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In Pictures: Classic cars of the rock and roll era

Early in the 1950s, Chrysler created its legendary FirePower Hemi V-8. These potent engines soon found their way into a handful of special NASCAR racers, and this in turn led to the limited production C300 coupe of 1955. The 300, standing for 300 hp, was the most ever offered in an American car that could be driven off a showroom floor. A year later came the 300B, which began an alphabetical progression of ever more powerful, extravagantly styled and luxuriously equipped coupes and convertibles that would end with the 300L of 1965. The cars pictured here were part of the Cars of Dreams Museum collection of American cars of the 1950s and 60s, recently auctioned by Canada’s RM Auctions.

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1955 Chrysler C300 Hardtop Coupe: The car that lit the fuse that ignited the letter car series was the C300 of 1955, a sleek coupe with Chrysler’s new "Forward Look" styling and a 331 cubic inch, 300 hp Hemi V-8 under its hood with two-speed automatic transmission.

Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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1955 Chrysler C300 Hardtop Coupe

Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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1956 Chrysler 300B Hardtop Coupe: The 300 B of 1955 didn’t look a lot different from the C300, except for its new tail fins, but boasted a 354 cubic inch, 355hp version of the Hemi, which made it good for a rather remarkable 140 mph.

Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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1957 Chrysler 300C: Letter car fans consider 1957 the classic year for the model, which was made available in convertible form for the first time, and was powered by an even bigger Hemi, a 392 cubic incher making up to 390 hp.

Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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1958 Chrysler 300D: The 300D of 1958 was the last year for the original Hemi, which was still rated at 390 hp and its last hoorah was a 156 mph run on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Pointing up the letter car’s exclusivity was a sales total for the year of just 809 coupes and convertibles.

Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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1959 Chrysler 300E: The still flamboyantly be-finned 1959 300E was powered by Chrysler’s 413 cubic inch Golden Lion “Wedge” engine, which made 380hp and was fitted with a three-speed automatic. Recession and the loss of the Hemi saw only 647 built.

Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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1960 Chrysler 300F: The 1960 300F was an all-new design, still powered by the 413 cubic inch V-8, but available with a French-made four-speed manual gearbox. Among its features was an interior with four bucket seats separated by a full-length console. It was also the most expensive letter car to date, with convertibles priced at $5,841.

Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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1961 Chrysler 300G Restyled for 1961 with an inverted grille and sloped quad headlights the seventh iteration of the letter car was the 300G. Its cross ram V-8 could scorch it to 60mph in just eight seconds. Only 14 were equipped with a now American-made manual gearbox, making them the rarest of the letter cars.

Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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1962 Chrysler 300H The letter cars’ glamour began to fade with the arrival of the now fin-less 300H of 1962. Chrysler introduced its non-letter 300 series for 1962, lower priced models that offered many of the letter cars’ features. It was still the "gentleman’s express" but sales slipped to a meagre 570 units.

Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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The 1963 300J was available only in coupe form, the 1964 in soft and hardtop styles with lower prices that boosted sales a bit, but the 300L of 1965 was the last of the legendary letter cars.

Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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Teddy Pieper – Courtesy of RM Auctions

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