Image credits: © Chrysler.

MSRP: $48,470

2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 news, pictures, specifications, and information

Chrysler Brand Expands 300 Lineup With New 2012 Models Designed For Different Lifestyles

• All-new Chrysler 300 SRT8® wîth its 6.4-liter HEMI® V-8 offers ultimate combination of world-class luxury and performance in Chrysler's most powerful, best-handling sedan ever

• All-new Chrysler 300S Series brings a youthful and aggressive appearance wîth athletic style and sophistication

• With premium materials and world-class refinement, the all-new 300C Executive Series is the most luxurious Chrysler sedan ever

• Three all-new models bring uniquely distinct personalities to the Chrysler flagship sedan's 2012 model lineup

• Available in Chrysler showrooms in third quarter 2011


April 20, 2011 , New York - The success of the modern Chrysler 300 launched in 2005 can be attributed to its broad appeal. People of all ages, incomes, and lifestyles were attracted to the sedan's dramatic styling, power and performance. The 2011 model year brought the introduction of the all-new Chrysler 300, 300 Limited and 300C. For 2012, the Chrysler brand is expanding the appeal of its flagship 300 sedan even further by launching three all-new models, all wîth unmistakably bold American style, luxury and performance targeted at different owner lifestyles.

As the king of the lineup, the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8® adds high-performance hardware to the elegant proportions and head turning design of the 2011 Chrysler 300C to provide the ultimate combination of world-class luxury, power and handling. With an estimated 465 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque, the 300 SRT8 is targeted at customers that seek heart pounding, adrenaline filled excitement, but don't want to sacrifice comfort and innovative features to get it.

Appealing to younger, more urban-centric customers that want world-class sophistication combined wîth athletic-luxury and a more aggressive look, the all-new 2012 Chrysler 300S delivers. This 300 'street machine' features 20-inch aluminum wheels wîth black painted pockets, sport-tuned suspension, premium audio, black exterior accents and a monotone black or exclusive black wîth Radar Red interior environment.

Designed to be the most luxurious Chrysler sedan ever, the all-new 2012 Chrysler 300C Executive Series wîth an ultra-premium leather wrapped cockpit, will appeal to customers lòòking to reward their hard work wîth a true American luxury vehicle that rivals the best the imports can offer.

'We're bringing three new and distinct models to our 300 lineup in 2012 wîth the 300 SRT8, 300S Series and 300C Executive Series, each designed wîth specific consumer lifestyles in mind,' said Olivier Francois, President and CEO — Chrysler Brand and Lead Executive for Marketing, Chrysler Group LLC. 'More than an icon of simple American motoring, the Chrysler 300 is an icon of attainable style and performance. For those customers who live for the sport of being first, the all-new Chrysler 300 SRT8 is the no compromises king of the hill, featuring the ultimate combination of world-class luxury and performance in our most powerful, best-handling sedan ever.'

2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8

The Street and Racing Technology (SRT) performance engineering team builds upon the all-new 2011 Chrysler 300 sedan already executed for a world-class luxury experience, to deliver Chrysler's most powerful and best handling model ever.

Projected performance numbers include 0-60 mph acceleration in the high 4-second range; quarter mile in high 12 second range; 0-100-0 mph in less than 16 seconds, top speed of 175 mph and stopping power from 60-0 mph in 120 feet.

Owners of any Chrysler Group SRT vehicle receive one day of professional driving instruction from the Richard Petty Racing School as part of the SRT Track Experience, designed to maximize their driving knowledge and skills on the street or track. Sessions are held throughout the year at selected tracks.

The return of the 300 SRT8 to the Chrysler lineup in 2012 evokes a strong comparison to the original high-performance production car of its time – the 1955 Chrysler 300. Known for simple, strong lines, excellent engineering, high levels of luxury and outstanding performance wîth the first modern American V-8 engine to produce 300 horsepower, the first Chrysler 300 (C-300) was styled by Virgil Exner, who radically redesigned the entire Chrysler line and created what they called 'The Forward Look' in 1955. Without much chrome on the sides, his designs were simple, but strong. Exner is credited wîth creating the illusion of fast, forward movement.

