16-17 January 2014
1955 Chrysler C-300
- Chassis no. 3N551301
- Engine no. CE555235
Sold for $77,000
- The original Chrysler “Letter Car”
- The most powerful American car since the Duesenberg
- Recently restored chassis and powertrain
When it comes to the question of which was the first American muscle car, it is hard to find a better argument than one on behalf of the 1955 Chrysler C-300. Development of the C-300, by chief engineer Bob Rodger, traces the muscle car template perfectly: take heaps of horsepower—in this case some 300 horsepower, the most offered in a factory-specification American car since the supercharged Duesenberg SJ—and wedge it between the fenders of an automobile that is typically motivated by a much less potent powertrain, specifically Chrysler’s New Yorker hardtop.
To make the C-300 stand out from the rest of the cars in Chrysler’s stable, stylist Cliff Voss added a little flair borrowed from the Virgil Exner-penned Imperial line, while Rodger supplied a 331-cubic inch Hemi-head V-8 with a race camshaft, higher compression, twin four-barrel Carter carburetors, and a beefed-up suspension and Powerflite two-speed transmission. A 150-mph speedometer also found its way onto the dashboard by necessity.
Chrysler wasn’t far off when they called it “America’s greatest performing motor car,” as the hefty C-300 could hold its own against the then-new Corvette, at least in a straight line. It also took home championship wins on the NASCAR circuit in 1955 and 1956.
This Tango Red C-300 is better suited to the concours field than the race track, and it shows very well from just about every angle, thanks to a thorough body-off chassis and powertrain restoration that was commissioned less than 10 years ago by Bill Madden, noted Chrysler expert and former owner. The scarce miles the car has logged since—it shows 53,212—mean that the undercoating and powder-coated chassis and suspension still show as much as they did then, as the car has been lovingly maintained in top driving condition.
The original engine block was, for unknown reasons, swapped out for a similar 1955 Imperial block long ago, but the high-performance C-300 internals are all still there, including the solid lifter camshaft and the adjustable rocker arm assemblies. The C-300’s trademark golden “Bat Wing” air cleaner and special valve covers are also present; these are the highlights of what may be the best looking engine bay in a Chrysler of this age. Under the hood is beautifully and correctly detailed, with original stamps and labels present. The power steering and power brakes work like new, as does the Town & Country signal-seeking tube radio, and the new Goodyear whitewall radials have just been installed. Panel gaps are perfect all around, with a properly fitted hood and doors that close with a satisfying solid sound.
This C-300 would complement any collection, and it would also make a great weekend driver or concours contender, as it is arguably one of the cars from which the muscle car era was born. It is one of the most important Chryslers of all time.
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