Chrysler C-300 (C68-300)

The Chrysler 300 “letter series” are high-performance personal luxury cars that were built by Chrysler in the U.S. from 1955 to 1965 and were a sub-model from the Chrysler New Yorker. After the initial year, which was named C-300 for its standard 300 hp (220 kW) 331 cu in (5.4 L) FirePower V8, the 1956 cars were designated 300B. Successive model years were given the next letter of the alphabet as a suffix (skipping “i”), reaching the 300L by 1965, after which the model sequence was discontinued while the “300” remained. At its introduction it was advertised as “America’s Most Powerful Car”.

Chrysler C-300 (1955-1956)

This first of the letter series cars did not bear a letter, but can retroactively be considered the ‘300A’. The ‘C-‘ designation was applied to all Chrysler models and the coupe was built on the C-68 New Yorker Series. For marketing purposes the car was called the “300” in order to further reinforce the 300 hp (220 kW) engine installed. The C-300 was a racecar aimed at the NASCAR circuits that was sold for private ownership to qualify for homologation purposes, with Chrysler’s most powerful engine, the OHV 331 cu in (5.4 L) FirePower “Hemi” V8, due to the hemispheric shape of the cylinder head, fitted with dual four barrel carburetors, two overhead valves per cylinder with solid valve lifters, a race-profiled camshaft installed inside the engine cylinder block, stiffer front and rear suspension, and a low restriction performance exhaust system. This engine was exclusive to the 300, the New Yorker and the all-new Imperial Newport. By 1956, this would be the first American production car to top 355 hp (265 kW), and the letter series was for many years the most powerful car produced in the United States. The engine and transmission were shared with the French automaker Facel Vega in the Facel Vega Excellence and the Cunningham C-4R which was entered at the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans and finished the race. With the growing popularity of European sports cars during the late 1940s, Chrysler sought to create a “drivers car” with sports car performance but with greater attention to comfort in the growing post-WWII tradition of grand tourers.

300B

The 1956 300B was fairly similar externally, distinguished by a new tailfin treatment, but with larger engines, and a choice of two versions of the 354 cu in (5.8 L) Hemi V8 producing either 340 or 355 HP (254 or 265 kW), with a 10:1 compression ratio used to achieve the higher horsepower rating. A companion of this generation was introduced as the DeSoto Adventurer and the Dodge D-500 that were less luxurious, while still sharing much of the mechanicals, giving DeSoto and Dodge a performance enhanced model, while the 354 CID engine was exclusive to the 300, New Yorker and Imperials. The TorqueFlite transmission controls were to the left of the steering wheel and a total of 1,102 were sold. Performance was better than the previous year’s by its top speed at almost 140 mph (225 km/h) at the Daytona Flying Mile. A 6.17 ratio rear differential was also added to the options. Front leg room was 44.6 inches. New was the Highway Hi-Fi phonograph player. This was the last year that coil springs were used for the front suspension.

With the optional 10:1 compression ratio, brake horsepower became 355 HP (265 kW) from the same 354 cu in (5.8 L) engine, and the 300B became the first American car to produce 1 horsepower per cubic inch, besting Chevrolet with their fuel-injected 283 cu in (4.6 L) by one year. Colors were updated to Regimental Red, Cloud White and Black while the tan leather interior remained.

NASCAR team owner Carl Kiekhaefer’s raced the 300B, among other cars, and won 22 out of 41 races, including 16 races consecutively; One of his racers was famous racer Buck Baker, who drove 300B’s. Kiekhaefer would purchase cars from Chrysler and modify a few appearance features but essentially raced the cars as they were, with leather interior and other standard features, on the racetrack. The listed retail price was $4,242 ($47,539 in 2023 dollars).

Assembly: Detroit (USA)

Years of production: 1955—1956

Production: 2827 units

Length: 5558 mm

Width: 2009 mm

Height: 1478 mm

Engine: 8 cylinders; 5787 cc

Power: 340 HP

Max speed: 220 km/h

Fuel consumption: 24 l/100 km

Weight: 1978 kg

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