Our autoTRADER.ca Find of the Week this week is a classic Chrysler. It’s a big-fin, big-engine land yacht from one of the most outrageous years for American automotive styling. It’s a nameplate that lives today on Chrysler’s flagship. It’s a 1957 Chrysler 300C.
Chrysler launched their “letter series” cars in 1955. The idea for the car came from Chrysler chief engineer Robert MacGregor. MacGregor was part of the team that launched the Hemi V8 in 1951 and was proud of how the engine had performed in sports car grids with Briggs Cunningham’s racers. MacGregor thought that a 5.4L Hemi with the right cam and carburetor combination could make a reliable 300 hp in a production car. Quite a feat for the early 1950s. But Chrysler didn’t have the right car to put an engine like that in.
The proposal was for a two-door hardtop coupe to put the engine in. Chrysler, as always, was on a shoestring budget, so the car was a mash of existing cars. It was the nose of an Imperial with the shell of a New Yorker, with Windsor quarter panels. Chrysler’s head of styling Virgil Exner gave it a smaller, less overwrought bumper, and the 300 was born, entering production in 1955.
That first 300 was named for the power output and badged the C-300. Unsurprisingly, the massive power output and big but not too big body did well on the NASCAR circuit, where Chrysler called it the “world’s fastest stock car.” Each year got a new letter, with 1956 being the 300B
The 300 nameplate would be used up until 1965 when the 300L was launched. By that point, the car was up to 6.8L and 360 hp. But as with most late 60’s cars the 300 had grown. Chrysler had also started making a non-letter 300 that had almost all the same features. That meant that it was no longer relevant, so the letter cars went away.
Chrysler brought back the letter car name with the 300M in 1998. It was a front-drive V6, offering average power at 253 hp. It was still a full-size sedan, and enough awards to suggest that it lived up to the large performance car name. Chrysler went back to the 300C for 2005. The big sedan was rear-drive again, better yet it came with the new Hemi V8. But if you want a 300C, you probably want the original. And if you want the original, here’s one that might be just what you’re looking for.
The 1957 300C got more performance, more power, and different styling. Under the hood, that Hemi V8 grew to a massive 392 cubic inches (6.4L). In that year it made 375 hp and 420 lb-ft thanks to massive displacement and two four-barrel carbs. If you wanted even more power, then a more radical camshaft, 10.0:1 compression, and bigger diameter exhaust could boost power to 390 hp, although that model was suggested for competition use only and less than 20 were ever made. 375 hp 300C cars got a three-speed TorqueFlight automatic, and it was the first year for a transmission that would see service in the Mopar family for decades.
1957 got a new suspension design, with torsion bars in the front replacing coil springs. It improved ride and handling, and reduced nose-dive under braking. Getting rid of spring towers also helped lower the hood line. Stopping the 2,000 kg car were four-wheel drum brakes. Air ducts to help cool the drums were new for 1957 and well needed to stop them from fading after the first hard stop.
There was new styling for 1957. There were newer, bigger fins that started at the doors and stuck out past the bumpers. They were designed for looks, but reportedly actually helped the aerodynamics at high speeds. A 300C could hit 217 km/h in the flying mile on the sands of Daytona Beach. The nose was redesigned with a more futuristic looking and forward-leaning egg crate grille. There were now four headlights, and even the roofline looked faster. At launch, Tom McCahill of Mechanix Illustrated called it “the most hairy-chested, fire-eating land bomb ever conceived in Detroit.”
This beautiful example is located in Saint-Jérôme, QC, just outside of Montreal. It’s in beautiful white paint, complete with extra-wide ’50s style white-wall tires. Inside is acres of black and cream leather, with black carpeting.
The seller claims that this car is all-original, including the now-rare factory four-barrel Carter carbs. It’s from California, which helps keep the rust away, and it was stored inside for 32 years. This car hasn’t been restored, it’s just been very well looked after. And if you want one of the original muscle cars, then this big-finned, Hemi-powered monster can be yours.
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