STRANGE BUT TRUE…THE CHRYSLER 300 WAS AN SCCA RALLY CHAMP IN 1963 AND ‘64

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Mother Mopar made a huge design change for its Chrysler models in 1963.

The ’62 Chrysler had tailfin stumps and canted headlights that were vertically positioned-but in a diagonally stacked manner.

However, the Mopar design team wiped the chalkboard clean and created the 1963 Chrysler, an upscale car that bore no resemblance to its ’62 predecessor. The one constant was both years of Chrysler models featured larger-than-average cars that were bigger than an A body Mopar compact (Valiant) or a B body intermediate (Belvedere), but smaller than a C body (Imperial).

Nevertheless, the 1963-64 Chrysler was a big car, by any standard, so it would not have been on MyStarCollectorCar’s radar as a rally participant-let alone a winner in this style of racing.

A typical rally car would be a smaller, nimbler car that could handle the many twists and turns on a long road race. Rallies are race events that take place over a long course on public roads, therefore drivers and their navigators are faced with a series of challenges that pop up in front of them over the entire course.

The typical rally car is built to wend its way around the many obstacles in their way, problems such as sharp curves, mudholes–or even moose-depending upon the course. For that reason, most drivers choose cars that are lighter, quicker and highly responsive in the critical areas of braking and steering.

MyStarCollectorCar never even considered a 1963-64 Chrysler 300 to be a realistic candidate for a rally car, given its sheer size, but a legendary rally driver named Scott Harvey viewed the big cars in a much different light.

Scott Harvey was also a gifted automotive engineer who specialized in suspensions and steering during his long career with Chrysler so he knew their big cars could handle the tough terrain in a road rally. Harvey asked for a 1958 Chrysler 300D to use as a rally car early in his Mopar engineering career, undoubtedly because of his insider’s knowledge about the car’s potential.

The engineering behind a 1963 Chrysler 300 was even more advanced than its 300 model predecessors and Harvey was eager to match its handling against the typical rally cars from that era. The net result was the 1963 and ’64 Chrysler 300 models shocked the competition when they won back-to-back championships in SCCA rally competition in the Timed-Speed-Distance category.

Additionally, Scott Harvey and Bob Mollman competed in the famous Shell 4000 rally in 1963 with a ‘63 Chrysler 300 and were able to finish 5th in the 4000-mile race across Canada. For the record, Harvey won the 1968 Shell 4000 rally in a 1968 Barracuda.

However, the back-to-back 1963-64 SCCA rally championships in successive Chrysler 300 models helped cement Scott Harvey’s reputation as an SCCA Hall of Famer. Harvey’s efforts also helped Chrysler’s Mopar advertising team develop a marketing campaign based upon the Chrysler 300’s dominance as an unlikely rally champion in 1963 and ’64.

MyStarCollectorCar recently discovered the ads and wanted to share our surprise with our readers because it is hard for us to believe these big beauties could compete in rally events.

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section. 

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