Chris Carpenter spoke with Chrysler 300M Enthusiasts Club president Keith Jarvis. The 300M Enthusiasts Club has a hefty presence at various meets, and has made an annual visit to the Indy 500.
In an age where the segment of luxury cars has been one of the most competitive, with countless options, what made you pick your first 300M?
When in the market for my first new car, I spent a significant amount of time test driving many different makes. While at the Chrysler dealership, I first looked at a brochure and the styling of the 300M Special caught my eye. The dual exhaust, body kit, and two-tone interior were features I was impressed by. The showroom had a Deep Sapphire Blue with slate interior which I was able to test drive. I liked the comfort, the sound of the exhaust, and the overall look and feel of the car. The decision to purchase a 300M was made that day and the dealership ordered a 2002 Bright Silver Metallic Special with two-tone interior, a moon roof, and the cold weather package. I took ownership of the car a few weeks later and started envisioning my modifications shortly after.
What I found most remarkable about the 300M, and still do, is that in 2002 the features were ahead of its time. The turn signal mirrors, carbon fiber interior trim, xenon headlights, and tire pressure sensors were all cool features that placed the 300M in a class above the others in my eyes. You certainly got a lot for your money with all the options that came standard.
That 300M was traded in for another car in 2005 and was missed instantly. After returning to the club with a Chrysler Relative, I always missed the M. November 2012 found me with a one-way ticket to Texas to purchase a 2002 Bright Silver Metallic Special and drive it home to Massachusetts.
When you joined the club initially, did you ever give any thought to acting on its leadership board someday?
When I joined the club I did so because I was planning on attending the 2003 Chrysler Nationals in Carlisle, PA. I knew nothing about the leadership board and how much work goes into the club at that point. I continued to try and get involved in the club after meeting everyone in Carlisle that same year. I designed and handled the M of the Month contest and served on the BOD for one year in 2004. I actually ran for President that year and was defeated by a single vote. I ended up selling my first M not too long after that and had always thought I was destined for more with the club.
In 2009 I happened to stumble back onto the forum after years spent with another show car and have been around ever since. I nominated myself for the BOD in 2011 and was elected Vice-President that year. I still yearned for more and decided to run for President in 2012, I really enjoy helping the club continue to grow and remain in that position currently. I continue to try and help the club move forward and enjoy all that comes with being President of the club.
What makes the people so remarkable about this club?
It’s very hard to put into words what makes this club so remarkable. The members of the 300M Enthusiasts Club are extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and always willing to help another person on the forum. They share their experiences working on their M with others, take extra time to put together a ‘how-to’ to share with others, or trek to the junkyard for parts. However, what the 300M Enthusiasts Club shares is more than interest and passion for a car. Our group is like a family where people will do whatever they can to help solve a problem. They open their homes to traveling drivers, their garages to support repairs, and share their families with you. The connections we make may have started with a car, but they have grown so much deeper. I consider the people of this club family and very much value their contributions to my life. The level of caring never ceases to amaze me and I think the people in this club are the biggest factor in the success the club has had over the past 12 years. I’m very thankful to be a part of it and share in such a wonderful family.
No, I don’t see them driving off into the history books, I see them racing into the future with their dedicated owners behind the wheel! While parts, maintenance, and resources may become more and more scarce, I believe that the supporters of the 300M, our club members, will see their cars well into the future. It will continue to take the club to make this happen – our dedicated members that search the junk yards across America to keep the parts going forward, the members that purchase cars just to part them out to other owners, and those that take q-tips as tools for cleaning and preserving their vehicle. While Mopar enthusiasts and car aficionados around the world may continue to undervalue the LH platform of cars, I feel confident we will remain an active and relevant part of the Chrysler story.
Out of all the club stories you have heard, your own and those of others, could you share a story that best exemplifies the nature of the 300M club, as you see it?
When asked to complete these questions, no page limit was given. It is with this question that I feel unbelievably limited and constrained for sharing the remarkable stories that exemplify the 300M family. In an effort to refrain from gushing over the amazing stories that epitomize the 300M Enthusiasts Club, I will recall a recent event which I was personally touched by and believe demonstrates what we stand for.
Timing is everything and you have no control over it during any given day. This past May, the club held a meet in Indianapolis, Indiana coordinated around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500 race. The organizers had declared that this would be the final Indy meet they planned. Naturally, it turned out to be one of the largest Indy meets yet as the club rallied around the once in a lifetime experience of driving on the Indy track and walking the garages. As we all know, sometimes life gets in the way of our plans and one of our organizers found himself with some health challenges. A week and a half before the meet, he underwent major surgery. The disappointment of missing the meet was significant and while he continued to support the meet and provide the attendees with information, it just wasn’t going to be the same without him. The early arrivals of the meet made a house call to visit with the member and include him in a part of the meet. It was great to see him up and doing well, but most importantly being a part of the club!
Knowing all too well that he couldn’t stay away, and against his wife’s wishes, the club member joined us to welcome the crew the first night at the hotel. He also stayed in contact throughout the day while we were at the track and participated in the distribution of the club awards on Sunday morning.
It wasn’t the same without him there for the entire meet, but for what life had dealt him, it was perfect. The pickup that he needed, not completely missing out on the happenings, and the support of his car family. For the other club members, it was important to us to rally around one of our own in need, support him in this unfortunate journey, and offer friendly and personal connections.
I now realize that this actually has nothing to do with the 300M or cars at all, however, it is the family connections, the support of people, and the kindness that is offered between members that makes this club what it is. The dedication of the members is like none other and the extensions that they make for one another are impressive, admirable, and encompassing.
In your opinion, why should someone looking at potentially purchasing a 300M, be encouraged to do so?
While regular service maintenance is necessary, the 300M is a reliable car. The expansive knowledgebase that exists on our forums makes these tasks easier and cheaper. Additionally, the car still remains relevant in the market when it comes to style, features, and performance. The low mileage Ms on the market right now are holding their value and commanding a premium price. This is evidence that they have been well taken care of, have many more years of life left in them, and that the purchaser is inheriting a great ride. I continue to be amazed with the new members that find our forum and how well their cars look for their age.
How has the club experience impacted your own 300M ownership?
The club experience has had a huge impact on my status as a 300M owner. I love to attend the meets and interact with other members of the club. For the past few years I had done this in a Chrysler relative and was still able to have fun doing so. In July of 2012 I was in a very serious accident that I was lucky to walk away from. The next few months were extremely difficult for me and I began thinking about getting another M to bring with me to the meets. I happened to see a fellow club member in Texas that was selling his low mileage Bright Silver Metallic 300M Special, I reached out to him and actually ended up buying the car without ever seeing it in person. I purchased a one-way ticket to Houston, Texas and drove it 2,600 miles to my home in Natick, MA. During that trip home I was amazed at the outpouring of support from members along the way. I had lunch with a fellow member and his family in Virginia and then drove to New Jersey where another member helped me complete a tremendous amount of maintenance of the car. We spent 17 hours working on it over the course of one day and I left his house with and tremendously reliable car.
I brought the car home and completed a full interior swap to light taupe and have added many one-of-a-kind modifications that I am now proud to show off. I am able to take my M to the club meets and feel like it is 2003 all over again. My M has allowed me to come full circle and I could not be happier. I plan on keeping the car for years to come and I will continue to modify it along the way.
See the Chrysler 300M Enthusiasts Club