Cars: The Chrysler 300C is not a Bentley

I’ve always liked the Chrysler 300C – the reviews say it’s not that great from behind the wheel but it’s made-for-gangsters styling is nicely done and translates well outside of the US, which is usually a problem with American cars. But soon after they appeared on British roads, a disturbing trend for replacing the standard grill with a Bentley-style grill became popular. As if that wasn’t enough, yesterday I saw a 300C that actually had Bentley badges on the boot lid.

There’s an obvious issue right away – it’s a pretty desperate move to stick badges from a more expensive car onto a cheaper car. It’s worse than the young lads who buy Fords and Vauxhalls and de-badge them. If you don’t like the brand, perhaps you shouldn’t buy the car? But turning your 300C into a fake Bentley is worse for a more important reason – you’re completely misunderstanding the car and the person who designed it. It is actually the case that the design of the 300C was inspired by a well known British car brand, but it is in fact Rover, not Bentley.

Now before any 300C owners get upset, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The Rover in question is the P5B Coupe, one of my all time favourite cars from an era when Rover was a very well regarded brand. These days, the Rover name is mud, ruined in two phases – firstly by putting the badge on warmed over Austin’s in the early 1990’s, and secondly by continuing to sell severely outdated models in the years before the business collapsed in 2005. But decades ago, the P5, P6 and to some extent the SD1 were cars that cost a few bob and were the preferred means of transport by Prime Ministers, Government ministers and even the Queen.

How are the P5B and the 300C similar? Firstly, the P5B was innovative for offering a coupe option which brought a low roofline and shallow windows, but retained the four door saloon body. This is heavily echoed in the 300C. The standard 300C front grill (not the Bentley one!) and headlamps are very similar in concept, and more so at the rear with the tall thin tail lights.

By the way, the Rover is the one at the top!

Are there any 300C owners out there principled enough to put the original grill back on their car and add some Rover badges?

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2 comments

  1. Mark Guid says:

    Good article and I agree that slapping Bentley badges on the Chrysler 300 is ridiculous. Whether you have a base, touring, 300c or Srt8… don’t embarrass true American classic or muscle car enthusiasts worldwide. A large majority of us are proud to rock the Chrsyler logo.

    Just wanted to take this opportunity to clarify a couple of things. The 2005 300c design was inspired by the original Chrysler 300 letter C model released in 1955. The 300 represented the power output which put the automaker ahead of other American brands. When Ralph Gilles, who is a Canadian, had designed this car he used the 1955 model for inspiration. You can also see some inspiration from Chrysler’s 1991 300 concept car and the 1998 Chrysler Chronos concept car.

    The Rover was also not considered an original design either, in the 1960s the Rover P5 was often referred to as the poor man’s Rolls Royce, plush and classy with the emphasis on comfort rather than handling. Regardless it was still an outstanding design though.

    Going even further back into time, in 1928 Chrysler racers were often seen on European race circuits. In fact the most successful year for Chrysler in European road racing before the arrival of the Viper was in 1928. Four Chrysler cars were entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Two of the Chrysler racers started in the second and third positions, just behind the favored Bentley. The motor racing correspondents and fans were quite impressed with Chrysler’s performance. W. O. Bentley himself remarked how consistently the Chryslers ran. Chrysler began to be referred to as “the Poor Man’s Bentley,” during this period as Malcolm Campbell offered Chryslers for sale in London that were advertised as identical to the ones that ran at Le Mans.

    Getting back to the 300 grill and logo… Chrysler has been using winged logos dating as far back as 1928. You can see the evolution of the winged logos on Chrysler’s official blog.

    I love how everyone knocks Chrysler’s (Hi Drake!) for looking like a Bentley without knowing the history behind the make or 300 model. Know your facts before you write your lyrics.

    If you enjoy the history of cars, try searching for 1920s Chrysler’s, Bentley’s and Rolls Royce’s. You’ll find that they all had striking resemblances to one another.

  2. Dorian Farrimond says:

    Thanks for your comment on my ancient post. Some interesting points.

    I was pretty sure that the 300C designer said at some point that the Rover P5B Coupe was an inspiration, but never mind. Both are great looking cars.

    I really liked the commercial for the 200 as well, fantastic stuff https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKL254Y_jtc

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