(first posted 9/26/2011) If you didn’t know, this is what a “Plucked Chicken” looks like. No longer the wild roosters of The Forward Look, the next-to-last Chryslers that Virgil Exner doodled up are a delightfully whimsical bunch of beasts to feast your eyes upon. And due to some name debasement, the Mighty 300 could now be had on a Windsor budget!
Chrysler didn’t always have three or four models comparable to Buick, the most direct rival of Walter P.’s namesake brand. For a time around the introduction of the Hemi, the Saratoga took over the Super 88/Buick Century type role of having the large V8 in the smaller Windsor chassis. It disappeared in 1953 only to return for 1957. When it reappeared for 1957, it was more Buick Super themed: Bigger bodied and lesser trim, just a whole lot of Chrysler for your money. This lack of identity for what was once the “sporting” Chrysler allowed it to fade away after 1960.
In 1961, a pair of crazy eyed Chryslers performed double homicide: The new Newport stabbed the DeSoto line in the back and out of existence. Meanwhile the Windsor bumped off the Saratoga and stood into its old slot in the Chrysler hierarchy. Which is ok, The Windsor would soon get what was coming to it.
There was one name that held a remarkable amount of brand cachet for Chrysler in the early 1960s that even the oddest styling couldn’t slander. That was the vaunted 300 “letter series” models, which proved to be some of the most fearsome cars available throughout the late 1950s through the early 1960s. What other cars could possibly out accelerate and out handle Corvettes while having appointments that rivaled those of Cadillacs? From the United States, the only answer to that question was with the 300.
But why didn’t the 300s sell in any significant volume? Besides “being Chryslers” (for better and worse all at the same time), they were prohibitively expensive. A 1960 model started at $5,411, which put it well into Cadillac DeVille or Imperial territory. Also the Ram Induction 413s weren’t all that adept to average suburban driving and wanted to be flogged in an S&M kind of way that frightened most drivers in 1960. Frisky behavior would soon become acceptable in Corvairs and Imports, because they were different. But love of Sado-Masochistic Big Blocks would be about 2 years and a Beach Boy Song away.
When Chrysler saw Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick crafting bucket seat bombs in varying degrees of success with the Ventura package, Starfire and Invicta, Chrysler decided to upstage all of them in 1962 by giving those three magic numbers a wider swath of the market.
Available as a 4 Door Hardtop, a 2 Door Hardtop Coupe and a convertible (some pillared sedans may have been made as well), these “regular” 300s had most (if not all) of the trim of the 1962 Letter 300. But there were some key differences, mostly in the engine room. For one, the base engine was the 383 with 305 Horsepower. And the long list of standard equipment over in the letter series was optional or not available in the Sport version. Even then, performance wasn’t anything to sneeze at, as the 383 and Torqueflite were one of the best powertrain combinations out of the United States at the time.
None of the powertrain refinement could make up for that funny face that first appeared (cockeyed) in 1961. Although not the first American car with such a dubious headlamp arrangement (honors there go to the 1958-60 Lincoln models) there’s something whimsical, puzzling and endlessly fascinating about the face of these Chryslers.
I have a few theories on how Virgil Exner came up with this face. The more positive one is that he took the 1959 300F face and thought “How can I show how powerful that new ram induction 413 is? Slant the headlamps around the grille so it looks like the engine is strong enough to warp the sheetmetal!” My other theory is that he left a 1960 Styling clay in the sun too long and the front of it melted into this position and he called it a wrap.
As wild as these could be, full sized American automobile styling was going a decidedly different route by 1962. Both Ford and General Motors were ironing crisp creases in all of their offerings while Mopar decided to continue bulging at the seams. The whole Mopar family looked like a stylish 1962…in an alternate universe, otherworldly kind of way.
All of this effort gave the non-letter 300s a grand sales total of slightly over 25,000 cars. A significant amount more than any letter 300’s production, and it bested by more than 10 times the volume of Buick’s new Wildcat coupe. But, even with that respectable showing, it trailed the one model only debut of the Grand Prix, or the total sales of the quite pricey Starfire line for 1962. Thus from our 20/20 vantage point, the non-letter 300’s seem like a complete failure. When a competitor that costs nearly $1000 more than you (in 1960s Money) handily outsells you by 15,000 units, there’s got to be something wrong.
So out with the funny headlamps, and a re-appropriation of what was supposed to be the S-Series Imperial to the Chrysler line up for the “Pacesetter” 1963 300 Sports. Decidedly less weird (and pretty handsome), they didn’t sell any better than the 1962 models, despite having the honor of being the Indianapolis 500 pace cars that year. These cars’ poor reception speaks more to the damaged reputation Chrysler was dealing with in the early 1960s than the viability of the cars.
Although premium models, they didn’t carry the cachet of a Buick, or even an Oldsmobile. My Great Grandmother was one of the Chrysler faithful, dutifully trading in a New Yorker every 5-7 years (depending on durability) until 1987. My mother still reminisces in disgust how they used to cower in the back seat of her 1963 New Yorker, because it wasn’t as well regarded as the Ninety Eights, Deuce and a Quarters or even the Mercury Park Lanes the other church ladies drove to Sunday Services. About 4 years ago, I threatened to buy a 1964 New Yorker on Craigslist just for fun. She threatened to disown me.
Which is shameful. With few reservations these flamboyantly definned rides of a bygone era deserve more respect for marching to a different drum, quickly.
This may be my favorite Mopar car from the 1960-64 era, except for maybe the 62-64 Imperial. Even the front doesn’t look so bad with that 300 crosshair grille. There is something in the proportions and tasteful sculpting that was so often lacking at Chrysler during the first half of the 60s. The 63-64 Dodge 880s cleaned got rid of the canted headlights, but you lost those great taillights of the 62 Chrysler.
Sadly, it seems that the only 62s we ever saw in the midwest were beige Newport sedans driven by elderly couples. A Fabulous find!
I too remember these cars as under-appreciated even in the 60s. At the time I remember being unable to see it as anything but “the car with the missing fins”, because the front end still looked basically the same. But all these years later I kind of prefer it a bit over the finned versions of previous years. It’s satisfyingly quirky without being pretentious. 🙂
The ’63-’64s were arguably more tasteful, but I find them disappointingly bland after the adventurous styles of ’56-’62.
