Chrysler made a whole bunch of weird-looking cars in the 1950s and early 60s, which people have forgotten. However, if there’s one model you should know about, it’s the 1955 Chrysler C-300. Named after the 300 horsepower of its potent “FirePower” V8 engine, it was produced in limited numbers for homologation purposes and claimed to be the “world’s fastest stock car.”
We just found one for sale on Bring A Trailer, and although it’s been modified with things like a four-speed automatic, Ford 9-inch rear, and some fancy wheels, it’s still full of history where this really matters: under the hood.
What is the first American muscle car? Most believe it’s the Pontiac GTO, which arrived in 1964. However, you could argue the 1955 Chrysler C-300 got there first because it was the first American production car to produce over 300 horsepower, excluding the custom-body 1930s Duesenberg models. If nothing else, this Detroit product has an interesting background story.
In a way, it was exotic as well. Chrysler saw the growing popularity of European sports cars imported during the 1940s and decided to make its own high-performance vehicle. But unlike the Ford Thunderbird or Chevy Corvette, this product didn’t become world-famous, probably because it didn’t have a bespoke design.
While advertised as having a “100-Million Dollar Look”, the C-300 was designed by Virgil Exner using parts from other Chrysler models. The main body was the same as a 1955 Chrysler New Yorker, down to its 126-inch wheelbase. However, the front end was taken from the larger Imperial, while the rear is from the Windsor. Virgil Exner also reduced the amount of trim, such as the exterior mirrors and reversing lights, and used base-model bumpers for the streamlined look he wanted.
The name promotes the 300 horsepower HEMI
Chrysler had to make 1,725 examples for the C-300 to be called a production car. But with a base price of $4,110, it was out of reach for most buyers. This gamble paid off on the track, however, as the car achieved 22 victories in NASCAR in 1955. After achieving 127.58 miles per hour in the Flying Mile, the C-300 was marketed as the “world’s fastest stock car,” although European imports such as the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and BMW 503 could have challenged its title.
As we’ve said, the engine is very interesting and basically synonymous with this model. The overhead valve V8 displaced 331 cubic inches (5.4 liters) and was dubbed the FirePower “HEMI” due to the hemispherical shape of the cylinder head. The racing engine was fitted with dual four-barrel carburetors, a race camshaft, and two valves per cylinder with solid lifters.
By 1956, the engine grew to a 354 (5.8-liter) and was making 340 horsepower (355 hp with options). And in 1957, we got a much nicer body, plus the “300C” featured a 392 cubic-inch (6.4L) FirePower V8 with 375 hp.
The names can be a little bit confusing, though. This model is part of the “letter series cars”, and can be named “300A” in retrospect, followed by the 300B in 1936 and the 300C in 1957. The “C-” in C-300 stands for Coupe, as with all Chrysler models.
As we’ve mentioned, this bad boy four-speed 700R4 automatic transmission, and that can’t be original, since Chrysler sold this car with a 2-speed PowerFlite. The car also has power steering, powered brakes, and 15″ E-T wheels, although we understand wire wheels are included with this sale.