Flashback Fridays: The 1957 Chrysler 300C
With its flat profile and its iconic raised tail fins, the Hemi-powered 1957 Chrysler 300C is often considered the quintessential hot rod of the 1950s. At the time of its release, famed automotive journalist Tony McCahill described it as a “hairy-chested, fire-eating land bomb,” an apt description considering the 300C weighed well over two tons and was powered by a huge 6.4-liter Hemi V8.
The ’57 300C owes its brilliant design to styling director Virgil Exner, who was known for his futuristic aesthetics in automobile design. Exner was responsible for some of the most iconic cars produced by both Studebaker and Chrysler throughout the ’40s and ’50s, and the 1957 300C is considered to be the pinnacle of his career. The car has since become legendary, with convertible models often fetching well over $100,000 at auction today.
1957 Chrysler 300C Engine and Specs
Under the hood of the 1957 Chrysler 300C was a burly 392 cubic-inch Hemi V8. The engine churned out 375 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque with a 9.25:1 compression ratio. However, 18 models rolled out of the factory with tuned 10:1 compression heads, which were underrated at a modest 390 horsepower. Due to their high-lift camshafts and high idle speed, these models were recommended for track use only, and are exceptionally rare.
Delivering all of that power from the engine to the wheels was a standard three-speed automatic TorqueFlite transmission. The TorqueFlite featured a manual override mode in first and second gear, so that drivers could use their Hemis to lay down some rubber whenever they were in the mood. A three-speed manual transmission was also optional.
Chassis, Suspension and Interior on the 1957 Chrysler 300C
The 1957 Chrysler 300C came in both coupe and convertible forms. 1,918 coupes were produced, while only 484 drivers opted for the convertible model, making it exceptionally valuable today. In addition to its raised jet-like tail fins and its large, gaping front grill, one of the most striking features of the 300C’s design is its low, flat belt line. This was made possible by Chrysler’s TorsionAire front suspension, which utilized a torsion-bar setup in leu of coil springs and allowed for a lower hood line.
The futuristic design continued into the interior, which was decked out in fine leather. The TorqueFlite automatic transmission featured push-button operation, and the huge compass-like gauges further added to the airplane-like feel of the car. When behind the wheel of the ’57 300C, drivers were meant to feel like pilots with the wide-open road at their disposal.