My 300D odyssey started in 1985 when
I placed an ad in Cars & Parts for a ’55 to ’58 300.
By that time, I had already owned several 300s but a Hemi had eluded
me. My real desire was to own a ’57 or ’58 convertible
but I would have settled for any decent car in that time span. I
received the usual phone calls trying to sell me a Saratoga or New
Yorker, but I just wasn’t interested. Then came the call I had
been waiting for. A man in the Boston area had a ’58 D
convertible and wanted to sell. I made the deal over the phone and
made plans to fly up to get the car.
As fate would have it, the phone
rang just minutes before I was to leave for the airport and it was
the owner of the car saying something had come up and we would have
to get together at a later date. For a long time, I heard nothing
and then one Saturday afternoon he called again to ask if I was still
interested in the car. This time we made plans to meet halfway
between us in Richmond, Virginia. I hooked up my trailer and bribed
my daughter to go along for company and off we went after the elusive
After I got the
car home, I decided to repaint the car, put in the correct upholstery
and add a new top – the works. I got the upholstery from Gary
Goers and I had the car painted at a local dealership that had a
painter who “specialized” in old cars. Not only was the
paint job terrible, they also DROVE MY CAR and caused damage to
several things. I had the car repaired mechanically and repainted at
another shop and then I turned the matter over to a lawyer. After
several months, the dealership paid for their shoddy workmanship and
the joy ride. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only dissatisfied
customer and the dealership went out of business and the people left
town with their tails between their legs.
already had a certain amount “celebrity status” about it
when I bought it, as it had once belonged to Richard Carpenter and it
had also been the centerfold “retrospect” car in the
March 1978 issue of Motor Trend.
the car for several years, Eleanor Riehl called me in May of 1993 to
tell me that a movie company was interested in my car for an upcoming
movie starring Rob Morrow (of “Northern Exposure”) and
being directed by Robert Redford.
The name of the movie is “The
Quiz Show”. Eleanor said I would be getting a phone call in
just a few minutes from the movie company. Andy Jugle had told me
several years ago about his bad experience with television people and
his ’57 convertible (Crime Story), so I was a little
apprehensive. But after thinking it over, and a little arm twisting
from Susan, I agreed to let them use the car. Part of the deal was
that the Chrysler 300 Club International would be listed in the
credits as having furnished the car for the movie. Another part of
the deal was that Susan and I were to be flown to New York City to
watch the shooting and of course we would be able to meet the stars.
Susan, like most women I suppose, is quite a Redford fan. So, you
can imagine how excited we both were to make the trip.
We were picked up
at the airport by a limousine with a driver named “Tex”,
of all things. He was quite a fountain of information as we whizzed
through the streets of New York City. Mostly he told us where NOT to
go, but also pointed out several places of interest and recommended
several good restaurants. The hotel was on Park Avenue and was very
nice. The studio called almost as soon as we arrived at the hotel
and they told us a scene was to be shot in just a few minutes, only a
few blocks away. So we grabbed a cab and the next thing we knew we
were walking into the side entrance of what appeared to be an old
abandoned warehouse. It wasn’t hard to find because there were
huge movie trucks everywhere, which we found out later was an
everyday sight in New York City. We walked right in and watched a
“Quiz Show” scene being shot. Those property managers
must really work hard for their money. You will be happy to know
that there are crazier people out there than old car enthusiasts.
The set for the scene consisted of old television studio equipment,
the real stuff, that some nut out there collects. The property
manager had to find that stuff, just like he had to find my car. It
was amazing to see all of the old equipment laying around the set.
Anyway, everyone was very nice. We got the grand tour of the set and
we got to see Robert Redford right away. The set was fairly dark for
shooting but Susan spotted him the minute he walked in.
The rest of the
day was spent sightseeing. In the evening, we had dinner at Keane’s
Chop House. This place had been one of my parent’s favorite
places to eat in the ‘20s and ‘30s, when they lived in
New York. Although I don’t smoke, I wanted to try my dad’s
old pipe that is hanging on the ceiling, along with a few thousand
others, belonging to people who were regulars, way back then.
Unfortunately, there had been a small fire in the office a few years
back and all of the old records had been lost, so we never found out
which pipe was Daddy’s. Oh well, the food was great anyway!
The next day, we
went to the “show room” set on Columbus Circle, right
across from Central Park. The set was exactly like a 1958 Chrysler
show room and my “D” was the leading car. We met several
interesting people on the set, including Robert Redford, Rob Morrow,
a world-famous German cinematographer/director whose name I can’t
remember and several other actors and extras. Everyone there seemed
to be a little afraid of Mr. Redford, probably because he was the
director. But he was nice to us and allowed us to watch them shoot
the opening scene of the movie, where Rob Morrow looks at the D with
a salesman. As I understand it, Rob wants the car very badly, but
can’t afford it. The car is later sold to the emcee on “The
Quiz Show” and he drives it away while Rob looks on. (I think
the guy turns out to be a crook and Rob of course is a good guy.
How they shoot
the scenes is quite interesting – and quite tiring. They were
shooting a 30 second scene and were there for half a day. They must
have shot the same scene 20 times, each from a different angle and
each with different lighting. They used a small, portable railroad
track for the cameras so they could follow the actors around the
car. The smallest things are so time consuming. They had a devil of
a time keeping Rob Morrow’s cigar lit and it was a major deal.
Redford and the cinematographer watched each shoot through a small
monitor that allowed them to see exactly what the cameras saw. It
was really amazing.
The next day, we
did manage to do a little more sightseeing and Susan finally badgered
me into a Broadway play. But another interesting thing happened,
too. This was Saturday and the movie company was shooting an
outdoor scene. All the streets in New York City were blocked off
for about 10 square blocks, even Rockefeller Plaza. For the most
part, they wouldn’t even let people walk down the sidewalks.
The reason, of course, was that they only wanted the actors on the
streets in their period costumes. AND THE STREETS WERE FILLED WITH
OLD CARS!!! Susan ended up dragging me away. All and all it had
been a fun trip, thanks to a special car.
A couple of months later I received a call from the movie company
wanting to use the car again. It seems Mr. Redford wanted more
scenes in the show room. This time, only the car got to go, while we
stayed home. Anyway, we now have a real celebrity residing in our
basement. One that has been owned by a celebrity, featured in a
national magazine and on the front page of our morning newspaper and
one that has starred in a movie! I wonder how you can tell if a 300
is stuck up?
Thanks to Bill Elder (Wild Man of the North) for preparing this article