Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
The Chrysler 300-L was the last of the 300 letter cars - all of which are extremely collectable today. It was available as a two-door hardtop or as a convertible, and was the 11th in a series of performance cars which dated back to the mid 1950s – with Chrysler being the undisputed pioneers in the performance car category. The original 300 was introduced in 1955 with the announcement that it "...was designed to the specifications of motor sports enthusiasts who ... have been asking Chrysler to build an automobile with many sports car characteristics."
Compared with its immediate predecessor, the 300-K, there were several significant changes for 1965. Wheelbase was up two inches, and overall length had grown three inches. Along with the increase in size, the weight was up approximately 200 pounds. The 300-L's styling included thinner rear roof pillars for improved visibility. Exclusive to this car were full-length belt-line mouldings with red paint inserts. These and the 300-L medallions front and rear gave external distinction from the plain 300 series.
Unfortunately Chrysler dropped the 390-hp, 413-inch, dual-four-barrel-carb V8 from the option list. The 360-hp "413" with single four-barrel was all that was offered. Chief variation between the 11 members of the 300-letter series was their states of engine tune, which ranged from brisk to wild. The 300-L's tuning was in the brisk category. It had a smooth idle and absolutely no temperament. It was a big engine, but it also had a big job to do, which reflected in its fuel economy. The variation in fuel consumption between stop-and-go and open-road driving was remarkably small – from a low of around 10 mpg to a high of around 13 mpg.
The 300-L was best on the open highway. That was partly because of its size rather than a lack of agility – as for the era it had very well sorted suspension and quick steering. The Chrysler body was class leading too. Of high quality – you really had to look for the little touches to see why it was so much better than the opposition. During the 1960s Chrysler put a lot of emphasis on the quality of their bodies, both from engineering and manufacturing standpoints. To begin with, they instituted one of the most comprehensive rust-proofing programs ever.
Chrysler protected body sheet metal with a coating of phosphate, three of primer, and two of acrylic enamel. The lower portion of the body, which hid many hard-to-get-at places, was dipped in phosphate and primer to ensure coverage. Splash shields and full front wheelhouses protected vital body parts from moisture and stone nicks. Chrysler backed up this program during manufacture with in-process salt-spray tests, etc., to check the quality and effectiveness of the protective coatings.
The 300-L shared unitized body construction with other Chryslers. In fact, by 1965, the Imperial was the only remaining Chrysler Corporation passenger car with separate body and frame. Chrysler engineers made a massive assault on one problem that had plagued early unitized bodies - panel vibration and sound transmission of road noises. They started with electronic sound-tracing equipment - a sort of electronic stethoscope - and ferreted out the sources and resonances of body sounds. Wherever necessary, they applied asphalt-impregnated pads, wood-fibre blankets, and mastic coatings to deaden sounds and dampen vibrations throughout the body.
While they were at it, they used thick fibreglass blankets and other materials (that had thermal as well as acoustical properties) to keep heat in or out of the passenger compartment. Roof bows and bonnet and boot lid substructures were bonded in place with a semi-hardening adhesive to provide noise control through structural damping. Suspension arm attachments, anti-roll bar brackets, spring mounts, etc., were rubber-bushed to complete the sound isolation. All this added up to a body that would keep its looks, structural integrity, and quietness for a very long time. In fact, it was the exact opposite of planned obsolescence. So you can understand why Chryslers from this era are so highly prized by car collectors today.
Perhaps the Chrysler engineers felt they overdid the silencing job in the case of the 300-L, because they specified an unsilenced air cleaner for the big four-barrel carb. You could readily distinguish the eager gulping of air from all other noises when you accelerated. The dual exhausts, though, were well silenced – which was much more in keeping with the car's general quietness. As with all Chryslers there were plenty of options available. One of the better ones was Order Code 607 – Chrysler speak for the heavy-duty suspension and brake package – which added US$35.95 to the sticker price.
This option was also available on the 300 with the "413" engine and the New Yorker. Many road testers of the time felt that Chrysler really should have made the package standard equipment – as the stiffer suspension components and flared front drums would not have added much to the manufacturing costs, and would have made the stock 300 so much more superior to the competition. But in America during the mid 1960s the emphasis must have been on providing a soft ride, so perhaps they would have lost potential sales.
Auto-Pilot Cruise Control
You could also option the 300-L with a primitive kind of cruise-control, dubbed the “Auto-Pilot”. It was first seen on Chryslers from around 1963. You could use it as a speed reminder or as an automatic speed regulator. When using it as a speed reminder, you would feel an increased resistance on your throttle foot when you reach the pre-set speed. For regulating speed, you needed to pull a button on the speed-setting knob, bring the car up to speed, and the Auto-Pilot took over.
And just as a modern day cruise control system would work, the “Auto-Pilot” would apply more throttle for hills and less when descending grades. The slightest touch on the brake pedal cut out the regulator, letting you slow down normally. It automatically took over again when you resume speed. One of the low-cost options was an inside remove boot release – but unfortunately it was located inside the glove box – and on a car of this size it was probably easier to simply open it from the outside.
Chrysler 300 Performance
The 1955 model 300 (named for its horsepower) was a two-door hardtop on a 126-inch wheelbase, weighing 4350 pounds. The 331-cubic-inch V8 produced 300 hp at 5200 rpm. Stiff springs all around and leather upholstery were standard. It did 0-60 in approximately 10.5 seconds with the standard 3.54 axle ratio and two-speed automatic. At the 1955
Daytona Speed Weeks, a 300 turned in a two-way average of 127.58 mph using a 3.36 axle ratio. This car was a veritable wolf among sheep. None of its contemporaries could come near its performance. In fact, it took sports/racing cars with five-figure price tags to beat it at Daytona. The original 300 and the 300-B also carved names for themselves on the stock car circuits in 1955
But then tragedy. Chrysler abandoned the famed hemispherical combustion chamber design in favour of the wedge with the 300-E. The "E" was equipped with the 413-cubic-inch engine that's been the basic powerplant for all subsequent 300-letter cars, including the "L." But while the 300s engines underwent some changes, the cars themselves held to the original theme: A personal luxury car with more than adequate performance, improved handling without a sacrifice in ride, and no attempt to reduce size or weight. For a larger-than-average passenger car, it came remarkably close to equalling some of the European sports jobs in the area of handling and beat most in sheer speed. 2,405 coupes and 440 convertibles were sold.