BIG Blue – The story of 8403 146407
by Gil Cunningham

reprinted from the Winter 2001 Club News Volume 27 Number 2

As with many of my 300 encounters, this one started in Louisville, KY. For several years Bobby Dupin had been keeping an eye on a 300F convertible. Yes, yet another one! He had previously found one for me, 8403 119884, which I had purchased and drove back to Michigan in 1969.

This one had gone thru several owners (one of which was believed to be the main lady in a “working” lady establishment), but was now languishing – sans engine and transmission – behind a repair shop. The car’s most notable feature, other than its “300ness” was its color. It appeared through a mottled coat of spray bomb black, to be blue! Sometime in the spring of 1973 Bobby and I went over to take a look at this unusual beast. It was indeed a forlorn scene – the car blending with the typical collection of automotive related items (junk to the uninitiated) that normally accumulated behind a car repair shop. The top was in a sorry state with most of its center section gone – but thankfully, was covered with something that had once passed for clear visqueen. The car did, however seem to have an original appearing blue color beneath that well worn black.

I don’t remember if Bobby had told me about the interior (he MUST have) but a look inside confirmed that it was also blue! Blue everywhere – instrument panel, steering wheel, seats, trim panels, carpet remnants. Everything looked original to me – the car certainly had never been restored. An examination of the code plate confirmed our observations: Paint DD1 (Polar Blue, a color available on other 1960 Chryslers) and trim 888 (special order interior color). Up to this time, I had only seen a few of these “888” cars; but this one seemed to follow the pattern (1) color everywhere a standard 300 interior was tan and (2) solid leather on the seat surfaces in place of the normal basket weave with perforations. I don’t think the car was for sale at that time; because I didn’t buy it until 1975, according to my records. Besides, “Eddie” the car’s owner still had ideas of “restoring” it, he had owned the car since ’68 or ’69 and had blown the engine 6 months later. Apparently, he was thinking of converting it to a manual transmission; because it had already been modified to include a clutch pedal! Mercifully the floor had not yet been hacked up (Probably because the console was in the way). Unfortunately, the unique 300F hood had already been made more unique with the addition of two hood scoops. I would discover later the cretin who installed them was some sort of functionality freak – each was accompanied with its very own 6” diameter hole through the hood panel! Other “improvements” noted on that first visit were the addition of an antenna to the deck lid and evidence of what must have been ’61 Plymouth “bomb style” tail lights which use to be attached to each lower quarter panel. What desecration!

That is the only time that I saw the car until the Louisville Meet in June of 1975. In the intervening time it had become available and I made arrangements to buy it. The actual purchase and retrieval were handled by Bob for me that spring. By meet time he had the blue F safely housed in his neighbor’s garage next door. For the first time I had a chance to look it over really well. The body wasn’t that bad and the seats were quite good, considering the car had been sitting outside for the past 5 or 6 years. I had also purchased at about the same time a white ’62 300 2dr. for parts (its transmission now resides in my H). Since no storage was available for the ’62 in Louisville, it was decided to tow it back after the meet. The F would have to wait a little longer; but at least now it was safe and dry.

For some reason I picked the month of March (1976) to get the F and – probably with little effort – talked George Riehl into coming along for the ride. Ha! We took my ‘salt car” a 1964 Plymouth Belvedere to handle the towing duties. At the time it was the daily driver for the 50 odd miles to work at Chrysler, so it was reliable.

Once in Louisville, after the great “Mom” Dupin cooking and requisite car talk, we set about preparing the F for its trip home. All went well with the tire changes and tow bar hookup and we headed north. Our plan was to layover the night at friend and club member Bob Wieland’s home in Dayton, Ohio. This we did, but the next morning the weather had changed into a nasty, cold rain. Unfortunately, an engineless, tow barred 300F in wet conditions has more or less its own ideas about which way it should go when turning corners. Yes, my old buddy George “volunteered” to do the F steering until we wended our way back to I-75. Talk about looking and feeling like the proverbial drowned rat! Was he ever happy to get back in a car with a heater and a roof! Years later, that particular experience can still be vividly, but most disagreeably, recalled by George. I am surprised he ever went with me on a car excursion again. Once back on the highway, our trip went well and by evening we were at George and Eleanor’s home in Ann Arbor. It had now started to spit some snow as I dropped George off and with my undying gratitude and headed for home in Holly, some 50 miles further north. Several weeks later, with the help of a DIFFERENT friend, club member D DeButts, we towed the F over to my parent’s farm near Lansing and shoehorned it into the corner of one of our sheds. There it would stay safe and dry for the next 15 years. Thus ended the first phase of “Big Blue’s” experience under the ownership of one Gil Cunningham.

