Chrysler Royal

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Chrysler Royal AP1, AP2 and AP3


Chrysler Royal AP1, AP2 and AP3

1957 - 1964
Fury V8
313 ci.
220 bhp
3 spd. "TorqueFlite" auto
Top Speed:
98 mph
Number Built:
3 star
Chrysler Royal AP1, AP2 and AP3
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


The Royal was always a style-leader, but unfortunately was well beyond the price range of the majority of new-car buyers, and as such was overlooked by many when searching for their next new car. That makes them very rare, and highly collectable. Back in the late '50s and early '60s, those in the know quickly discovered the Royals uncomplicated design, rugged chassis, ample power and sound roadability made it an ideal choise on Australian roads.

In V8 guise it was priced below £2000 (tax paid), and because of its size and luxury it was soon being added to hire car and government fleets, and the savvy family man knew these were near perfect for the time. We have heard that farmers especially found its dimensions and ruggedness suited to their requirements.

The Plymouth Cranbrook, Dodge Kingsway and Desoto Diplomat

The first version of the Chrysler Royal, the AP1, was introduced in February 1957. It was a development of the American Plymouth P25 design of 1953 which had itself been produced by Chrysler Australia, marketed as the Plymouth Cranbrook, the Desoto Kingsway and the Desoto Diplomat.

Plans to market the updated version under these three names were dropped late in the development program and the new model would be sold only as the Chrysler Royal thus revising a name used by Chrysler in the US market from 1937 to 1950. The Royal differed from the P25 in using front and rear mudguards similar to those on the 1956 US Plymouth and a rear window which was larger than that of the P25.

The AP1 Royal

The AP1 Royal was produced only as a four-door sedan and was offered with two versions of Chrysler's valve-in-block straight-6 engine: a 230.2 cu in 3.8 litre with manual transmission and a 250.6 cu in 4.1 litre with the Powerflite 2-speed automatic. Chrysler's 313 cu in 5.1 litre polyspherical-head V8 was introduced as an option during the AP1 model run. A revised Royal, the AP2 was introduced in late 1958. This series featured a new grille and unusual rear styling with additional “saddle fins” grafted on to the exiting tailfins. Chrysler's 3-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission replaced the 2-speed PowerFlite automatic of the AP2.

The AP3 Royal

The final version of the Royal was the AP3 which was introduced during 1960. The new series was easily distinguished from its predecessors by its vertically stacked quad headlamps and triple tail lights similar to those of the 1959 US Desoto models. Externally the shape of the Royal had changed little since its inception in 1957 and externally there was nothing to identify a '62 model from its immediate predecessor. The mechanical components were likewise common to '61 and '62 cars; however the interior trim was vastly different. By using foam-vinyl material identical to that used in the Dodge Phoenix, Chrysler managed to upgrade the Royal's upholstery to a then new standard of excellence - particularly at the price point, even if it was a little on the expensive side. Despite this beneficial treatment and the inclusion of a few "extras", such as wheel trim rings and rear-door courtesy light switches in the standard specification, the AP3 Royal's price managed to drop by £57 - which may not seem much these days, but was a considerable amount in 1962.

The Fury V8

There was a 117 bhp six available, but what made the Royal special was the 220 bhp "Fury" V8 which could send the car along at close to 100 mph Cruising speed was in the region of 80 mph and fuel consumption 16 miles per gallon. The transmission was Chrysler's Torqueflyte three-speed automatic and with the lightest of accelerator pressures it changed from first to second at 6 mph and from second to top at 12 mph Under full throttle it changed up at 34 and 65 mph respectively. The driver ratio-selection was by push-buttons at the right end of the instrument panel - something that never really caught on outside the Chrysler group for some strange reason, as we think the idea was brilliant. First could be retained to almost 50 mph by pushing the appropriate button. Second could be "held" to 70 mph

Handling the Beast

The handling qualities of the Royal were surprisingly good - provided you judge it on what was on offer at the time. Of course it was big and bulky compared to pretty much everything else then offered on the Australian market, yet it still managed to retain compliance on all types of terrain without being greatly disturbed. The steering was pleasantly light and body-lean on corners was, again when judged on the criteria of the time, not as excessive as you would expect. Some road testers did note a trace of pitching evident on undulating surfaces at speed but the general impression was one of stability.

