Bob to Bill, Black Fin Rides Again
By Bill Elder
I really can’t
say when my 300G story started.
Certainly, there was a nagging
desire, that probably had its essence when I first learned about
Chrysler 300 Letter cars. My thoughts would drift between the first
car that I bought, a 64’ Chrysler Windsor two door hard top and
my dad’s old 61’ Plymouth that I learned to drive on. I
learned a lot about mechanics from these two cars. It’s a good
thing that both of them went to wrecker heaven a long time ago and
could not be called to testify about those early driving days when
the right foot obeyed an immature hot rod brain. Here's a curious
thing about those cars. Both of them were black.
My goal of obtaining a
300G burst into full bloom on March 27, 2022. I read an ad in the
Club’s for sale section on our web-site for a black 300G. The
options that were listed further piqued my interest. The contact
portion of the message was pretty terse. Send a response to this
e-mail address and you will be sent a description and some pictures.
Do not call. I am retired and I have a lot of time on my hands. So,
the Dick Tracey in me kicked into action. I quickly learned the
seller’s name, Bob Hager. Then from a copy of the News Flyte,
that listed all of the 61’ Vin numbers, I was able to pinpoint
the G’s Vin #. Bob Merritt confirmed my speculating. After a
week, there had been no reply to my e-mail request for a description
and pictures. More time on my hands, so I requested a micro fiche
readout from Mark Obermann. The results from Mark were more
encouraging. Still no reply from my request to Mr. Hager. One thing
that I do enjoy in my spare time is to go to the “Stories”
page on the club web-site and read some of the good stories that our
members have written. Bruce Brownell’s 300C Taxi and Gil’s
Big Blue 300F come to mind. This time, however, I found a more
intriguing story to read. Right at the bottom of the page, there is
a story; My Black 1961 300G by Bob Hager.
Not only was there a
story, but pictures of a nice looking black 300G coupe. Here are the
things that really sold me on this car, a story of a life long love
affair with black 300G coupes and icing on the cake, 25 years of
ownership for this car.
There was a new e-mail
that simply said that all negotiations for the Black 300G were going
to be handled by Bob’s wife Wendy. The lack of e-mails with
descriptions and pictures and the news that Wendy would be handling
any sales lead me to speculate that Bob Hager was very ill. The car
was in New Jersey, so I called in a favor from an old friend, club
member, 300G owner and New Jerseyite to please go and have a look at
the car. Enter Pete Fitch. This process took quite a while, as
Easter got in the way and Wendy had to arrange for either her son or
son-in-law to be on hand to move the car out of the garage. Finally
on April 23, Pete got to see and drive the car. He followed up with
a detailed description of the good and the bad points. He
also had one other fact to tell me; Bob Hager had passed away early
in April. Thank you, Pete for all the time that you spent on
e-mails, travelling and phone calls. From Pete’s description,
I decided to buy the car.
The Greenville SC meet
concluded on May 1 and I transferred the purchase price to Wendy on
May 2. At the meet, I had many friends congratulate me on my new
purchase and blessings to Jamie Hyde, as he pounced on the
opportunity to go to New Jersey and retrieve the car. The plan was
to make the first leg of the journey to the Golden Lion Grrrages,
where it would wait for me to arrange for a broker to help me with
the importation of the car into Canada. The other thing that
happened at the meet, I found a buyer for my
300 Ram K.
This was excellent news, because my hobby garage is 20’ X 24’.
It’s a great finished space to shelter and nurture one car but
Jamie contacted Wendy
and arrangements were made to pick up the 300G on May 14. Don
Warnaar had heard that Jamie would be in his area and decided to go
to the Hagar home with Jamie.
Apparently, they had lunch together
and I am grateful to Don for sending me pictures of the 300G and
Jamie loading the car up. Of course, at this time, I had never seen
the car in person. Later that night Jamie sent me an e-mail to
report that the 300G was safely installed in Bob’s garage and
resting amongst “a bunch of his relatives”. So, while
odds and ends were sorted out, Bob and Jamie did some repairs for me.
The electroluminescent was repaired, a bad headlight switch was the
culprit and the brake system was flushed out and it was determined
that the brake fluid was either type 3 or 4, not 5. Bob also took
the time to make three videos for me. The “how to” for
the headlight switch and a very nice walk around so I could have a
good look at the car. The third video was a short run up Bob’s
driveway, which is long, lined with brick pillars and has a good
curve to it. Here’s a good thing about videos. There is a
timer. Bob is behind the wheel, he pops the G into drive hits the
loud pedal and two seconds later by the video counter, he is
wrenching the steering wheel and jamming on the brakes. Ok, lots of
sass in the G’s engine!
The next part of this
narrative is a story within a story. One can only say that Jamie
Hyde maybe the most persistent person on earth. Bob Merritt sold a
62 Sport 300 convertible to Carl Bilter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. So,
at this point in time, Jamie has three cars to move. At Bob’s
he loads up the Sport on Monday, June 19 and heads for Carl’s.
On his trip home, he visits Mike Burke and then spends an evening
with John Begian.
On June 23, he arrives at my house to load up the
Ram K, to return home. He sets out for the Lewiston/Queenston Bridge
into the US. He meets up with a nice lady Customs Officer, Flynn.
She tells him there is a problem with the K. Her records tell her
that when I imported the car through the Ambassador Bridge in
Detroit, there was no ITN (International Transaction Number) given to
customs. After three hours she still will not let him go with the
car. She tells him he has three options. 1. Leave the car there
and have it impounded. Impound fees are $300 dollars a week. He
would have thirty days to find the missing paperwork. If the paper
work could not be found, the car would be destroyed. 2. Return the
car to me and leave it up to me to sort it out. That of course would
have meant a second trip to get the car, once the paperwork was
sorted out. 3. He takes the car and goes and sees Flynn’s
counterpart, in DETROIT,
Officer Kubus, to see if the missing ITN number can be found. Jamie
turns around and heads to Detroit. After three hours at customs in
Detroit and telephone consults with Officer Flynn, they allow Jamie
to return to Lewiston. After another hour with Officer Flynn, they
allow him to cross into the US with the car. He is supposed to
investigate and get back with them. Meanwhile, I am unaware of the
situation and Jamie has passed within a few miles of my house, twice.
