When one leaves the city of New York for the suburbs, there are several levels of luxurious living available. Tuxedo Park was a private and posh gated community, reserved for the brokers, bankers, entertainers, and executives who made serious cash in the Big Apple. Our story begins there.
The Chrysler 300 was a perfect car for residents of this area, easily competing for bragging rights with the Imperial, Cadillac, and Lincoln. The year 1957 was the first year for the 392-inch FirePower Hemi, available in 375- and 390-horse formats. before the model year was over, 2,402 had been built. The 300 series had been introduced in 1955 as a new Chrysler performance-model, offering horsepower in a large, stylish package. Many enthusiasts consider the '57 model year as the high-water mark of Virgil Exner's Forward Look styling, and sales were good across the board.
Most 300Cs came with three-speed Torqueflites (introduced in 1956), complete with the push-button dash layout. Most were hardtops, however, you could get whatever you wanted when you went into the dealership. our buyer (reputed to be a well-published pianist) opted for a convertible model with a three-speed stick. It would be the only such car built that year, making it a true one-of-one Hemi vehicle.
The car has had a couple of owners, but its most recent is Bob D'Agostino, who brought it home in 1972. The D'Agostino name may ring some bells-Bob is the father of Tony D'Agostino, who is the well-known proprietor of Tony's Parts in Harrington, Delaware. Bob was given some basic info on the car's heritage from the seller, but the seller was reluctant to divulge names or exact locales. since the originating dealership is long gone, and state records are difficult to obtain due to legal protections, there is no way to document the story as it was relayed to him.
Chrysler 300s (indeed, most pre-'60s Chrysler products) are scarce these days. There were serious rust and quality control issues, plus a loss of respect for anything pre-'60s as the musclecar era took hold. Bob, an old-time hot rodder who still has the '32 Ford he built for street/strip action in the '60s, remembers that fuel racers bought up every '57-'58 300 that came on the market, taking that big Hemi lung out for drag racing projects and scrapping the worthless body.
The big difference between the two horsepower versions of the '57 392-inch engine was the cam and exhaust. Bob has the factory recall paperwork that lists his car going in for a cam replacement in late October 1957. this paperwork gives the serial numbers for the 17 stick 390-horse cars built that year (the other 16 were hardtops). However, due to the quarter-inch-steel channel frame the convertible required, the large exhaust could not be put on the car. As a result, though it has a 390hp motor, it has a 375hp paperwork rating on the IBM card due to the exhaust system.
When they are found today, cars like this get serious restorations. Bob's is an exception. While it did get paint (redone in the original Code F Parade Green back in the '70s), the motor, interior, driveline, and convertible top are all straight off the assembly line. The car has been garage kept and well maintained, and it is interesting to note the various rubber stamping and assembly marks are still visible around the engine bay. That early Hemi rumbles with ease when it is started up. kept in a state of good tune, the engine has never been out of the car, and the odometer shows just 37,000 miles since delivery.
For Bob, who has a couple of other toys to run around with on the weekend, the 300C is a classic tribute to the era of fins and style, not to mention a one-off Hemi car that is close to survivor status. even today, it would probably still be the talk of Tuxedo Park.
Car: '57 300C convertible
Owner: Bob D'Agostino
Engine: 392 FirePower Hemi
Horsepower: 390 at 5,200 rpm
Torque: 435 at 3,600 rpm
Trans: three-speed manual