My Left Foot

The brakes were sufficiently powerful for normal usage but faded a little under severe testing. The pedal was very wide and could foul the left foot if using the dipper-switch and brake at the same time (remember, this was a time when the dip switch was located on the floor to be operated by the drivers left foot. Parking the Royal was aided by the high tail fins which, despite people telling you they were merely cosmetic, helped you pin-point the rear extremities with great accuracy. Fuel consumption of the eight-cylinder engine depended very much on the driving style. An average was around 16 miles per gallon. With the popularity of the smaller Valiant, production of the Royal finally came to an end in 1964.

1957 Chrysler V8 Royal
The 1957 Chrysler V8 Royal.

1959 Chrysler Plainsman Station Wagon
The 1959 Chrysler Plainsman Station Wagon.

1959 Chrysler V8 Royal
The 1959 Chrysler V8 Royal.

1962 Chrysler V8 Royal
The 1962 Chrysler V8 Royal.

Chrysler V8 Royal
Chrysler V8 Royal.

Sturt Griffith's Road Test

A name synonymous with quality automotive journalism in the 1950s was Sturt Griffith. He would take all cars on offer in any particular year, then drive it over a punishing circuit of typical Australian roads throughout New South Wales to determine what was good, and bad, with a particular car. Obviously his yardstick was the best on offer in any particular year - and something we do not have the benefit of today.

While we make every endeavour to judge a car on its contemporaries, sometimes it is very difficult. We are not experts on the Chrysler Royal, and as such we thought it best to recite what Sturt Griffith's said, verbatim. We do refer to many of his road tests in compiling our own, but for the record, the Chrysler Royal review below remains as told in 1957.

The V8 engine in the Chrysler Royal brings it into line with current American practice. Coupled with automatic transmission and power assistance for the steering and the brakes, the Chrysler is a thoroughly up-to-date car. It is, of course, a large car, and it should be driven In the manner Intended by the makers. This is not the type of automobile which one throws info corners, or in whom one zig-zags through traffic.

The outstanding impression which I received of the Chrysler was the extreme ease of driving such a large car. It flows along rather like the Queen Mary on a Mediterranean cruise, with finger-light (power assisted) steering, automatic selection of gears, and very quick (power assisted) brakes.

As the driver, I felt rather superfluous. Apart from the initial cost of all this equipment, one has to pay a little extra, in the form of fuel, for the great power of the large V8 engine. This is not, however, such a great item as one may expect. At the same speed, over the same test route, theV8 gave one mile per gallon less than the six cylinder, also with automatic transmission. It gave three miles, per gallon less than the six cylinder with manual gearbox (and overdrive) under the same conditions.

On the Road

The V8 Chrysler Royal is a large automobile powered by a modern engine, which drives through a two-speed ' automatic transmission. I am an advocate of the automatic transmission as it gives far more pleasant motoring than the conventional gearshift. It is far superior in traffic, and on the open road will give all the performance one desires. I should certainly not want to climb the Lett River hill any faster, in this type of car, than is possible with a good automatic transmission.

There is, however, one aspect of the Powerflite transmission which is open to criticism. When climbing a winding hill really fast the necessary variations of throttle opening are accompanied by almost as many gear changes - between Hi and Lo ranges, it is rather too sensitive. Of course, one could select Lo range, but in an automatic transmission, that would be hardly the action of the average driver, I am quite at a loss to know why it is necessary to place the brake pedal in midair, some eight inches above the floor.

Such poor design takes some of the virtue out of the power-braking system. The V8 Royal can only be obtained with automatic transmission, the incisive price being £2.179. As fitted to the test car, power-assistance for the steering costs an additional £93, and the power-brake installation another £23. There is also available a Smith's heater system. 1 was impressed neither by the manner in which this inherently effective heater was installed in the Chrysler, nor the warmth of the air delivered to the car (thermostat, too cold?).

Hill Climbing

The normal way to climb hills-is, of course, to leave transmission in "drive" range and to allow it to select Hi or Lo gear according to the circumstances. This was done on all hills except Bodington, where a full throttle climb was made in Hi gear to test its ability. The gears selected by the transmission, arvd the speeds attained, were as follows:

BODINGTON (average grade 1 in 11.5): Hi gear at 50-55-55 mph.
RIVER LETT (1 in 12, maximum 1 in 8.5): Frequent changes between Hi and Lo gears at 40-57-37-62 mph. The car showed great surplus power and the corners were the limitations in this climb.
SCENIC HILL (1 in 10. maximum 1 in 8): 50-29-47-34-52 mph.
MOUNT TOMAH (1 in 12, maximum 1 in 9): 50-42-59 mph.
KURRAJONG, WESTERN SIDE (1 in 124): Mainly Hi gear at 50-57-62 mph.

