Chrysler says it is redefining the classic American automobile with the worldwide debut of the Chrysler 300C concept at the 2003 New York International Auto Show. With an entirely new shape based on the company's all-new rear-drive architecture, this concept sedan continues the Chrysler brand's proud 'letter series' tradition - but in a thoroughly modern way, says the company. According to the company, it's been nearly five decades since Chrysler first introduced its 'letter series' cars. The brand's line of Chrysler 300s started with the C-300 in 1955, and continued for 11 years. Chrysler 300C features classic proportions -- a long hood, short deck and a dramatic profile complete with 20-inch tires. Paying tribute to some of the first letter series cars, a production version similar to the Chrysler 300C concept will go on sale in 2004, further solidifying the Chrysler brand's premium position in the market. "Chrysler 300C signals a dramatic new design direction for Chrysler," said Dieter Zetsche, president and CEO of the Chrysler Group. "With its new shape and noble proportions, the Chrysler 300C redefines the classic American automobile, while moving the brand solidly into the premium segment of the market." While Chrysler 300C is a concept vehicle, it provides a strong hint at the first sedan from Chrysler Group's much-anticipated next generation of rear-wheel drive vehicles to debut in 2004, according to the company. "With recent introductions including the innovative Chrysler Pacifica sports tourer and the head-turning Crossfire sports coupe, and now the all-new 300C, the Chrysler brand has one of the most impressive product portfolios in the industry," added Zetsche. "These vehicles will enable us to move the Chrysler brand to a premium position within the U.S. market." According to the company, transferring all this power to the pavement is Chrysler's new rear-drive architecture. Rear-wheel drive offers improved handling with front wheels steering and rear wheels driving. With tremendous advances in tire technology and electronic stability control, Chrysler brings back the rear-wheel drive passenger sedan. The Chrysler 300C concept also marks the return of the HEMI engine to the Chrysler brand after more than 30 years. The engine design that powered Chrysler's 'letter series' cars in the 1950s has been re-engineered and reborn as a modern, high-performance, fuel-efficient and durable powerplant known as the all-new 5.7-liter HEMI V-8. "Combining confident performance with stunning design, the Chrysler 300C concept defines our next generation of automobiles," said Zetsche. "With rear-wheel drive and HEMI Inside, Chrysler 300C delivers power and performance in an elegant package."