Throughout his life my Father,
Robert E. Dupin Jr., was known for two things; being very pro-Chrysler and having a very heavy right foot.
He was so pro-Chrysler
that at work his nickname was “Walter Chrysler” Dupin.
His big dream in life was to own a Chrysler Imperial. But one night,
fate dealt him a hand that would change all that.
We routinely made trips from
Louisville to Cincinnati to pick up my Grandfather, a dinning car
steward for the L & N Railroad. His train would lay over in
Cincinnati for the night and deadhead in empty the next day. This
way he would beat the train home and sleep in his own bed at night.
So one night we headed up to
Cincinnati in my father’s 1951 Chrysler New Yorker four door
sedan. He had had this hemi-powered Chrysler flat out like all of
the ones before it and all the ones to follow it. By the Stewart
Warner tach, all it had was 5,500 RPM and 127 MPH.
Right outside LaGrange KY, on old
U.S. 42, we were held up for about 30 minutes because of an accident
on the road. As we started back down the road again, a white ’55
Chrysler raced by us. My father, not being one to back down from a
challenge, gave chase. Heck, he had driven that road on numerous
times over the years and knew every crook and bend in it and how fast
he could press his car through them. We chased this car, he called a
300, all the way to Cincinnati and we never did catch it. Being only
eight years old at the time, I didn’t know what a 300 was; but
I would find out later. I just knew it was the first and only time
that my father had been outrun on the highway and I had cheered him
all the way.
I noticed one change in him after
that; he no longer wanted an Imperial after that episode. He now
wanted a 300. Whatever that was.
I found out on August 19, 1960. Why
do I remember the date so well? Well, August 18th is my
birthday and I had a group of my buddies over to spend the night and
see a movie. We were still up when my father came home after working
the late shift at the post office; talking about this 300 that he had
found and how he was going to check on it the next morning. We all
wanted to go with him. That’s just what he needed! A group of
young boys with him. He out-foxed us all and was up at 6 AM and was
at the lot before it opened. It turned out that he had not only
out foxed us but two other prospective buyers of the white 300D
coupe. He now owned a first edition of Chrysler’s Firepower
hemi and the last. He had traded his "back and forth to work" $50 ’49
DeSoto Club Coupe in on a new love. One that would win out to be the
love of his life.
A love that
came with a heritage. The car’s previous owner had been Susan
Hayward, the movie actress. She had married a doctor and
semi-retired and moved to the South. The manager of the car lot had
bought it at auction for transportation home from his vacation.
Hence the car ended up in Louisville, Kentucky. The car had some
small stains in the headliner and in the center of the driver’s
seat -- stains that everyone speculated was from a bottle of bubbly being
opened after some movie premiere or something.
But he hadn’t bought it for
any of these reasons. He bought it for the way it ran and drove.
Now I could sit here for hours and expound on his adventures with
this car and all of the 300s that followed it. The 328 mile trips
to Springfield, Illinois that were made in 4 hours flat. Or one trip
from Springfield to Madison, Wisconsin in one hour. The return trip
was accomplished in the same time. Or the tale of the hitch hiking
sailor who after seeing the speedometer hit the 150 MPH mark and go
past, decided that he would get out at the next town.
But all of these are just stories
compared to the landmark part in the birth of this club that the car
was to play a part in. For it was this same white 300D Coupe that a
group of 300 “nuts’ from Michigan spotted when rolling
into our fair city. A sighting that led to the birth of the Chrysler
300 Club International.
I like to think that Susan smiles
when she looks down on us and remembers her days with this car. I
also like to think that she loved this car as much as my Dad did.