Chrysler just built the last Hemi-powered 300C
In 2003, Chrysler showed a new concept car to a handful of journalists in Phoenix, Arizona. I happened to be there. I wandered backstage shortly before the presentation, and there was the concept: A rather breathtaking sedan.
Its designer was nearby. I complimented him on his work, and I said it would be great if Chrysler would build it.
“They are!” he said. “Just like it sits here!”
Right, I thought. When the powers that be get through with it, the car will look like a Dodge Intrepid.
I was wrong. The designer was a young Ralph Gilles, and the car was the Chrysler 300C that the company would introduce as a 2005 model. The car kickstarted Gilles’ career, and he rose through the design and motorsports ranks to become the head of Dodge—a very unusual path for a designer. He’s currently Chief Design Officer for Stellantis at the age of 57.
I mention this because the last Chrysler 300C rolled off the assembly line in Brampton, Ontario, last Friday, still looking as fresh as it did sitting behind those curtains 20 years ago, though it hasn’t had a makeover since 2015.
That first year, the 2005 Chrysler 300/300C was named the North American Car of the Year by a group of 50 independent auto journalists—I voted for it—as well as Motor Trend Car of the Year. It was a big, premium-looking car that had a slightly sinister appearance. “If science ever revives Al Capone,” wrote Car and Driver, “Chrysler has his car.”
It could be had with a surprisingly adequate 190-horsepower, 2.7-liter V-6, a considerably more adequate 3.5-liter, 250-horsepower V-6—that was the bread-and-butter model for dealers—and, of course, the 5.7-liter, 340-horsepower Hemi V-8.
In my review of the 300, published on April 29, 2004, I wrote: “The Chrysler 300 is a bold, chance-taking design, drawing heavily on tradition, with a prominent, toothy grille, a chunky, means-business profile and a rear that looks like nothing else on the road. It is also a return to rear-wheel drive, after more than 15 years of trying to convince the buying public that front-wheel drive was preferable even for big cars. It’s a selling job faced by Cadillac and several other manufacturers also making the 180-degree turn back to rear drive.”
In the ensuing years, not much changed. The 2.7-liter engine disappeared and the 3.5-liter V-6 became the base engine. The Hemi grew to today’s 6.4 liters, with 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque, acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, and a quarter-mile time of 12.4 seconds at a top speed of 160 mph.
The 300C was revived for this final sendoff after a two-year hiatus from the Chrysler lineup with a total production of 2200—further commemorated by a line of 300 and 300C merchandise, featuring “apparel for men, women and kids, home gear, drinkware, and accessories.” You’re able to toast the departure of the 300 with “a vintage Chrysler 300 logo black mug” ($16.95).
It seems likely the 300 name—coined for a 1955 model, with the 375-horsepower Hemi-powered 300C arriving two years later—may show up again on a future Chrysler model, as the brand rolls out its first battery-electric model in 2025, a year that marks Chrysler’s 100th anniversary. Chrysler says its lineup will be all-electric by 2028. Until that 2025 vehicle arrives, Chrysler showrooms will be full of minivans and more minivans, as the Pacifica is all the brand has left. Hopefully Chrysler dealers also have a Ram or Jeep dealership to keep the lights on.
Though the 300C is history—all 2200 were spoken for in 12 hours—there are still some left on dealer lots, and production of those won’t end until December 31. There are even some Chrysler 300S models available—it is something of a stealth car with a 363-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, at a starting price of $45,100, including shipping. If you missed out on a 300C, this is a suitable alternative. Get them while they’re warm.