“Otherwordly” is an accurate term for the look of the Mopar offerings in this era. The face of that ’61 appears maniacal and repellant. Evidently judging by the sales figures, many people felt the same.
Even as a very young child in the mid to late ’60’s, I thought this line-up was strange…and suspicious of the people who drove them. Why would they choose such a repulsive looking automobile? Were they crazy?
Chrysler may have lost a generation of customers as a result.
Well done as always Laurence.
“Why would they choose such a repulsive looking automobile? Were they crazy?”
Having just spent about 20 minutes totally stuck lusting over that pic with all the ’62 Mopars, this cracked me up. 🙂
My mother, who never forgot anything, somehow forgot the year or so she had what in my, and anyone else in the family’s opinion, the ugliest car she ever had, a ’63 New Yorker in a very strange sort of turquoise color, with matching interior. She even denied ever driving such an ugly car, until I found a pic I had taken of it parked in the garage. She finally went, “Oh that ugly thing!”. She had remembered it, but thought it was a loaner when the ’60 New Yorker was in for a long attempt at fixing it’s never ending electrical issues. The ’63 made it through one winter before it was gone, replaced by a baby blue ’64 Cadillac Sedan De Ville. The Caddy stayed 3 years, about as long as my parents kept a car, replaced by a ’69 Lincoln that my dad hated so much he traded his brother straight up for a ’69 Sedan De Ville after about 2 weeks. My dad wrecked the ’69 when he passed out and took out a power pole, knocking out power to most of the South end of Toledo. His brother didn’t crash his, he asked for change for the coke machine at their store, lit his cigar while the little cup of coke was filling, and dropped dead, almost 24 hours after my dad had suggested he do exactly that after they got into it when my 2 uncles got together and decided to “retire” my dad from the family business due to his health issues. We didn’t tell him for a couple of days, until his condition had improved. He felt pretty guilty about it..
I know this is an old comment, but boy, that’s a short story packed into a paragraph right there.
I always liked the “62 Chryslers. The back was a definite improvement over the fins of the “61”s and I kind of liked the canted headlights. My grandfather had a “61 New Yorker and I remember as a little kid being fascinated by the “Astrodome” gauge cluster. The “63 Dodge 880 has the cleaned up front, but fairly similar taillights to the “62 Chrysler with round lenses instead of lenses extending up and over the top of the fender. Of course with the 880 you didn’t get the Astrodome gauges.
How many Were sold Against The Pontiac Catalina ? I Forget The car went strait thru to the 64s 880s.
i love reading about the cars i have forgotten. these were driven by mr. brewster , oil co, in beverly hillbillies b/w episodes iirc.
Apparently, I can;t post more than one picture at a time. Here’s the Astrodome gauges:
I have to say, one thing all Mopars had going for them in the early 1960s were absolutely fascinating dashboards. The only non Mopar dash that really gets me going from this period is the 1960-61 Buick “Mirror-Magic” cluster.
The 1965 brought back the same type of panel and it lasted for a couple of years:
It was “electroluminescent”.
btw, the 1961 basically flipped the 1960 grill. And the headlights fit that way.
Chrysler severely cheapened the panel in 1967:
The 1967 instrument panel doesn’t seem cheap to me at all, especially when you compare it to the panels from the 70’s. This one is still a work of art compared to the panel from the 1977 model of the same car.
Less busy, certainly, but not cheap. That textured metal swathe across the upper portion looks very upmarket, especially combined with the bright metal below it. The overall appearance is much more modern, and must have looked futuristic for 1967.
That’s not to deny the appeal of the earlier design. I love it. But it really was dated by ’67, and Chrysler did well to change it.
Are driver-education simulators still a thing? The kind that look like a fancy videogame arcade setup with a real seat, dashboard, and steering wheel taken from a production car, as you watch the “road” on a movie screen? The first ones I ever saw had the 1965-66 Chrysler dashboard and steering wheel, and I remember thinking how cool they looked. By the time I reached 10th grade, the driver-ed classroom had simulators with a 1975-76 Caprice dash and wheel, with a strip of warning lights above and behind the dash that came on if you didn’t apply the pedals or steering wheel correctly. I searched for pics online but can’t find many.
Is there a higher resolution photo of that dash somewhere? I couldn’t find one in a search.
“My mother still reminisces in disgust how they used to cower in the back seat of her 1963 New Yorker, because it wasn’t as well regarded as the Ninety Eights, Deuce and a Quarters or even the Mercury Park Lanes the other church ladies drove to Sunday Services.”
This is a hoot! Would kids today make any such distinctions among upper-middle-priced sedans? If a dad pulled up to the high school in my Subaru-and-SUV town in a wire-wheel-covered 90s Buick, there might be some cowering.
Great write-up, Laurence. If I had to choose I’d take a ’61 over a ’62, I like my ugly ducklings with wings.
My mom (still) further rants when she thinks about how expensive the New Yorker was. “Why not just buy a Cadillac or Lincoln?” She thinks now in hindsight. But my Great Grandmother bought a used 1949 New Yorker and nothing was better than it in the world. Seeing how she managed to skip all of the bad years of the Forward Look it’s easy to understand her loyalty (the 49 got replaced with a 1956 that was totaled in 1962, hence the 1963, then traded in for a 1971, which given stories about the fuselage models explains why it was “closely” followed by a 1976 “almost” Imperial New Yorker (Double Money Green with a white Vinyl top and a Sunroof, that one was awesome).
The last one was a 1987 Fifth Avenue in all kinds of poo brown. But I guess today there’s just really 2 rungs, your workaday brands from Chevrolet through Toyota, and then your premium ones. Like the lack of a middle class today, there’s no middle market brands. Maybe one has something to do with the other…
FWIW, I liked the looks of the canted headlight Mopars better than the Lincolns that preceded them. As a young child, I was fairly familiar with these Mopars, as our neighbors had one. Maybe it wasn’t until later that I saw these Lincolns and thought the styling odd on those cars. But not on the Chrysler models…
As time goes on and I read more about the development of these cars, I’ve come to realize how strange they must have seemed at the time of their release. To me, they were just part of the background noise growing up, I never gave their styling much thought.
