Saturday, December 12, 2020

My Daily Driver: @RRSEsquire's 2004 Chrysler 300M Special

1. How did you come to the decision of buying this car? 

I'm hooked on the Chrysler LH car platform, having bought my first car and first LH car, a 2002 Dodge Intrepid ES (that I still own) in 2005. Since then I have owned and daily driven my 2002 Intrepid ES, a 2001 Intrepid SE, a 2001 Concorde LXi, and a 2004 300M Special before I bought this 2004 300M Special. (I had a couple of non-LH DDs in there as well.) The 2nd generation LH "cab forward" cars have excellent interior quality and layout, great road feel and handling plus a great 3.5L V6 engine with plenty of power. The 300M Special in particular is the ultimate of the LH cars in my opinion as it has the best power and handling due to its lowered suspension, higher gear ratio, and different PCM tuning, combined with the looks of the ground effects.

This particular car was owned by a former member of the Chrysler 300M Enthusiasts Club. In November of 2019, he posted the car in one of the LH car Facebook groups and went on about how rust free it was and how he wanted it to be sold to an enthusiast owner. The car had a little less than 111,000 miles on it. He was in Pennsylvania and I was in Massachusetts, so it would be a relatively easy trip to get it. I communicated with him over the course of several days and he provided excellent photos to back up his claim that it was rust free and had never been driven in the winter by any of its three previous owners.

At the time, I was driving an identically-optioned 2004 300M Special with 152,000 miles that I had bought in 2013 from a Club Member and friend. It was a great car, but it had started to rust in the rear quarter panels, a common rust point on the LH cars. Rather than have those fixed, it seemed like a good idea to start over with a rust free canvas, even if I would be the first owner who drove the car in the winter.

My friend and I road tripped down to Pennsylvania to buy it two weekends later. I have been daily driving it since I sold my other 300M Special to a friend in January, 2020.

2. What has your ownership experience been like?

My ownership experience has been relatively easy with this particular car as my longtime LH car ownership has led to an extensive knowledge of how to fix/maintain them. When I bought the car I went through it with my friends' help to replace some leaking o-rings and worn out bushings and mounts to improve the overall driving experience. I've had to do a bit of maintenance since, but nothing major or very time consuming/expensive.

The LH cars get slander online from people who have never owned them. The reality is that they are very reliable cars on which you can easily fix most problems in your own driveway, assisted by the engine's longitudinal mounting and the great 300M Club community around them - including an old school car forum with Members still regularly sharing repair and maintenance knowledge and tips. 

The biggest problem with ownership of these cars is that they're becoming the car everyone forgot about, including Chrysler's parts department. Many OEM parts are no longer available, which requires relying on aftermarket parts which can be questionable in quality and longevity when used in a daily driver. They're also becoming scarce in salvage yards around me.

3. What is your fondest memory with this car?

I have two that really stand out:
The first is driving through the PA hills on the trip home from purchasing the car with one of my best friends tailing me in my Ram. We hit as many "you-pull" salvage yards along the way as we could, one of our favorite hobbies, met up with another LH car friend who lives in Pittsburg, stayed in a terrible hotel, and just generally had a great time on the trip back over the course of a weekend.
The second is the day after I fixed the control arms and my friends helped me build out the stereo. That morning I headed into work in Boston with the stereo bumping and the car quietly whizzing along I-93 and I was reminded of why the 2nd generation LH cars are so great, despite being designed and released over 20 years ago.

4. Why do you love cars?

I have always loved cars, starting with Hot Wheels. My father and both of my grandfathers liked cars and passed their interest on to me, but my love for cars really snowballed when I was about 5 years old and I found the ad for the 1994 Dodge Ram in my grandfather's Popular Mechanics magazine. It was one of those huge fold out ads and the truck was just the coolest thing I'd ever seen. Since then, I've been a big fan of Mopar, from old to new, and I own 5 Mopars currently, ranging in years from 1969 to 2009.

I wanted a Ram when I got my license in 2005, but my parents insisted I buy a sedan as a first car. That led me to my Intrepid and I've been hooked on the LH cars and modifying cars and trucks ever since. I've met some of my absolute best friends through the LH car community, I'm honored to be the Vice President of the Chrysler 300M Enthusiasts Club, and my life just wouldn't be the same without cars and LH cars in it. I think that is what is so amazing about cars, how they bring people of a wide variety of backgrounds together to share their love, whether it be for a brand, for a specific car, or just for weird/different cars in general. 

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