Having the F at last safely tucked away, I became more curious about its history. I know from Chrysler records it was sold in Cincinnati, Ohio at Tom’s Auto Service. The microfilm of the computer build card had “spec ord 8738” written on it. I was able to determine from the 1960 Cincinnati City Directory, this dealership’s address and the name of its owner, Tom Bywater. The building still exists – now as a foreign car dealership (of course). I took a photo of it one day while visiting the location. Tom Bywater, I found out was no longer living, but his son Jack was. Jack thought that he remembered the car and possibly the owner, but wasn’t sure. He was willing to help, being a car guy too, but just couldn’t come up with the owner’s name. After several conversations, he suggested asking the then service Manager (Jack had assumed that I had already talked to him, but I had not). When I called him, he immediately came up with the 300F owner’s name – Howard Bosken – and offered to try and contact him. BINGO! Not more than a few days later, I received a call from Mr. Bosken, the ORIGINAL owner of the blue 300F. We had an excellent conversation and have had several since, each providing me with more and more information about the car’s earlier years.

Mr. Bosken originally ordered the car for his wife, Mary Ann. Her car at that time was a 1959 T-bird convertible which they wanted to get rid of. Mr. Bosken knew about 300s because of racing. Mrs. Bosken was OK with having a 300F, as long as she could get one in blue. She also insisted on a blue interior, not being particularly enamored with the standard issue light tan. The car was ordered with a white top; because their convertibles “always had white tops.” Although blue was available in 1960, we both agreed that probably would have been too much (I am glad that is how they felt then – I am having enough trouble getting a white top with a grey interior for restoration!) A radio was not ordered, because Mr. Bosken did not like them in a car. He still doesn’t and “would never pay extra for one.” When I acquired the car, it did have a 5-button ’60 radio in it, but a recheck of the microfilm confirmed that, in fact it was not ordered with one.

As for ordering the special interior, Mr. Bosken remembers talking to someone at the Marine Division at Chrysler. He says there were several guys involved with midget racing (as he was) who came to the R & D area of Chrysler Marine Division in the ‘40s. These “midget racers” also worked on Mexican Road Race cars at Chrysler. Whether the Marine Division was also involved in special orders or this “someone” there talked to the right person elsewhere in Chrysler to get the “special order” interior remains unknown. Mr. Bosken could not remember (understandably so) who his contact was. The Boskens kept the car for six years. I got the impression that they liked it quite well, although Mr. Bosken was not at all impressed with the durability of the carpet. Their daughter had already worn a hole in it where she stood behind the driver’s seat.

On the last trip back from Fort Lauderdale, where they spent some time each winter. It blew a freeze plug near Yeehaw Junction, a very desolate place in southern Florida and he told his wife to “get rid of it.” She traded it in on a “very plain” Buick Wildcat, which they owned until last year. That is the last they ever saw of the 300F.

During our several conversations, a number of interesting stories were related. On one particularly quick trip to Tampa for a trap shooting event, Mr. Bosken covered 100 miles of South Georgia/north Florida roads in one hour! No, this was not on I-75, which was not completed at the time. As he related it, either the throttle was wide open or the brakes full on. Sounds like the way a 300F was intended to be driven to me. Mr. Bosken’s interest in car performance continues to this day. Just a couple of years ago he checked out the governor on his new Lexus GS400 on US 19 south of Tallahassee. Sure enough, it eased in as the owner’s manual said it would – at exactly 149 mph!

Mr. Bosken has always ridden motorcycles and has owned at least one Maserati and one Ferrari. Obviously, the 300F, ostensibly his wife’s car as I have stated, suited him very well. As he told me yesterday, he “drove the hell out of it.” However, even better performance couldn’t hurt. Right? Like maybe 400HP and a 4 speed! To that end, he and the F paid a visit to Bob McAtee in Illinois to take a look at the flying mile winning car he owned. Mr. Bosken’s idea was to buy it and essentially trade engines and transmissions, then sell the hardtop, now with the blue F’s 375/Torqueflite unit in it! He would then have a convertible which they both liked and 400HP. He did not say how his wife would like the 4 speed. For whatever reason, the deal never went through.

