Vintage Car Life Road Test: 1966 Chrysler 300, 440 TNT – Powerful, Effortless Cruiser

“Driving the 300 with the 440 engine is an experience in what a really big engine in a really big car can do”

That statement sums up the whole rationale behind the Chrysler 300’s TNT package. Not that the base 300 was anything to scoff at, as the 383 CID V-8 powered model stayed true to its high-performance personal luxury car mission. But with Chrysler’s newly available 440 engine appearing as an option for 1966, Car Life decided to see what the company’s largest and most powerful mill could add to the model.

Fittingly named the ‘TNT package’, CL’s 440-powered 300 2-door hardtop used 4-barrel carburetion, twin exhausts, Torqueflite transmission, disc brakes (front) and a heavy-duty suspension. That plus tons of luxury accouterments.

Besides the new engine, there were further news with the 300. For 1966, the model arrived for the first time sans its ‘letter series’ companion (After appearing as a stand-alone for the first time in 1962, it was now the sole ‘300’ nameplate). Meanwhile, on the styling front, the 300 arrived with a chiseled update of the extensive Elwood Engel restyling of 1965.

The optional 440 V-8 found in the 330’s ‘TNT package’ was developed from the 413-426 still offered elsewhere in Chrysler’s lineup. Less complicated, lighter and cheaper to build than Chrysler’s Hemi, the 440 would quickly become commonplace across the company’s high-powered vehicles.

As CL discovered, the 300 440 TNT was a lot of car with mighty and impressive specs. Loaded with options, the car’s heavy unibody came for a total of 5000 lbs. Under the hood, the 440 provided 365 bhp at 4600 RPM, with a torque peak of 480 lb.-ft. at 3200 RPM. Performance was brisk, reaching 0-60 in 7.7 secs.

On driving, the heavy-duty suspension provided “an almost firm ride” and “permitted much less body lean in cornering than had been anticipated.” However, the car’s 57% front weight bias and overall heft were not the best in winding roads. “The car’s inherent forward weight bias induces a pronounced understeer that sometimes is difficult to manage in tighter turnings.”

But great power and prowess were the TNT package’s real mission, not corner carving. “From rest, a jab at the accelerator will leave a pair of black streaks on the pavement for 60 ft… the 300 conveys its passengers in ease and comfort, with very little effort being expended by the driver.” In other words, effortless, powerful cruising.

Other than some rattles and noises, the ’66 test found no major objections with the car’s overall fit and finish. A sign that Chrysler’s assembly woes were easing (for the time being). “Engine, unit body construction and, especially, brakes, then are of sufficient sturdiness to provide the Chrysler 300 owner comfortable cross-town or cross-country service for years.”

Curiously, the reviewers found much to dislike with the car’s styling. Buyers thought otherwise, and the understated and powerful 300 of 1966 became the model’s best-selling year with a total of 49.5K units, in its various body types, sold.


Further reading:

CC Outtake: 1966 Chrysler 300 Coupe – Faded Glory

CC Capsule: 1966 Chrysler 300 – Aging Wallflower