The power to weight ratio, with a load of 3cwt, is extremely high at 94.8 bhp per ton. Gearing in top is also very high, yielding a road speed of 23.8 mph at 1000 rpm, above 40 mph. The ample power and high gearing of the Chrysler endow it with "a very-fast cruising speed, around 75-80 mph on safe country roads. Owing to the versatility of the transmission, the car retains its flexibility at any low speed. The average speed over the test route was 46.4 mph Weather was good.

Acceleration and Roadholding

The V8 engine develops its maximum pulling power (a torque of 2601b-ft) at about 57 mph in Hi gear. The torque converter gives a maximum torque multiplication of 2.7, which diminishes to substantially zero at about 40 mph in Hi gear, above which speed the torque converter ceases to function. In all low and moderate speed acceleration, the fully open throttle will select Lo gear and give really rapid results.

This kick-down can be invoked at any road speed up to 55 mph As a consequence, overtaking can safely be commenced at any speed with the certainty of a prompt response from the engine. The times for acceleration with drive range selected, were: 20 to 40 mph in 4.1 sees., 30 to 50 mph in 4.0 sees., 40 to 60 mph in 5.2 sees., 50 to 70 mph in 7.5 sees. It was only in the last run that the transmission selected Hi gear, when 62 mph was reached.

The Chrysler sits down very nicely on high speed bends and shows good adhesion on all types of road. It is difficult to make the car break awav on loose bitumen, but when this happens, it goes' in to a gentle drift which is simple to control. The wide track and firm suspension prevent any serious body roll. Tyre squeal is very noticeable. The suspension of this car is the best of the Chrysler range and it behaved well on badly pot-holed country roads. It also took broken and stony mountain" tracks without any bother.

Steering and Braking

The power assistance for the steering is nicely modulated and is superior in this regard to a Chrysler tested on the introduction of this feature. Although power assistance variable by the driver would be the ideal, the Chrysler installation leaves a little "feel" in the wheel, and yet is ample to turn the wheels without any real effort when the car is stationary. The steering is not quick, requiring four turns from lock to lock. It does however, seem satisfactory for this type of automobile.

There is noticeable reaction felt in the hands when travelling over rough country roads. The turning circle is very moderate 38ft, and this fact, coupled with the power assistance, greatly facilitates parking in this large car. The power assistance given to the Girling hydraulic brakes is capable of wide adjustment, from extremely sensitive pedal to the gentle assistance given to the test car.

There is no doubt whatever of the virtue of a good power system as installed in the Chrysler. It allows the rather under-sized brakes to control the car without difficulty, and without effort. There was some degree of fade due to heating on the 31-mile descent from Kurrajong Heights in neutral. This might be expected from a limited brake lining area of 151 square inches. The handbrake works on the transmission, and is as ineffective and smelly as most brakes of this type.

Fuel Consumption and Body

At an average speed of 46.4 mph over the test route, the Chrysler yielded 16.9 miles per gallon. At a loaded weight of 37cwt, this is equivalent to 31.9 ton-miles per gallon. The fuel-speed factor (ton-mpg, x average speed) is 1.480. At this rate of consumption, the fuel tank gives a very limited cruising range of 255 miles. The V8 engine is of sound design, featuring hemispherical combustion chambers, a large bore and a compression of 8 to 1. Bore and stroke are 96.7 by 84 mm., and this motor will spin up to 5,500 rpm, without undue vibration. The Carter ball-and-ball dual choke carburettor is fitted, and the air-cleaner has a paper filter element. The oil filter is of full-flow type. The Powerfiite transmission gives overall ratios of 3.6 in Hi, and 5.7 in Lo. The separate chassis is mounted on conventional suspension, with an anti-roll bar in front.

The interior is spacious, and attractively finished in two-tone pleated synthetic material, and haircord carpet. Tinted safety glass is used all round. The bench seats are 56 and 58 inches wide, respectively, and they are nicely shaped and softly sprung. There is a wide retractable arm rest in the centre of each squab, and a small arm rest on each door. Although the front seat has more than sufficient width to accept three adults, the huge hump over the automatic transmission leaves no space for the centre passenger to park his legs in comfort. There is a moderately sized glovebox in the left of the fascia, but no door pockets. The heater curiously delivers only to the passengers' side of the front floor. As the temperature of the incoming air is low, the net result is a rather cold driver. This heater can, of course, be used for the delivery of cold air under ram or fan pressure. The boot is really enormous, with the spare and jack stowed to one side. The large deck lid is counter-balanced for ease of opening.

