In the late 50s and early 60s America was consumed with rocking to great music, rolling around dirt tracks and racing to outer space. The Russians and their beloved Sputnik 2 lit up the skies, a young Elvis Presley burned up the airwaves, and the fastest American cars ran hotter than ever before! It was the beginning of an era where everything was heavily influenced by modern culture and cutting-edge style; and in 1957, the big three battled it out with an impressive combination of innovative track cars and outrageous street cars. There was no denying that Ford and General Motors were certainly on a roll, but Chrysler was the automaker that hit paydirt by blending world-class luxury with lethal performance to create the most celebrated letter car of all time. Wrapping an original drivetrain in a tailored interior and 18 feet of stylish sheetmetal this 1957 300C Convertible, one of only 484 produced, HAS to be the coolest Mopar on the planet. If you’re a hardcore Chrysler collector who’s itching for the ultimate investment grade big fin letter car, this all-American cruiser will have you “all shook up!”
Chrysler’s first generation letter cars were never intended to be mass-market vehicles. They were the absolute best the brand could offer, and accordingly, they rivaled the top cars in the world when it came to luxury, performance and exclusivity. The 300 line was introduced in 1955 to give Chrysler a suitable platform for stock car competition and, given free rein to win at all costs, its engineers wasted no time netting back-to-back NASCAR championships. In 1957, hell-bent on elevating Chrysler to America’s premier automotive brand, those same engineers took home top honors at Daytona’s world famous Flying Mile. And by the time this long, low and sleek land rocket hit the streets it had officially broken America’s stock car speed record, become one of the fastest production vehicles ever sold, and gained the nickname ‘Motorized Dynamite’. Today these highly coveted classics are considered a significant step in the development of what we now affectionately call muscle cars, and they’ve long been the premier year for Chrysler letter car collectors.
Based on legendary Mopar designer Virgil Exner’s bold lines and exaggerated proportions this Chrysler 300C Convertible is, according to many classic car enthusiasts, the pinnacle of 50s automotive Americana. Its breathtaking appearance comes courtesy of a two year frame-off restoration which involved solid rust-free metal, $150K of financial backing, and countless hours of research and hard work. The core of that restoration consists of a straight 72K mile body which hangs all original sheet metal over original, factory installed floorpans. That body’s super slick appearance is provided by a smooth Gauquin Red basecoat/clearcoat finish which displays virtually no signs of wear or major defects. And presently, both striking and handsome, this hot drop-top exhibits an impeccable level of fit and finish that shows far above even the best factory standards!
The 300C’s futuristic design helped mark the debut of jet age Detroit styling trends that would continue for several years. And although Chrysler’s aerodynamic ingenuity came in handy at Daytona Beach, where a fire breathing 390 horsepower Hemi propelled the car to 134 MPH, it was the firm’s style quotient that quickly sent the market into a frenzy. At the front of this rag-top’s sculpted body a bold, ‘yawning’ grille hangs a red, white and blue “300” emblem between chrome trimmed ‘increased visibility’ headlamps and innovative brake cooling ducts. Below that grille an original, re-chromed bumper wraps clear marker light into pristine stainless fender trim; and above that grille, a fresh chrome “CHRYSLER” script combines with a grafted center fin to detail the car’s massive hood. At the sides of the car’s body rolled fenders flow into smooth fins behind great looking stainless trim and large red, white and blue “300” emblems. Below that trim, dent-free stainless gravel shields protect the fenders from the car’s twist happy tires; and above that trim stylish chrome mirrors combine with flush chrome door handles to lend a healthy dose of form and function. At the top of the car an angled windshield and like-new greenhouse glass ride between a fresh tan top, bright opposing windshield wipers and polished original trim. And at the back of the car jet-inspired tail lights center a simple chrome tag bracket and an ornate “300” emblem above a second original re-chromed bumper.
With this car’s 392 cubic inch Firepower V8 Chrysler created a big block legend that’s still highly regarded as a revolutionary blend of performance and luxury. Not only does this hot Hemi mill produce 375 horsepower and twist stout 9.25 to 1 compression into 420 lb./ft. of torque, it also wears a 300C-specific 3NE573251 serial number and a whole roster of correct ancillary components. Induction is handled by a pair of gold air cleaners that are piped directly into two high performance Carter 4-barrel carburetors. Fire is provided by a high performance points distributor which shoots sparks between a tagged 30 amp generator and fresh black plug wires. Combustion comes courtesy of a high performance camshaft which breathes through a high performance intake and low restriction exhaust manifolds. Aesthetically, the engine’s fresh aluminum paint contrasts well against cool gold valve covers and the car’s glossy Gauquin Red engine bay. And little details like stainless lines, rebuilt horns, a reproduction Mopar red cap battery, a correct Silentflite fan drive and a cool Jiffy Jet washer bag provide tons of exciting eyeball appeal.
Lest you think this boulevard king is all speed and no agility, bear in mind its suspension was designed using a system approach that included both Chrysler’s famous twin parallel torsion bars and forward position leaf springs. That artful attention to both ride and handling dropped the car’s engine and, in addition to making its body more aerodynamic, created a lower center of gravity and minimized body roll. Naturally, all that first-class hardware has been thoroughly restored, covered in glossy paint and bolted back to the car’s original Gauquin Red floorpans. In the middle of those floorpans, the original, rebuilt A488 Torqueflite 3-speed automatic transmission sends power to a correct rear end. At the front of those floorpans, easy turns and precise apexes come courtesy of factory power steering. And at the edges of those floorpans, solid fade-free stops are provided by heavy duty power drum brakes. The big Hemi barks a deep, civilized demeanor through a polished true dual exhaust system that employs fresh turbo mufflers. All this road-worthy hardware rides on old school 14 inch wire wheels which spin pliable 9.00-14 BF Goodrich Silvertown whitewalls around mirror-like spinners. And everything from the car’s new stainless fuel tank to its bright silver oil pan is clean, fully-sorted and ready to roll!
Hop inside this handsome Chrysler and you’ll find a spacious and airy driving environment which has enough room to haul the whole family in comfort and style. NOS leather bench seats harbor correct Airfoam seat cushions which still feel firm to the touch. New black carpet does an excellent job of highlighting the car’s bright stainless accents and correctly cushioned dash. And speaking of the dash, a bright rearview mirror, a red, white and blue “300” emblem, a rare Highway Hi-Fi record player and pushbuttons for the tough Torqueflite transmission frame super cool ‘jet age’ gauges that are centered on a continuous motion clock. At the sides of the seats, fantastic tri-tone door panels display a prominent 50s design theme between correct power windows and cool “300” branded sill plates. Behind the seats, a new convertible cowl snaps down over a giant, fully restored trunk which props a fifth wire wheel and a full-size spare tire next to an echo-prone level of cargo space. And in front of the driver, a gorgeous wide-diameter steering wheel spins an attractive two-tone rim around a deep-seated “300” center piece and a full chrome horn ring.
This professionally restored 300C Convertible represents a huge milestone in the development of Chrysler Corporation as a powerhouse manufacturer. After tearing up the beaches in Daytona and shattering speed records at the firm’s own Chelsea Proving Grounds, it single-handedly spawned the world-class performance image Chrysler’s eponymous brand enjoyed well into the ‘70s. This car is absolutely one of the best first year letter series convertibles in existence, it represents the pinnacle of American design and manufacturing dominance and it’s the kind of rare investment opportunity that only comes around once in a lifetime. If you’re a discerning gearhead who likes top-notch classics that draw crowds wherever they go, this high performance luxury machine will be a significant addition to your collection!