Home Cars 18 Hemi Engine Facts That Made Drivers Fans

18 Hemi Engine Facts That Made Drivers Fans

Vukasin Herbez November 25, 2018

Chevrolet has its big blocks, Ford has its Cobra Jet and Chrysler has the Hemi. For over six decades, the Hemi engine has been the top-of-the-line option in various Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and Imperial models. Seeing the Hemi is a sure sign you have considerable firepower under the hood. Even if you are not familiar with car terminology, the name “Hemi” certainly rings a bell. So, what is the infamous Hemi, anyway?

The secret of the Hemi is in its cylinder heads that have hemispherical combustion chambers; thus, the name. Although such a solution wasn’t new or unique in the car industry, Chrysler was the company to perfect it and make a brand out of it. The hemispherical combustion chambers patent has several advantages.

First and most importantly, the Hemi engine burns fuel more efficiently, producing more power and a higher rev line than ordinary engines. Due to better flow in the cylinder heads, the Hemi engine can include forced induction without structural modifications to the engine head and block.

All of this means that the Hemi engine is the holy grail among car collectors. Even today, when there are modern Hemi engines, they are still prestigious powerplants. So for that reason, here is a list of the 18 best and most memorable cars they produced with this glorious motor under the hood.

1. Chrysler New Yorker

Even though Chrysler introduced the Hemi engine in 1951, it wasn’t until 1954 that it became a hot item. That was when the engineers at Chrysler managed to produce 235 HP. At that time, people considered that to be ludicrous power. Chrysler installed the Hemi in the elegant and restrained New Yorker.

In fact, the 331 Hemi V8 proved to not only be fast and durable but also a record breaker. When Chrysler entered the special 24-hour endurance run with the 1954 New Yorker, it managed to average 118.8 mph over 24 hours of nonstop driving. This highly publicized achievement proved to be a perfect marketing tool for promoting Chrysler’s performance.

2. Chrysler C-300

The fastest and most powerful American production model for 1955 and the car that shook the car scene was the mighty Chrysler C-300. This was the start of the 10-year production run of Chrysler’s famous “Letter cars,” a series of exclusive, fast and expensive coupes and convertibles with maximum power, comfort and luxury. And the first car in that glorious lineup was the ‘55 C-300.

The car got its name from the 331 V8 Hemi engine. It came with 8.5:1 compression numbers, a race camshaft and twin four-barrel carburetors to produce 300 HP, a magical figure for the mid-50s. The performance was outstanding with its nine-second 0 to 60 mph time and 130 mph top speed.

Although the car was expensive and full of luxury items, it also proved successful in racing, winning 37 stock car events. Today, the Chrysler C-300 is a valuable early muscle machine and an extremely rare one, too. Chrysler built just over 1,700 of those Hemi-powered cruisers.

3. Facel Vega HK500

Almost all models from Facel Vega, the long-discontinued French luxury brand, used Chrysler’s Hemi engine. Back in the late ‘50s, this was the best engine if you wanted power and durability. However, Facel managed to give it perfect looks, and a blend of luxury and style.

The HK500 with the 392 Hemi under the hood producing 390 HP was one of the most powerful and exclusive cars of the period. Although it was fast and luxurious, they sold it in limited numbers. However, it presented Hemi’s performance to those discriminating European customers.

4. Dodge Coronet Sedan 426 Hemi

Chrysler reintroduced its legendary 426 Hemi engine for 1966 as an option on selected Plymouth and Dodge models. They offered the iconic powerplant as an option on the Dodge Coronet as well. Technically, you could order their Hemi with any body style. However, most car buyers associated Hemi power with those two-door coupes and convertibles. In fact, most people didn’t realize they could have a Hemi in a sedan or even in a wagon form.

That is why only a few people bought the Coronet De Luxe Hemi four-door in 1966, which was the ultimate muscle car sedan. With an advertised 425 HP under your right foot, the Coronet Hemi four-door was inarguably the fastest production sedan in America. And it was also the ultimate muscle car four-door.

5. Dodge Charger 426 Hemi

In 1966, they presented the new Dodge Charger as the newest model in the muscle car class. They based it on the Chrysler B-Body platform. It shared most of the mechanics and chassis components with other Dodge models like the Coronet. However, it came with fresh new sheet metal and a cool-looking fastback roofline.

Best of all, under the hood was the most powerful option in the form of the mighty 426 Hemi. This was the first year for the street 426 Hemi and one of the models to receive this legendary powerplant was the Charger. It produced 425 HP and they installed it in just under 500 cars in 1966.