Regardless, I still think they’re cool.
I agree. The Chryslers were much cleaner than the Lincolns and Continentals, but then you could say that about almost any car versus those big beasts. It’s almost as if the Lincoln stylists decided to sabotage the make after the cancellation of the Mark II.
Non-letter 300s were a complete failure? Eh. Stand-alone, middle-tier nameplates never did all that well among the premium brands to the degree that they largely disappeared by the late-60s. And didn’t the 300 survive the longest? I suspect that was because the 300 developed a more distinct personality than the likes of the utterly forgettable Montclair, Delmont, Ventura, etc.
Also remember that in 1962 Pontiac was the hot brand, and the Grand Prix was its pre-GTO halo model. Why wouldn’t you expect the Grand Prix to sell better, particularly given how badly Chrysler was doing?
Perhaps one reason the 300 never took off in sales is that its image was confused. The name was derived from a high-performance coupe, but it was also offered in a four-door version — which generated a goodly chunk of sales. In those days, two-door-only nameplates had more cache.
Oldsmobile Super 88. It was around from 1951 through 1964. I wouldn’t consider that a failure. The Jetstar/Delmont was the base Eighty Eight sub-series. And the Delta Eighty EIght successor to the Super was pretty successful in being the middle tier model until it became the base model when the Delmont disappeared.
The dominant trend in the late-60s and early-70s was for premium brands to either eliminate distinct mid-tier nameplates or replace them with additional trim variants of the entry-level nameplate.
What follows are the last years that the following nameplates were produced: Mercury Montclair (1968), Chrysler 300 (1971) and Buick Centurion (1973). In addition, the base Oldsmobile Delmont was eliminated in 1969 in favor of the formerly mid-tier Delta 88, which was available in base, Custom and Royale trim.
The brand that bucked this trend the longest was Pontiac, which in 1971 replaced the Executive with the Bonneville – which, in turn, became second fiddle to the Grand Ville. That lasted through 1975, when the Grand Ville was discontinued and Pontiac offered only two nameplates: Catalina and Bonneville (the latter in base and Brougham versions).
As you can see from the above list, I was wrong that the 300 lasted the longest.
Quite frankly, I thought these were handsome cars. In those days, Chryslers were the choice of men who covered a lot of ground swiftly, such as successful salesmen and professional men who traveled. The father of a close friend purchased a new ’62 Chrysler, and I found it damned impressive. I was too young to drive, but I understood what a big, confident, fast cruiser meant – determination, drive and a uniquely American spirit that is now receding into the past. I miss these cars, and I miss the era that gave rise to them.
You make an interesting point. I owned a 59 Plymouth Fury in the late 70s, and I found it to be a very “manly” car. The steering wheel was thick, as were the door handles and all the controls. The seat cushions were long and went out to near my knees, and the car just seemed to “fit” a typically sized male very well. The GM cars of the era had much thinner steering wheels, daintier door handles and controls, and just seemed “prettier” in a way to impress the ladies. I am sure that this is one of the several reasons that GM outsold Chrysler so badly. I am sure that wives always had a fair say in what kind of car was purchased. In the early 60s, Chrysler just seemed to be the cars you would get if a bunch of engineers designed cars for themselves. They left styling to those who cared (with some occasionally unfortunate results), and assumed that the guys assembling them would do it like the engineers would.
I liked mopars mainly for the drivetrains. From the very first hemi to the mid 70s when the big engines began to disappear, Mopars had superior drivetrains. You were basically buying a car with a one ton truck drive train when you bought an Imperial. Who else but Chrysler would spec a luxury car with a Dana 60 rear end?? Who else but Chrysler made cars with wheel wells as big as a pickup truck?
When Cummins first started mating a turbo diesel to an automatic transmission, the only thing that would handle the torque was the good ol’ chrysler 727 torqueflight.
And even before the first hemi(which was a copy of the Ardun-modified flathead ford), Plymouth was regarded as having the most robust drivetrain.
Until late last year I maintained ownership of my very first car…a 69 Newport 2door hardtop. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go and look at my old Newport photos.
Excellent observation. Explains a lot, too.
Great write-up. A neighbor’s cleaning lady drove a 1962 Chrysler New Yorker four-door hardtop in the early 1970s. It was a pale purple metallic with a white top. I was fascinated by the odd front end of the Chrysler, along with the wild Astradome instrument panel.
Interestingly, it was Elwood Engel who redeemed both Lincoln and Chrysler after their brief experimentation with strange styling, exemplified by the slanted headlights. The 1961 Lincoln Continental erased the bad memories of Lincoln’s 1958-60 beasts, while the 1965 Chrysler was the car that redeemed the Chrysler brand in the eyes of the public, after too many years of offbeat styling. He designed both cars.
I love the front-end on the 61-62 Chryslers, and the “astrodome” gauges. My dad’s second car was a 62 Chrysler Saratoga with the 383-4bbl, but that was before I was born. I’d rather have the 61 over the 62, which was shorn of its fins. The 60-61 Chryslers had some of the most beautiful fins. The taillights on the 60 were better than the 61 IMO, except you’d have to live with the “toilet seat” fake continental on the trunklid in 60.
I never cared much for the 63-64 Chryslers. They look plain and down-market. That was one of the criticisms of Exner’s later designs at Chrysler: he made the upscale models and the lower models look similar, so non-automotive people couldn’t tell them apart. For 64, with Elwood Engel now in charge of styling, they actually added small fins to the rear fenders to “square-up” the cars so they would look larger in a side profile, a stop-gap measure til Engel’s larger-than-life 65s came out.
I’ve heard of two reasons why 1965 was the last year for the letter-model 300s: The new 1965 body did not lend itself to having the chrome trim deleted, as was typical on the 300. For example, the door handles were integrated into the upper bodyline strip. Thus, there was little that could be done to differentiate the 300L. Also, I heard the the person at Chrysler that was the “champion” of the letter-model series retired. Probably the non-letter 300 and the rise of smaller muscle cars cannibalized sales as well, which would have been another factor.