The blue F was ordered with Suregrip because of the Cincinnati hills in winter. However, the traction of the Bluestreaks in snow was “lousy.” and Mr. Bosken remembers having to push it many times with the Michelin equipped 1959 Pontiac station wagon.

During our first conversation, Mr. Bosken told me there was one way to be certain my car was the one he originally owned. (I was already sure of this since the 300F/DD1/888/Convert is unique and Tom Bywater only sold one 300F.) The car apparently had a significant and annoying wind noise at speeds over 100. Per Chrysler’s instructions, “20 to 30 holes were drilled around the radiator.” he said. I looked for these, but started to doubt either the story or the car until I found them along the flange immediately behind the upper edge of the grille. There are 27, 3/8” holes to be exact. This fix was very effective. Some day in the not-to-distant future, I hope to confirm the effectiveness of that fix personally. Since I left them in during restoration (Oh yes if the car is ever judged, it had better get zinged for them, though!)

This is the only one of my cars for which I have located its original owner. I have traced my C back to its second owner (probably my D as well) but am afraid I am forever stymied there. Tracing the history of one’s car is an aspect of the hobby I enjoy almost as much as driving and possibly restoring. When responding to a member’s request for microfilm information on their 300, I always try to include an originating dealer. It is my hope that this starting point may result in one or more of the car’s previous owners being identified and an associated history discovered.

In the spring of 1992, my long-time car storage disappeared – a result of my mother’s passing a year earlier and subsequent sale of the Lansing farm. By this time, Carol and I were living in Tallahassee, so car relocation was not a simple “just down the road” situation. That is another story for another time. Suffice it to say, a big THANK YOU is owed to George for use of his pickup and Michael for use of his trailer and space for temporary storage. Eventually, one by one they all ended up here!

The blue F, the C and the K came directly to Florida from the farm – the F via tow dolly behind the H in May of 1992, right after the club meet in Dayton. Ironically, this trip towing the F also involved an overnight stop at the home of Bob Weiland – now married to Elizabeth Dupin and living in Pendleton, Kentucky. Weather was involved this time too! It had rained copiously the previous day and I had just barely been able to tow the F up the drive to the house. Turning around to head back, proved impossible because of a lack of traction in the wet backyard. This time instead of George, help came in the form of Bob’s 1939, Farmall model H tractor hooked onto the front of my car, which was still attached to the F and its tow dolly. As with pre-C300 NASCAR, “Twin H-Power” proved very successful and I and the blue F were once more on our way to the Sunshine State! Once home, however, there was still an awkward time of outdoor storage for the F, until my friend Joey and I completed our 50’ X 100’ steel building in 1993. The blue F was first in, but not before – I am ashamed to say – certainly some damage was done to it by the elements, even though it was covered.

Finally, your old, procrastinating story teller, with significant impetus provided by his wife, made THE move! After residing a couple of years at our home, undergoing significant disassembly and some body work, the decision was made to send the blue F to a genuine restoration shop. I had never before sent any of my cars anywhere to be worked on and it was certainly with mixed emotions; that I watched that car trailer containing Big Blue disappear down our driveway. It had become painfully obvious that I wouldn’t or couldn’t do its body work. So, in May of 1999 the 300F was sent to Time Machines of Hudson, Florida. We did not feel that we could afford to have the whole car restored by them, so we specified that the body and chassis only be done – as close to original as possible. Besides, to me, a big part of the hobby is doing as much as one can, oneself. One early point of contention was their use of base coat-clear coat, rather than the more authentic appearing acrylic enamel. They promised me the finished product would not have that disagreeable “wet” look. I don’t think it does; but y’all can be the judge of that when it finally makes a meet appearance!

Our first visit to Time Machines, found the F completely stripped, media blasted, primed and mounted on the spit! An anxious inspection of the secret number above the heater opening, found my protective masking tape, still in place. Especially on this special-order car, I wanted to be sure that some of its original paint was preserved! Actually, I had not expected that it would be completely stripped, so assumed that some of the paint would be left in nonvisible areas. This initially benign misunderstanding of how extensive the restoration was to be intensified as the hours charged outpaced the original estimate. Happily, all was eventually resolved. I have a very high regard for the way Time Machines handled the situation.

