The 426 Hemi, the name alone brings up images of horsepower. The mighty elephant engine has been the holy grail of Mopar engines since 1964. But why?
Since it dominated the 1964 Daytona 500 with a 1-2-3 finish and 4 of the top 5, people have been trying to catch it.
With the massive air cleaner and those valve covers, it is a very impressive engine. Even people who are not Mopar fans respect the engine.
Sure, the basic design is still used in Top Fuel dragsters today, but that is also what is allowed by the rules. But the fact that it is still in use at that level does say something about it.
Rated at 425 horsepower, it was the most powerful Mopar engine of the muscle car era. Of course we all know that the horsepower ratings back then were best taken with a grain of salt, as they were often rated to fit into certain classes for drag racing or insurance.
Plus if you look at the production tolerances back then, some engines were a lot stronger than others. And a good set of headers and a tune up to match would make most of the muscle cars much faster than stock. Improved carb jetting, better breathing exhaust and an optimized ignition curve would do wonders. And dealers like Mr Norm’s Grand Spaulding Dodge made an art form out of tweaking the cars.
The other day I posted a link on Facebook about the 50 fastest Muscle cars quarter mile times from vintage road tests. Here is the link if you want to see it. In the top 50, there are 9 cars with the 426 Hemi. That is more than any other engine in the list. Pretty impressive. It does help that it had a long production run compared to some of the other ultimate engines, so there are more tests that it was in, but I don’t think anyone will argue the power of a Hemi.
Sure, it is expensive and heavy for the power output. And until you get to the ridiculous stage, you could probably build a 440 that is faster for less money, but just listen to that sound:
I remember the first 426 Hemi I saw, it was in a Duster, and I fell in love with the sound right there.
Maybe that is why I am so interested in swapping a gen 3 Hemi into an old Mopar, it is probably about as close as I will be able to come to having a traditional Hemi car. A quick look at Summit Racing shows that the least expensive Hemi crate motor they have is $16,000. So unless this blog becomes more successful than I can imagine, and in the words of Han Solo, “I can imagine quite a bit”, and someone decides to donate an engine to me for use on the blog, I doubt I will be having one in my garage any time soon.
But it is still something to dream about. And after all, isn’t that what an engine like this is about? I am sure that for every one who wandered into a show room to drool over a Hemi and bought one, there were a lot of 383 and 440 powered cars that went out the door. Plus some 340’s in the A bodies. And I am sure that was one of the purposes of the Hemi, to win races and get people excited about the Mopar brands.