Ron Cherry: Muscle in the family with a ‘63 Chrysler 300
Since Eric Comendant’s father was a body builder, it was appropriate that he bought a ‘63 Chrysler 300 Sport back in 1965.
When his father competed, Eric said, “He was the type of guy who oiled up his body.”
So having a sleek, powerful car fit right in with the man he was.
Although Eric was not sure what engine the car had at that time, the 300 came with at least a 383 CID, 305 HP engine and could have had up to a 425 HP 426 CID wedge-head engine.
No matter what, it had enough power for its day.
It had the Torqueflite 727 auto trans and a Sure Grip 3.73:1 rearend.
The car was not loaded with extras, but had power brakes with over-size drums.
No power steering, doors, windows or seats. “No power, just power,” Eric joked. In the interior, it had a split bench front seat and vinyl upholstery.
Eric has many fond memories of riding in the Chrysler with his dad.
His dad raced coupes at the Freemont Drags, so he was not adverse to a little speed.
“When someone came up to us on the road, he’d punch it and make us kids scream a little,” Eric recalled. “It was fun.”
They also went on camping trips with the Chrysler, which had plenty of room in the trunk for hauling gear. His dad put on a trailer hitch for hauling a boat as well.
“It was a big, mahogany Chris Craft,” Eric said of their first boat. “I remember my dad smoking the tires trying to pull it out of the water, even with a posi rearend. We had to put weight in the trunk to get it out.”
For years, it was their main car. Even when his dad bought other cars for their second car, the Chrysler was “his baby and he always upgraded it.”
Over the years, his dad made sure the car was in good condition, doing all maintenance and repairs the car needed.
Eric said that he made sure they did not abuse his car that he kept in pristine condition.
“We couldn’t touch the chrome or you would have to take a rag and clean it.” But Eric’s main memories of his dad are of a strong man who was kind. “He was good to his kids,” he said.
About 15 years ago, Eric’s dad went through the Chrysler, dropping in a fresh 383 CID engine, redoing the interior and repainting the car.
Eric said that he was overcharged for poor work, especially the bondo repairs. By 2008, the car was partially disassembled for more work. It was at that time that Eric’s dad passed away and Eric inherited the car. “It was in pieces,” Eric said. “The engine was out, the seats were out and all the trim was taken off.” Eric set to work on the Chrysler.
First he put all the original trim, engine and seats back in the car. He did all that was needed to get the Chrysler back on the road. Since then, Eric has done anything necessary to keep the Chrysler in good shape. He has rebuilt the trans and replaced the alternator, as well as any needed maintenance.
About a year ago, Eric found a 440 CID high-performance engine from a ‘68 Charger for it, but it was a little too radical for him. He installed one of the milder versions of the famed Mopar purple cams (so named because the shaft between the lobes was originally purple) that still gave a nice lope, topping the engine with Edelbrock E-street aluminum heads. A Holley 750 cfm carb provided plenty of fuel and a Magnaflow exhaust system kept it breathing freely. The Chrysler had plenty of power while still being very streetable. An aluminum radiator addition kept it running cool.
One thing Eric has done is to keep the appearance of his Chrysler like it was when his dad owned it. Even the wheels, five-spoke Westerns, are period correct. And under the hood, is a modification his dad did that Eric cherishes. The power brake booster is etched with a spider web, a shamrock and a skull with “65” on the eyeball. The “65” probably was because that’s when his dad bought the car, but he has no idea why the rest of it is there. “It wasn’t really like him,” Eric said. But it had some significance to his dad and Eric is keeping the booster on the car. It’s an interesting mystery.
In the future, Eric would like to make a few improvements.
“My dream is to add air conditioning, air ride suspension, quick-ratio steering with a tilt wheel and front disc brake.”
In the meantime, he’s going to enjoy to muscle he inherited from his dad by driving it around town.
One place he occasionally goes is to Cars and Coffee, which is held in the K-Mart parking lot off McKnight on Saturdays from 8 ‘til 10 in the morning.
If you see him there, be sure to check out the brake booster.
Ron Cherry’s four books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His latest Celtic saga, Three Legs of the Cauldron, is now available on Amazon. For more about his writing, go to http://www.rlcherry.com.
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