“Red hot and rambunctious” is how Chrysler sold the 300F. It may be one of the strangest slogans of any American automaker, but the 300F really was red hot and a serious flying machine that could better 140 mph (225 km/h).
The rambunctious refers to the ram-air induction on the bad-boy 413cid wedge-head V8. Ram tuning had long been a way of raising torque and horsepower for drag racing, and it gave the 300F a wicked performance persona. One of Virgil Exner’s happier designs, the 300F of ’60 had unibody construction, a French Pont-A-Mousson four-speed gearbox, and front seats that swiveled toward you when you opened the doors.
It also boasted an electroluminescent instrument panel and Chrysler’s best styling effort since 1957. But at $5,411, it was no surprise that only 964 coupes found buyers. Nevertheless, it bolstered Chrysler’s image, and taught them plenty of tuning tricks for the muscle-car wars that were revving up just around the corner.
POWER AND GLORY
The 300F was one of America’s most powerful cars, and a souped-up version recorded a one-way run of an amazing 189 mph (304 km/h) on the Bonneville salt flats. But despite the prodigious performance, it was deliberately understated compared with many contemporary Detroit offerings.
Nylon whitewalls came as standard.
The alternative carburetor positioning gave a steady buildup of power along the torque curve.
Opening the door initiated the self-activating swiveling seats.
With the window rolled down the 300F had a pillarless look.
Within two years fins would disappear completely on the Chrysler letter series 300.
This particular model has Sure-Grip differential, a $52 option.
You could argue that the 300F’s fins started at the front of the car and traveled along the side, building up to lethal, daggerlike points above the exquisitely sculptured taillights.
The phrase “beautiful brutes” was coined to describe the 300 Series.
The “Astra-Dome” instrumentation was illuminated at night by electroluminescent light, giving a soft, eerie glow that shone through the translucent markings on the gauges. It was technically very daring and boasted six different laminations of plastic, vitreous, and phosphor.
Center-mounted tachometer came as standard.
THE ONLY BLEMISH
The much-criticized fake spare-tire embellishment on the trunk was variously described as a toilet seat or trash can lid. This questionable rear deck treatment was officially known as “Flight-Sweep” and was also available on other Chryslers. Possibly the 300F’s only stylistic peccadillo, it was dropped in ’61.
The 300F’s razor-sharp rear fins were criticized by Ralph Nader in his book Unsafe at Any Speed as “potentially lethal.”
Solex tinted glass was a $43 optional extra.
Power antenna was a $43 option; this car also has the Golden Tone radio ($124).
QUIRKY SEAT SYSTEM
Self-activated swiveling seats were new for 1960 and pivoted outward automatically when either door was opened. It’s ironic that the burly 300F’s typical owner was likely to be a flabby 40-year-old.
Side mirror was remote-controlled.
The two-door shape meant that the rear deck was the size of Indiana, and the cavernous trunk was large enough to hold four wheels and tires.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Chrysler 300F (1960)
PRODUCTION 1,212 (1960, both body styles)
BODY STYLES Two-door coupe and convertible.
CONSTRUCTION Steel unitary body.
ENGINE 413cid V8.
POWER OUTPUT 375 –400 bhp.
TRANSMISSION Three-speed push-button automatic, optional four-speed manual.
SUSPENSION Front: torsion bars; Rear: leaf springs.
BRAKES Front and rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 140 mph (225 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 7.1 sec
A.F.C. 12 mpg (4.2 km/l)