- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

What’s not to like about a Chrysler ‘Letter Series’ car? In a word - nothing.

For almost a dozen years from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, Chrysler squeezed massive engines into sleek “personal cars,” which were easily identified by the gaping grille cavity that appeared eager to inhale lesser cars.

One of the more notable “Letter Series” Chryslers was the 1960 300F. Of the 1,212 vehicles built, 248 were convertibles and the remaining 964 were two-door hardtop models.

Larry Jett was on a high-speed run through Nevada in his 4-year-old 300F hardtop when, he says, “I froze the engine solid and had to have it towed to the San Francisco Bay Area.” With too many irons in the fire to contend with the disabled Chrysler, he sold his ailing car.

The 300F may have been gone, but it was not forgotten. “I knew I needed another one,” Mr. Jett says. “It was just a matter of how long it would take.”

A couple of decades passed, and then in 1986, Mr. Jett was looking through a Chrysler 300 Club newsletter when he saw an ad selling a 300F. The car was located just west of Cleveland in Elyria, Ohio - a long distance from Mr. Jett's home in Newark, Calif. Besides, Mr. Jett says, the asking price was on the high side.

Another year had passed when Mr. Jett learned that the car was still for sale. Negotiations ensued. Mr. Jett learned that the 300F had undergone a complete restoration. The asking price was still high, but Mr. Jett purchased the Chrysler sight unseen and arranged to have it trucked to California.

“When it arrived,” he remembers, “I was the happiest fella.”

The Alaskan white car with tan seats appeared to be in like-new condition, but Mr. Jett detected some bent valves in the 413-cubic-inch engine, necessitating a valve job. With that task completed, the car has proved to be trouble-free for the past 23 years.

Records indicate that, when new, the 4,270-pound Chrysler 300F had a base price of $5,411. The well-appointed luxury car is equipped with power brakes, power steering, power antenna, air conditioner, power windows, high-beam changer, rear-window defroster, push-button AM radio and power swivel bucket seats.

The two left and two right bucket seats on black carpeting are separated by a full-length console. A tachometer is mounted at the forward end of the console under the dashboard. A 150-mph speedometer is ready to record the achievement of the powerful car.

Beneath the expansive hood is a pair of four-barrel carburetors on 30-inch “ram” induction manifolds offset on either side of the engine because of the low-profile engine hood. The big V-8 engine features wedge-shaped combustion chambers that produce prodigious amounts of horsepower and torque. That power, however, comes at a price because while drinking fuel from the 23-gallon gasoline tank, the consumption rate is 10.5 mpg.

The 18-foot, 3.6-inch-long Chrysler has a turning diameter of about 46 feet, 7 inches. The 9.00x14-inch tires support the unibody car on a 126-inch wheelbase.

Under the sloping trunk lid, decorated by a faux spare wheel, is a wide, but shallow cargo area, which contains the real spare tire, mounted horizontally on the left side.

Because of the unibody construction, Mr. Jett reports, his 49-year-old car is still free of rattles or squeaks regardless of the road surface. In the past 23 years, Mr. Jett has driven his Chrysler only about 20,000 miles. He has total confidence in the reliability of his car.

“I have never had a concern,” he says.

From the driver's bucket seat, Mr. Jett can see the two fender-mounted mirrors reflect the images of the soaring fins on the rear fenders, a sight he never tires of viewing.

c For your car to become the subject of the Out of the Past column, send a photo (frontal 3/4 view), plus brief details and phone number to Vern Parker, 2221 Abbotsford Drive, Vienna, VA 22181. Only photos of good quality will be considered. No customs or hot rods accepted.

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