By Larry Jett

reprinted from the 1993 Club News XVIV Number IV

Five calendar years difference in automobiles, particularly in the same model, seldom produced extreme changes in the manufactured product. Gradual change had been the norm in American automobiles after the consensus agreement as to their basic shape and configuration had been established in the teens. A different engine, new type brakes, radical silhouette departures from past model; these changes were instituted over a decades time to as to not upset the buyer more used to tradition. Old traditions changed to new traditions slowly in automobiledom. That is until someone goosed Chrysler, the sleeping gentle giant in 1955 and Chrysler snarled. Take a look at the next meet at a C-300 (Chrysler 300 A) and a Chrysler 300 F. These brothers are but 5 years apart in age but at least 15 years apart in content. We’ll look at the content in a bit, but consider the two bodies. Radical difference in shape!! If there ever was such a difference in five years design (the Airflow excepted), I haven’t seen it until now in the Chrysler New Yorker, 1989 to 1994. Notice that this last body shift was a direct opposite of the 1955 to 1960….big, glitzy and ornate to smooth and simple: before reversed.

A retired gent engaged me in conversation at a show and explained just how difficult it was to stamp sheet steel into the elaborate shape of the soaring fin without thin spots and cracks developing. He was very educated in the field of metal forming as he was a retired manufacturer and was quite erudite on the subject. The 1955 had no such marvel to its metal. I’ve had many more comments about the beauty of the body of the F at concours than the A. Beauty is a subjective thing the be sure and no satisfactory answer why the A sold 1725 hardtops to the 964 sold as F’s has been presented. I’ve been crazy-nuts about the F since I bought a used one in 1964 and just very pleased with the A. Yet, the A was awarded the most “exotic” trophy at a concours and the F never was. If the unit-construction is better (F) than the frame/body (A), only an engineer knows but I would guess that the majority of “old-car” people prefer the F’s styling.

What CONTENT improved in the five years between 1955 and 1960?



1955 dim bulbs, lack tach

1960 electro-luminescent, big splashy color tach


1955 6 volt positive ground

1960 12 volt negative ground


1955 slip and slide bench

1960 buckets (all over)



1955 air conditioning not available (*)

1960 air with modern compressor


1955 300/345 horsepower/torque

1960 375/495 horsepower/torque


1955 201 cu. Inches

1960 251 cu. Inches


1955 17.6 (Buick Park Ave V-6 does 17.51)

1960 16.0

(*) Although some Chrysler dealer literature says AC was not available, other literature says it was,
and several 1955 300's are known to have it.



1955 2 speed

1960 3 speed


1955 coils

1960 torsion bars

The spec sheets point to the reason why the cars are so very different in character but only the accumulation of 15,000 miles behind the steering wheel in the last 5.5 years really tells the tale well.

The A has a rough ride, punishing to middle-aged neck vertebra on a long ride; reminiscent of a pickup with overload springs. The two-speed tranny whines forever before its single shift and is of little help to the inadequate brakes in downhill situations where brake fade is quick to occur. Hard cornering is hindered by the non-grip leather on a soft bench leaving no driver support save the turning steering wheel.

The transition to the F, through the considerably improved C, D, & E models, is as radically different as the shape of the bodies. The quality of the ride motions is very much improved. It’s like a luxury car versus a taxi. I believe the L has even better manners on the road than the F but the 5 year difference between 1960 and 1965 is insignificant compared to the previous 5 years improvement.

Chrysler certainly grew up during the FORWARD LOOK years. It’s as if the engineers considered what they did in 1955 and each year thereafter tried to outdo their last years efforts as swiftly as possible in order to remain up front on the leading edge of autodom. Maybe they got tired in the late sixties and decided to coast for a while. Bad idea in the auto making business. The next twenty years didn’t produce the changes that happened in but 5 years, 1955 to 1960.

Larry's 2016 Update

Upon reflection after 23 years, that 5 year spike in automotive innovation from Highland Park may have wearied the Chrysler planners as they decreed that from 1965 on, they would manufacture "me-too" cars, foregoing pushbutton shifters, ram tubes, square steering wheels et.al. It was good for business as CPDI had a 17 % market share during my brief stay with Mother Mopar from 1965-69, a percentage close to G.M.'s today.
Is the 2016 300 SRT as improved in 5 years over the 2011? Heck no, as the majority of the world's cars have had the same basic shape and road manners for more than 5 years but the mid 12s quarter mile and easily twice to three times the gas mileage plus really good brakes trump the last old-school Letter Car once you are behind the wheel looking out. Got to have both kinds of 300s and then life is really good. Suspecting the next 5 years may change things rapidly once more.