More than a car -- it's functional art

BY Larry D'Argis. Mar 03 04:00 am

By 1960, manufacturers were looking toward building better cars, instead of just adorning previous models with more chrome.

At Chrysler, the move to unibody construction represented a great leap over the previous body-on-frame construction that had been an industry standard since the days of the Model T.

The 1960s also were about performance. Chrysler continued with its 300 series, based on the luxurious New Yorker line, that included parlour-like comfort with high-class style and performance.

The Chrysler 300F drew on its heritage of a high-class two-door hardtop coupe, with a leather interior and styling cues from the posh Imperial. Style were refreshed with broad four-lamp headlamps and sweeping, canted tailfins that housed new boomerang-shaped taillights. A cross between a fighter jet and a rocketship, it gave the illusion of speed and motion, even while standing still.

In 1994, Lindsey Fuller of Winnipeg was knee-deep in a restoration of a 1959 Chrysler 300E and looking for parts in Ontario.

“We were 60 miles south of Ottawa and the guy was a total enthusiast,” Fuller says. “He had buildings and a yard full of Chrysler letter cars and Imperials.”

Fuller secured the needed parts for his restoration, then tried to buy a very nice 1960 300F that was in one of the buildings.

“Nineteen-sixty has always been my favourite ‘fin’ car design,” Fuller says. The seller had only the one 300F, so he tried to get Fuller to buy one of his three 1961 300Gs, but Fuller stayed with his choice.

Two years later, Fuller received a call saying he could have the 1960 300F. He and a friend made the trek east and drove the car back to Winnipeg. The car was from Madison, Wis., originally, but spent most of its life in southwest California before making its way to Ontario. To say the 300F performed flawlessly on the way home would be an understatement; the only problem he encountered in the entire trip was a warning speeding ticket in Wisconsin.

Over the next 19 years, Fuller would put about 48,000 kilometres on the 300F attending numerous shows throughout Canada and the United States. In 2015, he felt it was time to treat the car to a full and thorough restoration as a retirement project. He had neither the shop nor the equipment to achieve this so he approached Otto Szalai at Otto’s Custom Upholstering in Beausejour, about working with his team to bring the 300F back to its former glory.

Fuller took part in most of the disassembly, cleaning and reassembly process, but the lion’s share of the work went to Szalai’s team. The original 413-cubic-inch V8 engine had been replaced with a newer 1967 440 V-8. The larger engine, coupled with the original dual cross-ram intake manifold, puts the engine’s output figure around 410 horsepower. The cross-ram intake allowed the air and atomized fuel mixture from the carburetor to take advantage of the large intake plenum, resulting in a ram effect for the mixture at the cylinder head. Backing the potent V-8 is a 1962 aluminum case Torqueflite three-speed automatic transmission.

Once on the rotisserie, the body of the car was found to be relatively straight and rust-free. This allowed for only minimal metalwork before Doug Newton of Anola Custom Collision and Glass stepped in to do the final prep and paint application. The terra-cotta finish is a one-year-only offering.

Inside, the 300F is finished in a full tan leather reproduction upholstery kit, installed by Szalai. The interior features six-way power front swivel bucket seats, centre console, power windows, solex tinted glass, power steering, power brakes, sure-grip rear differential and “touch tone” pushbutton radio. Rolling stock consists of new Coker wide whitewall radial tire, capped off with the unique 300 full wheelcovers. Ten months later the 300F was complete and ready for the road.

“I fully participated in the restoration and did what I could,” Fuller says. “It was a great learning experience.”

In all, the 1,950-kilogram car rides on a 320-centimetre wheelbase and is fully capable of travelling at speed on all interstate highways with ease. Fuller’s car is one of only 251 of the 964 300F hardtops produced in 1960 known to survive.

Fuller intends to drive the car and enjoy it he can. His wife, Paula, enjoys riding in the cars and attending the shows. The two Chrysler 300s — nicknamed “Baby” for the ’59 and “Rocket” for the ’60 — occupy both stalls of their attached two-car garage.

Fuller, a member of the Manitoba Mopar Association since 2002, will treat us by having both of his Chrysler 300 letter cars on display at the upcoming 43rd Annual Piston Ring World of Wheels Car Show, held March 24 to 26 at RBC Convention Centre.

When show visitors gaze upon this dynamic duo, they may initially remark, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” The fact is, today, as part of our automotive heritage, they now represent functional art.

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