Hugh Baldus wanted to drive something a little different after selling his '69 Alfa Romero 1750 GT. So he looked around for three months and found a car in California that he liked. He said it was the uniqueness originality that attracted him to the car.
The scarcity of this unusual car, a 1964 Chrysler 300K hardtop coupe, was what caught his attention. They are pretty rare; Chrysler made only 3600 of them, and of those, 600 were convertibles. Bladus said they were known as the banker's hot rod.
"A banker's hot rod was designed for people who wanted to go fast and look good doing it, and I don't mind either one of those activities," Baldus said with a smile.
The car had only two owners before Baldus. He's driven it 4,000 miles since he bought the Chrysler last year. He likes to drive his collector cars and enjoy them. When the weather gets bad, and the salt goes on the roads, he puts them away for the season.
"I use them as daily drivers, sometimes in the rain," Baldus said.
The cost for the car when it rolled off the line in 1964 was $4,500; now it is considerably more. The Hagerty Classic Car Price Guide online lists the average price of this model of 1964 Chrysler as more than $20,000. Baldus said it is the only car like this he knows of in Indiana. The engine is a 413-cubic-inch V-8 with ram induction manifold and two four-barrel carbs. It can produce almost 400 hp. The engine was later refined in NASCAR.
The interior is original to the car. The car had one repaint in 1981, in its original color, of course.
"It's a pure, original car which is one of the things that appealed to me about this car," Bladus said.
Baldus, who is a partner in the third generation Fort Wayne advertising business, The Baldus Company, said he came by car collecting genetically; his father was a car collector too. His dad owns a 1923 Ford Model T-touring, which he still drives.
"I have owned strange and interesting cars for a lot of years," Baldus said.
The older cars are in part a throwback to his childhood, but he likes the way they look, their distinctive personalities and the way they feel on the road.
"You are not isolated from the experience as much as you are involved in it," Baldus said.
His children love to ride in it. The three of his five that are of driving age don't want to drive it because it makes them nervous. His wife likes to ride in it, but she doesn't drive it, either.
He admitted sometimes it can be inconvenient when the car breaks down, or as Baldus likes to call it, has "a failure to proceed." But in the end, it's all worthwhile and makes him feel good.
So far he has put in a new radiator and new belts and hoses. Baldus does not work on the car himself but instead relies on his mechanic at Commercial Automotive, 2002 S. Harrison St., who understands the car.
"I am not a wrench. I am not mechanically inclined. I'm just pretty good at finding people I can trust," Baldus said.
He does show his car at Chrysler meets, but for the most part it can be seen on the streets of Fort Wayne.