> Philippe Courant
Here is a brief interview we recently had with IML member Philippe Courant. All the pictures displayed on this page are from Philippe's collection. If you have any other questions for Philippe, please feel free to send him a message!
Question: When did you purchase your first Imperial?
Answer: I purchased only one Imperial: this '57 convertible, in november 1994. The car was sitting in a London (U.K.) dealer since some months. He knew that i was looking for a late fifties MoPar (57-59) with the Exner "touch", especially Adventurer, NY, Fireflite or Imperial convertibles.
Q: Do you still own it?
A: Yes of course !! I have done enough work on it to restore its initial splendor and I will never sell it !
Q: What, if any, restoration did you do to that car?
A: All, all and all ... From top to bottom, headlight to rear bumpers, inside of the clock to inside of the transmission, etc.. i think it's faster to say what i didn't restore: the rear axle (except seals..) and the "coaxial" power steering (which was removed from a parts car, mine was "shot"). The restoration process lasted 7 years and i did all the removal and reinstallation of the parts ! I did myself the engine / transmission / brakes / electrical job. The paint and body job was done by a professional, upholstery came from G Goers. All the restoration could be seen on my site at http://www.ifrance.com/c-i-f/57moi_us.htm
Q: What is your favorite year Imperial?
A: 1957 of course but I like also the '55 - 56 (especially in 2dr-HT) and '58-61. I think my other favorite year is 1959. I like also the '30s Imperial (dual cowl phaeton..)
Q: Why is it your favorite? What do you find appealing about that particular year?
A: Fins, fins and fins !!! I think the '57-59 is the most beautiful Exner design (in all Mopar makes). I prefer the '57 because I like the dual front bumpers. It's also the first convertible since 1953, it has the "hemi" and the "flight sweep deck lid".
Q: Do you have a favorite Imperial gadget or styling feature?
A: About "Imperial only" styling, I love the "flight sweep deck lid", without it the deck lid is rather nude .. I also love the "highway hifi phonograph", my car had one when it was new, then stolen.. I bought one some months ago on ebay, restored and installed it. I love also the "mirrormatic", yes i know, there was no mirrormatic in '57 but i "retrofitted" one on my car ! Of course pushbuttons transmission..
Q: Any other automotive gadget or styling feature that you like or would like to own?
A: Perhaps the "gas heater" which was available on Mopar but as I've the A/C (which works..) and I live in a not too cold country, I stay with A/C (the two systems can't be installed together..). What have (had) the other brands which was not on Imperial ? GM Air-ride suspension : L.O.L !! Ford (Edsel) styling: L.O.L !!
Q: What does your Imperial collection consist of?
1957 Imperial Convertible and one '57 4dr-HT as parts car.
Q: What other collector cars (at least 20 years old) have you owned in your lifetime?
A: My first "classic" US car was a '58 4dr HT Buick Roadmaster. I bought it
in 1991 because someone crooked me about a purchase of a .. Mopar ('57
DeSoto). I bought also in the early '80s a Dodge Ramcharger (yes,
always MoPar..., I'm not a GM guy !)
Q: Which car has been your favorite and why?
A: The first car I "flashed" on was a '59 Dodge Custom Royal (2dr HT). It was in 1988 or 89, at this time i had the Ramcharger and I wanted to go to "classics". I saw this car in a magazine , i made a 400 miles trip to see one for sale (rather rare in France!), price was high and the car was sad... Then I bought a ton of literature, every page I saw convinced me that i must have a MoPar. I left the '59 Dodge project to more "muscle" cars as DeSoto Adventurer or Chrysler "letter". I decided to buy a '59 Adventurer convertible but I never found it !! My crook says "no problem" and took the money .. Fortunately he refund me but ..4 years later after a judgment ! Note that until 1991 or 1992 I didn't looked accurately at the Imperial... The "declic" was the MoPar buyers guide" when i saw the Howard Hughes '57 convertible (rather funny, this car was for sale some weeks ago !).
I continued to drive the Buick but i wanted a convertible, perhaps I'll have more luck with an Imperial (less rarer and less expensive than an Adventurer or a 300C !). After a trip in U.K. where a friend bought a '58 Olds, I let to the dealer a list of car i was interested in: in this list was '57-58 Imperial convertible. 1 year later the dealer sent me a fax (i have always this fax..) that he had a '57 for sale "need resto".. 15 days later i went to UK with a trailer and bought it !
Q: What are your future plans for your present collection?
A: I sold the '58 Buick some months ago because with two "old" cars there's one favorite and one which stays at home! Since the Imperial was on the road, the Buick was .. in a barn at 15 miles from my home. So every time I need to drive an "old American car" i took the Imperial. I decided to sell the Buick. And I'll not buy another car, even if sometime i think that ... But what could i buy better than a '57 Imperial ?
Q: Do you have any, "I can't believe I let that car get away from me" stories?
A: remember that i live in France and that I like American cars only (precision: Mopar only..), so as i focused only on '57-59 . Perhaps one, a 300C convertible "export" but at this time i was involved with the beginning of the imperial restoration so I decided one of my best friend to buy it ! So the car is 5 miles fro me and also often along my '57 when we are at shows !! Quite rare to see two wonderful '57 "Chrysler" convertibles in France
Q: Do you have fun stories about purchasing an old automobile?
A: Not about purchasing a car but I remembered that one of my friend , at this time new in the club, had a '47 DeSoto 9 pass limo which was used as taxi 45 years in Portugal. The engine was replaced in the early fifties by a 4 cylinder diesel Perkins (same as found on some tractors). When he went to the first cruising's, nobody wanted to be at rear of his car cause smoke and odor .. The engine was fitted to a 3 speed manual (on the floor) and the maximum speed he reached was 40 mph. So when we made a 100 miles trip to a show, all the other cars started with him, i was at the head of the convoy and imperceptibly I raised my speed. As you think all the cars overtook him and he arrived 1 hour after the others... Now he's no more at the rear, it's the guy
who bought the 300C !!!
Q: Are there any other collector cars (besides Imperials) that you would like to own?
A: I would like a 2 dr HT but I've no place (and no money !) to buy them: 59 Adventurer, 58 Fury, 60 Polara , 300 B-C-D-F, 69 Charger (no corvette or mustang..). Among the "no Mopar" brands: Auburn 851 boattail speedster, 57-58 Turnpike Cruiser (for the gadgets and gaudy, especially like the one on ebay: pink and black !!), '53-56 Caribbean convertible
Q: Do you belong to any other antique car clubs?
A: I'm member of the Chrysler 300 Club International.
In France I'm a member of the ACCF (American car club de France) for 14 years but also the Mopar consultant of the ACCF and also I'm the ACCF regional (Aquitaine) chapter director. Also webmaster of the ACCF.
Q: What was the best car show you ever attended?
A: In France, I think it's "Retromobile". Lot of European "classics" but i saw also some years ago a Tucker !!
Q: Do you have a favorite car related book or movie?
A: My favorite books are "standard catalog of Chrysler" and "Hollander" !!! My favorite movie is .. Christine ('58 Fury) !!
Philippe is 48 years old, married to Sylvie and they have 3 children (20, 17 and 13 years old). I'm a teacher in a professional school. I didn't teach mechanics or "how restore an Imperial" but mathematics. I have always loved american cars, especially '50s cars and I have owned US cars since 1985. I live in Pau (SW France) near the Pyrenees mountains.
We would like to thank Philippe Courant for sharing his wonderful Imperial with us!! Please check back next month when we will be spotlighting another Imperial Club member.