An Automotive Dream Come True For Me,

My 1963 Chrysler 300 J

by Scott Bell

I have only recently gotten my 300 J back in January this year (2016), so this story is really just beginning. My father was a very hard working guy, and was a printer by trade, and eventually was able to open his own print shop in Carson City, Nevada. I grew up being able to watch him at times, working on different printing jobs, and watching him trouble shoot the different printing presses when something went wrong. He had many different pieces of printing related equipment, including an old Linotype machine, and had presses ranging from a Heidelberg (his personal favorite) to an AB Dick 360 offset press, which I still have in storage ( my Dad, Gene, passed away in 2012). Being around my Dad while he was operating these extremely complex machines, and knowing that he was able to diagnose and repair a problem, as well as watching him meticulously maintain these electro-mechanical wonders, gave me a very early and deep appreciation for precise mechanical and electrical engineering. My Dad also loved naval and aviation history, which I also picked up from him. He did like cars also, like so many American guys, although he did not have much patience for them when something went wrong, and was also not much for regular maintenance either, which was very much different than how he treated his printing presses and equipment.

I guess I grew a kind of sympathy for cars at an early age, and wanted to maintain and protect them from neglect and abuse. I have owned over fifty cars since I was a teenager in the mid seventies, and started out with a love for Pontiacs of the sixties/ early seventies, and also really appreciated the Lincoln Continentals of the sixties ( the dark blue sedan that gets crushed in Goldfinger may have also helped my fascination with them, and wanting to protect them, I was only about five or six when I first saw that movie with my parents and sister at the drive in movie theatre).

In 1982, I was discussing old cars with a friend of mine named Pat, and happened to mention a magazine article about Chrysler 300 letter cars that I had read. Pat was and is a Cadillac guy, and GM faithful through and through, but he told me of another young guy that was really into high performance Chryslers, and his dad collected Chrysler 300 letter cars, as well as other makes. After meeting this young Chrysler enthusiast named Jeff, and seeing his cars and his dad's cars, I was really hooked, and have been ever since. His dad had, among many other cars of the fifties, sixties and seventies, a 1957 Chrysler 300 C, a 1959 Chrysler 300 E, and a 1960 Chrysler 300 F. He also had a 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst. I was really impressed with these cars, and felt very special to be able to see such rare and beautiful high performance luxury cars in person. Jeff was also into Mopars, and had a 1962 Chrysler 300 H, a 1970 Chrysler 300 convertible with a factory 440 TNT, as well as many muscle cars, such as a couple of AAR Cudas, a 1970 Challenger R/T, a 1969 Charger 500 SE, and a very rare 1967 Plymouth Belvedere 2 factory 426 Hemi car. Jeff's dad owned a furniture store, so his family had some money, mine did not, and I was only making about five bucks an hour working at Grand Auto in Carson City at the time. In the eighties, these cars were not all that expensive anyway!

My first Mopar was a 1965 Chrysler 300 L that I bought from Jeff. It did not run, and was in need of a total restoration, which I could not afford at all, but I was sure happy to have a Chrysler 300 letter car! I was not making much progress with it, and I could tell that Jeff really wanted to do the restoration on it and get it running, so we made a deal where he took the L back, and I got a 1967 Chrysler 300 two door hardtop from him instead. The 67 was a really nice original car, and the 440 ran really strong. I had my first running driving Mopar, and I loved it so much, I still think about it. I have since owned many Mopars, including a 1970 Charger SE with a factory 383 Magnum, a 1968 Charger R/T, and many C bodies including a 1970 Plymouth Sport Fury GT and a 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst. I am very fortunate to have found/rescued a very rare full size Mopar back in 2009, that I still own today. It is a 1970 dealer demo coded Dodge Monaco 500, with the factory optional 440 with dual exhaust and dual snorkel air cleaner, optional disc brakes, sure grip, FK5 code burnt orange exterior and burnt orange buckets and console shift interior and Gator Grain vinyl top. It was built on the first day of production for the 1970 model year (at the relatively new Belvidere Illinois Plymouth/Dodge C body assembly plant) on August 4th 1969, just a couple of weeks after we landed on the moon!

Out of all the 300 letter cars that I had seen in that article in 1982, the one that really stood out to me was the 1963 Chrysler 300 J. I knew that it was also the rarest of the letter car hardtops, and in those pre internet days, I thought that I would probably never be able to find one, so I tried not to get my hopes up very much. The combination of the last vestiges of the forward look Mopars combined with the new sixties rectilinear contemporary look really fascinated me. What was also very appealing to me was the fact that starting in 62, the 300's were built on the shorter Windsor/Newport chassis, with it's 122 inch wheelbase and a couple hundred pounds less weight. Add on top of that the highest standard horsepower rating of all the 300 letter cars, and what is also considered the highest developed version of the ram inducted engines, with almost the same factory horsepower rating as the GT Special engines of 1960/61/62, but with a higher torque rating than those engines. The fact that the 63 Chrysler's styling was the product of a combination of the last styling efforts of Virgil Exner and his styling team, including Cliff Voss, (the proposed 62 Chrysler and Imperial "S" cars, along with the innovative 1961 Dodge Flitewing experimental car seemed the largest influences) and the newly hired Elwood Engel, who is thought to have had minimal influence on the design as it was too far advanced in form by the time he was hired, is fascinating. It has been written that a worried Chrysler management had asked Elwood Engel what he thought about the final form of the 63 Chryslers, and he is said to have replied that he thought they were "beautiful" and that they had nothing to worry about. As it turned out, he was right, 1963 Chrysler production increased a little over 1962 totals, despite all of the problems at Chrysler Corp. during that time period, most of which were caused by poor management decisions. I am a big fan of both Exner and Engel, and I think that together, they and their styling teams have been responsible from some of the most beautiful American cars ever proposed or produced. I think it is always important to remember that vintage automobiles were styled by a number of people, and not just a single person, it is usually the V.P. of the corporations styling department who seems to get all of the credit.

