CHRYSLER C-300 (1955) CHRYSLER 300 B (1956) CHRYSLER 300 C (1957) CHRYSLER 300 D (1958) CHRYSLER 300 E (1959) CHRYSLER 300 F (1960) CHRYSLER 300 G (1961) other infos about 300 Where to find
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The beginning of the CHRYSLER 300

The "300" pages that follow are drawn from an article I wrote 9 years ago for the American Car Club of France’s magazine "The Bond." They are presented here in updated form, with recent corrections and additions.

300 - a magic number which, spoken in the presence of a fan of the 1950s and ’60s, kindles an envious glow in even the most jaded. Attach to this number a letter from B through L and you have entered the circle of initiates, those purists scornful of little multi-valved engines whose turbochargers couldn’t feed even one of our cylinders.

No need to name the maker. "I’ve got a 300 _ " lifts you into the stratosphere of U.S. cars. A touch of the gas pedal is enough to convert any GMer or Fordite to MoPar - with no more than a scratch on their Chevy or Galaxie needed to justify the move.

1951-1954, a star is born …

FirePower, the legend ..

1951 was a pivotal year for Chrysler. It ushered in an all-new V-8 engine that soon became famous and was appropriately named Firepower. GM had introduced high-compression V-8s two years earlier in the Cadillac and Olds, but Chrysler’s engineers saw that those engines lacked something. The new Firepower, they decided, must have hemispherical combustion chambers - hollowed out at the upper end so as to yield more power at high rpms. It wasn’t a new discovery, but launching it into mass production carried a big risk. The very costly new tooling needed would raise the sale price of the car. Two rows of rocker arms on each bank doubled the number of moving parts in the valve train.

Nonetheless Firepower was born, and born well. On low-octane fuel it outdid GM’s 1951 V-8 by 20 hp (180 as against 160). The Chrysler lab developed souped-up versions, one of them yielding 353 hp at 5200 rpm. It had a compression ratio of 12.6-1 and its 4 carbs drank aviation gas. Another version, running on alcohol, attained 404 hp. For 1951, that was hair-raising stuff!

Let’s not forget Briggs S. Cunningham and his famed C2 roadsters competing at Le Mans in ’51. One of them came in 18th. Powered with stock 180-hp engines, they demonstrated Firepower’s outstanding reliability. In 1952 the C4R went up to 300 hp, and the year after that to 310 hp.


Chrysler entered other competitions: Carrera Pan Am (Mexico), NASCAR. It even prepared for Indianapolis with a 400-hp car that was clocked at an average close to 140 mph (220 km/h) over 900 miles. Unfortunately a rules change obliged Chrysler to cut its 331-cu. in. displacement back to 271 cu. in., and that killed the car’s chance to be competitive at Indy.

A high-performance engine was needed, but other things had to catch up with it. The Chrysler of the early 1950s was a heavy, dull thing, outdated in appearance and handling, failing to exploit the qualities of the new motor. It happened that GM with the Corvette, and Ford with its T-Bird, appealed powerfully to the younger generations of buyers, at a time when Chrysler was seen by the public as a car for old folks. It was time for a bold stroke, yet not at great expense. 1954 had been a disastrous year for Chrysler, with a 40% drop in sales!

The association of Virgil Exner with Firepower was about to revolutionize Chrysler’s image and set the car on a course that would only be fulfilled at the beginning of the 1970s: POWER … MUSCLE. … .HEMI …


331 CI FirePower

Thanks to Frank L. Peters Jr. of St Louis (Mo)  for the translation of the Chrysler 300 pages ...

Chrysler  photo gallery 1952-54
Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the pictures.

NewYorker 2 dr. 52 NewYorker cv. 52 NewYorker 53 Firepower
Chrysler New Yorker coupé Newport 1952 NewYorker convertible 1952 NewYorker 1953, 8 passagers. French ad on the Firepower (Saratoga 53)
Torque vs power Intérieur 8 pass. 53 Windsor 54 Town & Country 54
Torque / Power of the 331 CI sedan 8 passagers interior view Windsor 54 Chrysler Town and Country 1954


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