By 1961 my 57 Plymouth Savoy, with Fury engine and suspension and Corvette 4-speed was sadly rusted and going through 130,000 with its fourth engine. I wasn't enamored with the styling from Chrysler as I had really liked the 57 fins and felt they had gone down hill since. I ended up buying a new Pontiac with 421 3-2 bbl engine, aluminum bumpers, etc. It was the biggest lemon I ever knew of with 4 or 5 major breakdowns before 1,200 miles. While it sat in the garage being repaired, I was drafted out of college by the heat created by the Berlin Wall crisis.
Army pay wasn't going to cover new car payments and I was fortunate to find out about a used 300C at a nearby Chrysler dealer which I traded the new Pontiac for. I had always wanted a 300, especially the C, as they would easily run away from my Plymouth (which trimmed all the hot Chevys, Fords, Olds "J3", etc.) at anything over 40 MPH. The black car I obtained looked quite good for its 40,000 miles and had been owned by an executive of a large bakery nearby. It came from the dealer with a rebuilt transmission and after some detailing, really looked good.
The first few boring Army months were consumed by basic training and no driving, although we got a few days over Christmas when I got to drive my "C". After basic training at Fort Dix, I was assigned to a truck company at Fort Dix and began a regular regimen which the Army didn't fill, as they didn't have anything for us to do since they were busy gearing up the training camp, especially after the Cuban "Miss 6" crisis. Home was 285 miles away in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York mostly via the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and the NYS Thruway. Running at the usual 75-80 MPH the 300 gave 15 miles per gallon but on $80.00 a month it was hard to make many trips, even if AMOCO hi-test cost only 29 cents. I soon found other troops who desired a ride and the 300 taxi became a reality.
Most weekends were free, so at 5:05 Friday night we would point the "beautiful brute" (that's what we all called it then) north, with 4 or 5 riders, at $10.00 one way aboard. The trip, with 9 toll stops and 2 rest stops, used to be regularly run in 4 hours, 40 minutes, or about 280 minutes for 285 miles, so the black "C" didn't cool off much. I would run a steady 80 MPH all the time, never 85, never 75, just 80. Occasionally, on clear nights with light traffic, we would find ourselves going 100 MPH (it was so easy) without realizing it and quickly slow down to 80. We would leave about 10 PM Sunday night, arriving in Dix after picking up guys at various locations, about 3:00 AM. The group was much quieter returning with sleep occupying most of their time.
Up at 5:00, roll call at 5:20 and then nothing to do. We soon learned that all that was necessary was to make roll call and one often covered for the other, so we would often head back north 5:30 Monday morning, stay there Monday night to return Tuesday night for Wednesday roll call, and go north and stay Wednesday night, returned for roll call and back home for the weekend. That meant 2 or 3 trips weekly which with a little driving around, accumulated 12 to 1800 miles a week. Actually, by the time the holidays were added in we averaged at least 3 trips per week with my fare being $40-50 one way. I had $250-300 per week for gas, tires, tolls, etc. coming in.
Since we had a lot of time, the car was well attended to, being washed at least twice a week, waxed every week and with an oil change every other week with filter at least every other change. The "C" used one quart of oil every 800 miles when I got it and it got better using a quart every 1200 miles when I parked it two years later, with 360,000 miles on it. I couldn't get GoodYear Blue Streaks even in 1961 so I ran B F Goodrich 125's, which were a 6 ply 125 MPH rated tire, which used to give me about 25-30,000 miles of service. This meant a tire change every 3 months. I soon bought another set of rims to accommodate the frequent changes.
These taxi trips became legendary with regular runs on time-clock regularity. The riders appreciated the good ride and quick times with room to stretch a little. The car required remarkably little repairs, with a few headlight units burning out, one generator rebuild, one starter replaced, several exhaust pipe replacements, 2 additional transmission rebuilds, and one brake relining. I used to always test the 300's state of tune by going into passing gear in one of several underpasses on the Garden State Parkway at about 70 and listen for the nice "chirp" the car would always deliver even with 6 guys on board. Toll booth personnel knew us and for the first year, the New Jersey Turnpike police still had some 300s that occasionally would wave to us. One also saw other 300s frequently on the toll roads and waves would always be exchanged.
All bad things end, and my two Army years were over, and with return to college two months away and an impending marriage, I decided to park the C for a few years, in 1963. I spent two days preparing the car – fresh service, super wax job, grease all chrome, blocked 24" off the floor of the garage and finally an attempt to "pickle" the engine with oil. I took my younger brother to fast idle the car at what I considered to be 1500 – 1700 rpm and dumped 2 open quarts of 30 weight oil down each open carburetor. All this yielded was expulsion from an instant garage full of smoke without even a stumble from the 392. Next I left it at slow idle and the 2 quarts stalled it. I then filled the crankcase with oil to bury the crank and it's fortunate I did, as 2 years later, the intake and carburetors were stolen with the crooks letting anti-freeze run into the crankcase.
Consider that this 360,000 mile veteran was ready to willingly make an 80 MPH cross-country run when parked. The two years passed to 22 as I didn't get that car out of storage until 1985 when it was assembled with 4 other "C"s in my garage, all in one place. I have driven Cs since 1961 and have over one-half million miles in there, but still like that original car which I will drive again soon.
Anyone want to run a 300 taxi service again? I'm sure it will go 300,000 more miles but now you would be arrested for speeding – it doesn't know how to go less than 80 MPH – but I was never stopped once for speeding back then.