The Chrysler C-300 won on both the road course and the 'flying mile' at Daytona in 1955. In 1956, the Chrysler 300B model won both events again. In fact, the Chrysler 300s dominated NASCAR competition in 1955 and 1956, taking the overall championship in both years. A legendary and luxurious performance car was born. The 'letter cars' quickly became the most desirable of the Chrysler lineup and became known as the 'Beautiful Brutes.'

Awe-inspiring powertrain

Únder the hood of the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8, the new 6.4-liter HEMI® V-8 makes its debut in the Chrysler brand product lineup delivering an estimated 465 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque, up 40 horsepower and 45 lb.-ft. over the 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 it replaces.

The improved torque output - including an additional 80 lb.-ft. at 2,900 rpm - allows for inspired standing starts and improved straight-line performance while new, performance-tuned motor mounts improve idle stability and ride control at any speed. An active intake manifold and high-lift camshaft wîth cam phasing provides maximum low-end torque while optimizing high-end power.

Even wîth the elevated power numbers, an estimated 25-percent fuel economy increase on the highway is achieved by use of a new for 2012 active valve exhaust system that allows the standard Fuel Saver technology (four-cylinder mode) to engage over a wider rpm range. The new active exhaust system also allows for straight-through mid and rear mufflers for a throaty exhaust note under engine load.

Specific fuel economy numbers will be announced closer to the vehicle introduction.

Standard §teering wheel-mounted paddle shifters join the standard Auto Stick on the floor console. Both are mated to the proven five-speed automatic transmission, allowing a choice of spirited shifting on the road and the race track.

Both methods give the driver the ability to manually shift the transmission. (posted on conceptcarz.com) The transmission controller calibration in 'Auto' mode prevents situations that might over rev the engine; while in 'Sport' mode, it allows the driver full control of the shifting schedule. Fully adaptive electronic control of all shifting makes the powertrain more responsive while minimizing harshness.

Outstanding ride and handling

New for 2012 is an Adaptive Damping Suspension (ADS) system that is tuned specifically for the Chrysler 300 SRT8 to offer a compliant and comfortable ride. The ADS system also uses a wide range of on-road and driver inputs - such as vehicle speed, §teering angle, §teering speed, brake torque, throttle position and lateral and vertical accelerations - to automatically tune the suspension for specific conditions when necessary.

In addition, drivers can manually choose between 'Auto' and 'Sport' settings that quickly change the shock damping and harshness characteristics from everyday commuting to more spirited driving situations.

The performance SRT-tuned, fully-hydraulic §teering system also has been improved wîth a new, heavy-duty pump and revised gearing to give drivers more direct feel and on-center response.

New seven-spoke, 20-inch lightweight forged aluminum wheels and available three- or four-season tires provide great looks wîth fun-to-drive performance and handling.

Outstanding braking

SRT vehicles are well known for their world-class stopping power and the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 features 14.2 inch (front) and 13.8 inch (rear) vented/slotted rotors wîth four-piston Brembo calipers painted in silver finish. Improved brake cooling and fade performance comes courtesy of new underbody belly pan wîth integrated brake ducting.

The standard Ready Alert Braking system anticipates situations when the driver may initiate an emergency brake stop and engages the electronic stability control pump to set brake pads against rotors in order to decrease the time required for full brake application.

Aggressive and functional exterior wîth available Black Chrome Package

An exclusive new front fascia has a modern, yet timeless appearance that is carried through wîth the all-new grille and new Chrysler wing badge. The black chrome upper and lower grille surrounds and rear valance strip are part of the available Black Chrome Package.

The 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 is one-half inch lower when compared to the base car and features new SRT-exclusive side sill cladding painted in matching body color for the 'planted' look of a true sports sedan. (concept carz)

The rear includes a unique lower fascia wîth chrome accent bar, new 4-inch round dual exhaust tips and a modified SRT8 decklid badge wîth new black accent. Rounding out the Black Chrome Package are the black chrome accent spear and exclusive black chrome wheels.

Race inspired and functional interior

Vital Stats
Engine : 6.4 L., 8-cylinder
Power: 465 hp
Torque: 465 ft-lbs

5-speed Automatic
The all-new interior environment combines world-class luxury accommodations wîth performance-oriented technology and appointments.

An all-new leather-wrapped, heated, SRT-exclusive §teering wheel features a unique rim section wîth a flattened bottom surface showing the SRT logo. Standard paddle shift controls flank both sides of the new contoured palm rests while all audio and Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) controls are accessible from the horizontal spokes on the §teering wheel.

