Find Your Make


The Automotive Chronicles

Monthly newsletter published by McLellan's Automotive History. Dedicated to literature collectors, restorers, museums, publishers, manufacturers and investors who collect and preserve automotive literature
HOME | Articles index | media | use of content | contact us  
April 2007 Issue
The Beautiful Brute
By Robert McLellan

When the Chrysler Letter Cars first appeared they were associated with masculinity and the phrase "The Beautiful Brute" seemed to appear out of nowhere - but it fit. As the Paul Bunyan of cars, this Chrysler created an image of big, powerful and fast. This certainly set it apart from sports cars and hot rods that in 1955 were also in vogue.

What appeared to be a brilliant promotion to wrap Chrysler models in a performance image lasted only a few years. As other makes became involved in stock car racing and building performance models, Chrysler lost interest in performance. By the time the Mustang and Barracuda arrived the Letter Cars were coming to an end and forgotten with the introduction of the Camaro and Firebird.

Picking the right Letter Car to buy is easy. Let sales literature be your guide.

The "Letter Cars" disappeared after the "L" model while the 300 Series continued. Both series have modern counterparts. In 1999 Chrysler produced the 300M, but it was short lived, and now we have the current and very popular 300 SRT8. Although the SRT8 is powerful, it does not stand out like "The Beautiful Brute". Let's hope for a 300N in the future that will place Chrysler in the spotlight.

Highlights      Literature

1955 Chrysler 300:

Production began on Feb. 10, 1955.

An all new Virgil Exner design using the Imperial grille.

Engine had overhead valves with hemispherical combustion chambers, cast iron block, 8.5:1 compression ratio, 300 hp, 331 cid with two four-barrel carburetors, solid lifters and a full-race camshaft. Add to that a heavy-duty suspension system.

Came only as a 2-door hardtop coupe.

Only 1,725 were built.

Won 37 NASCAR and AAA races of over 100 miles during the 1955 season, including the NASCAR Grand National race with an average speed of 92.05 mph and won the AAA Championship.

Recorded "Flying Mile" at Daytona Beach, Florida, at 127 mph.

Tim Flock, who drove the winning 300 at the NASCAR Grand National, had 18 major wins in the 300 that year.

1956 Chrysler 300B

America's fastest and highest powered car.

Broke the passenger car world speed record at Daytona Beach, Florida, with an average speed of 139.9 mph. Driven by Tim Flock.

Leather upholstery standard.

Engine: Displacement raised to 354 cid with 340 hp. An optional 10:1 compression ratio engine with 355 hp available.

Total production of 1,102 2-door hardtop coupes built.

Won 21 major NASCAR races.

1957 Chrysler 300C:

Still the fastest and most powerful production car in America.

The new "Forward Look".

"Motor Trend" magazine's "Car of the Year".

Introduction of a convertible.

1,767 2-door hardtops and 484 2-door convertibles were built.

Engine: Displacement raised to 392 cid with 375 hp. Compression ratio of 9.25:1. A 390 hp variation, with solid lifters, was option, but with manual transmission only and no power options. It was intended for competition.

At Chrysler's test track it set a record top speed of 145.1 mph in stock form.

1958 Chrysler 300D:

Last year of the first generation of the Hemi engine.

619 2-door hardtops and 191 2-door convertibles were built.

Engine: Displacement remains at 392 cid, but with 10:1 compression ratio, giving it 380 hp. Electric fuel injection system option increases it to 390 hp.

Low back pressure exhaust system available.

1959 Chrysler 300E:

Swivel seats standard.

550 2-door hardtops and 140 2-door convertibles were built.

New 413 cid engine with 10.1:1 compression ratio yielding 380 hp was no longer a Hemi. First year of new "B" block engine with wedge-shaped combustion chamber design.

1960 Chrysler 300F:

All new body style.

10 (or less) cars received the French Pont-A-Mousson four speed gearbox.

964 2-door hardtops and 248 2-door convertibles were built.

Engine: Introduction of Ram Induction manifold on 413 cid engine in standard form put out 375 hp, but a 400 hp version with solid valve lifters was optional.

Won the first six places in the "Flying Mile" at Daytona, Florida, with winning car averaging over 144 mph.

Andy Granatelli drove a supercharged version of the 300F for a two 2 way average speed of 172.6 mph at Bonneville in 1961.

1961 Chrysler 300G:

1,280 2-door hardtops and 337 2-door convertibles were built.

No significant engine changes.

1962 Chrysler 300H:

With the introduction of the new Sport Series 300 the 300H offered nothing that could not be found standard or optional on the 300 Sport Series.

435 2-door hardtops and 123 2-door convertibles were built.

Engine: 413.3 cid standard with 10.1:1 compression ration and 380 hp. Optional new 426 cid engine available in 421 hp with 12:1 compression ration and Short Ram Induction manifold was only available briefly. Rare? Were any built?

1963 Chrysler 300J:

No convertible production. 400 2-door hardtop coupes were built.

Separated from the 300 Sport Series by having heavy-duty torsion bars, shocks and springs and Ram Induction manifolds.

Engine: No significant changes. 390 hp. NOTE: The 426 cid engine with 425 hp, available in the 300 Series, was not available in the 300J.

1964 Chrysler 300 K:

Re-introduction of the convertible with 625 produced. 3,022 2-door hardtop coupes were built.

Engine: No significant changes. 390 hp. The last year for the Ram Induction system.

1965 Chrysler 300L:

The last year of the 300 Letter Series and it differed little from the 300 Sport Series. (There was no "I" model.)

High-performance tires and suspension system and 360 hp engine set it apart from the 300 Series.

2,405 2-door hardtops and 440 2-door convertibles were built.

The Automotive Chronicles, April 2007
 L I T E R A T U R E
Click here
Literature for
Sales literature