I know that the lack of having an ITN number is not true. In my
garage, I have a binder documenting the entire transaction of
importing the K into Canada in 2016. I had hired a broker and sure
enough, I was able to give Jamie the ITN number. I remember going
into the Customs Office in Detroit and handing all the paperwork to
the Officer on duty. We weren’t in the office for two minutes,
when he said we were good to go. With the ITN number and an e-mail
to Kubus and Flynn, everybody was happy. Kudos to Jamie for his
dogged persistence. A lesson to Canadians importing cars into
Canada, make sure every I, is dotted and T is crossed and keep a good
record of the importing transaction. So, what went wrong? In my
opinion the Detroit Customs Officer did not add the ITN number into
the computer in 2016. He had the number in his hands!
OK, two down and one to
go. My customs broker had all my paper work completed for importing
the G. I had even prepaid the customs Duty on the car. Jamie and I
agreed to make the trip on June 29. My in-laws drove me in my Grand
Cherokee to a Marriott hotel very close to Jamie’s house the
evening before. We had a visit and dinner with Jamie that evening.
Jamie was to swing by the Marriott in the morning to pick me up and
my in-laws were heading over to Niagara Falls for the day. So early
on the 29th, I got
my first in person look at the G. Love at first sight. Hi ho we are
on our way to Customs. So, after Jamie’s experience with the
K, he knows the entire layout for the US customs office at Lewiston.
We head into the office and it’s a family reunion. There’s
his old pal, Officer Flynn. I hand over my passport and paperwork.
Ten minutes later, she calls us to the office and tells us that she
will inspect the G in the parking lot. Well, I guess that it is not
every day that a 61’ Chrysler 300G shows up at their office.
Every Customs Officer who was on duty, came to check it out. After a
quick look at the Vin tag, and all of the virtues of a 300G, we got
the seal of approval and headed over to Canada Customs. We told the
officer on duty that I was importing the car and that I had a broker,
he assigned another officer to escort us to the importation compound.
I handed my paperwork to the officer there and within 10 minutes we
were good to go, signed sealed and delivered.
We had a great ride to
my house with great conversations all the way home. The G moved into
its new home. Was Jamie done except for the ride home, no way! He
had been talking to Walt Reinecker, a club member from Stratford,
Ontario. Walt owns a Ram K, with mine gone back to the US that only
leaves two in Canada. It seems that Walt was having trouble with one
of his power window motors. Jamie agreed to meet Walt on the way
home. He removed the offending motor and took it with him to repair
it. After repairs, he would send it back to Walt.
I’m saying this
in all sincerity; I don’t think there is a finer club member
and friend then Jamie Hyde!
The next day, I took
all of my paperwork to a Service Ontario office and after paying the
Ontario sales tax, I was given an “unfit” ownership. The
rules had changed since I imported the K. It used to be that the
office would give you a set of license plates with no endorsement
sticker and you would have a couple of weeks to take the car to a
licensed garage and have it pass the mandatory Safety Standards check
over. You do not get a signed Safety Certificate until all necessary
repairs are completed. At that time, you could return to the Service
Ontario office and show them the signed Safety Certificate, they
would give you a “fit” ownership and an endorsement
sticker for your plates. Now, they just give you the “unfit”
registration. You can’t legally drive the car to the garage to
have the Safety Inspection done. Fortunately, the owner of the
garage that was going to do the safety had a Dealer plate.
able to drive the car with that license plate. Well, there are a lot
of good things about the 300G, but also there were a few items that
would keep it from passing the safety. Most of the wheel cylinders
for the brakes were seeping, the idler arm bushing was shot, upper
ball joints were worn out, the steering box had been loose on the
frame and working, which caused a crack in the frame, windshield
wiper blades were shot, no reverse lights, and the exhaust elbows
from the exhaust manifolds to the rams were cracked. John Grady to
the rescue for the exhaust elbows and again when one of the choke
pots were rotted right out. I knew one place where I could get the
rest of the parts that I needed and a parts order was placed with
Atlas Obsolete, on July 7th. While the car was at Bob’s, Jamie
noticed that the rear springs were near their end of life. Weeks
ago, with the help of John Begian and getting the club discount, I
ordered a pair of stock ride height springs and the mounting hardware
from Detroit Eaton. They showed up at the garage and were installed
while the Safety was going on.
Once Atlas gave me a
tracking number for the parts shipment, I began to enter the number
on the USPS web site. At first things were moving through the
various depots in California, until I had a notification that my
parts were in Los Angeles. Then for days, the tracking number showed
no movement, to the point where my frustration overcame me and I went
on E-bay and ordered another set of wheel brake cylinders and another
idler arm bushing from various vendors. Now, at least, I figured my
chances of getting the critical supplies had at least doubled. Of
course, the Atlas package and the E-bay wheel cylinders showed up on
the same day.
Finally, the safety
repairs wrapped up and I went to the inspection garage, picked up my
safety certificate and went to the Service Ontario office, where my
ownership was changed to fit for the road. The last act was to bolt
on my Black Fin license plates, that I had used on my black 300C many
years ago and this concluded a 152 day journey, that saw the car hit
top shelf mechanically. Of course, old car journeys are never ending
and the cosmetic phase is just starting. Right now, Black Fin and I
are not quite ready for prime time.