Maybe Exner was just another Detroit drunk like Mitchell and Earl
Actually, I understand that Exner suffered a heart attack in the early 1960s and was not at the top of his game at that time. This is one of the things that left him vulnerable to corporate politics.
More in the mid-to-late 1950s from what I read on Collectible Automobile when the 1959, 1960 and 1961 models was on clay models and earlier designs stage then Exner suffered a heart attack.
Keep in mind the lead times involved. Exner’s heart attack was actually in the summer of 1956, although he was out for quite a while and not up to speed immediately even when he came back.
My father was a committed Mopar man, so naturally, our family had Chryslers in the driveway. In 1965, he purchased a ’62 Newport sedan. It turned out to be a good choice. Smooth, solid and roomy, it was a great car for long trips. He tinkered with the Newport nearly every weekend (one of the few times my dad and I really bonded), and I loved the weird but nicely lit instrument cluster and the Airtemp air conditioning vents that popped out from top of the dashboard. I only wished the car had a rear seat speaker to listen to the tunes of the day.
In 1969, dad was determined to buy a new car. Mom wanted a Plymouth Satellite, but my father put his foot down and we ended up with another Newport. I’ve always loved the fuselage styling of the ’69’s, but it was built in the days when Chrysler simply gave up on quality control. It went through three transmissions, the front door window kept coming off its track, and the trim seemed to be installed by preschoolers. But when it ran–and the 383 engine certainly did that–it was a great highway cruiser. Until it finally met its fate with the junkyard seven years later.
Too bad we didn’t keep the ’62.
I had a 1962 Newport 2-door hardtop that looked a lot like the 300 shown. It had a floor-shift 3-speed transmission with a non-synchromesh first gear that was damn difficult to hit, even with double-clutching. Its 361 engine ran like a top and never failed to start. Everything worked on the futuristic dash. It had a blue interior and I think the car was originally blue, but it was all done in gray primer when I got it. After I sold it I saw it once at a local car show, painted in refrigerator white but looking pretty good in spite of that.
Those taillight lenses are really difficult to find used; the red plastic wasn’t really correctly compounded to be on the top surface of a vehicle where the sun could shine directly down on it.
My memory of Chrysler’s of the first half of the 60’s centers around the Roman Catholic Church, Dioceses of Cleveland. Out there, the pastor who had really made it well drove a Chrysler New Yorker. Cadillacs/Lincolns/Imperials were way too flash for someone in that position, and for some reason the Chrysler was more highly thought of than a Buick. I still have memories of the Monsignor who ran the parish where my aunt was housekeeper – he went through Packards in the 50’s, switched over to various models of Buicks (but not a Roadmaster) after Packard’s demise . . . . . . but his final car, bought upon his retirement, was a ’66 Chrysler New Yorker 4-door hardtop in deep metallic green with matching interior. He never bothered buying another car after he got that one.
Lots of good stuff here – all I can say is a) I remember the poo-brown Fifth Avenues, Aunt Pat had one post-Imp and b) double green New Yorkers, ’66 or ’76…let’s make that happen..
I got a good look at those Chrysler dashboard at an auto show. Can’t believe they have that in 1960! Looked so awesome, so futuristic. With automakers today seem to hunt for ever wilder ideas to make their car’s interior more distinctive than the other, I wonder why 3D instrument panel did not make a comeback., with today’s technology they would’ve been even more amazing!
The 300’s, letter and none letter were certainly an interesting model, weren’t they?
I am rather partial to the ’68 concave bodied 300’s as good friend’s younger brother Bruce I think still has his that he and his wife bought new, blue with white vinyl top and white vinyl upholstery and yes, it WAS the 4 door hardtop, though I’ve seen a restored red 68 300 convertible. A former mechanic had it.
I’ve always seen these cars as in between the lower tier Newports and the top flight New Yorkers, especially the models from the mid to late 60’s. I have a soft sport for Mopars and have always loved the Polara and its variations. My parents once had a ’64 Dodge 330 wagon with the 225 slant 6 that they bought new and kept until I think 1977 when they sold it for something like $150, all rusted but still running, barely.
My frugal uncle had one of these 62 Chryslers well into the 70s… It was a grey 4 door sedan… It always seemed MUCH Much older than my Mothers 63 Grand PRix.
I always remember feeling really bad for him because I thought he could not afford better.
It is funny how even as a young child I Thought of GM as (Obviously The Standard) Ford cars seemed cheaper built by comparison, and more simple. Even at age 6 Chrysler seemed third rate. I just assumed they were bought by less intelligent people as well as less established people.
I have enjoyed both Chrysler products I have had over the years. Yet the thing they have in common is that they were aquired rather cheaply, primarily because i could not afford better at the time.
I Too like the 61 Tailend better.
Put me in the camp of those who liked the ’62 Chryslers. I don’t mind the canted headlights, and losing the fins was a plus in my view. There’s a key to doing canted headlights properly: put them together in the same bezel, and have the lower (high-beam) lamp inboard of the upper lamp.
Do it wrong and you end up with a ’62 Dodge Polara – inboard headlamps above the outboard ones and set apart in the grille. What a hideous beast!
The other thing I like about the ’62 Chryslers and Imperials is that both kept the cool wraparound windshield first seen in the ’57 Forward Look cars. Unlike GM and Ford, this windshield had A-pillars that still slanted forward like today’s cars, minimizing the intrusive dogleg, but still providing a cool shape. I wouldn’t mind seeing a modern interpretation of this windshield today.
I am with you on the windshield – that Mopar windshield shape with the kink at the top of the A pillar was one of my favorites.
Thanks for pointing out that windshield. I would indeed like a wraparound today. Aerodynamics is bringing the A-pillar further forward and into the field of view. The current Prius is quite futuristic-looking to my taste, and has the lowest drag coefficient of any production car, but its thick A-pillar gives me a big blind spot in the front corners where it matters. Great for strength, and that windshield is one great big piece of glass. But a wraparound would be so sweet, and safer vision too.
I always liked canted headlights, ’59 Buick is my favorite. This Chrysler and its DeSoto sibling, the ’58-’60 Lincolns, ’59 Buick and that hideous reverse-canted ’62 Dodge – are these the only canted quads ever?
