By the end of the 1960s, the musclecar craze had reached a fevered pitch. The motoring public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for horsepower prompted automakers to look beyond pony cars and intermediate coupes for high performance applications.
While the Chrysler 300 had cultivated a reputation for high performance back in the 1950s, a decade later, the car had grown substantially in both size and weight. But with the musclecar era still going strong in 1970, the eighteen and half foot-long 300 could still be made to move with haste by simply dropping one of Chrysler’s venerable performance-tuned big-block V8s into the engine bay. Image: Chrysler
While not ideal platforms for low e.t.’s or fast lap times, the land yacht coupes that became known as “personal luxury” cars were a natural choice. After all, many of the big motors that helped jump-start the musclecar trend years prior had originally debuted in the automaker’s biggest and most luxurious passenger cars before heading down market.
With the musclecar formula firmly established by 1970, automakers knew they had to take an earnest approach to their performance packages if they wanted to be taken seriously by the buying public. This in turn spawned a handful of somewhat unlikely luxury performance machines like the Mercury Marauder X-100, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, and this, the Chrysler 300 Hurst Edition.
Thing is, Chrysler had been building fast, capable luxury cruisers long before the GTO and Mustang had reshaped the automotive industry, and the 300 was already an integral part of that with the Letter Series models. Debuting in 1955, these special iterations of the 300 served as Mopar’s high performance luxury flagships. Ten unique 300 Letter Series cars would be unleashed in the ensuing years, with the 300L closing out the sequence in 1965.
Five years later, Chrysler would once again look to the 300 nameplate to apply some serious performance. But this time around, the strategy would be a bit different.
By 1970, Chrysler’s 300 had seen a significant refresh, adopting the “fuselage” styling applied across its lineup of C-Body cars the year prior. This aesthetic ditched the squared-off, stodgy look of the mid-’60s full-sized Chryslers for a look that was more streamlined, yet also ratcheted up the visual menace. This was due in no small part to the new full-width grille with hideaway headlights.
While the Hurst treatment certainly gave the 300 a more purposeful look, the aftermarket company didn't actually apply any mechanical upgrades - not even the shifters they're known for. Instead, the go-fast goodies were installed in the 300H models at Chrysler's Jefferson Avenue assembly plant on same line as any other 300. Images: Car-Reviews, Hemmings
It was also more than eighteen and half feet long by that point, which served to bolster its overall presence and curb appeal, but did little to aide its performance credibility, as the 300 now weighed in at well over two tons.
Still, if there’s one thing that can help overcome weight, it’s horsepower. Even in garden-variety trim, the 300 wasn’t lacking for grunt, packing a Chrysler 440 cubic-inch “RB” V8 that was hooked to a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic gearbox as standard.
Hurst removed the upper skin of the factory hood to install a fiberglass insert with a power bulge and a scoop. While it certainly looked cool, it didn’t feed any additional air into the engine bay. Image: MomentCar
Available in sedan, convertible, and coupe configurations, the 300 had leaned more toward the luxury side of the equation rather than performance toward the closing years of the 1960s. But for the 1970 model year Chrysler saw an opportunity to change that reputation through a partnership with Hurst, a name that was already synonymous with high performance, thanks to the various aftermarket go-fast components they offered. The result would prove to be one of the rarest Mopar musclecars ever built, though its exclusively wasn’t exactly by design.
The Hurst Treatment
Chrysler 300s that were earmarked for the Hurst package were built at Chrysler’s Jefferson Avenue assembly plant in Detroit, and then shipped to Hurst’s shop in Warminster, PA to go under the knife. While the agreement called for Chrysler to handle the bulk of the mechanical upgrades, the original plan was for Hurst to add deeper oil pans, upgraded ignition systems, and – of course – Hurst shifters.
