A Trained Designer Imagines What A 1980s Version Of A 1955 Chrysler 300 Would Look Like


I think you could arguably claim, likely to lots of puzzled faces, that Chrysler was the originator of the concept of the RWD Premium Performance Coupé, as in the mold of cars like the BMW 6 Series or a Mercedes-Benz CL-Class. When challenged, you could point to Chrysler’s C-300 from 1955, a comfortable, large, luxurious coupé that made a brutal 300 horsepower. Chrysler went on to make a series of 300 “letter series” cars, but kind of petered out around the 1970s, and was very gone by the 1980s when K-Car rectilinear, sexless rationality took over. Our own trained designer known only as “The Bishop” took this as a sort of challenge, and imagined what a real 1980s-era Chrysler 300 powerful, executive coupé could have been. So, join us on this voyage into the unknown! Or, maybe more accurately, made-up!

The lineage of Chrysler’s big flagship sedan is pretty impressive, when you think about it; a series of cars covering six generations and 15 years, from 1955 to 1970. After the limited-production 300 Hurst of 1970 (you can see that one above in the lower right, with the tasteful hood scoop) the 300 name really got debased, turning into the Chrysler Cordoba, which, of course, birthed the Genuine Corinthian Leather pre-internet meme:


So, here’s where The Bishop starts: what would a 1984-ish Chrysler 300 be if Chrysler had decided to at least attempt to keep the same fundamental character of those older 300s, but translated to 1980s design and technology? Here’s how The Bishop describes what he’s trying to imagine:

So what would a 1984 interpretation of the 1955 300C be?  It would have to be sort of Firebird for grownups…a 928 for fat Americans, or a home grown sport luxury coupe similar to what specialty makers like Jensen (Interceptor) or Montiverdi (High Speed) once made (with Mopar motors) but Chrysler never made themselves.   It’s as if you took the cars in the images below and put them in a blender, and added a dash of 80s flash to the end result.

Here’s the cars in the image he’s talking about:

[Editor’s Note: This whole article is so damn random. I kind of love it. -DT]

He goes on to explain how he’d adapt the Dodge Aspen/ Plymouth Volare platform that would almost certainly underpin this car into something with at least a chance of pretending to be a performance car:

Powerplant would be the old 360 V8 but with multiple fuel injectors in the throttle body (like Cross Fire Injection) moving to multiport in later years, making around 255 horse.  It could offer a manual transmission but why?  Three people would order it.  Regardless, you’ll have the world’s fastest, best handling Dodge Dart chassis vehicle ever made..for what that’s worth.

An independent suspension rear subframe! He’s right, I didn’t see that coming. I’m also not certain I would have predicted how The Bishop thinks this could look, but I think I like it:

I think the front end treatment is pretty 80s-tastic, too, with pop-up headlights, of course, and also referencing the sinister front end of the 1970 300 Hearst:

It’s a clean look, with some of that 928 look about it, but also hearkens back, as The Bishop points out, this fastback shape is also reminiscent of the 1971 Plymouth GTX muscle cars, and I think I can see that:

But, really, my favorite part of The Bishop’s design is one of the details, which is this:

That’s a nice hood bulge over the throttle body fuel-injection setup. But that’s not the fun part! The fun part is that when you’re sitting inside the car, you see the back end of this scoop through the windshield, where it’s revealed by a raised section of the hood. And that back end of the scoop has this:


Yes, lights and shit! According to The Bishop, here’s what we get:

“There will be turn signal indicators at the sides of this slot, but the real trick is the Revline illumination…the intake area glows orange as you approach redline and to red as you are just about to hit it (like an angrily glowing motor), giving you an indication to check the tach without putting the actual tach up there.  Pure fucking theater, sure…but you know you love the idea, right?”

