A 1956 Chrysler That Can Still Rally

Date: December 3, 2019
Source: Wall Street Journal

Randy Nonnenberg of San Francisco, 42, co-founder and CEO of the car auction company Bring a Trailer, on his 1956 Chrysler 300B, as told to A.J. Baime.

When I was young, my father Alan and I spent a lot of time in the garage. Instead of carousing, I was with him wrenching on old Mustangs. I turned that into a career in the car world. He was my mentor, so at the beginning of 2019 we decided to do a couple bucket-list events together.

The first was the Copperstate 1000 rally in Arizona. We thought: What would be the right car? We wanted something that felt like Americana, with plenty of horsepower for big, open roads. We decided on a Chrysler 300. We needed something we could get in and drive, not a project. So in February we found this car, bought it for $57,500, and had it shipped to Arizona.

The rally took us a thousand miles through amazing roads to the Grand Canyon. From there, we shipped it to Monterey, Calif., for the Monterey Car Week. Then we shipped it to Montana for the Going to the Sun Rally, named after the road that goes through Glacier National Park.

Chrysler’s 300 is Americana for important reasons. Things in the car world were moving a million miles an hour in the mid-1950s. At the time, high horsepower was for big cars full of chrome to carry bankers and presidents around. Chrysler put a high-performance Hemi V-8 in a sleeker car—the 300 [the car was also known as the C-300]—in 1955.

It has been called the first muscle car. The engine put out 300 horsepower—thus the name—which was mind-blowing back then. The so-called letter cars followed—the 300B (like my car), the 300C, etc. [The year this 300B was built, The Wall Street Journal ran a headline: “New Chrysler 300B Leads All ’56 Models in Horsepower With 340.” While options could bump that number up to 355, this car’s engine puts out 340.] Chrysler drivers won the Nascar championship in 1955 and 1956, and the formula worked in all sorts of motorsport applications in the years to follow.

A bunch of years ago Chrysler resurrected the 300 nameplate. Today you see modern Chrysler 300s all over, and many modern drivers have no idea of the legacy component.

My dad is constantly asking me: What’s next? We are thinking of driving the car across the country on Route 66. We might take it to Europe. It is an excuse for us to spend time together in our favorite place—out on the road.

Write to A.J. Baime at myride@wsj.com

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