The Brits got huge on canted headlights, although without the degree of aesthetic success that the American designers had. Triumph had a six cylinder version of the Herald (can’t remember the model name, damn), and Jensen’s predecessor to the 70’s Interceptor immediately come to mind.
Was it the Triumph Vitesse? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_Vitesse
Thank you. That’s exactly what I was thinking of.
The Triumph, right, I knew I’d seen canted quads on something from across the pond.
Canted quads are back. I saw this car square on in my mirror this morning. (When the light changed he shifted left and flew on.)
Ahhh the 59 Buick … Gotta be Elektra 225…One Mean looking ride… Mirror glow paint and all. the face looks like a Mad Wise old Owl to me…
The 60 was Blanded down to dull and boring in comparison.
I love the look of the 59 Buick. Canted headlights AND big canted fins with a narrow band of chrome accentuating each. Looks totally sinister to me, coming or going. If Christine wasn’t a Plymouth Fury, she could’ve been a 59 Buick.
I think you’ll never see it. Safety regs won’t let the A-pillar be that near your noggin anymore. But you’re right–it’s attractive.
Well I sure wish safety regs would minimise pillar intrusion into the driver’s field of vision. The A-pillars on my Mazda 3 are terrible for hiding traffic in – I have to move my head to look around the pillar. Horrible.
Had one of these hideous things for a few months in 1958-69. It was fugly, but I guess I wasn’t harmed for life driving it!
Mine was a 383 2 bbl. I replaced the Carter 2 bbl with an AFB off a 59 Dodge with a 361. Got the dual point distributor as well.
I was a MP at Fort Benning and I worked off duty as a wrecker driver in Columbus. I made a low $ hobby of hopping up the 383 with junk yard parts.
I found a 2-4bbl manifold off a wrecked 61 300G, but they wanted $200 for the engine, and I wasn’t up to the engine swap. And my 383 didn’t have the intake to even run with 2 4’s (or so I was told!
So I got out of the Army, traded the Chrysler and $3600 for a new 325 HP 396 Chevelle (TH and AC).
My car was coral colored, and I took the hubcaps off and trash-canned them.
It had 50K on the odometer, but because the ball joints were worn out it must have been 150.
To me, the cross-hair grille of the current Dodges reminds me of the ’62 300.
Also, wasn’t ‘plucked chicken’ meant for the downsized ’62 Dodge and Plymouth ‘standard sized’ cars? The biggger ’62 Chryslers looked fine to many.
agreed, the 62 plymouth line was anything but “pretty” compared to an Impalla esp the coupe with the sculpted fake convert roof line.
I believe the 62 300’s as tops.
Very interesting to read all the both positive and negative comments on early 60´s Chryslers. I am in Czech republic (so pardon my English). I own and restore the ´62 300 Sport 4-dr Hard Top I won on eBay auction by accident without a real intention. Before I only saw this front on pictures and couldn’t decide myself I like it or not. It seemed weird to me, not that typical aggressive look of other quad-lighted cars of the late 50´s but on the other hand, out of the crowd for sure. By the time of ownership, I really started to love its styling and personally prefer the plucked fins. Compare to to that time competitors, for me tha styling has much more idea than the straight-lined bodies resulting in a square brick-like design of mid-60´s. I owned before some other US cars, like a ´56 Bel Air V8 small block and ´66 Chevelle in-line 6, both 4-dr sedans. I love the late 50´s finned cars and late 60´s muscle, but can not afford more than one at a time and real legends do not come often to Europe despite the usually huge price. The ´62 Chrysler 300 Sport meand a best compromise in terms of all-in-one. My came with a 413 in place of 383 standard, with a 727 Torque Filte, dual exhaust, power steering, 12″ power brake drums, 15″ road wheels with the correct 300-H wheelcovers. I added a 3.23:1 Sure grip differential, and a dual quad intake manifold with two year-correct matching numbers factory Carter AFB carbs, with which setup the engine rated 380 HP. Other options are factory push-button radio, power antenna, electric clock, front bucket seats, black leather upholstery (now partly replaced with vinyl), rear defogger blower, remote outside mirrors and tinted glass allround. No A/C nor power windows. So, not all but lot of extras to get it closer to the letter series, but the most important is the engine which is now identical with the standard for H. Obviously, the first owner paid more attention to order the performance guts rather than convenience items, for which I praise him a lot, allowing me now to enjoy a powerful full-size muscle car, with a bit flare residues of the late 50´s styling, performance of the late 60´s, exciting instrument cluster and and hi-end engineering. It´s so outstanding both in design, styling and power not only among today cars, but even from other american cars ot the era… Remember the fate of Edsel cars, considered ugly by the public giving it dehonesting names due to its grill motif. Maybe these cars evoked such feeling among people that time, but with the gap of the decades, I personally think they were not that disgusting. Due to low sales / production figures, they are sought-after models not loosing their collectible value. I´m aware I could never afford a Chrysler 300 letter car. People who knows these models and 300 history will never put any shame on me for a Sport series, and all the others are impressed the same level regardless the letter-series or not. The unique styling is the same, the performance of mine is the same, only the collectible / sales value is less, but that I don´t mind because it´ll never happen. I even prefer the low rear window of the 4-dr HT rather than the sky-high one on the 2-drs, as it makes the car look older and even harder to tell the year for spotters (some 4-drs had the high one as well). I´m only glad for Chrysler introduced the 300 non-letter series right in ´62. The Newport 4″ shorter wheelbase shaved some 300 lbs of weight, contributed with the new more compact aluminum-housing TorqueFlite, so the ´62 300 got the best ever power-to-weight ratio. Doing it one year later, the ´63-on styling is rather plain to me. The ´62 grille looks far not as good on Newports missing the crossbars, and slanted headlamps can be loved or hated, plucked fins better or not discussed over and over, but tell another model styling causing so many discussions still after 50 years. Although getting the parts here in Europe is pretty tough both for being hard-to-find and expensive due to the value of letter cars, I feel it as a duty to preserve this beautiful brute for today´s and next generations of car enthusiasts.
Beautiful car, Gasoline Man, of which you can be justifiably proud. I bet it’s a blast to drive!
