In the early 1950s, Chrysler had a world class performer with its hemispherical V8 engine. The engine displaced 331 cu.in. and proved its race worthiness at automobile racing events such as Lemans, Dayton, Indianapolis, and others. In 1954, Chrysler hired a new stylist, Virgil Exner, who redesigned the entire Chrysler and line. Today, Exner is considered the father of the “Fast Look” that distinquished the Chrysler line for the 1955s. His designs were simple and lacked the multiple stripes of chrome that most 1955 model cars were embellished with. The illusion portrayed by the 1995 Chryslers was of “fast, forward movement”.
It was in 1955 that the first Chrysler 300 was offered to the world. It was called the C-300 because the factory installed 331 cu. in. hemi engine with a Carter 4 Barrel carburetor, solid lifters and free-flow exhaust, generated a genuine 300 HP. It was the first modern American automobile engine to do so. Thanks to Exner, the 300s also had a multiplicity of other distinctive features. For example, they had extra firm suspensions which allowed them to sit lower and corner far better than most other cars on the market. Other options such as luxurious leather upholstery, the new PowerFlite transmission and a well designed instrumentation panel made the C-300 the “ultimate gentleman’s sports sedan”.
Oh, and it was fast. Tim Flock raced the C-300 at Daytona in 1955, winning both on the road course and the “flying mile”. The 1956 model, now designated the 300B, won both events that year as well. In fact, the Chrysler 300s dominated NASCAR tracks in 1955 and 1956, taking the overall championship both years. Frankly, the folks at Reedman-Toll DCJ in Langhorne, PA to tell us those triumphs were instrumental in creating the legend of the Chrysler 300 and its hemi engine.
In 1959, Chrysler replaced the then 392 hemi head engine was discontinued and replaced with a 413 cu. in. wedge head design. For 1960 the wedge style engine was equipped with the unique and exotic cross-ram carburetor induction system (see photo). This new arrangement provided much higher torque at lower speeds in addition to substantial power at higher RPMs.
There were 14,268 hardtops and 2,588 convertibles of the C-300 cars produced, not large volume for 11 years of production. The cars were offered in only a limited number colors and trim and only in two door hardtops or convertibles. They could be ordered with a standard transmission in certain years, but production was very low with that option, most owners seemed to prefer the convenience of the PowerFlite automatic. Still, each year since 1955 saw the engineering and performance of the famous Chrysler 300 improve. The result is that Chrysler had established a great engineering tradition that is evident in this top-end automobile that some think of as the “Duesenburg of the 1950s”.
Photos courtesy of allpar.com, examiner.com and Chrysler.com