Time Machines was able to ultimately save all of the original body panels, except the lower deck, by forming metal to duplicate the rusted-out areas, as well as those “customized” by previous owners. The hood was especially challenging. One day they called me to tell me, I had better try and find another – just “Don’t buy it yet.” As they were going to give it one more try. Later that week came word that the final try had been successful - they were able to save it. I do have other 300F hoods, but keeping with my philosophy of “molecular restoration” and a strong resistance to turn ANY 300F into a parts car, I wanted to use the original! If it had become necessary, I probably would have opted to fit the blue F louvers to a salvage New Yorker hood. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

Meanwhile, back at home I was busy on the engine. I had owned the block for years and always intended that it would be used in this car, since the date on it was appropriate. As you may know, the 300F engine is pretty close to the New Yorker – doesn’t even have the “HP” (for what it is worth, this block did come out of a 300F, anyway.) I really got lucky on a parts engine that Andy Mikonis found for me in the Chicago area. It turned out to have the crankshaft with the little balance lines on the counterweights, just like the 300! That combined with a NOS camshaft I bought from Chrysler back in the day when one still could, pretty much solved the problem of creating an authentic basic engine to replace the missing one. George redid the heads and I assembled the unit using 0.030” oversized pistons. Hopefully, it will run like new. The Torqueflite, was also a Riehl endeavor, rebuilt to 300F specs. Many years ago, by him from a non-original (Saratoga) unit out of my white F convert. I figured I should put in something soon, or it might never get used! I did paint the transmission case aluminum; but now doubt the authenticity of that. Oops!

Eventually, with the help of a local Mopar club friend, Larry DuMond, the engine and transmission were mated and returned to Time Machines for installation. They preferred to take the responsibility of any damage to the bodywork; that might happen during that operation.

During the body and chassis restoration, Carol and I made quite a few trips (about 3 ½ hours away) to visit Big Blue. At first, it didn’t seem like much progress was being made, considering those hours. Body work is like that, I guess – probably why I don’t like doing it. FINNALLY, the time came to look at the car – at last in color! It was definitely exciting to see it all Polar blue for the first time, but a bit disappointing too. Time Machines had made the effort to give me an original look like they thought I wanted by skipping the initial #600 sanding, (agreed to by me) and just using #1000 and #1500. This, it was hoped, would leave some “orange peel” for a bit more authenticity. The look, so obtained was, unfortunately, not at all natural. It was therefore decided to go for perfectly smooth – what Carol really wanted all along. I had noticed how she got kind of nervous and weird when I mentioned words like “factory type” or “orange peel” when talking about the 300F’s paint!

Contrary to their normal procedure, but at my request, they painted the car in its entirety, complete with front sheet metal in place. This is how it was done in 1960 at Jefferson Assy. Plant. That meant that there would be no engine installation, but rather a body drop over the engine and transmission sitting in position on the sub frame. This was accomplished without incident, despite Time Machines’ reservations about lifting the body with all that front sheet metal “hanging out there”. I told them if Chrysler could do it on a moving line. I had confidence in their ability to do it in a stationary mode.

Big Blue came back home, coincidentally on our wedding anniversary, on October 11, 2000. What a different car emerged from that trailer than went in a year and a half earlier! It would have been even more stunning with a new set of wide whites, but I haven’t decided on bias or radials yet. After suitable admiration time and picture taking the F was rolled into the garage right next to our old faithful 300H convert and the new overhead door shut for its protection.

Well, I wish I could go on now and tell about its completion and describe how it drives, etc., etc., etc. – but I can’t. This 300F newsletter issue came due before the 300F restoration was done and I don’t dare wait for the next time around! What needs to be done yet? LOTS! The instrument panel is totally apart, but will be painted and built back up by the time you read this. Its pot metal has been re-chromed, as has the rest of the car. I really hate the look (and sometimes function) of re-chromed parts. Even though the pits are gone, they just don’t look right in most cases. The crisp factory appearance is missing, even though my chromer, Pot Metal Restorations of Tallahassee, does chemically remove the old plating. The problem, I guess is the amount of copper needed to fill the pits and then the necessity to abrade most of it away before chroming. I have already had to spend way too much time filing and grinding just to get the vent wing division bars back on their pot metal vent frames. Certain items that had fine detail, such as knobs and heater/transmission control bezels, I just left original. Why waste the money? One nice I/P find was a NOS radio block-off plate obtained through club member Al Kvatek’s Valley Vintage Auto Parts. The NOS left side heat riser weight, also from there, wasn’t a bad find either!

Major areas left to do are the power seat, console, rams. Carbs (which I don’t have yet), bumpers and stainless. I had most wiring harnesses reproduced by club member Greg Leggatt and my order for “all the rest” is in the capable hands of Gary Goers.

