The end of the '70s was somewhat bleak for performance enthusiasts. Political turmoil, a recessing economy, and a general sense of despair due to inflation and energy problems made things look grim. If you were a Mopar person, the 400 and 440 would disappear in 1979, leaving only the 360 as the big-inch hunter of the day. Chrysler was on the ropes, with declining sales and increased competition from imports. Still, one could buy vintage musclecars pretty cheap due to the second gas crisis of the decade, and for those individuals looking for a new car, some nice machines were available.
While Plymouth's Road Runner and Dodge's R/T (based on the N-Body platform introduced in 1976) models were considered "performance" cars for 1979, the Chrysler lineup also returned to the past with another fabled name, the "300." Now a package on the Ricardo Montalban-promoted Cordoba, many would agree it was a far cry from the premier models that ran from 1955 to 1971, but it was a highlight vehicle from the waning days of the "old" Chrysler Corporation.
The 300 of 1979 started out as a standard SS-platform vehicle which was coded A74 for the RPO. The cars were all painted EW-1 Spinaker White, and began the conversion process with a dcor package that put special "300" emblems on the grille, door panels, taillight lenses, and wheel centers. Red, white, and blue pinstriping down the sides, edging the decklid and around the remote sport mirrors gave the car additional character, while gold "300" numbers were etched into the fixed rear quarter windows with a decorative pad attached beneath the opening. The eggcrate grille was painted black with the 300 medallion mounted to its center instead of the stand-up hood ornament on the Cordoba, and a set of front fender louvers rounded out the exterior. Inside the car, red leather bucket seats were accented by a leather-wrapped steering wheel, factory tachometer package and a gauge package trimmed by an engine-turned dash applique.
Meanwhile, under the bonnet was a 195hp 360, one of the highest ratings that engine ever received from the factory in the post-'75 era. The Torqueflite was put through its paces via an upright shifter mounted in the console, and the 911/44--inch rear directed power out to a set of light aluminum rims. Indeed, part of the 300 package included upgraded suspension and handling pieces, the most obvious being the outline, or raised, white-letter (OWL) Goodyear Radial GT GR60x15 tires.
Nonetheless, Chrysler sales continued to decline, and soon it would be Lee Iacocca's job to secure federal funding to keep the company from going the way of the Packard and the Edsel. Only a little over 3,800 '79 Cordoba 300s left the dealerships, and one buyer was Larry Galaske, whose example is seen here.
A welding engineer by trade, Galaske didn't buy the car until the following year, 1980, paying $6,600 for it from a factory-owned dealership in Niles, Michigan. He knew it was something special, but the car accumulated 62,000 miles as a daily driver for his family, which included winter rides (meaning corrosion damage). In 1987, Larry started locating NOS parts for the 300 to do a proper restoration on it. While there were certainly some pieces available, the limited production numbers and big changes at Chrysler the previous decade meant that many items were now hard to locate. Plus, soon after the car was repainted, he began taking some time to restore a Barracuda with his son, so the 300 project got put on hold. By 1996, once he began working on it again, he knew what he wanted to do.
The '79 300 package was already popular enough that the factory resources were exhausted; by now, even the striping package was being reproduced by the aftermarket. Due to emissions standards for the dual exhaust and catalytic converters, a power seat had been impossible to come by from the factory; Larry was able to retrofit parts to build his own. Also installed during the course of the restoration were power locks, the factory light package, and the rare AM/FM stereo CB outfit and antenna, none of which had been on this machine from the factory. The toughest part was a NOS grille, as the originals are often pitted badly due to the poor materials used at the time.
"I finally located one on the Internet from a guy in a 300 club, who had one NOS in the box. I called him and we were in the middle of making a deal, but with Christmas coming, I didn't have the money," says Larry with a grin. "Then, on Christmas day, I received it gift-wrapped, because my wife had bought it and told this guy to not tell me. It was a great present!"
Of all the items that would wear out, the tires were the most critical. Despite the fact that Chrysler models were trying to save weight at this time, the spares were almost all full size, and Larry spent years tracking down spare tires so he would have brand new vintage rubber on the 300. He now has two full sets. The plastic trim rings and small hubcaps have also proven difficult to find now.
Meanwhile, the driveline was gone through. The open-end 3.23:1 rear was rebuilt and the Torqueflite was freshened up. The motor was solid despite the mileage, so it was basically disassembled, cleaned up, and put back together with little more than new bearings and gaskets. The Thermoquad was super-tuned as well and is also like new.
Now revived to near perfection, this is a 300 that won't want for attention. When we shot these pictures at the Mopar Nationals last year, Larry was in the show field running against 300s that were older by decades, taking a 2nd Place in the process. As the last hurrah for the original Chrysler Corporation, the car is a tribute to what once was and will never be again.