|1956 Chrysler 300 B Restoration
Camaro or Super Bee, etc. in the minds of most old car
enthusiasts. In other words almost all of us would think of
a mid-60s to early 70s coupe built by one of North
America’s big three.
Have you ever wondered what vehicle kicked off the
muscle car era?
In a survey done a few years ago, over 90% of the people
polled, thought it was the Ford Mustang.
While those loyal to the Bow Tie, the Oval and the
Pentastar agree it was not in the mid-60s, none of them
can seem to agree on which car or what year it all
When you follow the horse power back from the early
1970s and look at the performance of the vehicles you
arrive at one car, at one event, that changed the history of
horse power in North America. This one car does make a
strong case for being the “original muscle car.” But before
we get to it, we have to go back one more year.
The prelude to the first muscle car was built at a Chrysler
plant in 1955. The first engine to produce over 300 horse
power was stuffed into a full-size Chrysler sedan and the
Chrysler 300 was born. Of course it had a Hemi.
The 331 cid Hemi eclipsed the other V8s of the day. The
Packard had 275 hp, the Cadillac had 270 hp, the Lincoln
only 225 hp and the Corvette had a mere 195 hp.
Chrysler debuted the 300 at Daytona where it won the
“American Stock Car Flying Mile” competition finishing
first, second and third. It also cleaned up in AAA and
NASCAR events that same year.
For 1956 the Chrysler 300B was fitted with a 354 cubic
inch Hemi and with 2 four barrel carbs, it became the first
engine to produce 1 horse power per cubic inch, it also
won The Flying Mile competition with a top speed of
143.82 mph and believe it or not, that speed was achieved
with Vicki Wood driving in the ladies division. It was this
event that kicked off the muscle car era and with their big
Hemi engines there was no doubt who was leading the
“Fastest car in North America in 1956!”
The 354 cubic inch Hemi later set a new quarter-mile
speed record of 166.97 mph at an NHRA event. With the
Chrysler 300B setting new track records practically
everywhere it went and winning almost every race it
finished, Ford and GM had no choice but to get involved
in the business of building competitive vehicles.
horse power. The competition was stronger and more
intense in the following years. The ever increasing horse
power led to the peak production of the high performance
muscle cars of the late 60s and early 70s.
Supporters loyal to the bowtie declared the 1957 Corvette
to be the original muscle car and claimed the 283 cubic
inch engine to be the first engine to produce 1 hp per
cubic inch and site that as their reason for making this
claim. They are incorrect in claiming to be the first
because in 1956 the 354 cubic inch Hemi engine in the
Chrysler 300 produced 355 hp, therefore supporters of
the Pentastar declare the Chrysler 300B to be “The
Original Muscle Car.” The 1 hp per cubic inch plateau is
widely accepted as the defining criteria of a true muscle