During the 80's, 90's and 2000's, I felt that if I ever could find a 300 J that I could afford that would also be in reasonably good condition, I wanted it to not have air conditioning, have factory dual outside rear view mirrors, and have the deluxe signal seeking " seven button" AM radio with power antenna and rear seat speaker. My second hobby other than vintage cars is vintage audio/stereo equipment and it's history. Part of audio history is the history of automotive radios and other sources that became available as technology progressed. After the hiway hi-fi record players of the late fifties, other than the addition of a few monophonic FM/AM radios becoming available, not much happened with car audio. What changed things for people who wanted to be able to bring their own music with them out on the road, away from radio station reception, in a safe, usable convenient form, was the continuous loop magnetic tape cartridge. Thanks to Earl "Madman" Muntz and his engineers, the "Fidelipac" 4 track tape cartridge player, adapted from the newly developed radio station NAB Cartridge player and tapes, became available for automotive and home use. This was before the Bill Lear developed 8 tracks, which were inferior in sound quality, and did not come out until 65/66. The connection with a 63 Chrysler 300 J, for me, is the fact that the very first production run of Muntz's new 4 track players became available in 1963, under the name of Autostereo. These first run units were not only engineered by Muntz, they were also built to very high quality standards in Van Nuys, California. They were quite expensive, especially the top of the line units, and it is known that the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, etc. were some of the first people in SoCal to take advantage of this new technology for their cars. I have one of Autostereo's top of the line units, an MC8, and it will be installed in my 300 J.

My dream of owning a J finally happened just earlier this year. I found it for sale right here on the club website. It is factory equipped just as I hoped I could find one, and the price and condition were just right for what I could afford. It came from Hays, Kansas, and I can track it's lineage back to 1999 in Alliance, Nebraska. Before that, I do not have any info, but it is in pretty remarkable original condition, with a mixture of original paint and some repainting done. A small amount of rust repair will be done to the very bottom tuck under of the rear quarter panels, and a couple of other really minor rust spots, but other than that, it is really solid, nice and original. There are some things about this particular J that are kind of interesting, over and above just being one of the greatest American high performance luxury cars ever. I was quite surprised to find the original exhaust head pipes were still there, along with the factory cast iron headers. Somewhere along this cars life experiences, but quite some time ago, someone welded in a pair of exhaust cut outs, complete with removable block off plates, into the original head pipes, which still have the factory cross over pipe. I also noticed that someone had welded in some thick metal gussets to reinforce the front spring eye mounting perch areas for the rear springs. I think, some time in the past, probably in the 60's sometime, this car was raced some. It still has the original engine block and heads, but the engine was rebuilt some time ago. It runs really well, although I think the camshaft is a little hotter than stock, and it is a solid lifter cam, as original. The original Carter AFB 3505S carburetors were unfortunately missing. In their place are a pair of 3705SA's, which are the large 750CFM AFB's that came on the 63/64 426 Max Wedge engines. I have only been able to find one 3505S so far, but I will keep looking! The factory air cleaners and breather cap were also missing, but in their place are some very old, probably 60's vintage, chrome aftermarket pieces, which are very cool. I will buy a pair of the repro original air cleaners when I can afford to. Vintage speed equipment of any kind is getting pretty popular with collectors, and prices seem to be going up accordingly. I also installed a 60's vintage 80 PSI Stewart Warner oil pressure gauge, along with a early 60's vintage engraved chrome bracket. I am still in the process of going through the brakes and suspension, so I have not driven it much yet. What really amazes me, is the way it sounds and drives, you would really think that it has one of those Max Wedge "orange monsters" under the hood ( and, going by the stock factory ratings, it is only 25 hp off from the "regular" max wedge, and actually has 5 ft-lbs. more torque! ), and you are totally not expecting that, surrounded by all of that beautiful chrome and leather luxury! When tuning and balancing the dual quads, and dealing with the awesome dual point, cable drive tachometer distributor, looking at the factory shop manual supplement specifications and procedures and following them, I am reminded of how my dad must have felt, dealing with complex precisely engineered machinery when working on his Heidelberg printing press. I do love vintage high performance engineering! It is a great and rewarding hobby, especially working on and driving a Chrysler 300 letter car. It just does not get any better, maybe working on a Pratt & Whitney R2800 Double Wasp in a P47D Thunderbolt and then being able to fly it, yes, maybe that might just better it!