Vintage Car and Driver Road Tests: 1963 Chrysler 300-J – “A More Beautiful Brute”

The restyled 1963 Chrysler, although done on the cheap, certainly brought it into the 1960s, finally. It and the rest of the ’63 Mopar line were Exner’s mild-mannered swan song, after years of exuberant fins and challenging shapes, protrusions, toilet seats and other trademark design elements. The 300-J, Chrysler’s top dog, carried the new look quite well, even if it was a far cry from the new ’63 Riviera and Grand Prix. But its greatest assets lay under its skin, in the form of a standard 390 hp ram-inducted 413 V8 and Chrysler’s generally better-sorted suspension.

The 300-J marked a high point, in terms of standard horsepower. It also marked a low point, in terms of production: just some 400. And its suspension had been softened some, improving its ride but not exactly its handling at the limits, although its composure was still deemed to be excellent by its reviewers here.

The references to its acceleration were termed “rocket-like“, with the “frighteningly quick automatic downshifts” from the push-button activated Torqueflite. The measured results were a 0-60 sprint in 8.0 seconds, and the quarter mile in a brisk 15.4 seconds at about 96-97 mph, based on the acceleration curve chart. That was done by leaving the automatic in Drive, and “no high-rpm starts.” Not bad, for a 4,235 lb luxury car.

C&D termed the new styling an “Italian interpretation of what is going on in American styling“. Well, Exner certainly had always been very influenced by the Italians and his long relationship with Ghia. It tried to make the big Chrysler look a bit trimmer and shorter than it was (215” long).

The “square” steering wheel was not liked. Understandably so.

Somewhat curiously, the big twin four barrel carbs had no automatic choke, so a manual one was used. The engine had a nasty tendency to stall at 30 mph or so, creating a potentially dangerous situation. Presumably this was due to the lack of heat to the carbs, sitting way out there on the ends of the ram intakes.

The suspension made the almost 5,000 lb Chrysler feel more like a 3,000 lb car in its handling. The limited slip differential was appreciated in the nasty weather during the test.

C&D sums up: “...a fine car that goes like the blazes and has good road manners to complement its larger-than-life performance.”


Related CC reading:

Curbside Classic: 1963 Chrysler New Yorker – Virgil Exner Comes Full Circle (with some help?)

Curbside Classic: 1964 Chrysler Newport – Chrysler’s Great Downsizing, Chapter 2.

Vintage Car Life Road Test: 1961 Chrysler 300-G – “Truly Outstanding Machines, For A Very Special Type Of Ownership”

Vintage Sports Car Illustrated Review: 1957 Chrysler 300C – The Duesenberg SJ of the 1950s