I was reading Hemmings the other night and came across one of the two cars on my bucket list: a fully restored 1957 Chrysler 300 C with a 392 Hemi. The car was located on the west coast, nowhere near me. I got in touch with the seller, and he agreed to pick me up at the airport. I bought a round trip ticket online and packed a small suitcase. After enduring terrible harassment from my wife, I left the next day. After a 5+ hour flight I land in LA. We drive an hour to the guy’s house, and there it was, showroom new in black with tan leather interior. The guy shows me a large attached case with pictures, invoices, and other information documenting the restoration. I saw that the drive-train had been rebuilt by a Mopar expert that I know, so I knew it was ok. Owner hands me the keys and says let’s go for a ride. I slid behind the wheel and waves of nostalgia crashed over me. I hadn’t driven one of these in over 50 years. I turned the ignition key on, pumped the gas once, and pushed the Neutral button to crank it. The big Hemi fired quickly, and the sound made me tingle. The steering wheel is huge compared to the present day. The accelerater pedal is long, narrow, and floor mounted. The brake pedal is around 15" wide to aid left foot braking. I lower the window, and the smell is one that used to be common but is rare today, the smell of unburned fuel. Foot on the brake, push the Reverse button, reach down and twist the umbrella handle parking brake to release it, and we back slowly down the driveway. Seller directs me to a freeway entrance a couple blocks away. I ask him how many miles it’s been since the engine was built, and he says “600, so you can open it up on the freeway”. I was smiling like an idiot. We get to the entrance, traffic was light, and I punched it. There is no way to describe the sound of air being pulled into that big engine through two unsilenced air cleaners on top of two Carter four barrel carburetors at full throttle, but it was magical. The torque-flite shifted into high at 85mph,as it was designed to do. The car handled like it was on rails, which is impressive for a 4,600 lb, 126" wheelbase car. Brakes were typical of the era (lousy). Cabin was noisy and ride was too firm for my taste. Acceration from a standing start was… interesting. Getting started without spinning the wheels was difficult, but once the tires grabbed, it was amazing. We drive back to the guy’s house and put the car on his lift. The underside of this car was as nice as the topside. After some more discussion, sanity prevailed and I decided not to buy this magnificent car. I could not justify spending $100K on a toy that I might play with 3 or 4 times a year. I did get a trip 60 years back in time for the price of a plane ticket.
On the flight home, I reflected on what we’ve gained and lost in 60 years.
That will follow in a second post, tomorrow, this one is too long already.