This Wild Chrysler 300 Packs A Ten-Cylinder Secret

Author: Bradley Iger | 12/01/2020 < Back to Motor Life Home

“I like to throw people off a bit,” says Jason Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Horsepower Garage in Columbia, Tennessee. “I just like oddball cars, the stuff that sort of defies expectations. And I also really love Vipers.”

Originally built by Classic Car Studio for the Velocity Channel show "Speed is the New Black", and then later acquired by Johnson at Mecum’s 2019 Indianapolis auction, this 1962 Chrysler 300 Sport Series fits his criteria to a "T".

“My automotive interests are kind of all over the board,” he says. “I first got into it back in high school, just as the mini truck scene was starting to take off. My first build was an Isuzu P'up that I basically just lowered and put some wheels on, and then I started getting interested in lifted trucks as well. I used to be really into the Chevy stuff, but over time I started focusing more on Mopars because of their collectability. These days it’s a little bit of everything – I’ve got some classic Ferraris and modern sports cars, but most of my collector cars are Mopar muscle cars. I’ve got nine Hemi Road Runners, a Hemi Super Bee, a few ‘Cudas, and a few restomod cars with Gen III Hemi swaps.”

1962 Chrysler 300 driving at Beech Bend Raceway

It would be tough for most folks to pick a favorite amongst a roster like that, but Johnson has one in mind. “It’s called the Bare-ah-Cuda,” he explains. “It was an eight-year build by Campbell Auto Restoration. One thing I really like about that pro touring build is that it’s got a Holley fuel-injected 528ci Hemi in the engine bay, but they were able to use the flat hood from a six cylinder car on it, so you can’t really tell what’s up with it from the outside.”

Pinstriping on 1962 Chrysler 300

And the 300 follows a similar tack. Sitting low on a Ridetech air ride suspension and rolling on U.S. Mags wrapped in Pirelli P Zero rubber, the Chrysler got a serious brake system upgrade from the factory hardware by way of Wilwood six-piston calipers and massive rotors. And this big coupe needs all the stopping power it can get, considering the fact that an 8.3-liter, 505 horsepower V10 is now the resident powerplant. Hooked to that beefy mill is a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual transmission, both of which were originally sourced from a Viper-powered Ram SRT10 pickup, while a Viper-sourced gas tank is now mounted in the trunk. A John’s Industries' 8 ¾ rear end with 4.11 gears sends the grunt to the wheels.

The interior is equally stunning, employing an aesthetic that’s part restomod and part pseudo-rat rod. “To me, it’s got kind of a post-apocalyptic look to it,” Johnson says. Aggressively bolstered Scat Enterprises low-back sport seats have been designed to keep occupants planted without abandoning the old school vibe. Footwork is performed on a Wilwood pedal set, and a burly Kicker sound system is on hand to kick out the jams.

He notes that the chassis was pretty rusty when Classic Car Studio got started on the project, so there’s a custom tubular suspension system underneath the car now, along with a custom frame that was built in-house. “There’s a shock factor to the car. Jaws drop when you open the hood, and you can’t buy that kind of patina. It’s just a really unique car – the metalwork alone is just absolutely incredible, like all the rolled metal for the floorboards and the trunk. It’s really one of a kind.”

Since spending time at the 2017 SEMA show and being featured in HOT ROD Magazine the following year, the 300 more recently made the trek down to Bowling Green, Kentucky for this year’s Holley MoParty. “I grew up in Northern California, and the biggest Mopar show we have up there is Mopar Day in the Park in Rancho Cordova,” Johnson says. “And it’s a great show, probably about 500 cars, but it’s nowhere near what MoParty is. MoParty is over the top. It was fabulous – we’re planning out our camping plans for next year’s show now. I’ve already got a campsite ready.”

As for the 300, Johnson says he plans to drive it more or less as-is for the time being, but there are a few minor tweaks in store for the future. “Part of the idea of doing these modern engine swaps is so you don’t have to work on anything,” he quips. “So I want to keep it the way it is for the most part. The only thing I want to do at this point is get the original 300 gauges back in gear – that factory cluster looks like it’s from a different planet with all the gauges in a bubble, it’s really cool. So I’m going to solder all of it back together and get the gauges working.”

In the meantime, the 300 gets miles whenever Johnson can find the time between the other projects that are vying for his attention. “Right now we’re working on a 1970 Dodge D-100 truck,” he tells us. “We’re putting a Hellephant Hemi [Mopar's 1,000hp supercharged crate engine] in that one – we got the #4 engine in the production sequence. Tim Strange of Strange Motion Rod and Custom is going to be doing that build: it’s a patina car too, short bed with a clean body and an Art Morrison chassis.”

He briefly considered putting the Hellephant in a 1970 Charger 500, but that idea didn’t last long. ”Everybody expects to see a big Hemi in a muscle car, so it’s going in the truck instead. Like I said – I like to throw people off.”

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