Golden Lion Grrrages
1960 Chrysler 300F


click to enlarge

Ken Langdon bestowed the name 'Virgil' on this F coupe in tribute to Chrysler's Virgil Exner. To Ken, Exner's genius shines best on the 57 and the 60 Chrysler. When fellow Canadian Paul DelGrande offered his F coupe to Ken in 1998, the purchase was arranged. The body-off-frame restoration began at Len Woodrow's shop in nearby St. Catharines. Len is no stranger to these cars, having restored Paul DelGrande's F convertible just a few years ago.

It was during the first years of Virgil's restoration that a brief moment of sanity came to Ken; he sold Virgil. I did not share in that moment of sanity; I bought Virgil. Len continued the restoration of Virgil until September 20th, 2003 when Paul, Ken, and Len delivered Virgil to Golden Lion Grrrages here in central New York.

Paul had recently purchased a new Hummer H2, a new 86 foot enclosed trailer, and six thousand shares of Exxon Petroleum. Feeling the need to exercise all his new investments concurrently, Paul took the Hummer, filled the tank with 245 liters of Exxon high test, hooked up the 86 foot trailer, and hauled Virgil from Len's. Paul made the 175-mile trip in 2 hours 17 minutes and 35 seconds, which is only 24 days 6 hours and 2 minutes shorter than his first marriage.

At 75 MPH with the trailer in tow, the Hummer H2 used enough fuel to supply Albania for a week. The Hummer has no trouble towing, but Paul keeps wearing out the bearings in the fuel gage.

Although September 20th was the day after Hurricane Isabel swept through, the weather was delightful. As Virgil rolled from the trailer into the warm sun, there was no doubt that Len and his crew had spared no attention to detail. From the shine of the paint to the fit of the body panels, Virgil was stunning.

With a few hours to spare on this warm sunny day, we decided to take a tour of the central New York country. The gold L, the red L, Keys? Keys? What Keys!the K convertible and the 69 Imperial rolled out of the garages and we drove in parade-like fashion through the city. We wandered out to Owasco Lake, through some country neighborhoods and ended up at the house. Since I was tight on space at Golden Lion Grrrages, I decided to leave the Imperial in the house garage and to ride back in the other cars. With the big old Imperial parked, I locked the garage doors and joined the guys outside. We chatted in the sun, delighting in the day until I realized my keys were still in the Imperial. Which was in the garage. Which was locked. And not just the car keys. All the keys. The garage keys the house keys the shop keys. All the keys. I studied the situation for a moment. I reviewed my options. I reached a conclusion.

"We're screwed".

Len looked for door hinges accessible from the outside.
Len said: "We're screwed".
Ken checked for unlocked doors.
Ken said: "We're screwed".
Paul checked for loose locks and door handles.
Paul said: "We're screwed".
We decided the only solution was to break a window. That was when Russ spoke up (I'm not sure who Russ is or how long he had been with us but apparently he made the trip down from Canada with Len and Ken and Paul). Russ suggested we try everyone's keys in the lock on the wild chance that one might work the lock.

Paul was first.
"Looks like a Schlagel" as he squinted at the lock. He pulled out his house key. With a slight wiggle, the key slid into the lock. With a little jiggle, the key turned. With huge relief, the door flew open to a chorus of: "We're not screwed!"

I stood for a moment in disbelief. If Paul's house key worked on the first attempt, did that mean the lock was broken? We looked. It wasn't broken. Hmmm. Maybe this lock works with just about any key. I tried a dozen other keys. Not a one worked. Paul's house key worked the lock and worked on the first try -- the odds must be a million to one. But so it was --- I had just experienced the luckiest moment of my life. And I learned one important thing: if you or anyone else is ever locked out, get Paul DelGrande to send you his key.

This story was intended to be about an F named Virgil but turned out to be something entirely different. Although I will remember how good it was to see Virgil roll from the trailer in his glorious restoration, I will remember with equal pleasure the afternoon we spent as friends. I'm sure there will be more stories to write about Virgil. I hope none involve door locks and keys.

To page 2