For the Redderson family of Glenview, Ill., buying a new car was a family affair in 1966.
The parents loaded their three sons into their car and drove to the local Chrysler dealership. The month was May and they had come to special-order their new car.
Chrysler’s 300 model in 1966 — the first year since 1955 that Chrysler dropped the letter designation on its 300s — could be ordered with a fire-breathing 440-cubic-inch V-8 engine that developed a very muscular 350 horsepower.
Chrysler in 1955 had introduced a ground-pounding car with a 300-horsepower Hemi V-8 under the hood and called it the C-300. It was so successful that the powerful 300 series was continued. The second year was identified with the second letter of the alphabet. The big, burly cars have become known as the letter series Chryslers and were built in the following years:
1955, C300 300 horsepower.
1956, 300B 355 horsepower.
1957, 300C 390 horsepower.
1958, 300D 390 horsepower.
1959, 300E 280 horsepower.
1960, 300F 400 horsepower.
1961, 300G 400 horsepower.
1962, 300H 405 horsepower.
1963, 300J 390 horsepower.
1964, 300K 390 horsepower.
1965, 300L 306 horsepower.
The letter “I” was skipped to avoid confusion with the numeral “1”.
After working through almost half the alphabet, Chrysler dropped the letter designation on the 300 series in 1966.
Because they lived in Chicagoland, the Reddersons saw no need for air conditioning. That optional extra would have been welcome when they moved to the nation’s sultry capital in 1971.
The youngest son, 10-year-old Bob, now of Burke, recalls that his father insisted on a convertible. To the $3,936 base price of a 300 convertible the family added:
Leather trim seats…150.00.
Power bucket seats…91.45.
Golden Tone radio..91.00.
Power vent windows..52.70.
Exterior left mirror..5.50.
Door guard edging…4.70.
Mr. Redderson’s father negotiated about $700 off the total to bring the price of the convertible to $4,788.55. Of course, the $191.54 transportation fee brought the out-of-pocket total to within $20 of $5,000.
The family returned to take delivery of their Chrysler 300 convertible on June 9, 1966. They drove home in their new 4,015-pound car, cushioned by the 124-inch wheelbase.
Soon after the family move to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, young Mr. Redderson learned to drive in the Chrysler. Several years later, the then 7-year-old convertible became the family’s third car, and — typical of Chrysler products of that era — began to rust.
Mr. Redderson more or less inherited the Chrysler by default. He drove the aging behemoth during his Wooten High School years.
He took the 16-year-old Chrysler to North Carolina when he was in graduate school. In his free time during the next two years he became acquainted with all the junkyards in the South. He found all the necessary solid, rust-free, body panels.
All of the parts, pieces and the car itself were delivered to a body shop in Durham, N.C. In about a year, a rejuvenated Chrysler 300 convertible was back on the road. Only the engine hood and both doors are original.
In 1986 Mr. Redderson drove his car back to Washington. “It was the hottest day of the year,” he says, “and the engine was on the verge of overheating.” He took practical action and turned on the heater full blast. With the top down, the heater on and the sun beating down on him, he arrived safely.
“I must have lost 40 pounds that day,” he remarks.
Since then he has installed a heavy-duty alternator. “It really needed it,” he says.
About two years ago the black leather upholstery, black carpet, black painted part of the dashboard and black top were replaced. The padded part of the dashboard remains original.
With a new set of radial tires replacing the 8.45x15-inch bias-ply originals, Mr. Redderson says, “It drives like a dream now.”
He reports mileage figures of 13 to 14 miles per gallon on the highway and about 9 mpg around town. “The performance indicator on the console only tells you how much gas you’re sucking,” he says.
Nevertheless, Mr. Redderson considers himself blessed. He has the convertible he grew up with, now with almost 119,000 miles showing on the odometer, and his wife, Cindy, who, he says, “doesn’t mind the wind in her hair.”