Just over 500 examples of the Chrysler 300H would be built in total, which means this Mopar is actually rarer than an original Dodge Daytona. Part of the problem was that both Chrysler and Hurst assumed the other would handle marketing, and as a result, neither of them did. Images: Chrysler
None of those Hurst-applied mechanical enhancements actually made their way into the cars though, including the shifter upgrades. Instead, Hurst would focus on the bodywork, removing the sheet metal hood skin and replacing it with a fiberglass piece that featured functional recessed twist locks, a non-functional hood scoop, and 300H emblems on each side of the hood’s power bulge.
Out back, the rear decklid featured an integrated spoiler flanked by end caps on the rear fenders to blend the new aerodynamic elements. This new decklid got rid of the factory trunk lock, swapping it for a vacuum-operated remote system that was initiated via a button in the glove compartment. A cable-operated backup could be accessed underneath the dashboard.
While the 300 certainly had visual presence, its sheer size took a toll on performance versus smaller coupes with similar powerplant combinations. Still, it was a fairly stout performer considering it had more than two tons of heft to lug around. Image: Car-Reviews
All 300 Hurst cars started life as Spinnaker-White coupes, and upon arrival at the Hurst facility, they’d receive Satin Tan accents on the hood, beltline, trunk, and sides to give the car the iconic Hurst look. To ensure continuity with the exterior, all 300H cars were fitted with satin tan leather interiors, which were plucked straight from the Chrysler Imperial parts bin. Options were scarce, relegated mainly to a console shifter (rather than the standard column shifter) and rectangular chrome exhaust tips.
The 300H's tan leather interior was the same stuff you could optionally order on the 1970 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron two-door hardtop. The "TNT" 440ci V8 was the same potent high-performance mill you'd find in a Plymouth 'Cuda or Dodge Challenger R/T. This particular example is outfitted with the optional console shifter - column shift was standard. Images: Car-Reviews, eBay
While none of the Hurst modifications had an appreciable effect on the 300’s performance, the cars earmarked for the 300H conversion rolled out of the factory already packing some firepower. Under the hood was a Chrysler 440 “TNT” powerplant, good for 375 horsepower and 480 lb./ft. of torque, which was paired to a beefed up version of Chrysler’s three-speed TorqueFlite automatic. This was the only powertrain combination available.
The suspension also got some attention by way of bigger torsion bars up front and stiffer leaf springs in the rear for flatter handling, while power front disc-brakes and 3.23-geared 8 3/4 rearend were also part of the package.
All told, the combination was said to be good for a 0-60 mph sprint in 7.1 seconds, and a quarter-mile e.t. of 15.9 seconds, which were impressive figures when factoring in the 300’s considerable girth.
Production And Legacy
The 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst proved to be a tough sell for a number of reasons. It carried an MSRP of $5,939 before any options were added, making it the most expensive Chrysler available (outside of the Imperial lineup) that year and thus inaccessible to many enthusiast buyers.
To make matters worse, a delay in the approval for the project meant that the production of the 300H began well after the production of the standard 1970 300 models had begun, causing a sudden rush to get the Hurst cars made.
The convertible 300H that was built for Hurst Performance promotional use. Image: Car-Reviews
And perhaps the biggest obstacle in the model’s success was the fact that hardly anyone knew about the offering when it went into production. Unfortunately, Chrysler had expected Hurst to promote the model while Hurst expected Chrysler to do so. The result was that even dealers were often clueless as to the existence of the 300H until one showed up on a car hauler.
Given these factors, perhaps it’s no surprise that 1970 would prove to be the sole year for 300H production. The exact number of cars that were built remains hazy to this day, but the general consensus is that 501 examples of the 300H were produced in total. Among those 501 units, one was a convertible model used as a promotional car by Hurst, while another convertible was reportedly dealer-equipped with a 426 Hemi.
With production figures lower than that of the original Dodge Daytona, the 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst is indeed one uncommon Mopar musclecar. However, they can still be had for a fairly reasonable sum on the rare occasions one does come up for sale.