In 1955, Chrysler built a car that stunned the motoring public. It was called the C-300 because its 331 cu. in. hemi engine, outfitted with such power-enhancing items as two four-barrel carburetors, a competition camshaft and solid valve lifters, developed a true 300HP. It was the first American car to do so.
The C-300s were offered 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 most owners seemed to prefer the convenience of the 2 speed PowerFlite automatic. The C-300 came stock with an extra firm suspension which allowed the car to sit lower and corner far better than most other cars on the market. Other options, such as “Natural Cowhide” leather upholstery, wire wheel and a fully loaded instrumentation panel, made the C-300 the “ultimate sports sedan”.
The C-300 was designed by Virgil Exner and was the first example of Chrysler’s “Fast Look.” The Fast Look design was unusually simple for the times and did not have the multiple stripes of chrome that most 1950s model cars were embellished with. The illusion portrayed by the Fast Look Chryslers was of “fast, forward movement.” It was a design style that distinguished the Chrysler line through the 1950s. According to Pearson Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram of Richmond, VA, a full-service Mopar dealer, at $4,110, the new 300 was the second most costly Chrysler car. Only the big $4,209 Town & Country station wagon cost more.
Oh, and the C-300 was fast. Well known car racer Tim Flock raced the C-300 at Daytona in 1955, winning both the “road course” and the “flying mile.” The 1956 model won both events that year as well. In fact, the Chrysler C-300s dominated all the NASCAR tracks during 1955 and 1956 seasons. There was actually a movement to ban the C-300 from NASCAR events because the power to weight ratio was unreasonably high.
Some owners were less than thrilled about the performance aspects of the C-300. The camshaft was tuned for high horsepower and caused a rather rough idle. The exhaust was more free-flow than most other cars and had a throaty rumbling sound to it. Perhaps the most obvious characteristic, though, was the ride of the C-300. No question, it had a stiffness to it as befits any vehicle with a performance pedigree.
In 1959, Chrysler replaced the 331 with a 350 cu. in. wedge head design that developed 340 horsepower. For 1960, the wedge style engine was equipped with the unique and exotic cross-ram carburetor induction system. This new arrangement provided much higher torque at lower speeds in addition to substantial power at higher RPMs.
The C-300 was built through 1965 when Chrysler retired the name. In all, there were 14,268 hardtops and 2,588 convertibles C-300s produced, not large volume for 11 years of production. The C-300 established a great engineering tradition that is evident in this top-end automobile that some think of as the “Duesenburg of the 1950s”.