6. Plymouth Belvedere Altered Wheelbase

Since the Hemi was a racing engine, it was present in many forms of motorsports. From the NASCAR ovals to road racing and the drag strips, if you wanted to win, you needed a Hemi under your hood. Chrysler didn`t offer the Race Hemi lightweight models for 1965. Instead, they went a step further to produce a handful of altered wheelbase Plymouths and Dodges for professional racers as well as the newly founded FX class.

The Factory Experimental or FX class in the NHRA championship was a predecessor to today’s Funny cars class. Basically, it was a place where factory-supported teams could race cars that resembled stock vehicles. They equipped them with engines, drivetrains and body modifications that would never be legal on a street car.

In fact, they moved the whole floor plan 15 inches forward, placing the rear axle just behind the driver, which helped the weight distribution and traction off the line. Those altered wheelbase cars were never street-legal. They featured numerous interesting combinations, such as fuel injection, supercharged and turbocharged engines. Today, those real-altered wheelbase cars are extremely rare and are a valuable piece of muscle car history.

7. Plymouth GTX Hemi

Plymouth presented the GTX in 1967 as a luxury option in the Belvedere lineup. They based this model on the same platform as the Coronet, but it was much more luxurious. Plymouth wanted the GTX to compete with the luxury cars of the period, so they installed almost all the possible creature comforts. And then they added a special trim on the outside to distinguish the GTX from the rest of their model lineup.

The GTX was a gentleman’s hot rod with all the desirable options as well as nice interior and exterior details. However, it came with only one optional engine choice, the mighty 426 Hemi. The 440 Magnum was the standard engine, but if you wanted the ultimate Plymouth muscle luxury, you had to go for the Hemi. Because it was significantly more expensive than the rest of the Mopar muscle car lineup, the GTX was never that popular so it is rare today.

8. Dodge Charger R/T 426 Hemi

In 1968, muscle car fans were wowed by the fantastic lines of the new Charger featuring the popular “Coke bottle” styling. It had a big grille, a muscular shape, recessed rear glass and four round rear lights. In the days of crazy designs and aggressive muscle car styling, the 1968 Charger was in a league of its own. In fact, no other model could compete with this coupe.

The Road and Track or R/T package was a popular option. It included cool graphics, a beefier suspension and steering, and the 440 engine as standard. But if you wanted the full power in your 1968 Charger, you could choose the Hemi. Although it was significantly more expensive, it was well worth the investment. Only 475 customers decided to go with the Hemi engine in 1968.

9. Plymouth Roadrunner Hemi

When it first appeared in 1968, the Plymouth Roadrunner was an important and influential muscle car. It introduced a new trend of inexpensive and fun cars and was also a strong seller that affected the whole segment. The whole idea behind the Roadrunner was simple, to present a low-priced, powerful model to attract people with a limited budget and a strong need for performance.

The base car was inexpensive at just over $3,000. But, if you wanted to go all out, you could get the Hemi as the top-of-the-line option, which cost over $900. Although that was quite the price for a Plymouth, you got one of the fastest muscle cars of the era. And even though it came with 425 advertised horsepower, it actually translated to approximately 500 HP in real life.

10. Dodge Daytona Hemi

The most interesting period of the NASCAR races was in the late ’60s when the rules allowed for some modifications to car bodies to make them more aerodynamic. Of course, the condition was to apply those changes to regular production examples and sell a limited number of such cars to the public. Most manufacturers jumped to this opportunity and created Aero racers or specially designed cars they homologated for the races.

And one of the most famous and influential was the 1969 Charger Daytona, which they produced in just 504 examples as a homologation special. Dodge created a racing car with a special front end, flush rear glass and a big rear spoiler. In fact, the Charger Daytona was one of the first cars they developed in a wind tunnel with new materials for construction. However, out of around 500 they built, only 70 received Hemi engines. So, today, they are worth insane sums of money.

11. Plymouth Barracuda Hemi

Two of the biggest Chrysler legends from the classic days of the muscle car culture are the Barracuda and the 426 Hemi engine. All through the ‘60s, those icons of the industry didn’t mix, at least not in street-legal cars. However, in 1970, Plymouth offered this legendary engine in the Barracuda body style, creating one of the fastest, most desirable muscle cars they ever made.

