Review : The bad boy Chrysler 300C and why it’s no P5B

Chrysler 300C

A recent drive in a one of the first-generation Chrysler 300C models sold here in the UK set me thinking about how, when it comes to its styling, there’s something of a Rover P5B vibe going on. The 300C’s a car that, when new, many pundits (myself included) likened to the old-school Rover, mainly because of the imposing styling and chrome-laden front end.

However, following a quick look around, that’s an easy but misguided comparison to make. As an exemplar of taste and sophistication, Rover’s P-Series cars had few peers. Consider the P4 – smooth and sophisticated with a driving experience that yelled class, it’s a classic that still stacks up today. The same very much holds true with the Rover P6 – and, in V8 form, it’s quick enough to give fright to aggressively driven company cars even today. Out of the lot, though, the one that still carries the most resonance with car enthusiasts is the Rover P5. V8 powered and in chop-top Coupe form…

Because Rover ended up climbing into bed with Jaguar following the formation of BLMC in 1968, it was never again allowed to build such a caddish range-topper. The XJ-Series Jaguar became BMLC’s flagship, leaving Rover to slot in beneath the Browns Lane company – and poor old Triumph squeezed out of existence entirely. However, the sad fact remains that in automotive pecking order, Rover sat higher than young upstart Jaguar for many years.

Could you imagine Margaret Thatcher alighting from a 300C and striding purposefully into Number 10? No, of course not… 

Chrysler 300C interior

However, spend a little time with the 300C, and those Rover-Chrysler comparisons are soon thrown out of the window. Firstly, whereas the Rover oozes class and good taste, the American car has a brooding malevolence that strikes fear into the hearts of other motorists – are there guns in the boot, or aren’t there? It’s a 50/50 chance. Secondly, the Rover’s build quality was magnificent – with the highest quality wood and leather creating an exotically fragranced interior that was good enough for Heads of State – and their hard-worked Prime Ministers. The 300C, on the other hand, is laced with essence of sandwich box…

That said, with a decent choice for considerably less than £3000, you get an awful lot of semi-classic, old-school, bad boy road presence – and I reckon that’s forgivable. Yes, the cheaper end of the scale sees you picking through a fair number of modified examples, some rather tastelessly wearing Bentley appendages, and you’ll realistically be limited to the diesel models – but there’s something rather appealing about going for something as anti-establishment as this for comparably little money, assuming you’re prepared to stomach the running costs.

However, as good as the 300C looks, it’s no Rover P5B. In fact, the nearest I think you could get to that in a 21st century car is the much-missed Rover 75 V8. And even that wasn’t screwed together nearly well enough. Truth be told – there probably will never be another P5B…

Chrysler 300C rear view

Keith Adams

12 Comments

  1. The Chrysler will never be the “poor mans Bentley” in the way that the 50’s & 60’s Rovers were

  2. The “Bentley look” of the 300, when Chrysler were pushing the 300 in the UK, they were targeting the ” suit cufflinks collar and tie” sector of the minicab trade with some very competitively priced lease payments. This may have been to shift excess stock, the 300 was not exactly a success in terms of sales

  3. I’ve never though of the 300C as a modern day P5B anyway. It certainly has “baby Bentley” vibes, though to me the first generation is a modern day “gangster” car, and I mean that as a compliment!

    I’m surprised the dull looking second generation is still in production, with SUVs taking over the world, I assume it won’t be replaced

  4. I’ve always respected the Rover P5B and although the Chrysler 300C may, by some, be considered a modern day replacement, sadly it doesn’t cut the mustard. I once saw a 300C with simple letter B badging on its grille (its owner must have had Bentley ownership aspirations.)

    I agree the R75 V8 would be the logical successor to the P5B, but sadly that’s gone too. Even the Mondeo seems to have had its day!

  5. I was in a minority of one by liking the Chrysler Crossfire, 155 mph performance, Mercedes technology and a reasonable price tag, rather less than a Mercedes SLK. There again I used to be a big fan of the Vauxhall Magnum, again a misunderstood car.

    • @Glenn… I too liked the Vaux Magnum in either 1800 or 2300 form as I mention from time to time. Had I not been influenced by my rusting Viva HC, I might have followed on with a Magnum. Of course these days most younger ones know the Magnum as an ice cream only!

  6. I always liked the 300C, shades of the P5 and a Bentley wanna be. A neighbour of my mum had had two, her first was a silver first series, while she now has a blue second series, which I am not so keen on. And for Glenn your not alone, her husband drives a crossfire!

    The second series was sold not as a Chrysler on certain parts of the continent, but as that now forgotten great brand Lancia, which was a come down from his 50 and 60s heydays, was probably still better than some of its 90s and 00s predecessors cooked up by Fiat, like the Thesis.

    I also loved the Dodge version, the Charger, which we didn’t get here, but then I am an NCIS fan so it was a weekly visitor to my screen.

    • Lancia might be forgotten to most people, or someone will always recall the story about Betas and premature rust and engines falling out( rather a myth that one), but to other people, the name will mean supercharged HPEs, the Delta and the little seen but rather good Thema, relative of the far more successful Saab 9000. Actually once the rust issue was sorted and the bodies protected far more from rot, there was little else wrong with eighties Lancia. Even the Y10, an acquired taste to many buyers, was a far more interesting car than a Fiesta and loved by the loyal few.

  7. It was popular as a minicab which did airport runs, due to the massive boot and spacious interior.

  8. Ha Ha My friend was commenting on the similarities of the 300 vs Rover P5,and even though I see it too,I didn”t think that idea was common? How about that and were on the other side of the “pond”

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