For the high-performance look, real carbon fiber interior trim pieces are integrated into the new instrument panel, door spears and shifter bezel and new racing style brake and gas pedal pads are standard.

The new full-color graphic EVIC wîth exclusive Performance Pages includes timers for 0-60 mph, one-eighth mile and quarter-mile times, 60-0 braking distance, along wîth lateral and longitudinal g-forces within the touchscreen display.

The new instrument panel's 8.4-inch color touchscreen display – the §egmènt's largest standard display – also has all the same Performance Pages data as the EVIC, and is further expanded to include §teering angle, horsepower, and torque outputs along wîth engine gauges. The display is customizable to a driver selectable background.

An available Premium Leather Interior Package offers Poltrona Frau 'Foligno' leather wrapped upper door trim panels, instrument panel, cluster brow and center console side panels. Nappa leather covers the door bolster, armrest and center console armrest.

The standard heated and ventilated front seats have active head rests wîth the SRT logo embroidered in seat backs. Rear seats also are heated for passenger comfort.

Modified door trim panels feature unique bolster material and accent stitching on arm rests to match the seats.

Safety and security

The all-new 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 features more than 70 advanced safety and security features, including standard Keyless Enter-N-Go and electronic stability control (ESC) wîth §egmènt-exclusive Ready Alert Braking and Rain Brake Support safety features to improve overall vehicle handling and performance.

Chrysler brand's signature SafetyTec Group is available on the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 and packages many first-time-available features including adaptive-forward lighting (AFL), high-intensity discharge (HID) projector high and low-beams wîth automatic headlamp leveling, Forward Collision Warning (FCW) wîth adaptive-cruise control (ACC), Blind-spot monitoring (BSM) wîth Rear Cross Path (RCP) detection, ParkSense® front and rear park assist system, LED-illuminated rear fog lamps, exterior mirrors wîth supplemental turn signals and approach lamp.

In addition, standard front-row reactive head restraints, standard full-length side-curtain air bags, driver's knee bag and standard front seat-mounted side-thorax air bags offer enhanced occupant protection to passengers in the event of a collision.

Connectivity and Infotainment


New for 2012 is the available SRT performance sound system from Harman Kardon®. Producing the ultimate in sound quality, the 900-watt, 19-speaker system includes:
• Seven 3.5-inch Únity coaxial mid-range speakers wîth seven integrated tweeters located in the instrument panel, rear doors and rear deck

• Two 6 x 9-inch subwoofers located in the front doors

• Two 6 x 9-inch subwoofers in the rear deck

• One 10-inch subwoofer in the rear deck

• 12-channel, high-speed amplifier


The state-of-the-art Úconnect® Touch 8.4N system provides all of the next-generation mobile infotainment and multimedia items to keep passengers connected between any destinations. With the §egmènt's largest standard touchscreen display (8.4-inches), the easy-to-use system delivers world-class functionality wîth an intuitive user interface that was benchmarked against the best E-§egmènt sedans from Europe, Asia and North America.

Segment-exclusive Garmin® navigation on the premium Úconnect Touch 8.4N model provides easy-to-use maps, lane guidance and more than 6 million points of interest. SIRIÚS Travel Link on the premium Úconnect Touch 8.4N provides real-time weather, fuel prices, sports scores and movie theater information to make any trip more efficient and fun. SIRIÚS Traffic provides real-time traffic reports where available.

Úconnect Voice Command, Úconnect Touch, §teering-wheel controls and familiar center-stack controls all work in synergy to make the experience intuitive and simple for the driver.

• All-new Chrysler 300S and 300C Executive Models Expand the Chrysler 300 Letter Series Heritage wîth More Personality and Style

• All-new 2012 Chrysler 300S series brings a youthful and aggressive appearance wîth athletic style and sophistication

• Chrysler brand redefines mobile audio experience wîth the world's first integration of Beats™ by Dr. Dre™ audio technology on all-new 300S models, creating the high-definition sound experience the way the artist intended you to hear it

• With premium materials and world-class refinement, the all-new 300C Executive Series is the most luxurious Chrysler sedan ever

• Two all-new models bring uniquely distinct personalities to the Chrysler flagship sedan's 2012 model lineup

• Available in Chrysler showrooms in third quarter 2011


With its dramatic styling and world-class power, the Chrysler 300 has appealed to people of all lifestyles since 2005. Now, wîth unique luxury and style appointments, the all-new 2012 Chrysler 300S and 300C Executive Series models broaden the appeal of the Chrysler brand's flagship sedan wîth even more style in two uniquely appointed directions, while delivering world-class refinement, materials and grand-touring performance.

