Mid-50s Chrysler 300 Letter Series Cars

Pearl White 1957 Chrysler 300C Hardtop
1957 Chrysler 300C Hardtop in Pearl White. Photo by Mark Gittelman

When someone says Chrysler 300 you might start thinking about the modern version of the automobile. For me the model name takes me back to 1955 and the birth of the first production example. Pictured on the left is a second generation 1957 Chrysler 300C hardtop.

This is not just another car with rear fender fins. Packing a 392 cubic inch Hemi engine with a tunnel ram intake manifold and two large four barrel carburetors this car ruled the street in its day.

Join me as we explore the rich history behind this luxury muscle car. Not only will we uncover what the model name represents, but we'll also dig into those letters that follow that moniker.

Development of the Chrysler 300

This is one of those rare occasions where the engine preceded the automobile. Chrysler had been working on a V-8 engine with hemispherical heads since the late 40s. In 1951 they started dropping these power plants into production line automobiles. The marketing team decided to designate these early Hemi motors as the FirePower series.

It found its way into large luxury cars like the New Yorker. It also became standard equipment on the Chrysler Imperial line of automobiles. As this motor began to mature the design team realized its capability of producing large amounts of reliable power. In fact, it exceeded expectations by producing more than 1 HP per cubic inch.

All they needed now was a lighter, sportier and a slightly smaller car to carry this flagship engine.

Without the funds to design an automobile from the ground up, they used existing components. Individual parts from the Imperial, Windsor and New Yorker came together to create the first Chrysler 300 in 1955. The No. 300 represented the horsepower the engine produced. However, with two 4 barrel carburetors it pumped out much more.

What do the Letters After 300 Represent

I remember the first time I saw a Chrysler 300B. I immediately asked the owner what the B stood for. He told me that a Chrysler 300A had a two barrel carburetor, a 300B had a four barrel carburetor and a 300C had two four barrels. As a young man, just starting to learn about cars, this made a lot of sense to me.

Unfortunately, it was completely incorrect information. I walked around for years spouting off this bogus data. Finally, the owner of a 300C laughed and then set me straight. The letters were more about the model year of the car. In 1955, the first year, they just called them 300s.

Now, these first model year vehicles are considered the 300A. The B followed the number for the 1956 model year. When launching the second generation in 1957 they used the C. The letters do however carry a distinction other than year, because as the model years progressed the engines developed more horsepower. The FirePower Hemi 392 in a 1958 Chrysler 300D pumped out an amazing 380 HP.

That year a test car with fuel injection reached a top speed of nearly 157 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The end of the road for the letter series cars came in 1965 with the 300L.

Chrysler continued to build the 300 model without letters until 1971. In 1979 Chrysler brought it back using a rebadged Cordoba.

They sold it as a $2000 upgrade package. The car shared a somewhat anemic 190 HP 360 cubic inch small block with the collectible Dodge Lil Red Express pickup. Of course they resurrected the badge in 2005. And these cars are still Chrysler's best selling luxury model today. You can even get a 300C that pumps out a healthy 340 HP.

Collectible 300 Letter Series Cars

My personal favorite year for these cars is the 1957 Chrysler 300C. Not only did it have tail fins, but they also had some interesting 50s style gizmos like the push button shifter. If you find one with a 392 Hemi carrying a pair four barrels these cars can fetch between $50,000 and $75,000 depending on the condition.

The automobile built in the smallest numbers and therefore considered highly collectible is the 1963 300J. Only around 400 of these cars saw the light of day.

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Gittelman, Mark. "Mid-50s Chrysler 300 Letter Series Cars." ThoughtCo, Mar. 21, 2016, thoughtco.com/mid-50s-chrysler-300-letter-series-4008737. Gittelman, Mark. (2016, March 21). Mid-50s Chrysler 300 Letter Series Cars. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/mid-50s-chrysler-300-letter-series-4008737 Gittelman, Mark. "Mid-50s Chrysler 300 Letter Series Cars." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/mid-50s-chrysler-300-letter-series-4008737 (accessed December 11, 2017).