426 Hemi Engine Historical Facts

Greg Zyla
Q: Hello Greg, I read your article on the 426 Hemi engine and would like to add more historical facts.  

Initially, the 426 Hemi engine roared to life in Chrysler’s dyno rooms in December of 1963 and was coded the A-864 engine.
Testing was in preparation for the targeted debut at the 1964 Daytona 500.  By the race's end, Hemi-powered Dodge and Plymouth cars took four of the top five places as Richard Petty took the win by more than a lap.

Actually,  1964 marked the first availability of the 426 Hemi in cars that could be ordered by the general public and street driven. While most were purchased for drag racing duty, anyone with money could walk into a Chrysler dealer and order a Hemi Dodge or Plymouth, get it licensed, and drive it home. However few customers were aware of this fact and, accordingly, very few were ordered and driven on the street.

You mentioned the Ford Hemi engine, which was a 427 in the development stage and then stopped as NASCAR outlawed the Hemi engines for 1965. But in 1969, Ford did field their own Hemi head design engine, the BOSS 429, which had good success against the Chrysler Hemi. Interestingly, the street versions of the Ford Boss 429 were only installed into 1969 or 1970 Boss 429 Mustangs (selling enough to qualify their Hemi-headed engine design for NASCAR involvement) yet only used in the Ford Talladega, a special Torino-based NASCAR aerodynamic design.

In 1965, as you mentioned, Chrysler did not compete in NASCAR and no street legal Hemis were sold. There was a 1965 special run of 100  Dodge and Plymouth drag race  cars built. identified by "R0" VIN tag numbers for Plymouths and "W0" VIN tag numbers for Dodge while the Hemi engine package was called A-990.  

In 1966, Chrysler offered the 426 Hemi in any of their Dodge and Plymouth B-body platform cars, including Dodge Coronet and Charger and Plymouth Belvedere and Satellite 2-door, 4-door, convertible, and even station wagons in an effort to sell enough Hemis to make them a standard production engine. NASCAR thus allowed them to compete again although limiting the Hemi to 405 inches for 1966 racing. The Street Hemi, as it is known, was a milder version of the original design and in a de-tuned state came in at 425-HP and 490 lbs. of torque.  

Hemis were very expensive to produce considering the cars they were available in cost around $3,000 and the Hemi alone added near $1,000 more! Accordingly total Hemi car production including all models combined sold between the first available year of 1964 and the final year of 1971 was just over 10,000 total units.  Best regards, Scott Smith, from www.harmsauto.com in Washington.

A: Thanks, Scott, for the great info. Everyone should check out harmsauto.com as it's loaded with good restoration information and offerings.
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