1951 Chrysler New Yorker

Oldsmobile sounded the gun in America's "horsepower war" with its 1949 Rocket V-8, but Chrysler's new 1951 Chrysler New Yorker "Hemi" was a shot heard 'round the world.

1951 chrysler new yorker
The 1951 Chrysler New Yorker's "Hemi" engine could reach up to 300 horsepower.
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Though not a new idea, the Hemi -- named for its combustion chambers' half-dome shape -- produced more horsepower per cubic inch than any other engine around. In initial form it made 170, 10 more horses than Cadillac's contemporary V-8 of identical size, and even minor modifications could easily yield 300. But though a New Yorker convertible paced the 1951 Indy 500, the Hemi wasn't raced much before mid-decade because the cars it powered were large and lumbering. And Chrysler did little to change that, its 1950-54s being mainly brighter, smoother renditions of its square and stodgy new '49 generation. (So little change occurred for 1951-52 that Chrysler didn't even keep separate production tallies.)

Chrysler paid the price as sales steadily declined to crisis levels by 1954. Government-mandated production curbs during the Korean War didn't help. Nor did inflationary pressures that boosted the New Yorker convertible's price by $700 for '51 to a lofty $3916. As a result, sales were just 2200 in 1951-52. The cheaper six-cylinder Windsor convertible managed 4200.

1951 chrysler new yorker
The 1951 Chrysler New Yorker was a contender in the
"horsepower war" of the 50s.

But even when handicapped by sluggish semi-automatic Fluid Drive transmission, the FirePower Hemi redefined performance for the medium-price field in no uncertain terms. Of course, it also speeded up air flow through the hair of Chrysler convertible drivers. Indeed, a Hemi ragtop perfectly symbolized the "sky's the limit" optimism of the age.

For more classic convertibles of the 1950s, see:

1950 Oldsmobile 88

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Lincoln Premiere

1951 Lincoln Cosmopolitan

1955 Mercury Montclair

1957 Oldsmobile Super 88

1951 Rambler Custom Landau

1956 Ford Thunderbird

1958 Continental Mark III

1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta

1956 Lincoln Premiere

1958 Edsel Citation

1954 Hudson Hornet Brougham

1956 Packard Caribbean

1959 Cadillac Series 62

1954 Packard Caribbean

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1959 Dodge Custom Royal

1955 Buick Century

1957 Chrysler New Yorker

1959 Ford Thunderbird

1955 Cadillac Series 62

1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner

1959 Pontiac Bonneville

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