Thanks for praise! It certainly will be after the restoration finished…. Still long way to go, fighting with lack of time and limited funds… But from various websites and forums I can feel these cars (and not necessarily the letter-series only) are considered pretty rare and unique even in country of their origin. The more attention and recognition I promise myself here in Czech republic, Europe, particularly wit a factory original dual quad carbs setup and Sure Grip rear end… Hope I could beat some early 70’s ‘stangs, ‘vettes, and other constricted pseudo-muscles… :-))
I really enjoyed reading the article and all of your comments. i too have a thing for the big “ugly” canted 4-eyed cars… i own a ’62 Newport 4dr sedan, a ’59 Buick Lesabre 4dr sedan, and continue to lust after a ’60 Lincoln Contenental….
There was never a 300 series 4-door sedan…those were all built for Canada, which kept the Saratoga name for the mid line model thorough 1966–although you could get a non-letter 300 convertible in from 1963-65 and a Sport 300 2 door hardtop and convertible in 1966. From 1967 on the U.S. and Canadian Chrysler lineup was identical.
Indeed the mid-price level model remained name Saratoga for Canadian market, Paul is 100% right for 1963, where the 1,625 Saratoga 4-door Sedans are listed among the 300 Sport in mid-range model production figures.
For ´64 non-letter 300 Sport series, 13,401 units of 2-door HardTops, 2,026 units of Convertibles and 11,460 units of 4-door HardTops were built and true, no 4-door Sedans at all.
But for ´62, the first year the non-letter 300 Sport series were introduced and the model year mostly commented here, these were offered under the 300 designation and embleming in 4-door body styles as well, however, sedans were significantly fewer.
The ´62 non-letter 300 Sport production was as follows:
2-door HardTops: 11,341 units
Convertibles: 1,848 units
4-door HardTops: 10,030 units
4-door Sedans: 1,801 units
But I have to admit I´ve never seen a picture of an actual car 300 Sport 4-door Sedan, so maybe it was the same story as for ´63 being produced as Saratogas for Canada, only the remark on this fact could be missing in the production record.
I am surprised at the 4 dr ht production numbers. But then leather buckets (I think leather was standard equip) did make them unique.
As a conv “nut” I sure wish I/we had kept some of the family units during that period. Add to the fact that ours had factory a/c with fully power the production numbers had to be pretty small.
Recently I have purchased 3 tiny brochures, a Chrysler Corporation Part & Casting Numbers Book Volume I & II 1962-1974 and a Production Option Code Book 1962-1965, edited by Galen V. Govier, also known for his Chrysler Fender Tag, VIN and Broadcast Sheet decoding services. Unlike all other sources for production figures I´ve seen or obtained sofar, stating those above mentioned 10,030 units, here the total number of Chrysler 300 non-letter 4-dr HT indicates only 8,749 units. Maybe the difference of 1,281 units is the number of Canadian Saratogas 4-dr Sedans built in 1962, which figures are possibly usually included in the C-body mid-range production. Unfortunately, the mentioned booklet does not say the Canadian production figures, as well as the Police Enforcer 4-dr Sedans, which seem to be unknown or still secret after all those years. If someone could clarify this, I´d very appreciate as I really would like to know the total units built of the model I´m restoring. Unfortunately, it seems no info is available how many non-letter 300´s left the factory with a standard 383 engine, and how many with an optional 413 – in ´62 there was no indication of engine on the body code plate, particularly for a Jefferson plant…
I have enjoyed reading all of the comments. As a kid of the 60’s I had the unique view of the mopars having been raised in suburban Detroit in a town with more than a few Chrysler execs. Add to that, my father as a Chrysler dealer in the metro area for 45 years. My mother, at 91 still talks about her favorite family “demos” the 55 gold/white two-tone Imp (only avail in cpe); her 65 gold Belvidere Conv (first yr of chassis) she never put the top down; a 61 Lavender Ply 9pass (rear facing) wgn, with a near duplicate color on some early 90’s LHS/New Yorker. She liked gold and purple with the occasional yellow thrown in. She loved her gold 65, wanted it duplicated in ’66. Dad obviously told someone to order her a duplicate which they did. Problem….no one obviously looked at a color chip and/or the description which stated Citron gold. It was the “new” mopar color that year and in typical Detroit style every third co car built was painted in these newly introd colors. This was one ugly car, with the new color taking on the slang description of Bile Green.
A couple of my favorites. In addition to the above referenced 55 Imp Cpe, his Uncle had a Black 6 window sedan that stayed in the family long after his death in 64.
-59 Baby blue NYorker convert with two tone blue/white interior sold to his brother
-61 Dk Blue/white on white newport convert, his partner with a duplicate beige all with dual antennas off those huge fins. His brother had a similar “duplicate” that yr
-62 triple black 300 (non-letter) cpe. Dad was a huge believer in the 300 esp as an alternative to various GM entries. As a family of aggressive drivers he believed the 383 4bbl to be the best engine available, although as kids we were relished to 318’s.
-63-64 not my favorite years. Dad’s partner and wife usually had “dualing 300’s” converts in their driveway all with full power and the rear mounted pwr antenna.
-64-66 Imps were dads favorites, though he usually had a “spare” triple black “something”, usually a 383 4bbl Spt Fury. The Imps were real boats and tricky for this new driver to get down our narrow driveway in one piece. We loved showing off the power vent windows to our friends. During this era for what ever reason he was hung up on dark Red with Black Leather, Black Top. All three years same color, go figure.
-Partner uped the anti and took a 64 Red Imp convert with wife a 300 red convert. Dad insisted they both have a/c
-Uncle at this point driving a triple black 65 300 convert with a/c..a real rarity at the time.
-67-68 brought new Imp designs which dad really liked. Though still huge, the “boat” look had disappeared, but unfortunately reappeared in 69 forward with what I called the “bloated look” (no pun intended re the 50’s “forward look” designation.
Re the letter cars. Dad had a couple of customers of these incredible vehicle. A black 62 was one of the nicest. Dad referred to this car as going past everything but a gas station!!
