Mopar Monday / The History of the Chrysler 300

The Chrysler 300 will go down in the auto history books that is for sure. From winning NASCAR races to being featured in movies for its sleek sexy new look. We wanted to take you back in time and review the history of the 300 since it’s magnificent birth in 1955. It’s no doubt that over the years much has changed for the 300 but it has always managed to catch the eye.

1st Generation 1955-1956 Chrysler 300
Chrysler Imperial model display, Chicago Auto Show January 1955 

The main goal of this new born beast was to offer 300 horsepower and Chrysler delivers along with a beautiful sporty look. At the time it was one of the fastest production cars on the road with a top speeds of 130 mph and a 0-60mph time of only 9.8 seconds.  In fact in 1955 the 300 won 18 races in NASCAR with no indorsement from Chrysler and 27 races in total not including street races.  In 1956 a rollover model came out named the 300-B with only a minor change to the headlights but with a new Hemi 354 cubic inch 340 horsepower that shook up the automotive industry.  There was also 355 horsepower option that had a 10-1 compression ratio.   Over the 2 years, on average 1400 Chrysler 300’s were sold at a base price of $4109.

2nd Generation 1957-1959
1957 Chrysler-300C Convertible

Take one look at the tail of this magnificent beast and you will understand why its designers called it the “Sweptline” This was the first year the convertible was made an option, the public knew this beauty as the 300-C, the updated 300-D in 1958 and the 300-E in 1959.  A new chassis was designed to support the upgraded 392 cubic inch Hemi motor that came in 375 HP and a whopping 390 horsepower option.  The powerhouse 390 horsepower option was a 3 speed manual while most of the 375’s had a push button automatic transmission.  The list price was just under $5000 for the hardtop.  A total of 2402 were sold from this era with 484 of them being convertibles.

3rd Generation 1960-1962  
1960 Chrysler 300

The rounded headlights and super thin tail fins of the new 300-F gave the car a slightly sleeker look.  The big block 413 wedge motor stomped 375 stock horsepower with a few models having higher compression and producing 400 horsepower.  In 1960 964 hardtops and 248 convertibles 300-Fs were produced.  In 1961 the 300-G was a very similar car with slight changes to the headlights but the popularity grew for the 300 series so 1280 hardtops and 337 convertibles were produced.   In 1962 things really changed as the new 300 Sports Series took a whole new direction offering four doors which was a first for the 300’s.  The 2 door 300-H was still available but it clear where the direction of the 300 was headed after selling 25,578 Sports Series, with the 300-H only selling 435 hardtop 123 convertibles.  The original price hovered around $5,000 for the hardtop and $5,550 for the convertible.

4th Generation 1963 and 1964
1963 Chrysler 300 Pace Setter Convertible

In 1963 there was no 300-I but a 300-J and this marked many changes from headlights to tail, no more tail fins and a much sportier muscle look even in the letter series.  The 300-J was only sold in a 2 door hardtop in 1963 but convertible was an option in 1964 with the 300-K.  The engine produced 390 horsepower and was being recognized around the world.  The Sport Series served as an official pace car for the Indianapolis 500.  In 1963 the popular Sport Series sold 24,665 and 2167 were replicas of the pace car, at the same time the sales for the 300-J plummeted to only 400 making this a very rare car today.  In 1964 sales increased to 3,022 hardtops and 625 convertibles but the Sport Series sold a record 26,887.

5th Generation 1965 and 1966

1965 Chrysler 300L

1965 marked the end of the letter series with the 300-L.  Under the hood a decrease in horsepower down to 360 HP thanks to eliminating one carburetor making it a single carb and more economical.  Sales for the letter series increased that year to 2,405 hardtops and 440 convertibles.  The price tag rang in at $4,090 for the hardtop and $4,545 for the convertible.
In 1966 the 300 was known as the just a 300 or a Chrysler until 1999.  The Chrysler was offered in four door hardtop, two door hardtop, convertible and four door sedans. A smaller 383 V8 came stock with a moderate 325 HP but a 365 HP 383 was made available.  Sales grew to 34,621 total with 2,161 convertibles produced. 

6th Generation 1967 and 1968 Chrysler 300
1967 Chrysler 300 Convertible

If you wanted a four door sedan in 1967 you were out of luck and you will notice some distinct differences in the grill pointed in the center.  Chrysler decided it was time to bring out the big guns and dropped in a 440 cubic inch V8 motor.  It was an easy decision for most guys to pay the extra $79 for the TNT version making 375 HP instead of the stock 350HP.  Not much changed in 1968 besides some hidden headlamps.  The MSRP was $4289, the average price for a restored one today is around $15,000 up to $25,000.  The production line seen 34,621 300s with 2,161 being convertibles. 

7th Generation 1969-1971
1969 Chrysler 300 Convertible

In 1969 the engine stayed the same but notice a larger vehicle with Imperial like style.  Sales that year were 32,472 at $4,183 and today the value is nearly equal.  In 1970 the tail lights changed slightly and a collector was born when Hurst built 501 Chrysler 300 Hurst models with gold and white paint and an automatic 3 speed Torqueflite transmission with TNT 375 horsepower.  1971 was a sad year for the 300 with only 13,939 cars being sold and this was the start of its hibernation until “1979”.

8th Generation 1979 Chrysler “300”
Chrysler Cordoba Sport Coupe

The reason for the sarcastic quotation marks is because half way through the year Chrysler took the already fading midsized luxury car named the Cordoba threw some sprinkles on it and called it a 300.  They couldn’t fool the public, with only 195 horsepower this was no 300.  It was time for Chrysler to put to rest the 300 for some time.

9th Generation 1999-2004

2000 Chrysler 300M

It’s been 20 or 28 years however you want to look at it so you would expect plenty of changes and the biggest change is the fact that for the first time ever the 300M has a 3.5 liter, SOHC 24 valve V6 engine but it’s been 20 years and now a days a V6 will pump out 253 net horsepower, welcome to the future 300M. Zero to sixty in 7.5 seconds the new generation competes with event the big old blocks. This was also the first front wheel drive edition.   Standard leather, power seats and the stylish wood trim makes this newer generation car a great value at $28,700.  In 2002 the 300 M special came out with 255 HP from the 3.5 liter engine that demands premium octane gasoline, with speeds over 140 MPH this car is impressive and the 18’’ tires had a much sexier look.

10th Generation 2005-Present 
2005 Chrysler 300

There is a model for everyone with this generation, starting with the base model 2.7 liter V6 and a 3.5 liter V6 the 300 offers a classy ride that has decent fuel economy, for the full review click here.  The 300C Heritage edition has the V8 hemi power and proudly wears the badge of the 1957 300C.  The SRT8 is really what turned heads with the most powerful Chrysler has ever put under the hood with an outstanding 6.4 liter 470 horsepower Hemi.  This generation has too many models to talk about in this article.
This is really the generation that is claimed as the Bentley lookalike and many owners took matters in to their own hands and started putting on custom “Bentley grills” along with all the bells and whistles.  This generation is not to be taken lightly and call it what you will be looking back in to history it is clear that Chrysler has done a damn good job with the 300, sure it stumbled for a bit but gained the respect of many when it picked itself back up with the newer generation.  It is definite that Chrysler has offered exceptional value for your money over time and will continue to do the same for years to come. 
Article by Jason Mueller, Courtesy of A-1 Auto Transport 

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