The big three American automobile companies, GM, Ford and Chrysler, are really the “Big Two” and Chrysler. Chrysler has always been somewhat of a little brother to the other two, and you can see this in the cars they make. It seems they often target the niches that GM and Ford don’t go after. And they did so with great success. Chrysler with all of its brands — Dodge, Jeep, Plymouth, Ram, Eagle, De Soto and Imperial— gave us many automotive firsts, things like the first aerodynamic sedan, the first transistor car radio, the first alternator, the Hemi V8 and, of course, the minivan!
Some Chrysler-built cars are really famous. Even the most casual enthusiasts know the big name models such as the Plymouth Baracuda and Dodge Charger but there have been many that have fallen between the cracks. With assistance from Patterson of Kilgore, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer in Kilgore, TX, we have identified a few unique Chrysler model cars that have largely been forgotten. If see one hidden away in a barn somewhere, see if it’s for sale!
The Chrysler 300J
Chrysler’s 300 series cars represent one of its most iconic nameplates of all time. The 1963 300J was the most potent 300 series car that Chrysler ever made. It offered a powerful 413 cubic inch V8, great handling and a full leather interior (unusual for the time). But it didn’t sell, just 400 Chrysler 300Js were built before it was replaced by the cheaper 300K model.
The Plymouth GTX
Built between 1967-1971, the GTX was Plymouth’s version of 300 series car. Chrysler took two of its most powerful engines — the 440 six-pack, or the 426 Hemi V8 — and offered them in a fully optioned Plymouth Belvedere. Chrysler marketed this car as “The Gentlemen’s Muscle Car ”. The problem was that the Plymouth GTX got lost in a lineup that offered outstanding muscle cars such as the Barracuda, Road Runner, and the Superbird.
When Lee Iacocca took over Chrysler in the late ’70s, he quickly made the decision to shift most of its production to profitable, front-wheel drive compacts. This move probably saved the company which was almost bankrupt at the time. Iacocca did save one of the rear-wheel drive cars, though. It was the Imperial which was designed to compete with Ford’s Lincoln and GM’s Cadillac. Unfortunately, the result was a gawky, expensive coupe that never really took off. Between 1981 and 1983 just over 12,000 Imperials were built.
The Dodge Demon
In 1970, Plymouth launched the Demon. It was a mid-size “pony car” with a touch of sportinessadded. Designed to compete against cars like Chevy Nova and the Ford Mustang, it was a popular model but not like the Nova and Mustang. An interesting fact: Chrysler was lobbied by various religious groups to change the “blasphemous” name. Funny thing is, it could have been worse, Dodge originally planned to call it “the Beaver.”
The Dodge Charger SE
No, this is not anything like the Hemi-powered Dodge Charger from the 1960s. For 1975, Dodge transformed the once-mighty Charger from a muscle car to a bloated “luxury coupe.” It was closely related to the Chrysler Cordoba and that’s not a great heritage. Built between 1975 and 1978, sales of the Dodge Charger SE proved to be a disappointment. It was discontinued in 1978.