Behind the Wheel

The instruments are before the driver, and comprise speedometer, and gauges for engine temperature and fuel contents. Reasonably sized warning lights are provided for oil pressure and generator, with very tiny lights for the turn-indicators. The automatic transmission is controlled by a very convenient press-button type selector with four clearly marked buttons. This is illuminated for night driving. Driver's vision is excellent in all directions and his window requires only II turns of its crank. Other equipment comprises reversing lights, screen washers and a wide rear vision mirror.


This combination, to which is added power steering and power assisted brakes, results in extreme ease of driving and good control for a large car. Provided that the Chrysler is driven in the manner for which it was designed, it has good handling qualities, and its steering and brakes are satisfactory. Riding comfort is as good as one expects from the conventional suspension employed. On the open road the Chrysler gives all the performance that one could want. Its automatic transmission will climb hills very fast if one is so inclined, and will give enormously rapid acceleration for overtaking under any circumstances. In the city the power steering and moderate turning circle are of assistance when parking.

Chrysler Royal V8 AP3 Quick Specifications:

Model: Royal V8 Automatic: Price: £1910 including Sales Tax
Engine: V8, Bore: 3.875 in. Stroke: 3.312 Capacity: 313 cubic inches. Compression ratio: 9.0:1. Valve gear: C.H.Y. (pushrod). Battery: 12 v. Oil filter Replaceable element. Maximum power. 220 bhp at 4000 rpm Maximum torque: 325 ft./lbs. at 2800 rpm
Transmission: Fluid. Gear system: Torque-flyte 3-speed automatic with push-button control. Ratios: Low, 2.45; intermediate, 1.45: drive 1.0: reverse, 2.00. Propeller Shaft: Open. Final drive: Hypoid. Ratio: 3.31. mph per 100 rpm in top gear: 2-1
Suspension: Front: Independent coil springs. Rear: Semi-elliptic leaf springs. Shock absorbers: Telescopic hydraulic. Stabiliser: Anti-sway bar at front. Steering: Mechanism: Worm and 3-tooth roller. Turning circle 39 ft. Turns lock to lock: 4.5.
Brakes: Hydraulic (selfequalising). Contact area: 150.5 square inches.
Dimensions: Wheelbase 9ft. 7in. Length: 16ft. 7.75 in. Width: 6 ft. 4.25 in. Height: 5 ft. 3.5 in. Ground clearance: 7.75 in.
Wheels and Tyres: Wheels: 15 inch. Tyres: 6.70 x 15. Pressures: F. 28 p.s.i.; Rear 24 p.s.i. Petrol tank: 15.5 gallons. Track: Front 4 ft. 7-7/8 inches. Rear 4ft. 10 7/8th inches. Kerb weight: 32.25 cwt. Luggage boot capacity: 35 cubic feet.
Performance: In Gear - Low, 34 mph; intermediate, 65 mph; high, 95 mph Acceleration from rest: 0-20 mph, 3.3 seconds.; 0-30, 4.6 seconds.; 0-40, 6.9 seconds.; 0-50, 9.8 seconds.; 0-60, 13.5 seconds.; 0-70, 20 seconds. Acceleration times from constant speeds: 10-30 mph, 3.3 seconds.; 20-40. 4.2 seconds.; 30-50, 5.3 seconds.; 40-60, 6.9 seconds.; 50-70, 10.0 seconds. Fuel consumption: 16 m.p.g. Touring range: 247 miles.
Interior: Door-actuated courtesy light: . Doer pulls. Glovebox. Twin sun visors. Fresh air - but no heater or demister. Ashtrays front and rear. Armrests front and rear. Cigarette lighter. Reversing light. Padded fascia. There was a night driving mirror but, unfortunately no windscreen washer.

In addition to the Royal sedan, Chrysler Australia also produced the following Royal based derivatives:
  • Chrysler Plainsman Station Wagon (AP1 and AP2) from 1957 to 1959
  • Chrysler Wayfarer 1/2-ton Utility (AP2 and AP3) from 1958 to 1961
  • Chrysler Panel Van (AP2 and AP3) from 1958 to 1961
1956 Chrysler Royal

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Also see:

Chrysler Australia History
The History of Chrysler (USA Edition)
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