All-new 2012 Chrysler 300S Series

Adding an avant-garde appearance to the letter-series flagship sedans, the all-new Chrysler 300S V-6 and V-8 models take the American brand in a new direction wîth world-class ride and handling, discrete exterior styling elements, contemporary interior materials and state-of-the-art technology features.

'No chrome . . . no wood . . . matte carbon fiber finishes . . . unique black or Radar Red leather . . . our biggest wheels, and world's first integration of Beats by Dr. Dre audio technology – the best standard audio system period. This is the new Chrysler 300S and it has an attitude that comes through loud and clear,' said Olivier Francois, President and CEO — Chrysler Brand and Lead Executive for Marketing, Chrysler Group LLC. 'For the Chrysler brand, it's not just about design, it's about substance. And wîth the Chrysler team working wîth Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine for months, I know the new 300S wîth its mapped sound waves, designed algorithms and unique Beats Audio components are a direct result from our model collaboration – a partnership between an OEM and the music – that makes the 300S perform wîth the power to play music as the artist intended it to be heard.'

With larger 20-inch polished-face aluminum wheels wîth black painted pockets, wider all-season performance tires, touring-tuned (performance-tuned wîth HEMI® V-8 engine) second-generation E-§egmènt chassis architecture wîth 25 percent quicker §teering and 20 percent heavier on-center feel than the entry-level 300 model, the all-new Chrysler 300S V-6 and V-8 models are engineered for driving enjoyment.

Hinting that this Chrysler sedan was born wîth attitude and street-cred – unique body-color fascia accents and mirrors, and black-accented headlamp bezels wîth matching sculpted horizontal grille blades in black chrome replace bright chrome to give the 2012 Chrysler 300S a low-key street presence.

The interior of Chrysler 300S models exude an athletic-luxury theme wîth 12-way power driver and passenger front seats wîth large-bolstered and heated monotone cloth sport seats surrounded by an interior environment in black or Radar Red. Exclusive use of Piano Black on interior center stack, instrument panel, §teering wheel, gauge cluster and door panel elements provide a uniquely lacquered and highly detailed appearance. Completing the enthusiast-designed interior are matte carbon hydrographic finished accents, replacing traditional burl wood.

State-of-the-art Úconnect® Touch 8.4 provides 2012 Chrysler 300S passengers wîth the §egmènt's largest touchscreen display (8.4-inch) and next-generation mobile infotainment, connectivity and multimedia features.

Úconnect Touch also controls the 522-watt 12-channel amplifier that integrates the heart of the Beats proprietary equalizer algorithm, creating the high-definition sound Beats Audio founders Dr. Dre, and Jimmy Iovine, Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, require in their professional recording studios.

Behind the world's first integration of Beats™ by Dr. Dre™ audio technology, the 2012 Chrysler 300S features a high-performance 10-speaker Beats Audio system. Delivering the mid- to high-range needed for studio-quality sound are three 3.5-inch speakers located in the instrument panel and two 3.5-inch speakers located in the rear doors. Two 6 x 9-inch front-door woofers provide bass, while two 6 x 9-inch speakers and a center-mounted 8-inch speaker located in the rear-shelf area provide full-range audio.

Maximizing how music genres from hip hop to Motown should sound and feel, an 8-inch Beats Audio trunk-mounted dual-voice coil subwoofer wîth sealed enclosure delivers tight, powerful, punchy bass.

Chrysler 300S V-6
The 2012 Chrysler 300S V-6 model features the aluminum 3.6-liter Pentastar engine delivering 292 best-in-class six-cylinder horsepower through an all-new §egmènt-exclusive ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. (posted on conceptcarz.com) For even more spirited driving wîth performance feel, the driver can utilize all-new §teering-wheel mounted magnesium paddle shifters to manually select the desired gear.