That leaves the seats. I said they were pretty good, considering, and they are. I am planning on using the originals for awhile, for both utility and display. To my recollection, an unrestored 888 trim 300F has never appeared at a club meet and I think it would be neat to have one be seen. I will definitely need to have some areas repaired; however, before the interior can be considered presentable. Complete upholstery restoration will ultimately follow, I am sure.

Before I end what has become quite a lengthy story, I want to express my appreciation to a couple more people who have provided help. A friend of mine, here in Tallahassee, Dave Patik, contributed his knowledge and expertise in body work to help me deal with numerous dents and dings covering the F. We did make progress, but the scope of the project and our facilities eventually resulted in the decision to “farm it out.” I did, however, learn some things about dinging. Thanks Dave! Dave also got the original manufacturer of the 300F clock to repair it.

Also appreciated was the contributions of my long-time friend and club member, Terry McTaggart. He actually drove down from Dayton JUST to work on the car! (I hear you can do that when you are retired.) Among other things, we got all the window motors and mechanisms cleaned and in working order. Thanks Terry! I’m REALLY looking forward to your next trip – I think there are a few things to do yet.

As much as Carol and I have enjoyed driving our H convert to around 34 club Meets, we are looking forward to a change of pace. I, for one, am ready for some ram induction and fins! I haven’t driven a 300F on a regular basis, since 1970. I am especially looking forward to showing it to Howard Bosken and he is equally interested in seeing it. In addition, the anticipation of viewing TWO Polar Blue Fs – Dave Schwandt’s hardtop and this convert – parked side by side at some future meet should provide ample impetus for me to finish the job – PRONTO!

2008 Supplement For Gil's 300F Story

As many of you who have done most of the restoration work yourselves know, the devil IS in the details – and sometimes in the grosser aspects too. While it would seem to the uninitiated, the car was well on its way to completion as it came from the restoration shop, such was not the case. I was in large part responsible for this:
(1) I do have a tendency to procrastinate and
(2) My insistence on as close to a “Molecular Restoration” as possible.
What the heck is that you ask? As I have stated before in this publication and personally to anyone who would listen, my approach to restoration is to RETAIN as much of the original car as possible – NOT REPLACE as much as possible, i.e., maximize the retention of the car’s original molecules! Otherwise, one loses more and more of the car till one doesn’t even have what could be reasonably described as the same car. Anyway, such a restoration takes much more time and effort but results in my ability to point to most nuts, bolts, clips, etc. and say with assurance that THAT is how it came from the factory. THAT is the meaning of the word restoration.

Although it had seemed to the casual observer I had done little for a couple of years, progress had been made. Getting the engine running and the car mobile was the first order of business. Additionally, some components done by the resto shop had to be redone. At any rate, all through the basic engine assembly as well as the carb and ram installation, the greatest of care was taken to get things right: not only components, but static timing, carb settings, linkage adjustments – even oil supply to both rocker shafts. Finally, the “crank ‘er up” day arrived! Let’s see air, spark and fuel is all it should need, so I got in the still stripped out interior, sat on the floor and reached for the ignition. One half turn – maybe less – and RRROOAAARRR! It cranked up so fast it pretty much scared me, but what a sound! No exhaust system beyond the header pipes … let it run for the recommended 20 minutes or so to break in the cam, gently revving it occasionally. Did that feel great. Later, when Carol arrived home, she noted I was sitting in the F having a martini – it being the cocktail hour by then. That was one GOOD day.

Of course, the next good day was when I had all the necessary things installed to actually be able to drive the car. It was the first day the car had propelled itself since 1968.

Even with these accomplishments, the years were slipping by. After a couple of years of implied threats of divorce if she didn’t see more progress, Carol finally laid down the law! We drive the F to the ’06 Asheville meet, or I will be going alone! Well I DID get busy that fall of ‘05/spring ’06. Okay, pulling into a 300 meet for the first time with a new car is a thrill. We never really have had a car of this quality, so there was no need to be reluctant to show it off a bit. We had a great time at the meet. We garnered a second place People’s Choice award. We decided to take it to Lawton in September. The meet was great, needless to say.

One last comment about restoration – especially of a car with some unusual features. DOCUMENT. I have two cassettes of video plus numerous photos of before and after and in between. In addition to documentation, these were absolutely essential for proper reassembly.

Thanks to Bill Elder (Wild Man of the North) for preparing this article