In 1955 Chrysler Corporation introduced the first 300". This new vehicle was actually pulled from the Chrysler parts bin and "designed" into a new model by their renowned design chief, Virgil Exner. Using the smallest Chrysler body, the Imperial's nose and the Windsor's tail, Exner crammed the biggest Chrysler "hemi" engine under the hood. The 331 CID "Fire Dome" V-8 was fitted with dual four-barrel carburetors, solid valve lifters and a racing camshaft. The suspension was stiffer than stock and it had a racing exhaust system with minimal restriction. It was really a racing car built for the street. The designation "300" stood for the horsepower of the car.
For the 1956 Model, Chrysler stuck a letter after the numerical designation, 300 B. The hemi engine was boosted to 354 CID and came with either 340 or 355 horsepower. This was the first US-made car to reach one horsepower per cubic inch of displacement. The car hit the flying mile at more than 140 miles per hour, an incredible speed for a two-ton vehicle. The "letter series" continued to the end of the first run of Chrysler 300s, the 1965 300 L. The 1957 300 C received a 392 CID engine, good for about 390 horses. A convertible was added to the line for the first time. The 1959 Chrysler 300 E received their new wedge-head engine, a 413 CID monster. The 300 E topped 156 miles per hour at Bonneville.
The Chrysler 300 F for 1960 had an optional cross-ram intake for the big 413 V-8. This device actually increased the power at higher speeds from a "ram-air" action into the two huge four-barrel carbs. Instead of being mounted on a manifold located between the engine "Vs", there were separate "banana" tubes leading to each cylinder from each carb, which were mounted outboard of each engine valve cover. It was a strange looking, but effective innovation.
After the final lettered 300 in 1965, there was one "Hurst" model brought out in 1970. Specially prepped by Hurst, the automobile aftermarket parts people, this 300 was sold only in white with special gold trim. 501 of these units were built.
In 2004, Chrysler launched a new rear-drive sedan platform for both the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger models. Unlike the Letter Series 300s, the modern renditions are only four-door sedans, and the base engine is a V-6 power plant. A 5.7 liter "hemi" is optional and gives the new 300 good performance, probably better than the old Letter Series.
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