By Rose Miller
My companion, Dr. Robert Blake, likes to collect Hudsons. He owns and displays more than 35 of them at his car collection/museum, “Old Spokes”, located in New Smithville, Pa. Even though the Hudson marque is first and foremost in his collection, Chrysler cars are very dear to him. While growing up in Ridgefield Park, N.J., in the 1950s and 60s, his father (also a Dr. Robert Blake), generally purchased Chrysler automobiles. It all started with a blue1960 New Yorker that his family purchased from Gatti Motors in Hackensack. Most likely it was the beautiful styling as well as performance that did the trick for young Robert. Who would have guessed that almost 50 years later, another Chrysler car would enter into his life? This time it would be a highly sought-after Chrysler "Letter Car": A 1960 Chrysler 300F convertible, 1 of 248 produced.
One thing great about being in car clubs are the friendships that are developed. The 300 Club International is a close-knit group of likeminded enthusiasts. The club assisted Robert, through his friendship with member Dave Clelland, in obtaining the 300F. Clelland, a big Barrett-Jackson fan, had been attending an event when this particular 300F appeared unlisted on the auction block. Clelland knew that Robert was seeking to obtain one, so a bid was made and the car was won at an extremely good price.
The day that I saw this wonderful car, I decided to set about obtaining its history. Again, I turned to the 300 Club International for guidance. Gil Cunningham, one of its senior members, was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the car’s microfilm record as well as club ownership history. The history was very revealing. Club records indicated that Robert’s 300F was a Wisconsin car. The dealer tag (which was and is still on the car), showed that Edward’s Motors, of Milwaukee, was the originating dealership. Cunningham was also able to provide me two names of prior owners from the 1980s listed in the club records. The first name was Mr. Craig R. Fuchs of West Allis, Wis., who was shown as owning the car in 1989 and a telephone number was provided to contact him.
On May 24, 2009, Robert called Fuchs to obtain some additional history about the 300F. Matthew Fuchs, Craig’s father, answered the telephone and it turned out that he was the owner of the car before Craig. Mat was a fountain of information. He revealed that he had purchased the 300F from a used car lot in 1983 or 1984. It was originally intended to be a parts car for his 300F coupe. When he obtained it, the car had been partially dismantled by its prior owner, an uninformed teenager, who did not know the value of the car. The rams had been removed, the four-barrel carb had been changed, and the wheels and rims had been changed. Luckily, the teenager had stored the removed parts in his garage and included them in the sale of the 300F.
Mat opted to have mercy on the Chrysler and decided to have the car partially restored. That included having the fenders repaired and miscellaneous bodywork done, although the car did not undergo a complete repaint. The engine was completely rebuilt. The convertible top was also replaced with black material. In 1990, the 300F was sold to a man in California. Fuchs mentioned that the man told him that he was going to do a full “California” restoration to the car. Gil Cunningham’s club records reflected this fact. Apparently, in 1990, the 300F was sold to a man named Earl Rynerson of San Francisco. After that point, there are no club records of ownership, other than Robert’s acquisition of the car. I attempted to contact Rynerson, but his telephone number was no longer in service. It may be safe to assume that the car may have been auctioned off by him or his estate by Barrett-Jackson.
Upon Robert’s acquisition of the car and subsequent inspection, it was discovered that several important issues needed to be addressed. There were several cracks in the sub-frame, a definite safety issue; the Arctic White paint was rather tired; and the interior was well worn with cracks in the leather in several spots. It was apparent that these items could be resolved and the 300F used as a driver. Instead, it was decided to bring the car back to its former glory and proceed with a full-blown rotisserie restoration. All that was required, at that point, was to find a competent restoration shop, preferably one that specialized in “fin” cars. Jerry Kopecky of Kopecky’s Klassics was selected to undertake the task. Jerry gained recognition in 2007 as the restorer of a 1957 DeSoto that sold for a (at that time) record-breaking $285,000 at a Barrett-Jackson auction in January of that year. The 300F was now heading back to Wisconsin, but it was not going to Milwaukee. This time, it was heading north, to the small town of Iola, home of Kopecky’s Klassics.
Anyone who has experienced the process of a rotisserie restoration understands the painstaking detail and time that is enlisted to complete the task. The 300F was completely disassembled down to a bare frame. Sheet metal was welded and re-aligned to improve the fit and finish of each body component. All parts needed to be photographed and cataloged to ensure proper replacement. Kopecky’s efforts were well documented in various articles written “Old Cars Guide to Auto Restoration.” Old Cars editor Angelo Van Bogart also wrote several articles featuring Kopecky's ongoing efforts in restoring the 300F. Along the way, Kopecky took the partially restored Chrysler to the 2008 Iola Old Car Show and displayed it in the “Team To Learn Tent”.
Once the car had been physically completed, United Auto Trim of Fond du Lac, Wis., finished the convertible top as well as the leather seats and other interior components. As the car made its way back east to its home in Pennsylvania, a final fine tuning of the 300F was undertaken by Vern Fasel of Rochester, N.Y.
One dramatic change to the car was the color. Terracotta, a stock color option for 1960, was chosen because Robert felt the car needed “pizzazz”. I am sure that many car nuts would fault us in changing the original color, but we felt that the overall visuals of this striking color took the vehicle to another level. You be the judge!
Robert and I are very proud of this car. Yes, it requires time, patience and most of all money. I think that most people would agree that the end result is spectacular.
And to think, it was going to be chopped up and used as a parts car!
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