Written by: Bradley & Marilyn Teets
July 11, 2001
July 11, 2001
I was born in the late 1950's and grew up in the small Western Maryland town of Oakland. My father figure was my paternal grandfather. He was a Chrysler / Plymouth / Imperial / GMC Truck dealer who opened his business in 1929, just before the depression began. I followed him around everywhere I could and made it a special project to become personally acquainted with almost every new car that came through his small dealership. Until my grandfather's sudden death in 1972, I could identify virtually every car on the road, including its year, model, and most options it had. As we know, with all cars looking so much alike, it is not that easy today.
I always had a love for the big Chryslers, especially Imperials. I did not see many Imperials or 300 “letter cars” in the middle class town in which I lived. Ever since those days, I dreamed of someday owning a restored MOPAR product. Since we moved to Florida in 1999, I have given great thought to getting a classic car. My initial search focused on an Imperial convertible (1957 – 1968) because of the rare nature of these ragtops. I had just about given up on acquiring a good car at a fair price, again because they were so scarce. Most of them were either overpriced or still needed restored, or both.
Recently, my wife happened to find the Speedvision special entitled “The American Muscle Cars: Chrysler 300” while channel surfing. Because she preferred I not get a classic car, she may give up channel surfing in the future. She yelled to me from another room to turn on Speedvision. We watched the remainder of the show, which highlighted the beauty, luxury, speed, and scarcity of the Chrysler 300 cars, especially the “letter series”. Probably in the hope I would be unsuccessful in my efforts, Marilyn decided we should either not get a classic car or should get a Chrysler 300 letter car, with air conditioning, somewhere between 1957 and 1961. It would have to be from “the forward look” and it would have to have fins (love those glorious fins). Because we are avid NASCAR fans, a 300 “letter car” provides a combination of muscle and luxury car.
In an effort to always make my wife happy, I sought to find the ideal car. Through various Internet site searches, I located a number of potential cars. Many of them were either too far away, were too expensive, or needed too much work for our needs (occasional pleasure drives and to enter in local shows, thus allowing me to expand my investment and financial planning practice for those who have similar interest in classic cars). In conjunction with this heightened search for a 300, I began to refresh my knowledge from various web sites about the unique nature and features of the “letter series”. I contacted the Chrysler 300 Club International for a membership application. I received a reply from a very helpful guy name John Hertog. By now, I am sure he wishes he had never responded to my inquiry. I sent in the application immediately and began an ongoing discussion with John about how to select a car, etc. I also learned about his restored 1961 Chrysler 300 G named “Golden” which was originally owned by a doctor living within 50 miles of my hometown.
When I finally found a Chrysler 300 G in Milwaukee that seemed to fit our needs, I sought John's advice. I did not want to travel from Florida to Wisconsin and find the car was not really what it was intended to be. John referred me to Andy Mikonis in Chicago for ideas and a possible inspection of the car, as he is a concourse judge for the 1961 “G”'s. Following E-Mails back and forth with Andy, he suggested I contact attorney Brian Frank who owned a couple “G”'s and who lived close to Milwaukee. I followed Andy's instructions. Brian did a wonderful job evaluating the car and was able to verify that the car in question was solid but probably was not exactly what we were searching for.
Brian understood our desire to find a high quality car. He suggested we compare the car in Milwaukee to a “G” coupe owned by club member, Bill Spear, if it happened to still be for sale. Bill lived in Chardon, Ohio (near Cleveland) so we were then wondering how to check out this alternative car. From speaking with Bill directly, we felt it was a good car. John Hertog and Andy Mikonis expressed their recollection that the Spear car represented an excellent restoration that had been done by Joe James from St. Louis. As the circumstances unfolded, we learned that Bill Spear intended to take his “G” to Plymouth, MI for the spring club meet in mid May 2001. John Hertog, Andy Mikonis and Brian Frank offered their services to evaluate the car in light of my inexperience in judging a 300 “letter series” car and the great distance I was from the car. If their recommendation was positive, we could then go to Cleveland after the Plymouth meet while we were in PA / WV / OH / and MD to meet with clients on our semi-annual “see the clients up north tour”. Also ironic was the fact Bill Spear already intended to travel to Naples, Florida in early June 2001 to retrieve a car that he stored in his home there. That would bring him right through our home in Punta Gorda, Florida with an empty trailer unless we bought his car. If we wanted his car, he would deliver it to us.
To end that phase of our ongoing story, the car was approved by the experts in Plymouth. We saw the car in Ohio and decided to buy it. On June 8, 2001, we took delivery of our “RG”. We have officially named it “The Great White Ray” in honor of my late grandfather, “Ray” Teets. We will constantly be learning how this masterpiece works and how to maintain it, as neither Marilyn nor I are “wrench turners”. We have received and are truly grateful for having received regular advice from John Hertog and other members of the club. It is our goal to keep this car in as good a condition as possible, thanks to their help. We have begun to purchase owners' manuals, sales brochures, and vintage magazine articles to display when showing the car at local events. Most people don't know what a Chrysler 300 “letter car” is so it will be our responsibility to educate them in the fine art and history of the Chrysler 300.
We think this purchase was “meant to be” because of so many facts and events that fell into place which allowed it to happen, including the Plymouth meet, our previously scheduled trip to the area where the car was, and the former owner needing to come our way (about 1,100 miles) with an otherwise empty car trailer. We hope to meet many of the club members through attendance at future club events.