When equipped wîth the optional Luxury Group, the Chrysler 300S V-6 includes premium Nappa leather sport seating in black or exclusive Radar Red, memory module that stores position of the driver seat, exterior mirror, §teering wheel, pedal and radio for two drivers, heated rear seats, heated and leather-wrapped §teering wheel, power tilt and telescoping §teering column, power-adjustable pedals, power sunshade, vehicle security alarm, driver's side auto-dimming mirrors and auto-tilt in Reverse, heated/cooled cup holders, trunk mat, satin chrome lower door sills wîth 'Chrysler' logo, and LED illuminated front-footwells and front and rear map pockets.

Chrysler 300S V-8
• Packed wîth a 363 horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 engine including innovative Fuel Saver Technology, a five-speed automatic transmission wîth paddle shifters and Auto Stick, performance-tuned suspension and larger performance disc brakes, the 2012 Chrysler 300S V-8 delivers world-class power and refinement wîth enthusiast-tuned handling.

• In addition to the features included on the Chrysler 300S V-6 wîth Luxury Group, the eight-cylinder 300S model adds 160-mph LED-illuminated instrument cluster, rain-sensing windshield wipers, Smartbeam headlamps, ParkView® rear back-up camera, and HomeLink universal transceiver.
Chrysler 300S V-6 and V-8 AWD models

• Providing additional all-season confidence, the Chrysler 300S V-6 and V-8 all-wheel-drive (AWD) models utilize 19-inch polished-face aluminum wheels wîth black painted pockets, P235/55R19 all-season performance tires and the most advanced AWD system in its class.


For inclement weather driving conditions and exceptional road manners, the all-new 2011 Chrysler 300S AWD models feature a §egmènt-exclusive active transfer case and front-axle disconnect system. This exclusive AWD system also is designed to improve fuel economy by up to 5 percent over competitive full-time all AWD systems. No other major automotive manufacturer offers the combination of these two independent technologies. The Chrysler flagship sedan's innovative AWD system seamlessly transitions between rear-wheel drive (RWD) and AWD wîth no driver intervention. When AWD is not required, the system automatically disconnects the front axle to maximize fuel economy while still providing the outstanding performance and handling inherent in RWD vehicles.

The 2012 Chrysler 300S letter-series models arrive at Chrysler dealerships in the fall of 2011.

All-new 2012 Chrysler 300C Executive Series

Designed to be the most luxurious Chrysler flagship sedan ever, the all-new Chrysler 300C Executive Series combines ultra-premium leather – once limited to some of the most exotic Italian luxury cars – wîth world-class refinement and handling, state-of-the-art safety and connectivity features and the legendary 363 horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 engine wîth Fuel Saver Technology.

'For us, it's not only about making the all-new Chrysler 300C great for a §egmènt, it's about tailoring it for an individual . . . the businessman . . . the outperformer . . . the trendsetter,' added Francois. 'The 2012 Chrysler 300C Executive Series makes a statement wîth all of its appointments and contrasts. With hand-sanded real wood accents, hand-stitched Italian leather dash, two-tone ultra-soft Nappa leather seats, uniquely polished 20-inch wheels and state-of-the-art Úconnect Touch – our flagship provides passengers wîth the sense of pure old-school craftsmanship combined wîth innovative technology.'

Exclusive features found on the Chrysler 300C Executive Series interior include either Mochachino or Black Poltrona Frau 'Foligno' leather-wrapped instrument panel, cluster brow, center console side panels and upper front- and rear-door panels. Premium Nappa leather covers the door armrest, bolster and center console armrest. Two-tone Mochachino or Black seats are wrapped exclusively in supple Nappa leather and include 12-way power-adjustable driver and front-passenger seats (including four-way power lumbar) wîth two-mode ventilation and two-mode heated seats for both front and rear passengers. Specially selected Natural Pore Mocha or Pore Gray real wood trim is finished in a low-gloss to enhance the beauty of the wood.

On the exterior, the Chrysler luxury flagship replaces chromed fascia, mirror and door handle accents wîth a unique platinum chrome finish for an even more upscale look. Topping off the unique exterior is a platinum-chrome finished grille surround wîth platinum-chrome sculpted grille blades for a truly distinctive appearance (late availability).

