I Like It Like That
by Paul Zeigler

from the Summer 1984, Volume X, Number IV Club News

Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul . . . . Zeigler. Well it wasn’t really midnight and I wasn’t on my way to warn anybody of an impending attack; but a battle of sorts did occur.

I was driving home on the freeway last week in my 300E, minding my own business, when a Pontiac Trans-Am, whose driver was old enough to know better, passed me at an inordinate rate of speed. Now under most driving circumstances, I’m a mild-mannered reporter in horn-rimmed glasses, slouched behind the wheel of a six banger Dodge station wagon, cruise control dialed in at 55, legal eagle. But sometimes I do duck into a nearby garage and emerge wearing a 300E or some other glorious relic from Chrysler Corporation’s high-performance history. In brief, I closed distance between the Screaming Chicken and myself and when I saw him accelerate, I let the E have it. I needn’t bore you with the gory details. You know, I came away again marveling not only at the size of the literal gap between the two automobiles that occurred after about ten seconds, but also, at the gap between the performance capabilities of these old beasts that we love, preserve and drive and anything else on the road today. What was true in 1956 or 1959 or 1965 is the same now: In its element a 300 Letter car is unmatched.

For a long time, I wanted a Chrysler 300 and for a long time my favorites were the ram-inducted wedges; the great 300FS, Gs, Js and Ks. For maximum high speeds the hemi-powered cars are without peer among the 300s, but to an old drag racer like me, the mystique of the ram 300s was irresistible. So, when I could, I bought my first 300, an F, nearly ten years ago. It was followed by a J and a G. From my experience with those cars, I learned a good many things about automotive restoration and owning automobiles in general. One thing I learned in particular about ram Chryslers is that exoticism (in manifolding as in a lot of other things) carries a price that one might not be willing to pay.

I sold the F to buy a J which looked like a good bet. The car was bewitched! What ever could have been wrong or could go wrong, was and did. With springs and transmission cases and driveshafts littering the road behind me, I bailed out of the J as any rational person would have done. I found a G and not just any old G. Engineless, it was my favorite flavor, black, with just (no misprint) 32,000 original miles. I bought it and committed my life, fortune and sacred honor into turning it into a killer. The plan was this: I had retained the Js original engine and after a lengthy consultation with Vic Mills, my friend, mechanic and junkyard compatriot, we decided to go the distance with it. Which is to say, 500 horsepower after an overbore to bring it to 426 cubic inches, a 290-degree intake duration, solid lifter cam with .550 thousands lift, radius seat valve job and attendant head work. TRW forged pistons, double roller timing chain, hemi oil pump and seven quart sump, windage tray, battleship springs, and so on and so on. Naturally we retained the J’s short rams. If your going to crack 150 and run with a well tuned C or D, a wedge needs all the help it can get.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ol’ speed shop - - up popped the E.

Chrysler’s 300E has always intrigued me. Unlike some, I am not put off by its modified trim and styling. Personally, I always considered the changes to be interesting, rather then offensive variations on a beautiful theme. Its scarcity, luxury, performance and special character as the first of the wedges and the last representative of the stunning 1957 Exner styling make the fifth Letter Car unique. I never really intended to have an E, but it became available and my catalyst was Vic.

We had found it a couple of years before and I had seen it in storage several times. It had been repainted Parade Green in 1957. Its state of preservation was as good as the G’s; and it had but 67,00 miles under its belt. Now, as Vic, informed me, due to non-payment for storage by the owner, it would be auctioned off along with six other desirable 300s * by the County Sheriff. If our previous talks about the G’s engine had been lengthy and serious, our conversation about the E was profound. Of course, I wanted it. As with any true 300 nut my insanity propels me to want them all. But my fondness for the E and the potential of this particular car convinced me that Vic had indeed shown me the way to my salvation. The vision actually appeared to me as we were out in his 300C. After hearing me agonize over the G, Vic simply said, “Listen, you want the E, and you have the engine for it. Sell the G body and I will drop the engine with the in-line quads rather then the ram setup, into the E. What you will end up with is the world’s fastest 300E.” Simple. Possible. Irresistible. We pulled into the nearest Burger King and a couple of Whoppers later, had our strategy. The E’s original engine was fine. I’d keep it for future reference. Jim Wright of Baker-Wright Automotive in Elyria, Ohio, a Chrysler freak from the last ice age, who had done the machining on the engine, supplied me with a ’62 Dodge truck aluminum Torqueflite. Vic’s father, Bill, a Michelangelo with a Binks spray gun, restored the original Turquoise-grey finish. Late in the autumn of 1983, I was back on the streets again.

I know what some of you are thinking; it isn’t dead stock, so it isn’t right. True enough in part. Stock it is not, but it is right enough for me. My 300 philosophy (such as it is) and that of Vic Mills and a good many others is that these marvelous old Chryslers are meant to be driven. More than that, they’re meant to be driven as their creators intended; swiftly and well. In their day they could clean house on any erstwhile competition and that day is not completely past. Plenty of Porches, Mercedes, turbocharged, fuel-injected, electronically-monitored econoboxes and a few diehard Stingrays and Mach 1 Mustangs are about to learn that essential lesson. SOON!

  • Other cars that were auctioned with the E -- a black C300, a black C coupe, a red D convertible, a Terra-cotta F coupe, a black F convertible and a red G convertible.

Thanks to Bill Elder (Wild Man of the North) for preparing this article