Back in ’55, Chrysler debuted their mighty 300 “Letter Car.” The most powerful automobile of the year, the 300C kicked off a new genre of gentleman’s hot rod that was to last for more than a decade. Chrysler cleverly marked annual model changes with letters, running from the 300B in 1956 all the way through—the letter I excepted—to this 300L in 1965.
And ’65 was the swan-song year for the Letter Series speciality car. The 300L sat on high-performance rubber and suspension and was powered by a high-output 413cid 360 bhp mill breathing through a four-barrel Carter carb. By the mid-Sixties, though, the game had changed and Chrysler was pumping its money into muscle-car iron like the Charger and GTX, an area of the market where business was brisk.
The 300L was the last survivor of an era when the Madison Avenue advertising men were still trying to persuade us that an automobile as long as a freight train could also be a sports car.
NEW DESIGN CHIEF
Styling of the 300L was by Elwood Engle, who had replaced Virgil Exner as Chrysler’s chief of design. Although the company’s advertising claimed that this was “The Most Beautiful Chrysler Ever Built,” the “Crisp, Clean, Custom” look of ’63–’64 had ballooned.
Belt lines were lower and roof lines higher this year, which increased the glass area and made the interior feel even more cavernous.
Torsion-bar front suspension gave poise and accuracy.
Red or black leather could be specified for the final word in luxury.
300Ls had unibody construction, with the front subframe bolted rather than welded onto the main structure.
Competition was particularly stiff in ’65, and the 300L had to fight hard against the Oldsmobile Starfire, the agonizingly pretty Buick Riviera, and the market leader, Ford’s flashy Thunderbird. Only 2,405 300L hardtops were produced, and a measly 440 two-door convertibles rolled out of the factory.
Owners had plenty of space to store luggage in the massive trunk.
Rear axles could be equipped with positive traction at extra cost.
1961 saw the 300G, which was the last model to sport Exner’s fins. The following year was arguably the start of the decline of the series, and by the time the famous 300 nameplate had reached its final year, the spark had gone. The 300L was not as quick as its forebears and is the least special of Chrysler’s limited editions.
These live behind a horizontally etched glass panel.
Coupes weighed in at a solid $4,090 with convertibles stickering at $4,545.
In ’65 the Chrysler line changed dramatically with a new corporate C-body shared with upmarket Dodges and the Plymouth Fury.
Front bucket seats plus a center console were standard on the L, as was the new-for- ’65 column instead of push-button automatic transmission. The rear seat was molded to look like buckets but could actually accommodate three people.
Options included tilting steering wheel, Golden Tone radio, cruise control, remote trunk release, high speed warning system, and air-conditioning.
The non-Hemi V8 was tough and reliable, and gave the 300L very respectable performance figures. The L was quick, agile, and one of the smoothest-riding Letter Series cars made, with 45 bhp more than the standard 300’s unit.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Chrysler 300L (1965)
PRODUCTION 2,845 (1965)
BODY STYLES Two-door hardtop and convertible.
CONSTRUCTION Steel unitary body.
ENGINE 413cid V8.
POWER OUTPUT 360 bhp.
TRANSMISSION Three-speed automatic, optional four-speed manual.
SUSPENSION Front: torsion bar; Rear: leaf springs.
BRAKES Front and rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 110 mph (177 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 8.8 sec
A.F.C. 12–14 mpg (4.2–5 km/l)