From 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 not two.

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. I was 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.