The dash itself would also be gleefully and unashamedly ’80s:

Lots of Chrysler parts-bin stalks, switches, HVAC, radio, and other controls. Maybe even the voice module from the New Yorker? The back seat area is important for a car like this, even if it is a two-door, because the sort of classy, attractive person that buys one of these is of course going to have people who crave being close to them, and you’ll need a way to ferry them around. Here’s how The Bishop is imagining the rear:

“Tufty button-backed Mark Cross leather but with side bolsters…an odd combo but it works, sort of like Ricardo in the Khan costume.  The rear is pretty spacious for two, and if you can’t have the e24’s total handling prowess you can at least have that car’s rear A/C and drink cooler for cans.  A full length console has controls for reading lights and the rear climate system.  Note the logo panel that blocks the view into the trunk and is carpeted on back to protect the armrest when the seat is folded down (for massive cargo capacity, sort of like a 1966-67 Charger).”

Pretty classy! But there’s a more utilitarian detail I like even better, and that’s in the pretty massive cargo area:

See that little schematic diagram of luggage packing there? That’s an illuminated block diagram of the best way to package luggage into the car, with or without the requisite set of golf clubs. I’m not sure anyone would actually use this as a guide, but I love the idea of it.

Because The Bishop is a terribly thorough man, he’s also figured out a very clever mechanism for a multi-cassette changer for the stereo, and, even better, imagined not just what the fancy-ass leather-bound owner’s manual will look like, complete with instructional cassette and branded flashlight, but also imagined what the special, personal letter from Lee Iacocca would be like:

“Congratulations on your purchase of our 1984 Chrysler 300, designed and engineered in America to simply be the finest grand touring coupe ever produced.  We have taken every care to be certain that you will be pleased with your ownership experience of this extraordinary automobile. 

 It is our honor to welcome you to the Chrysler family.

 Thank you;

Lee A. Iacocca”

[Editor’s Note: This Bishop guy. The random stuff he comes up with — the fake letter, the sketches of the exterior and interior, the wacky ideas for cars to write about. Whoever this mysterious person is is a bit unhinged. He fits in well. -DT]

Think thats enough? Guess again, because The Bishop fucking delivers. We also get to see the de-contented Dodge version of the same car, called the Minerva!

From The Bishop:

I am thinking that, in keeping with tradition, there would be a less expensive Dodge version (but still pretty much the same damn car), in this case the Minerva (remember, Charger was an Omni 024 based coupe at this time).  Note the headlights behind plastic grilles…illegal in all 50 states so these would need to electrically drop when the lights came on.  Minerva would likely also be de-contented compared to the 300, probably with the live axle and drum brakes in back and a 318 V8 as top power plant.

So, what do you think of this extended reverie about a Chrysler that never was? Does it feel plausible to you? Would you prefer to have lived in the alternate reality where this exists? Would you want to be in that reality if I told you it also featured hyper-intelligent moths that would shout cutting insults at you as you passed?

I’m curious to see what everyone thinks of this. Hopefully The Bishop himself will show up in the comments so you can address him directly, too.


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60 Responses

  1. I really appreciated the thought that went into this design. As the owner of a 2013 John Varvatos 300C, which has some of the features you included, I am proud of Chrysler for at least thinking along the lines of your design. Great job!

    1. Jeeze you’re on fire tonight! I loved the Fuegos back when, if only b/c I was young and didn’t properly understand what French cars and the ’80s meant. But still…that compellingly-oddball design and the wheels stay with me.

    2. J. Turner- The Bishop here…yes, that’s exactly the domestic competitor I had in mind! The Fox Body Mark VII had a live axle so I figured adding a bolt-in independent rear suspension (like Ford has done with newer, higher end Mustangs) would get a leg (or wheel) up on its closest rival. The suspension would bolt right to the existing subframe and leaf spring mounts (I have a drawing, but not sure I can add images to comments).

  2. I really like how the Dodge Minerva front and back ends on their own looks a lot like the those of the era’s real-life Daytonas and Chargers.

    And apparently, my grandfather owned a 300G back in the day. But by the ’80s, he was driving a first-gen RX-7, louvers and everything, that when riding in back, I used to fight with relatives over who had to sit in the middle over the transmission tunnel. Guy had style.