For fans of the mid 50’s you may recall the Kelsey Hayes wire wheels available during this period. Dad’s partner bought a “total” one year, dad, always the conservative going nuts. His partner had bought the vehicle strictly because it had a decent set of the KH wheels. In true partnership dad got the wheels in the fall for his triple black “whatever”, his partner in the summer months for his convert. They utilized them last on 62 models, the 63 changed something and they were no longer safe.
He had some unique sales of his years in business, Lehman Peterson built limo’s, a couple of New Yorker/Town Country station wagons to silent movie star Mary Pickford and husband Buddy Rogers along with many other movers/shakers in Detroit industry.
Hope the above prompted interesting memories for others.
I’ve always loved these “slant eyed” Chryslers so much more than the more “normal” looking ’63-’64 models, though those have their charms also. It’s just such an unusual look that I can’t help but stare. The huge fins on the ’61 are pretty wild, pretty much the last go-round for fins, but they did a very nice job of de-finning for these 62’s also.
There is a ’61 New Yorker sedan in my town, sitting on 4 flat tires but surprisingly un-rusty otherwise. I’m so tempted to go by and ask about it, but I have nowhere to keep a non-running vehicle, nor to work on one. If it’s still sitting when I buy a house in the next couple years it may be coming home with me. If it’s for sale, that is….
No “plucked chicken ” this.Even though it was sheared of its `61 fins, this was a sharp looking car.My grandfather, a Mopar man had a `62 four door hardtop sedan. Ivory with beige leather -I think seats.Car had air, those bucket seats with a folding center armrest, power steering, brakes, roll up windows and that science fiction dashboard. I was about 11 years old when he got it, it was 2 years old at the time.I used to go out with my grandparents, usually on Saturdays. We would go visit relatives in Long Island or go shopping in New Jersey when the Verazano Bridge was new.I had the backseat to myself and sometimes I would sleep there on the way home.We would usually hit a department store and my grandfather would usually buy me a model car kit, and we would go to a diner for supper.Great car, wonderful memories.
Well here’s my version of the 62′. It’s a Bankers Hot Rod. Shaved handles, flamed lowered, disc brake conversion, side exhaust. Turns heads.
One comment I want to make is that I think DeSoto was well on its way into the grave by the end of the 50’s. DeSoto’s sales in the mid 50’s averaged about 100,000 per year and better in 1957. Sales crashed for 58 and 59, then really crashed in 1960 (26,000). I think Chryslers bringing out the Neport was really to replace the DeSoto knowing that it was dead.
In the early 60’s I was in high school and was aware of the 300 letter series. When Chrysler brought out the plain 300 I was horrified.
For a major car company that was renowned for shooting itself in the foot, over and over (that picture of the collected 1962 model line-up sure exemplifies that sentiment), one of their rare right moves was the widening of the 300 series. By 1962, the letter-series had pretty much run its course (musclecars just around the corner would put the final nail in the coffin by 1965), and creating a less loaded, but still relatively well-equipped (and much cheaper) version was the right call. Regular 300 cars were still sporty but less costly than the letter cars, and retained enough cache to keep them desirable. In the great pantheon of long-lived nameplates, I wonder how the 300 compares.
Going back to that picture, it’s interesting how they parked the Valiant and Dodge far away from each other. A smart move, considering how much alike they looked. Likewise, does anyone know if there are similar photos from GM or Ford? Comparing the three of them together would go a long way to showing how bad Chrysler’s 1962 cars really were.
The 65 300 could be optioned out to near letter series for luxury. So I think that muscle cars were not the reason for dropping the letter series. More likely that the base car took over. In the early sixties I thought that the 300 letter series was Chrysler Corps Thunderbird. So when they came out with the plain 300 I was disappointed. On the other hand they were in the middle of the alphabet by 1965, and continuing on may not have made much sense. They did skip over the letter i for some reason.
Well, I still think the musclecar aspect applies, but it goes hand-in-hand with the Thunderbird comparison. Consider that of the personal luxury cars of the time (Thunderbird, Grand Prix, Riviera), none of them had a special, high-performance engine that was available only with that model.
I think the most direct competitor to the 300 was the Buick Wildcat. But the same theory still applies; there was no special Wildcat with an engine that couldn’t be gotten elsewhere in a Buick.
I have no doubt that none of this escaped Chrysler’s market analysts. The 300 would still sell like the other personal luxury offerings, but there was simply no need for a letter-series model with a special, series-only engine any longer.
In fact, I dare say that the new-for-1966 Dodge Charger was the car Chrysler hoped would appeal to anyone pining for a new letter-series 300. It fit the image of the 426 Hemi a whole lot better than if that engine was offered in a 300 letter-series.
The 300 was using the New Yorker body (2 door), but had high performance and was a near luxury car, if not luxury. Cadillac did offer multi-carburetors on the Eldorado. The muscle cars were based on midsize cars with big block engines. I would say that the 300 was the first personal luxury car and possibly the first muscle car, but not in the sixties style of muscle cars.
My first every day car was a ’66 300 non-letter coupe. Bought in ’76. 383 automatic, Red metallic, white vinyl top, white buckets, fan shaped speedo (the traditional Chrysler design but no clear dome), “ball return” console with an econometer, of all things perched on it under the dash (proof to me that the car was a custom order) and a telescoping wheel (Saginaw?). It was very pretty, but high mileage so a bit of a handful on the Saw Mill River Parkway with its narrow lanes and flank-nudging guardrails. I clearly recall complaining to friends that it took $30 to fill the tank on the NY Thruway. There are places in this country where that would be possible now… if not next year.
For some of the weirdness that was Mopar in the early 1960’s, I’ve always felt the Chrysler brand remained reasonable, and the slanted headlights and tamed tail fins don’t bother me at all. The subject car is a little tired, but with some mild restoration and some wheel covers, this would be a quite handsome car.
‘Otherwordly’ is a good description. Chrysler Corp styling from the mid 50’s through early 60’s reminds me of those animated space shot graphics that show the launch vehicle being slingshotted around a distant planet, and ending up accelerating back in the direction they came from.
In this case the distant planet was 1960, and after having gotten there it almost seemed like Chrysler decided to go back and make another pass at it!
