1961 Chrysler 300-G Road Test (Motor Life, April 1961)
Latest model in the famed “300” series carries forward the tradition of handling, performance, fleet-looking design.
By Bob Russo. (Motor Life Magazine. April, 1961)
WHEN THE CHRYSLER 300 was introduced to the motoring public in 1955, it quickly acquired a reputation for being a spirited automobile that packs walloping acce1eration, exceptional handling and considerable comfort, into a neat-looking package. It was a natural for competition and, from 1955 through 1957, proved its worth by scoring handsomely at Daytona and other leading tracks throughout the country. The 1961 version — called the Chrysler 300-G — almost enjoys the reputation of its predecessors. True, we don’t see the “300” at race tracks nowadays because its comparatively high cost and maintenance gives the edge to such makes as Ford, Chevrolet, Plymouth and Pontiac — all of which have come up with tremendous boosts in power and performance during the past five years. Still, the 300-G enjoys individual distinction in having been created for rugged, long-lasting road work. Unfortunately, in some ways it lacks the quality expected in a limited-production automobile carrying a price tag in excess of $5000. Before elaborating on this, however, let’s examine the car’s finer points. No one can deny that the 300-G has a look of beauty. Hardtop or convertible —both have clean styling. Advertisements have described it as a “fresh new face”. Actually, the outward changes from 1960 are few, but well done. The massive front bumper has been trimmed to accommodate canted parking- and headlights, while the rather plain grille has been inverted to blend with this overall effect. Modest use of chrome, in the form of a single strip running below the flared rear panels and ending with the familiar “300” emblem, helps accentuate the racy look. Interior appointments show equally good taste. Full bucket seats for driver and passengers are upholstered in leather and padded with five inches of foam rubber. Contoured to fit the body, they offer the comfort of a living room chair.
The four buckets are divided by a center instrument console running from front to rear and padded in between by leather-covered foam rubber. The front console contains an ash tray, power window controls and an easy-to-read tach. The rear portion of the console contains ash tray, lighter and rear window controls.
The instrument cluster itself, typical in all Chryslers for 1960 and ‘61, is one of the finest in the industry. Contained in a dome-like bubble, the instruments are easy to read, especially at night when panelescent” lighting is used. This new lighting system, pioneered by Chrysler last year, eliminates glare and offers a smooth, soft light. Pushbutton controls for the automatic transmission are located to the left of the panel and balanced by heater and fresh air controls at the right. The heart of the 300-G is its 375-hp, 413-cubic-inch ram-induction engine. Ram induction, since it was introduced a year ago on the Chrysler line, has been reviewed time and again so that there is little point in going into details here. We should mention that it takes advantage of the inertia of a moving air mass and gives a tremendous increase in torque. The 300-G power-plant produces 485 foot-pounds of torque at 2800 rpm and has a compression ratio of 10.1:1. Twin four-barrel carburetors are mounted at each aluminum tube intake manifold. Standard equipment includes the Torqueflite transmission, with a fully automatic torque converter and three-speed planetary gear set. Rear axle ratio is 3.23:1, and a Sure Grip differential is optional.
Until this year, a four-speed Pont-a-Mousson manual transmission was available as an option. This is a French-made gearbox which Chrysler purchased at considerable cost and then had to modify to fit the car. This has been done away with for 1961, however, and in its place a standard Chrysler three-speed transmission is being offered as an option. For testing purposes we chose this option over the automatic.
The same unibody construction that goes into ah Chrysler Corp. cars (with the exception of the Imperial) is used on the 300-G. The fused body and frame offers quieter performance and eliminates many rattles and squeaks. Suspension is by special heavy-duty torsion bars in front and leaf springs with shock absorbers 2n the rear. Power brakes and power steering with symmetrical idler arm linkage are standard. As mentioned at the beginning, the 300-G has been designed for rugged, long-lasting road work. Out on the open highway, with plenty of room to bring its 375 horses into action, there are few American-made cars that will stay with it mile after mile. Superb handling, at the sacrifice of a gentle ride, makes it a pleasure to push through twisting mountain passes and narrow roads. And it doesn’t take any coaxing to run the speedometer to 140 mph — where track or highway speed limits permit. On the drag strip, despite its weight (slightly over 4000 pounds), the “G” hustled through the quarter-mile in 16.2 seconds with a speed of 86 mph at the finish line. Zero to 60 took only 8.3 seconds.
City driving was something else again. On our test car we found it difficult to execute a smooth shift from low gear, and nearly impossible to shift from high to second when necessary without slipping the clutch to keep from stalling. On two occasions before our actual test, the car was garaged to correct these faults and to replace spark plugs — which were used up in only 3700 miles. But the situation was never fully remedied. There was difficulty, too, in getting the engine to idle properly. It had a tendency to idle at a much-too-fast 1100 rpm.
Most of the trouble here may be directly attributable to throttle linkage which, in our opinion, is not up to the quality standards expected in such an automobile. Where an intricate ram-induction system, with two widely separated carburetors, calls for refinement in the linkage, the 300-G employs a somewhat crude bent rod and clevis pin arrangement that makes precision adjustment difficult. In our opinion, it takes an exceptional mechanic to get the job done adequately and there seems to be only a few who are wholly familiar with the ram-induction system. It was both unfortunate and disappointing to have exceptionally fine handling and performance on the highway spoiled by erratic performance in the city.
During the past two years, Chrysler automobiles have shown a pleasing improvement in quality and workmanship. It seems strange that, with so many outstanding features to point to in the 300-G, some simple details which have an important effect seem to have been overlooked.
OPTIONS ON CAR TESTED: Three-speed manual transmission, power antenna, power seats, power windows, rear window defroster.
ODOMETER READING AT START OF TEST: 3565 miles
Acceleration (2 aboard)
0-30………………….mph 3.1 sec.
Standing start ¼-mile, 16.2 sec. and 86 mph
Speeds in gears @ 5000 rpm
Speedometer Error on Test Car
Miles per hour per 100 rpm in top gear (Tires 8:00 x 15) 29 mph
Car’s speedometer reading 29 44 49 59 69 79 Weston electric speedometer 30 45 50 60 70 80
Stopping Distances — from 30 mph, 32 ft.from 60 mph, 131 ft.
SPECIFICATIONS FROM MANUFACTURER
Ohv V-8, ram-induction with dual four-barrel carburetors
Bore: 4.18″ Stroke: 3.75″ Displacement: 413 cubic inches Compression ratio: 10.1:1 Horsepower: 375 @ 5000rpm ignition: 12-volt battery/coil
Three-speed manual floor shift
Open with two universal joints
Standard: Semi-floating hypoid —2-pinionSure-Grip: Semi-floating hypoid 2-pinion Standard ratio 3.23:1
Front: Torsion bar springs, non-parallel control arms
Rear: Longitudinal leaf, semi-elliptic; direct acting, heavy-duty shock absorbers
Wheels and Tires
High-performance, nylon tubeless, 8:00×15 tires;
pressed steel disc wheels, 15x6K
Hydraulic, internal-expanding with total contact shoes
Front & rear: 12 in. diameter
Body and Frame
Unitized body and frame
Track, front 61.2″, rear 60.0″
Overall length 219.8″
Dry weight 4200 lbs. (approx.)