When people hear the vehicle name “Chrysler 300”, they are typically thinking about the near-luxury sedan that has become popular in the past dozen years or so. What some people don’t realize, though most classic car enthusiasts do, the Chrysler 300 was originally released in 1955 and would become one of the muscle car industries ancestors.
In 1955, the Chrysler Corporation released its first Chrysler 300 “letter series” high performance luxury car. These cars were focused on performance, which is why they would become a model for future muscle cars, despite the fact that they were much more expensive and exclusive than most muscle cars would be. Each year after 1955, through the end of production of the model in 1965, a new model was released with a new letter as its suffix (skipping the letter “I”) up to the 300L. The 300 originally got its name from the 300hp it could produce and was originally built for the NASCAR circuit, but then sold as a road model.
The original 300 had a 331c.i. (5.4L) FirePower Hemi V8 engine, twin-barrel carburetors, a race-profiled camshaft set-up, solid valve lifters, stiffer suspension and a performance exhaust system. It was the first American car to top 355hp (1956). It topped out at speeds of 127mph+. This vehicle had limited options; it came only in red, black or white and only had tan, leather interior. It did have power window and power seat options. The design of the vehicle was considered a “forward look” because it removed many exterior elements, like the back up lights, hood ornament, some side trim and exterior mirrors; this was done to give it a sleek and uncluttered appearance and to give it less drag at high speeds.
The Chrysler 300 went through many changes through its 11 years of production. Some notable changes were in 1957, the car got a new styling, the Hemi engine was upgraded to a 392 or the rare 390 (18 made), and the convertible top was an option for the first time. The ’57 was considered the “classic year” of the 300. In 1959, the engine was changed from the FirePower to the Golden Lion wedge-head V8. In 1960, there was another restyling that included a trunk with the demeaning “toilet seat” look; that was axed for the next model year.
All of the Chrysler 300 “letter series” cars were considered collectibles as of 2005, with the earlier years being the most desired. The 300C-300G seemed to be the most sought after. At a recent auction, the 1960 300F convertible sold for more than $425,000 at auction.
With the re-release of the 300’s, Chrysler deems the 2005 300M to be the closest to the original. So, if you are looking for a great car that a lot of muscle cars followed after or are looking for something more new but that runs like an old muscle car, look at the Chrysler 300 “letter series”. You won’t be disappointed!