Even automakers that never really cared for performance had to have one or more of the fastest and most powerful specimens in their midst. Someone has to be the number one, doesn’t it?! Performance oriented car makers such as Dodge, Plymouth and other Mopar divisions have had numerous such examples. And for more or less any given period of time at that. Although this wasn’t the usual business model, Chrysler’s subdivisions sometimes stepped out of conventional car maker’s comfort zone and delivered something out of the ordinary. However, looking back at the golden age of American performance cars, one might say Mopars were doing that on a regular basis. Being smallest of the Big Three, they simply had to take more risks than Ford or GM. Sometimes they failed miserably, but more often than not, Mopar gave us performance cars that would become the future icons.
And Mopar’s portfolio is the best place to look for some of the fastest and most powerful American classic cars. One would easily be able to compile the list of 10 such cars by going through FCA’s current lineup. Although Challengers, Chargers and even the recently axed Viper are some of their best such examples, we’ll dig a little bit deeper here. Current FCA performance car’s 40 or 50 year older predecessors wouldn’t be able to cope with them, but precious few cars were able to cope with classic Mopars back then as well. This is why we’re bringing you the most powerful and fastest Mopars of their time – not just a bunch of current Hellcats and Vipers.
1957 DeSoto Adventurer
DeSoto brand is all but forgotten now, but affordable alternative to the Chrysler badge had a lot to say back when it was still in the business. In 1956 they introduced a limited-production high performance Adventurer that would stand shoulder to shoulder with the mighty Chrysler 300. More so, Adventurer would become the first American car ever to feature 1 horsepower per 1 cubic inch of its motor. A feat that would later be claimed by Chevrolet, but only because DeSoto let them by failing to properly advertise Adventurer until 1959. No wonder Chrysler brass decided to discontinue the division in 1961.
The car that managed to achieve the aforementioned feat was the 1957 DeSoto Adventurer. It came with 345ci version of the Firedome Hemi V8 which, as you can imagine, produced 345 horsepower. Only some 1956 and 1957 Adventurers would receive this specially bored and stroked (square 3.80 inch) version of the original 341ci V8 engine. The engine itself, however, wasn’t enough for that kind of output, hence Adventurer was further motivated by dual Carter WCFB four-barrel carburetors. Thanks to that, DeSoto Adventurer was easily able to top out 140 mph. It’s true that successive model would deliver 350 horsepower, but it needed the 361ci wedge headed TurboFlash engine in order to do so.
All 1957 DeSoto Adventurers – and there were 1,950 of them produced (1,650 hardtops and 300 convertibles) – featured the same paint scheme; either white or black base with gold trim. They also had factory installed air condition, and optional features like power windows, power six-way seats and a stereo. Prices started at $4,272 (close to $37,500 in 2017 dollars). Although somewhat expensive for a bottom tier car, it was still much more affordable than the cheapest Chrysler 300C which started from $4,929.