As motorheads, we often disregard comfort for speed. Nonetheless, some of Chrysler's best-known "performance" cars were the luxurious 300 "letter" machines. In the June '01 issue of Mopar Muscle, the article "Weighing Your Options" spoke highly of certain performance C-Bodies. As a result, we received an e-mail from Jon Lanegran of Newport, Minnesota, telling us about his dad's '64 Chrysler 300K. Jon's father Mike and Mike's uncle David had a clean machine, to be sure, but what really got our attention was the fact that this one was equipped with a four-speed.
Let's face it, most buyers of land yachts like 300s weren't pedal pounders. The 300 series was for bankers and brokers, not street guys or gearheads. While no one knows whether it was a rich heiress spinster who didn't trust the new-fangled TorqueFlite or a family man reliving his youth, the fact remains that this came off the assembly line with three pedals and a long arm coming through the floor. Though rarely selected, in 1963 and 1964 you could option a four-speed transmission for your C-Body in place of the standard automatic or three-speed box, but most were TorqueFlites.
When the 300-model line was conceived, it wasn't directly marketed to the masses. The high price resulted in limited production, and 300s were out of financial reach for most people. The first Chrysler 300 was introduced to the public in mid-January 1955 and, despite its size, was marketed to compete with the Corvette and the Thunderbird. With the style of full leather seats, the Windsor model-provided trim, and the dependability and power of the Hemi engine, this plan put the car on the map. For a "mere" $4,110 (when a month's salary of $200 was considered big money) you too could own a brand-new Chrysler 300 with the 331 engine that produced 300 hp, which is how the name came about in the first place. Using this model, Chrysler began its domination of the fledgling NASCAR and AAA stock car racing circuits as well, a legacy for the company. The Chrysler letter cars continued from this starting point, with the '56 model called the 300B, the '57 called the 330C, and so on. By 1964, the next-to-the-last 300 letter car emerged, which was the featured 300K model; the '65 300L would end a decade of luxury performance designs in this lineup.
Unfortunately, things were already changing by the time the K-model arrived on the scene. While the four-speed could be ordered as mentioned, the 150-mph speedometer and tachometer were no longer standard fare, and the true cowhide-leather interior was now an above-cost option. The 300 came in two- and four-door configurations, as well as in a convertible design, which was a whopping $4,522, though only $466 more than the hardtop model.
The Chrysler 300K shown so nicely here was once a "steed gone to seed." Mike and David found the luxo liner literally "out to pasture" in a farmer's cow field. Deciding that this version of the proverbial "glue factory" was too much to bear, the Lanegrans bought the car for the princely sum of only $450, approximately one tenth of its original price. There was a reason for that, of course, and the work began in earnest to repair it. For starters, the vast amount of damaged and decaying sheetmetal was repaired and replaced by Wreck Brothers Auto in Minneapolis, then covered in a factory-matching Royal Ruby hue in a basecoat/clearcoat combination. Some of you may notice the absence of the fender mirror; this particular car never had one, nor did it have back-up lights (guess the buyer had a wraparound driveway, a garage that opened at both ends and never drove at night!).