    1. I was thinking the headlight doors reminded me of the original Magnum‘s retractable clear headlight covers as much as it did, say, an Alfa Montreal’s light louvers. There’s some strong Turismo/Charger in the Mirada *Minerva* for sure, in a good way.

      1. The Montreal! Yes! I was trying to think of that, as the drawings are way sexier than what we actually saw IRL on Chrysler products of the day. But I dug the hatchback on the Turismo/Charger.

      2. J.Turner- yes, that’s also what I was trying to do…keep some visual cues to connect with the concurrent 1983/4 lineup BUT try to reintroduce some curved lines to Chrysler styling (which, other than the Mitsubishi based Stealth, arguably really did not happen until the Viper and LH Intrepid/Concorde almost ten years later).

  3. “So, what do you think of this extended reverie about a Chrysler that never was? Does it feel plausible to you?”

    Hell no.

    “Would you prefer to have lived in the alternate reality where this exists?”

    Oh, hell yes.

  4. Seriously, that is one cool design. I would have totally been in the showroom looking at these! Would have bought it on the hood scoop alone.

    Definition of bishop:
    1 : someone having spiritual or ecclesiastical supervision over others: such as. a : an Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, or Roman Catholic clergyperson ranking above a priest, having authority to ordain and confirm, and typically governing a diocese.

    Substitute car design for the religious hierarchy, consider the credentials shown through these articles (I couldn’t do it), and for those of us who enjoy this, he IS the bishop.

  5. My Dad owned a Daytona of the generation (and a facelift) following this one. So I could easily imagine Lee I. & Associates getting in the direction of this one.
    As part of my own thought experiments in these times, I’d speculated about Americanized versions of the Mitsubishi Colt GTO (“Dodge Darlington”? “Plymouth Pimlico”?) and was also ruminating about Pentastar versions of the later Eagle Allure coupe concept–though I’m sure that was in a different class as well.
    Chrysler was even a backdoor partner with Volkswagen in those days. Maybe a Euro market version to compete with the Mercedes and BMW cars of the day?

    1. Further thought: if this 300/Minerva had shared the M-Platform hardware with the Fifth Avenue/Diplomat/Gran Fury/Caravelle, the Minerva would have definitely qualified as a NASCAR Cup Series contender, versus the Thunderbird, Monte Carlo, and Grand Prix.

      1. Stephen- it’s actually a J platform car but the M is almost identical. And yes, aero was my thought exactly with my Minerva/300 design and one reason why I put on the giant rear glass hatch. Richard Petty apparently found the Dodge Magnum and Mirada bodies undriveable as race cars (about 8mph off of the pace) and I thought it might be nice to get them some cred back on the tracks against the upcoming glassbacked Monte Carlos and aero T Birds.

        1. I was Today Years Old when I learned some Cup campaigns used the Imperial body on their cars rather than the Mirada’s for the ’81 to ’85 seasons. Maybe there’d also be a notchback version of the Minerva with a slightly resculpted Imperial “bustle” but still incorporating the Minerva’s tail lamps and license plate recess?

  6. I love the drawings and I especially appreciate that it has the endorsement of Kahn.
    I don’t quite get I get “the bishop” thing? I feel like I missed something or did this come out of nowhere with out a back story?

  7. That’s pretty sweet. I like the hatch details and the center console. Would not want to look at that weird pillow in the steering wheel everyday, tho!
    As someone who has played with a few ‘80s cars, that digital dash makes me shudder

  8. I once had a 2008 5-Series that had a little multicolored plaque velcroed to the carpeted trunk lid that showed the proper storing procedure for four golf bags. I always felt it was thoughtful of them but I never needed it’s advice.

  9. Love it, but what I love the most is the luggage schematic. It’s really a window into the mind of a designer who wants everything organized. Could it light up green when you have packed it correctly, as a kind of a reward? Could you customize the schematic, so it comes standard with different templates (like washing machines) depending on what kind of bags and luggage you have? Could the floor have spring mounted floor-panels, mirroring the luggage size, so if you only have one or two bags the surrounding panels holds the luggage in place? The possibilities are endless!

