Appropriately titled “TorqueFlites and Tulips,” the Chrysler 300 Club International held its recent Spring 2016 meet in Holland, Michigan. Club members and Chrysler 300 letter-car owners along with spouses, significant others and guests toured the countryside of western Michigan and staged a show on the grounds of the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners.
From 1955 to 1965, Chrysler built its limited-edition 300 “Letter Car” series. Virgil Exner led the design team of these the very first high-horsepower cars to be offered as stock in a manufacturer’s showrooms. The 1955 model was identified as the C-300 and 1956 cars were designated 300B. Each new model year was given the next letter of the alphabet as a suffix. The letter “I” was skipped with the final letter-car being the 300L of 1965.
The C-300 designation for the ’55 came from its 300 horsepower, 331 cid Hemi engine fed by two four-barrel carburetors. For the ’57, more performance came with a 375 hp and 392 cubic inches powerplant. And later, in 1961 ,we saw the first cross-ram, two four-barrel carburetor intake manifold appear in a production car.
The 300s of 1955 and 1956 were offered only as two-door couples. In 1957, the convertible was added. All 300s came only with a beige interior with front bucket seats and rear individual seats for two.
An interesting design from Chrysler was the swivel feature to the front bucket seats, supposedly making for easier entry and exit. Another unique item of the time was the famed push-button gear selector for Chrysler’s 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission.
Keith and Judy Boonstra of Holland hosted the Spring Meet with their ’57 300C coupe finished in Gauguin Red as the featured car. The ‘57’s red color is named after the French post-impressionist artist Paul Gauguin.
Keith’s 300 is a story in itself having first been bought by him in 1962 and then sold in 1964. Later in life, Keith went looking to find the car and in 1983 located it in Ohio and bought it back home. Most recently from 2009 to 2011 ,the ’57 has since undergone a complete frame off restoration.
Later this year, the Chrysler 300 Club International Fall Meet will be held September 21-25 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, home of the famed Road America race course. Hosted by Chicagoan Andy Mikonis, owner of a white ’61 300G coupe, along with Carlton Schroeder and Brian Frank, the meet will celebrate the Chrysler 300 racing achievements of Carl Kiekhaefer and the Keikhaefer Mercury Outboards team.
Some refer to the Chrysler 300 letter-car series as the “banker’s hot rod” and others simply as “beautiful brutes.” No matter how they are characterized, the Chrysler 300 letter cars certainly were special for their time.
Photos by Larry Nutson