Premium interior amenities within the Chrysler 300C Executive Series model include the state-of-the-art Úconnect Touch 8.4N wîth Garmin® navigation, SIRIÚS Traffic and SIRIÚS Travel Link, 160-mph LED-illuminated instrument cluster wîth driver-selectable color EVIC, heated and leather-wrapped §teering wheel, power tilt and telescoping §teering column wîth memory, power-adjustable pedals wîth memory, power backlight sunshade, premium 18-ounce berber floor mats wîth nubuck trim, satin chrome lower door sills wîth 'Chrysler' logo, dual heated/cooled cup holders, ambient lit foot well lighting, LED illuminated interior door handles and front and rear map pockets, premium carpeted trunk mat, HomeLink universal transceiver and power-folding chromed exterior mirrors wîth memory, auto-dimming and auto-tilt in Reverse.

Available in rear-wheel drive or wîth the §egmènt's most advance AWD system, the 2012 Chrysler 300C Executive Series models arrive at Chrysler dealerships in the fall of 2011.

Source - Chrysler
In 1955, Chrysler introduced the C300. The 'C' stood for coupe and the 300 was the horsepower rating of the original Hemi engine equipped with , two four barrel carbs, solid lifters, special manifolds, and enlarged dual exhausts. This vehicle gave the Chrysler Corporation a performance and sporty image, a much needed persona in this post World War II era. Many European manufacturers, such as Jaguar and MG, had introduced high powered, small, responsive sports cars. American manufacturers countered with the Chevrolet Corvette and the Ford Thunderbird. The Chrysler 300 was a performance car with a contemporary 'Forward Look' designed by ex-Studebaker stylist Virgil Exner. The design was void of the popular chrome sides which was prevalent during this era. It was simple but aggressive gentleman's car.

The Chrysler 300 was outfitted with a hemispherical (Hemi) combustion chamber 5.4 litre V-8 that produced 300 horsepower and matted to a performance modified two-speed 'PowerFlite' automatic gearbox. The body came from the New Yorker; rear quarter moldings were compliments of the Windsor. The two piece grille came from the Imperial. An improved suspension was implemented to provided sporty and responsive handling. The base price was $4,055.

Sales of the C300 were fueled by its success on the stock car circuit. The C300 dominated the sands of Daytona Beach, Florida where it won the stock production class and took home the Tom McCahill trophy. From 1955 through 1957 it was the fastest American car.

In 1959, a 300D driven at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats by Norm Thatcher set a new Class E speed record of 156.387 mph. During the same year, Brewster Shaw achieved a quarter-mile time of 16 seconds with a trap speed of 94 mph at Daytona Beach, Florida.

For 1956, Chrysler increased the displacement of its Hemi engine to 5.8 liters and changed the name to 300B. With 355 horsepower, the V8 engine had one horsepower per cubic inch, an achievement that very few manufacturers were able to claim.

The letters continued to climb the alphabet annually until the 300L of 1965 (the letter I was skipped). They became known as the 'letter cars'. In 1959, the 392 hemi was replaced with the 413 cubic-inch Golden Lion wedge-head design engine. In 1962, the 300 Sport series became available along side the 300H. The 300, without a letter designation was continued until 1971. In 1970, the 300 Hurst was produced, built by Chrysler and modified by the Hurst Company. The modifications included two-tone paint, special striping, spoiler on the deck lid, and wheels. The 300 name was again revived in 1979 as the 300 Special Edition, but endured a short life span. It was based on the Cordoba platform and available only in white with red leather interior.

Even with eleven years of production, less than 17,000 were produced. The bodystyle's available were either a two door hardtop or convertible. The convertible was not available during 1955, 1956, and 1963.

In the early 2000's, Chrysler revived the model name with the 300M. For most 300 enthusiasts, it is a good attempt, but far from the original 300's. The original 300's, as argued by some MOPAR enthusiast, is considered to be the first muscle cars. Although they were fast, they were also large and luxurious, qualities that muscle cars did not typically process. The 300 did get American moving on the fast track to the horsepower and performance revolution, and looked good while doing it.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2009
In 2005, the wave of retro design that is still shaping American cars first washed over Detroit. American companies, with their stale product offerings, began looking towards their rich pasts to inspire new models with the design and flair of long-gone icons. It was in 2005 that Chrysler launched a modern iteration of the famed 300.

