1962 to 1965 based on early 1960’s Logo

1965 Chrysler 300L Convertible

June 2013 Mopar of the Month

"One of the Last of the Last Letter Cars"

David writes: This 1965 Chrysler 300L is one of 440 convertibles produced during the swan song of the Letter Car’s glorious 10-year ride. (I continue to wonder whether the production figure was divine poetry or sheer coincidence.) According to club records, there are about 80 survivor cars left in various stages of completion. Of those, about 20% are factory AC cars. The 300L was the first — and last — Letter Car to bear the unique styling signature of Elwood Engel. Mr. Engel famously penned the 1961 Lincoln Continental before Mother Mopar hired him away from Ford’s design department to replace Virgil Exner.

1965 Chrysler 300L front

On May 28, 1965, the Jefferson Assembly Plant in Detroit shipped this particular 300L convertible to a Chrysler dealer in Richmond, Iowa. Over the years, it spent time in Ohio, then Maine and finally beautiful Ontario. What the prior owners didn’t know, what they couldn’t possibly know at the time, is that this particular ride represents one of the last six known Letter Cars ever built! And it is one of the last two known convertible Letter Cars ever manufactured. (These facts were determined based on the car’s VIN and ample club records.)

1965 Chrysler 300L driver side

Factory options include the rare and highly desirable Pink Silver Metallic paint, Air Conditioning, Factory Tow Package (with heavy-duty brakes and suspension), Tinted Windows, 9x14 Whitewall Rayon tires, AM/FM radio, Remote Driver’s Mirror and Undercoating / Under Hood Pad. The car was also optioned with a mystery Accessory Group “Code 6.” Research suggests that this is the auxiliary cooler for the power steering fluid that is plumbed in front of the stock radiator. Standard equipment includes the 413 cubic inch wedge engine with four-barrel carb, special cam, dual exhaust, black convertible top, black vinyl bucket seats, reclining passenger seat, headlight shields and special 300L badging. One neat aesthetic feature on the 300L is the center-mounted running light in the grill. This novel feature was actually banned in some states when the car was first introduced.

1965 Chrysler 300L engine

Fortunately, that running light was both intact and still working when the car cleared U.S. Customs. I found this car in Canada while surfing the ’Net late one night. The seller, a fascinating gentleman with a love for rare machinery, was paring down his top-shelf collection. (This car was parked for years next to a motorcycle formerly owned by Steve McQueen.) As a garage queen for many years, the 300L needed a full mechanical shakedown when it came back to the States in the Fall of 2012. New fluids, new brakes, new tires, new fuel lines, new gaskets, new hoses, new belts, new brake lines, refurbished manifolds, rebuilt carb and more items than I can remember. The nice guys at NAPA started to joke that I must be building a car from scratch. And they weren’t far from the mark. The car even features a brand new, factory correct exhaust hand-built by the nice folks at Accurate Exhaust.

1965 Chrysler 300L brake repair

Nearly all the wrenching and R&D on this car was performed by Pete Harrington in New Jersey. Pete is a gearhead’s savior: the son of a Montclair detective (and as honest as the day is long), a career vocational shop teacher, a restorer of several nationally recognized concourse cars and a Mopar fanatic who’s meticulous on the details. As the car was finally getting ready for the road, Pete was knee deep in the engine bay while I was underneath the L scraping away decades of dirt and reapplying the undercoating.

The 413 cubic inch “wedge” and 727 TorqueFlite transmission (as used on the Hemi cars) have always been in excellent shape. They were never abused and run like clockwork. The drivetrain is all numbers-matching and has never been outside the vehicle. Power is put on the road via a 3.23 SureGrip. The interior, as the photos indicate, is in remarkable condition. The only significant aftermarket items on the car are the vintage Magnum 500 wheels and blackwall tires. Since most car enthusiasts have never seen a 300L in the flesh, I wanted to bring out a little more “bad to the bone” in this Banker’s Hot Rod.

Letter Car Club owners always speak about how the 300L is their favorite driver and I can see why. With Pete’s mechanical wizardry, this nearly 19 foot long beauty is smooth, smooth, smooth! It easily enjoys the left-hand lane at highway speeds with its 360 hp at 4,800 rpm and 470 lb/ft of torque at 3,200 rpm. Engel’s classic Kennedy-era design elicits lots of favorable attention on the roads. (You’d be amazed how many Porsche guys give enthusiastic thumbs up when they pull alongside this Mopar!) The L encourages strangers to share their own old car stories. It’s a very approachable classic.

1965 Chrysler 300L dash

My thanks to Pete, mechanic extraordinaire and good friend, for playing the central role in sorting out this 300L convertible and helping to get her back on the road. I also want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to members of the Chrysler 300 Club Inc., Chrysler 300 Club International Inc. and The 1962-1965 Mopar Website. This rare milestone car would not be floating down the highway in all her grandeur without your collective knowledge, parts sharing, encouragement and good humor. Ol’ Elwood must be very proud indeed.

1965 Chrysler 300L rear

By the way, this Chrysler is a BLAST to drive. And the ride is incredibly cushy. :)

Contact David: 1965 Chrysler 300L contact owner

Thanks David! That special Mopar is certainly ready for prime time highway crusin’  — top-down style. smile!

Gary H.

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