Q: Greg, how many different engines were available in the 1965 Dodge Coronet? I know that is when the 426 Hemi came out. Thanks, and I enjoy your columns, especially about Hemi MOPARS. Gene S., email from Owego, New York.
A: Gene, you are correct in that the powerful 426 Hemi engine was available in 1965 in the Dodge, but it wasn’t until 1966 that the general public could walk in to a Dodge or Plymouth dealer and buy a Hemi right off the showroom floor.
The Hemi was available in the Coronet line in 1965, but was an “off road” purchase only and not suitable for the street.
Five other V8 engines were also available in 1965, including the 273, 318, 361, 383 and 413 power plants. Additionally, two Slant-6 engines were available, one measuring 170-cubic inches and one poked out to 225 inches. Additionally, and getting back to those “off road use only” Hemis, in 1964 Chrysler debuted its all new 426 Hemi, and offered them to Dodge and Plymouth race teams. The Hemi-powered Dodge and Plymouth intermediates (Coronet/Polara/Satellite/Belvedere) dominated the NASCAR and drag seasons, with the Hemi finishing one-two-three at Daytona to start the year. The Chrysler 426 Hemi started a horsepower war between Ford and Chrysler that eventually ended up with Ford’s new Hemi (built to combat the Chrysler Hemi) and the MOPAR Hemi was outlawed in 1965 by NASCAR.
This moved all of the attention to the drag strips, where even Richard Petty and Cotton Owens (with David Pearson driving), had Hemi drag cars. These drag cars included altered wheelbase early funny cars to top fuel dragsters, and they dominated the scene and allowed racers who relied on the older style 392 Chrysler Hemi an opportunity to switch over to the new model engine. “Big Daddy” Don Garlits figured out the new Hemi could take more punishment than the 392, especially with advanced ignition timing, and the pattern was set.
The mighty late model 426 Hemi engine became available to the mass market in 1966, but was released for “off road” use only in 1964 in Dodge and Plymouth intermediate models. Here, the late Cotton Owens poses for a Chrysler promotional piece with a 1964 Dodge that he would run on the NASCAR circuit. (Photo compliments of Chrysler Corporation).
In summary, those who purchased those early production “off road only” Hemis are sitting on $500,000 and up when it comes to valuable collector cars, while normal production Hemis will also go for over $100,000 on a regular basis, especially when they sit between frame rails of the GTX, R/T, Challenger, Dart and Barracuda models.