The 300 name had actually been revived by Chrysler several years before the 2005 300's introduction as a car called the 300M, but that model was dated even when brand new and didn't evoke nostalgic memories in the same way its replacement would. The 2005 300 was a total departure from the Chrysler models immediately preceding it. The sleek, low slung, 'cab-forward' design language of the 300M and others was replaced by the new 300's brash and blocky look. The 2005 Chrysler 300 was not merely an updated version of a bygone classic, but rather a revival of Chrysler's attitude during the company's most exciting times.

The new 300 went back to a rear wheel drive platform and reintroduced the muscular proportions of America's former bad-boy sedans. Available V8 power rounded out the package and a large, upright chrome grille stood proud in grand American fashion. The 2005 Chrysler 300 was met with great fanfare and positive press. For as exciting a car as the '05 300 was, though, it could barely capture the style and spirit of the car that inspired it. The original 300 was one of the most thrilling Chryslers ever released. It was a car whose inspirational design and performance will be lauded forever and whose legend will continue to be respected by Chrysler workers, owners and admirers, as well as by the flashy new car that shares its name.

Produced without interruption from 1955 through 1971, the Chrysler 300 in its earliest form was one of the very first muscle cars. Though production extended into the early 1970's, the best-known (and best-loved) 300s were the 'letter series' cars of 1955-1965. All 300s were part of this letter series until 1962, when both letter and non-letter variants were offered through 1965. Models made from 1966 on were not part of the letter series. Each Chrysler in the letter series used the 300 designation followed by a single letter. That letter ascended alphabetically once every year, making it up to 'L.' Confusingly, the first of the series was not called the 300A but the C-300. In that one instance, the letter 'C' simply stood for coupe. Revisions on the C-300 theme created the 300B for 1956, then 300C for 1957, 300D for 1958, and so on. The only other snag in the letter series system was the use of the letter 'J' for the 1963 300, instead of the 'I' for which the car was due. Chrysler likely used the 'J' nomenclature to prevent confusion between the letter 'I' and the Roman numeral I.

The letter series 300 introduced potent performance and a fresh design to Chrysler, whose other models had grown stale. In that sense, the original 300 arrived for the same reasons as 2005's remake. The name was chosen for bragging rights. Chrysler, with its aptly named C-300, had become the first American manufacturer to develop 300hp in a production car. That power led the 1955 Chrysler to become the fastest production car in the world, reaching 127.58mph at Daytona Beach. The C-300's engine was a 331ci Chrysler V8 with hemispherical combustion chambers and two 4-barrel carburetors. The aforementioned 300hp was achieved at 5,200rpm.

There was much more to the C-300 than formidable speed. The car was large, luxurious, and packed with comfortable features. At 220 inches in length, the C-300 was huge for a two-door. A weight of 4,300lbs gave it the bulk of a personal limousine. Its two speed automatic transmission required no effort on the driver's part. The car was rolling evidence that speed and luxury were not mutually exclusive traits. The C-300 was the fastest car on the road, and it may very well have been the most comfortable.

A superb combination of performance and comfort alone would have made the Chrysler C-300 a classic. But the car's quality didn't stop there. Designed by the talented and innovative Virgil Exner, the C-300 was a triple threat of sumptuous luxury, speed and, and style.

Before moving to Chrysler, Exner had worked for GM under the guidance of Harley Earl and for Raymond Loewy's own design firm. His experience led him to be a daring designer, but the 1955 C-300 was a subdued design. It was handsome and understated, free of the garish detailing the plagued so many of its contemporaries. With its regal proportions and proud stance, the C-300 separated itself from lowlier cars that used glitz and glam as their only stylistic values. A split egg crate grille, in chrome, dominated the frontal aspect of the C-300 and had a tastefully minimal chrome bumper running beneath it. The subtle fins picked up just aft of the doors and beneath the beltline. At the rear, the vestigial fins flowed into vertical taillights. With a base price above $4,000, buyers paid dearly for a fine congregation of elegant design, comfort, and rapidity.

Even more power was made available for the 1956 300B. A 354ci V8, at first making 340hp, was available with 355hp by the middle of its run—making it the first American engine to produce 1 horsepower per cubic inch. Three transmissions were offered: PowerFlite and TorqueFlite two-speed autos, and a three-speed manual.

Performance improvements in the 1956 300B were complemented by the availability of an even more comfortable interior. Air conditioning was offered as well as a clock in the steering wheel for the particularly punctual. And, of course, if the clock wasn't distracting enough, a record player could also be ordered.


