The Chrysler 300 found itself no longer suffering from a split identity by 1966. Gone for good was the ultra sport-lux Letter series version.
Around since 1962, the Non-Letter 300 went toe to toe with mainstream Bankers hot-rods from perpetual cross town rival Buick. With a smidgen more cachet than the Flint offering, the 300 proved a brisk bet in the equally stuffy Chrysler showroom. With far less outre styling compared to the beginning of the 1960’s, these big block brutes gave Chrysler a sophisticated foothold in the upper crust performance market.
In the waning days of the Letter Series 300, the more exclusive car found itself not packing all that much more of a punch than the non-letter 300 series cars. Not only was the standard 360 hp 413 Wedge head V8 optional on the regular 300 models, just about every item found standard on the 300L in 1965 could be purchased one by one for a normal 300.
The redundancy was sent to the dunce corner, and the “normal” 300 lived to see 6 more model years. Even in standard form, the regular 300 remained a formidable performer. The base 383 cube V8 put out a healthy 325 horsepower, which could move the 2 ton coupes and sedans to 60 in fleet times as little as 8 seconds. This matched rival base outputs from the Buick Wildcat, and both Bankers Hot Rods allowed buyers to select even hairier options should they desire to burn up the interstates (and gallons of gas) at a faster rate.
The 1966 models upped the ante in looks as well. After a rather slinky and sane make-over for the 1965 model, there were a few more aggressive and distinctive touches added to the 300 to separate it from more common Newports and the more expensive New Yorker.
The 300 featured ribbed wrap-around tail lamps at the rump that distinguished it from fellow offerings on the showroom floor that still featured less daring horizontal tail lamps. It was just the ticket for the blazing hot 300 to be seen blazing by the competition. The 300 also featured an exclusive roof with C-pillars thicker than the Newport, but less formal than the New Yorker. Vinyl tops proved to be a popular option for 1966.
1966 also brought more aggressively pointed front fenders that framed a decidedly sinister new face compared to the friendlier facade offered on Newports and New Yorkers. The sunken headlamps were bound by a similar cross hatch pattern to 300’s before. The lidded affect over the quad beams seemed to provide a furrowed brow compared to previous seasons. This was further accentuated by the slight W-configuration of the front end, a trait cribbed from 1965 General Motors full-sized cars.
It should be a slight surprise, considering the some copycat elements, that model for model, the 2 door hardtop version of the 300 outsold the 2 door hardtop version of its direct competitor, the Buick Wildcat. Around 4,000 more 300 Hardtop Coupes went to buyers when compared to the comparable Wildcat. Granted the 300 didn’t have in-house competition between a smaller car and an unique Personal Luxury coupe as the Wildcat had with the Skylark (available in GS trim) and Riviera (also restyled and available in GS trim).
It that way, the 300 Series did remain exclusive, as Chrysler didn’t offer a junior series and decided resolutely against a unique personal luxury coupe throughout the 60’s. Within those constraints, the 300 non-letter series cars from Highland Park continued to be pacesetters as the 1960’s marched onwards.