  10. What do I think of this? “Whoof. Like, whoa.” The Dodge headlights sold it for me.

    Thank you for this. Content like this is exactly why I have invested so many dollars in your business. Or would if you sold shares.

  11. Yes. To all of it.

    Although, back in the 80s, my high school friends who were female referred to their time of the month as “aunt Minerva is visiting”. I assume they got that from reruns of Bewitched. So a car called the Minerva that could be owned by real aunts makes this article truly epic. And meta.

  12. Is this not just a slightly bigger Chrysler Conquest (Mitsubishi Starion) with some extra bells and whistles? As a former 1969 Chrysler 300 owner and 300 enthusiast, I approve this article.

    1. I’m glad you like it! I can’t tell you how much it means to me that a former owner of a REAL one approves.
      In theory it is sort of a bigger, softer Starion (if you can make a Starion off of a Dodge Aspen chassis) but aimed at a different kind of buyer than that car. My idea of a 1950s-1960s 300 owner has always been a Brooks Brothers-clad Executive Vice President of Widgetco , so this would be aimed at a similar 1980s guy who would not be interested in a little Japanese Starion/300ZX/Supra (and all of his wife Barbara’s crap would not fit in one of those little coupes for their annual winter trip to Destin).

  13. That may be what the 300 would look like if Chrysler actually spent any money. But this was the 300 in 1979:

    So you need to think like Chrysler. What did they have in their lineup that could be quickly rebadged into a 300? My guess is the Mirada gets a new grille. That was their sporty Volare-based offering for 1982.

    Captain Buzzkill signing off now.

    1. Old Busted Hotness: You’ve got it-that’s exactly what this would be! The idea would be that after the Mirada/Cordoba was discontinued in 1983, the 300/Minerva would be built on this same old chassis…with the bolt-in independent rear suspension for the 300 of course…

  14. “300 Hearst”

    It’s “300 Hurst”. Even though it was as big as a castle, Hearst Publishing had nothing to do with the car.

    Fun Fact: I used to own a 1970 300 Hurst. It was the second car I ever purchased when I was 17.

  15. Having grown up in the 1980s and lived through it, this is pretty decent imagination…

    The dashboard and instrument cluster are exactly what the designers in the early 1980s would do, embracing the latest “digital technology”, a.k.a. vacuum fluorescent display (the ones that cast greenish-white glow), LCD, trajection graphs, etc. along with countless buttons.

    Given the fact that the form-fitting composite headlamps were approved for the 1984 model year, Chrysler would probably change the headlamps.

    I couldn’t help but notice the similarity of its side profile and front end to the fourth-generation Oldsmobile Toronado (pre-facelift and post-facelift butt extension versions).

  16. Bishop,
    All of your what if musings have been heartily enjoyed and I particularly like that you take on the malaise era when we should have been graced with much finer automobiles than we were. To me it is a fine but of ostalgie for the auto industry of my youth.

  17. Also, just so you know, the luggage schematic would be for the optional Mark Cross fitted luggage set (apparently the Mark Cross name was a Louis Vuitton-level big deal back in the day). Looking at fitted luggage sets (see link below) it appears to be a fucking Jenga game getting these things to fit correctly (especially for poor bellhops that don’t own the car) so the schematic could be helpful (and it costs nothing to illuminate if from the cargo light below).


  18. J. Turner- The Bishop here…yes, that’s exactly the domestic competitor I had in mind! The Fox Body Mark VII had a live axle so I figured adding a bolt-in independent rear suspension (like Ford has done with newer, higher end Mustangs) would get a leg (or wheel) up on its closest rival. The suspension would bolt right to the existing subframe and leaf spring mounts (I have a drawing, but not sure I can add images to comments).

  19. Amazing. I particularly appreciate all of the details – such as the background for the rendering, which appears to have, like the car design, borrowed DNA from a number of late-70s-to-early-80s references ( possibly the cargo bay of the Sulaco from the movie Aliens?)

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