The styling of the 300B featured a revised rear treatment, but the car was largely the same as 1955's C-300. For the 1957 300C, though, Exner thoroughly revamped the 300's shape. The new design was more brash but still tasteful and clean. It featured more pronounced fins and a quad headlight face with a large, one-piece egg crate grille. From the side, the 300C looked particularly good. Its long and low proportions were readily revealed from that angle. Also easily noticeable from the side, the 300C had a forward tilt to its front end that was mirrored by a rearward tilt to its fins. The balanced look was an Exner hallmark that worked wonderfully on the 300C. A convertible version was offered whose absence of a roofline emphasized the trapezoidal side profile of the 300C's body. A top speed of 150mph could be reached by the 300C.

For 1958, a 300D was introduced. It looked very similar to the 300C, but big improvements were still made. Fuel injection became an available option and power brakes were standard. With 380hp, the 300D could be propelled to 156mph. The 300E of 1959 offered similar styling but with a very different engine. The hemi-head V8 was replaced by a 413ci wedge-head V8.

The 300F brought major styling changes for 1960. While other companies toned down their use of fins for the 1960's, Chrysler gave its 300F a wild, one-year-only rear treatment with razor sharp fins. Ralph Nader, in his book Unsafe at and Speed that most famously criticized the Chevrolet Corvair's poor handling, called the 300F's fins 'potentially lethal.' Automotive writer Quentin Willson offered good reason for Nader's concern in his own work titled The Ultimate Classic Car Book, pointing to a 1963 traffic accident in which an unfortunate motorcyclist became impaled by one of the fins of a 300F.

With a front end that looked slightly awkward compared to the noses of its predecessors and a heavily criticized faux spare tire cover incorporated into the rear deck lid, the 300F's overall look lacked the thoroughly clean appearance of earlier models. But from the side at least the 300F still looked good, and performance and comfort were as impressive as ever. Up to 400hp could be had from the 413ci engine. A beautifully finished interior continued a tradition of comfortable motoring. The interior was so inviting that the seats literally offered themselves to driver and front passenger, automatically swiveling to allow easy access whenever a door was opened.

The 300G was brought out for 1961 and was the last finned 300. The front end retained four headlights, but they were now stacked two per side in tilted columns. Standard power windows and cruise control further enhanced an already excellent list of convenience features, and performance options remained similar to those of the 300F. The 300H used the following year was similar in most respects to the 300G, but had a fresh tail design with a smooth, tapering deck where once stood fins. Production of the 300H was unusually low even for the exclusive letter series, but sales were bolstered by the introduction of a more affordable non-letter series variant, named simply the '300.'

For 1963, the letter 'I' was skipped and the 300J was introduced alongside a revamped standard 300. The 1963 models were plainer, with square styling that belied their still capable performance. The 1964 300K and 1965 300L were the last two models of the letter series. By 1965, the plain styling of the 300L and the narrow performance gap between it and the base 300 had created an uninspired package. After 1965, the letter series was discontinued.

The garden variety 300 soldiered on until 1971, losing sales and substance as it went along. Chrysler couldn't have picked a better time to pull the plug on the aging model, as allowing it to last any longer would have exposed it to stringent emissions regulations that instantly would have robbed the car of the only virtue it really had left—power. Even the very last 300 had a 440ci V8 that had a tremendous output compared to any American offering of the mid-1970's.

History has ignored any shortcomings of the largely average 300 produced from 1966-1971, focusing on the raw power and suave personality of the early letter series. Few American cars before or since have been able to offer so much speed and luxury wrapped in a shell of aesthetic excellence. From 1955 through 1959, the 300s were the uncompromised rulers of the American automotive kingdom—even the 1960-1965 models were superbly executed. Inspiring the successful 2005 Chrysler 300, the early letter series cars have shown that sometimes history is worth repeating.

Sources:

'History of the Chrysler Three Hundred Series.' The Chrysler 300 Site Web.28 Jul 2009. http://www.chrysler300site.com/cgibin/history.cgi.

Nerad, Jack. 'Great Classic Cars: Chrysler C-300.' AntiqueCar.com Web.28 Jul 2009. http://www.antiquecar.com/gc_chrysler_c300.php.

Willson, Quentin. The Ultimate Classic Car Book. First. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1995. Print.

By Evan Acuña
 
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