Chrysler Letter Cars and One Fast ’56 Bel Air


This Friday at 9/8c,, Million Dollar Collections returns with Keith Martin from Sports Car Market Magazine on another adventure. This time he’s touring John Staluppi’s collection of 1950’s and 60’s American cars at Florida’s renowned “Cars of Dreams Museum” and shows us Staluppi’s complete collection of Chrysler 300 “letter cars” and a ’56 Bel Air with a Toyota NASCAR engine under the hood.

 Never heard of a Chrysler “letter car?” These were high-end, high performance cars built by Chrysler in the U.S. from 1955-1965. They used a new letter of the alphabet as a suffix (though skipping the “i”), reaching 300L by 1965, when the model would be dropped.

The 300 series really started out as racecars aimed at the start up NASCAR circuit with a 331 cu in FirePower “Hemi” V* under the hood. It was offered up to limited numbers of non-racing types who were looking for the power and luxury of these special cars. Because of their unique styling from Virgil Exner and the wicked engine under the hood many people consider them to be the ancestors of muscles cars as they evolved with each year.

Speaking of speed, of course you want to know about a 1956 Bel Air with a Toyota NASCAR engine. Well, the first Toyota race engines started with four engineers working on production engines; they released their first race engine in 1968 – a 3000cc V8, 2 valve. And the rest, as they say is history.

You’ll have to tune in Friday night at 10p e/p to find out just what kind of engine ends up in a ’56 Bel Air and what that means for performance from a vehicle that size.

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