I actually prefer the “Plucked Chicken” ’62 to the “Up With Parallelograms” cars that followed for the next two years. (Pardon me as I swoon for the ’65.)
Also, in my family’s Mopar lore, my grandfather’s ’62 Newport is remembered as an especially solid example.
My walk to first grade was about 10 city blocks. On the corner of one of those blocks was always parked one of these with the 45 degree diagonal headlights. To my five year old eyes, they were demon-possessed……I was terrified of that car. I remember actually refusing to look at it as I walked past…for fear it would awaken and attack!
–It is amazing how Disney was so successful anthromorphising things….I was sure that thing would come to life! I never got past that childhood fear…..I still have a visceral dislike of those cars.
I had a 62 Saratoga 4 door hardtop. It must gave been a Canada only or export model. The only difference I could ever see was it had the same trim moldings around the rear bumper and licence plate opening as the New Yorker. I believe some of the side trim was NY as well. It had a 383 with a two barrel carb. I don’t think the 361 engine was ever available in Canada
The 62 300 is one of my all time favs. Very nice driving car and certainly not ordinary. I see a band-aid beige one around here sometimes.
Not a fan. The car was designed with fins and was just better balanced in ’61. The finless look doesn’t work here because the rear end is dumpy and poorly defined. The ’62s would have been far more appealing with a more angular rear theme, or even smaller fins. Cadillac progressively reduced the height of their fins during this period with success. My across the street neighbor had a ’62 coupe sitting in his driveway for years, and my view was the side profile. And yes, it was beige. Not attractive.
It appears they did make some sedans in ’62 (this is a 1964 want ad):
I’ve seen so many auction listings and internet ads with inaccurate descriptions that are made obvious by the photos that I would be hard pressed to rely on this as evidence.
However, some 300 sedans were built. I’m just not sure what years, and there may have been some Canadian market issues at play as well.
The base 300 (sans letter) replaced the Windsor for 1962. The letter series (H) was then on the short wheelbase (122). The Newport was a new model (series) in 1961 when the Saratoga was dropped. There should have been 300 sedans and I do recall seeing some where I live.
The Standard Catalog is usually considered authoritative. It is hit and miss as far as footnotes regarding Canadian models.
For 1962 it appears that the U.S. 300 Sport four door was hardtop only. About 10,000 were made.
For 1963, a Saratoga four door sedan was built and counted with 300 Sport production, but the Saratoga sedan was Canadian market only.
For 1964 the non letter 300 Sport became simply the 300. No four door sedan production is noted.
For 1965, the 300 appeared to be offered as a four door sedan (in the six window style) for the first time to the U.S. market. 2,187 sedans were built. I sort of wonder if they missed a footnote and these were again Canadian market Saratogas.
Because, in 1966, it is noted the 300 Sedan is, just like 1962, a Canadian market only Saratoga.
For 1967 through the end of the nameplate in 1971, no 300 sedans are noted, and none are noted as Canadian market Saratogas.
Strict interpretation of the book says that in 1965 only, likely only for the U.S. market, a 300 four door sedan was built. Since this is inconsistent with the general pattern of production and marketing, it is possible that this is an editing error and no 300 four door sedans were ever built.
A Wiki article says that from ’63 – ’65 Canadians were offered a “Saratoga 300” which did come as a sedan some years. According to both the Wiki, the Canadian car was a mix of trims from various Chrysler models and did not duplicate the American 300.
Old brochures from Chrysler show the 64 300 to be available in 4 door hardtops. Also the Classic Car Database shows more than 11,000 were produced.
Well I’ll be damned. I have photographed that very car.
It is certainly no Camry. Instead this is a car with visual errors which create a strong personality to it, yet isn’t entirely offensive visually, The problem is the shaped crease over the rear fenders. What it does is forces the rear fender to look lower than it is. Had Chrysler eliminated this, then the rest of the car’s rear fender works much better. The tail lights would actually make the rear end of the car look higher and more complimentary to the front end.
The side profile shows this too. The front fender line is higher and smoother than the rear fender line, but if the rear fender crease is gone – then the rear end appears higher, and the tail lights create a nice balance.
The canted headlights were eclipsed by the popularity of the stacked headlight style popularized by Pontiac, then aped by Ford and Plymouth. The stacked headlight style compliments the stronger front fender lines popularized during the 1960s. The canted headlights just don’t work. The best canted headlight design on cars of this era were the 1959 Buicks. What they did is exaggerate the hood line above the grille, so that the front end of the car broke out of a horizontal line. The canted headlights weren’t incorporated into a pod, like the Chryslers or the Lincolns, which gave them the effect of being lifted up into the canted design, and gave the design an effect of movement.
The canted headlight design of the Chrysler and the Lincoln were a structural element and just doesn’t work the same way. Both cars of that era had a front end that was too flat for the canted headlight design.
What this does is add up to an interesting exterior that is certainly not average.
Son is restoring a ’62 Imperial Crown
413 Carter AFB runs good
Hope Laurence is doing well. Miss his photography & writing.
+1. Always enjoy re-reading Laurence’s posts. I suspect there’s a book in him. 🙂
I’m not dead. It’s as easy as following places in which I’m freshly published (or self published) instead of reading recycled material.
Not my favourite Mopar shape, but CC-in-scale built this one fortysomething years ago.
The ’61-’62 Chryslers are at the top of my favorites list. I got to drive a 300 hardtop sedan as a high schooler in the mid 80’s. That sucker would get up and run. It was owned by the parents of a friend and I was so disappointed that it was unaffordable when it was sold. Baby blue.
Well I like em the minor fins are a good look and funny face is ok hell Ive got a set of small fins that looks totally amazed by something front on
I acquired a 62 Newport back in 1970. Outside of being a solid and reliable set of wheels,there was an extra added attraction in those instrument panels. One rather stoned night,me,my best friend and our girlfriends spent the entire night fixated on the grooviness of that back-lit terrarium. Needless to mention,as the dawn broke and our senses slowly returned to normal,I discovered the battery was completely dead,in addition to having no idea at first just where the hell we were. Chrysler,the black light poster on wheels…..ah,youth.
Definitely my favorite Chrysler model of the early 1960’s. I’d love to have one.