Ken Hawkins of Paden City, West Virginia, may think of his '69 Chrysler 300 as a "sleeper," but the big, blue C-Body opened a lot of eyes at the '03 Mopar Nationals.
"In May 2000, I bought this car from the estate of the original owner," Ken says. "Even though the car had sat for several years, it was a nice survivor with only 25,800 miles on it. The 300 was all original, complete, and, most importantly, rust-free. It was not the kind of car that I was looking for, but it was different, and I like different. I offered $3,000 for the car and the owners accepted."
When Ken got the car home, he found it wasn't as rust-free as he thought. But, with some replacement parts and a little tweaking, he was able to get it running in no time.
"With the 300 sitting for so long, condensation had caused the inside of the gas tank to rust," he says. "Unable to find a new one, I found a nice, used tank and a new sending unit from Brad's NOS Parts in South Carolina. After replacing the tank, fuel lines, and carburetor, the 440 engine ran fine. I decided to install new valve seals, timing chain, and gears, and a Mopar Purple Shaft cam with .484 lift and 284 degrees to make it sound good." Ken decided to leave the engine alone for a while, rebuild the body, and then drive the car that way for summer, before finally finishing the whole project.
"To start the ground-up restoration," Ken says, "the car was disassembled to the bare body shell. The original paint was sanded down to bare metal. After priming and block-sanding, I painted the body piece-by-piece to make sure paint got into all the nooks and crannies. All the suspension parts were disassembled, sandblasted, and painted with Eastwood detail paints. The underside of the front inner fenders was also painted with POR-15, and after 6,000 miles, there are no rock chips in them. The car was covered with DuPont Chromabase Intense Blue Metallic basecoat, followed by four coats of clear. It was then color-sanded and buffed to a deep shine. I also installed a new black vinyl top and a new windshield."
When the painting was finished, Ken reinstalled the original interior. He restored the dashpad using the Fadeaway kit from Just Dashes, and the dash clock was rebuilt by Year One. "I removed the stock shifter from the column and installed a Lokar 12-inch floor-mounted shifter," Ken says. "I also installed a small sun tach and oil-pressure, water-temperature, and volt gauges under the dash. The original spare tire still has the blue protective coating on the whitewall, and it looks brand new. I relocated the battery to the trunk using a Moroso battery box."
The bumpers were rechromed by Leonard's Plating in St. Albans, West Virginia, while the door handles, mirror, and several small metal pieces were sent to Advanced Plating in Nashville.
"At first, I restored the engine compartment to look stock, fully knowing that I could never leave it that way," Ken says. "I drove the 300 from May to September 2002, putting about 4,000 miles on it. The old 440 ran good, but I wasn't happy with it. I needed more power. It takes a lot to move a 4,200-pound car.
"I thought a stroker would be the way to go. I contacted Ray Barton, and I decided on a 493 stroker balanced rotating assembly. Ray also had Cam Motion grind a cam to his specs. It's a mild cam, but it still sounds real good and it has huge low-end torque. The block was sent to Fowler Engines in Columbus, Ohio, for all machine work. Mark Stewart of Stewart Performance in Mineral Wells, West Virginia, built the engine. Mark specializes in Mopar truck-pulling engines and really knows his stuff."
Even though Ken has painstakingly restored this C-Body, he can still enjoy it on the road, having racked up 6,000 miles on the big ship since he's owned it.
"The 300 draws a lot of attention at car shows," Ken says, "maybe because it is so different. I hardly ever see another C-Body at local shows. The car took First Place in its class at the '03 Mopar Nats. It's a good highway cruiser that anyone could drive, but when you nail the gas, you'd better hang on. It's a real sleeper."