"Strictly Stock"
The Champions of 1955 & 1956

by Dan Elliott

      The January 1955 issue of Speed Age magazine reviewed the new 1955 automobile models from the various manufacturers, including Chrysler. There is not a single word mentioning the new Chrysler 300, which makes sense because Chrysler was in the middle of a crash program to develop the new model when the article was written. After its late success in 1954 racing and the undoubted pressure from the elite who raced its cars, Chrysler would have to be content with publicity surrounding the unveiling of the late mid-season 300 model at the 1955 Speed Weeks held February 20-27 at Daytona Beach, Florida. Chrysler manufactured the very first 300, car #1001, on February 10th, just 10 days before the start of Speed Weeks, even though the official model announcement was on January 17th. Carl and Lee Petty undoubtedly were consulted** about what should be included in this new straight-from-the-factory full-bore racecar, albeit in a large, 4,200 pound Lincoln-esque size. Lincoln-esque as in "hot-rod" Mexican Road Race Lincoln? Hmmm…. Imagine the surprise of competitors at Daytona when this new full-race "Strictly Stock" model arrived at Daytona for a select few participants. The 331 cubic inch Hemi with twin four-barrel carburetors, full-race mechanical cam, hardened forged crankshaft, special transmission and truck-like heavy-duty suspension and five optional axle ratios up to 4.10 to 1 probably had more than a few competitors scratching their heads! Undoubtedly excitement ran high in the Chrysler camp as it figured to win Speed Weeks events, which would almost certainly increase its sales in the same way that Lincoln's successes at the Carerra Panamericana races had helped to increase its sales quite dramatically in 1953 and 1954.
      So it was in mid-February, 1955 that Chrysler rewarded certain loyal racers with the full-race Chrysler 300. Car #1001 appears to have been provided to Lee Petty. Car #1002 was provided to Carl Kiekhaefer. Car #1003 was to be shipped to Hershel McGriff's hometown of Portland, Oregon before it was diverted to Carl at Daytona. Interestingly, Hershel was to have been Carl's driver in the 1955 Daytona Beach and Road Course Race, but he declined the offer and quit actively participating in racing! Perhaps car #1003 was to be tested by Hershel in advance of driving at Daytona. According to Tim Flock, Carl had four 300's at Speed Weeks for testing, but the VIN numbers for two of the cars are unknown as of this writing. Car #1004 has no build date, but was shipped to Seattle from Chrysler in March. VIN numbers higher than 1004 were supposedly built after February 1955. Perhaps prototype cars were taken to Daytona. Perhaps 300's with real VIN numbers were shipped to Daytona for Speed Weeks then back to Chrysler for resale; hence the legend that the first 300's were all track-tested. Perhaps Tim Flock was incorrect in his recollection of his very first day of driving and testing for Carl, but this is doubtful. Kiekhaefer team members interviewed during 2004-05 indicated a belief that various cars were produced by Chrysler and were in Carl's possession before formal Chrysler records were established documenting them. In fact, currently being investigated is the likelihood that Carl had his own dealer number.

**The 1956 300B special owners manual states: "The Chrysler 300 and 300-B grew from the insistence of many of our automobile enthusiast friends to take advantage of the terrific potential of our Firepower engine as proven at Le Mans, Watkins Glen, Bonneville, Mexico, Elkhart Lake, and Indianapolis. They wanted a high-powered sports car at a reasonable price. We built it to their specifications, and it met with immediate and enthusiastic response."

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