The mighty Hemi engine was an expensive top-of-the-line option for 1970 and 1971 available in coupe or convertible form. It cost around $900 over the price of the standard Barracuda. They installed approximately 600 coupes and only 17 convertibles during the two-year production period. Although they rated the power at 425 HP, everybody knew that the orange monster delivered more than 500 HP straight from the box.

12. Monteverdi Hai 450

Monteverdi was a Swiss company that produced bespoke sports and luxury cars using Chrysler engines. In 1970, the owner, Peter Monteverdi, wanted to compete with Ferrari and Lamborghini, so he needed a supercar. The result was the most extreme Monteverdi model, the Hai 450 from 1970.

It featured a new chassis and body, as well as the famous Hemi 426 V8 engine in the back. Monteverdi wanted the most powerful engine Mopar had to offer and in 1970, that was the mighty Hemi. They named the car the “Hai,” which is a German word for a shark. The car could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, making it the quickest car of the era.

13. Plymouth Superbird

As one of the craziest muscle cars they ever produced, Plymouth presented one of the most recognizable graphics packages ever. The Superbird was their attempt to win the famous Aero Wars in the late ‘60s to early ‘70s NASCAR championships. In order to homologate the car for racing, Plymouth built just under 2,000 road-going Superbirds, selling them all over America.

They based the car on the Roadrunner. It came with a 440 V8 as standard and the 426 Hemi as the only engine option. Out of almost 2,000 they made, only 135 cars got the Hemi, which makes those Superbirds extremely valuable today.

14. Dodge Super Bee Hemi

The Dodge managers decided to merge the Coronet and Charger lineups for 1971 and offer B-Body models in two distinctive flavors. So, from 1971, all four door models were Coronets and all two-door models were Chargers. This meant that the Coronet Super Bee was now a Charger, which caused some confusion with car buyers.

Selling at lower prices but packing better equipment, wild graphics and the 440 engine as standard, the Super Bee was popular with people looking for a classic performance machine in vivid colors with a tire-shredding performance. Although the 426 Hemi was the only engine option, it is rare with just 22 cars receiving that engine.

15. Chrysler 300C SRT8

The Chrysler 300C is an interesting car. It is one of the last true American boxy sedans with big V8 power and a chrome grille. Also, it is a successful model that has been on the market for almost 15 years. During that time, Chrysler produced numerous variants.

Most of them came with the modern 5.7-liter Hemi, but one is especially interesting, and that is the mighty SRT-8. Under the hood was a 6.1-liter Hemi with 425 HP delivering a fantastic performance that connected with those Hemi models of the glorious Mopar past.

16. Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk

There were fast SUVs before Jeep introduced the Trackhawk, and there will be long after they discontinue it. However, this glorious machine deserves a place on this list for two reasons. First, it comes with the 707 Hellcat Hemi engine under the hood. Second, with a 3.4-second 0 to 60 mph time, this makes it faster than some supercars.

The Trackhawk is a brutal machine that is highly unusual and influential. And it shows the high horsepower Hemi engine can make anything a proper muscle car, even a full-size SUV.

17. Dodge Charger Hellcat

In 2014, the car community went crazy when Dodge released the Hellcat Charger and Challenger models. After all, they expected the reaction since the 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 with 707 HP was a proper monster of a muscle car.

But, Dodge did just that by allowing the public to buy one of the fastest, most powerful muscle cars they ever built. Despite being overpowered in every aspect, those Dodge Charger Hellcats are surprisingly easy to drive and can even be docile at low speeds.

When you press the throttle to unleash the fury of those 707 supercharged Hemi horses, you can feel the brutality of the Hellcat package as well as the power going to the rear wheels. The 0 to 60 mph times are in the high three-second range and the car can top 200 mph.

18. Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

If 707 HP from the Hellcat package isn’t enough for you and you want the ultimate modern muscle car as well as the most powerful street Hemi engine they ever made, then the Demon package is for you. With standard fuel, it delivers an insane 808 HP. But if you use the high-octane stuff, it will pump out almost 840 HP.

The rest of the Demon package is equally insane from the special transmission, suspension and brakes to the widebody stance and exterior details. The acceleration from 0 to 60 is less than three seconds and under full power, the Demon will accelerate with 1.8 G-force. That is faster than jumping off a cliff.

The car can cover a quarter-mile sprint in less than 10 seconds straight from the box. If the reports are true and Chrysler is considering discontinuing the Hemi engine lineup, this car is the best way to go.

This list included 18 facts about the Hemi engine that will make anyone a fan. Due to its popularity, the Hemi is here to stay. It will be interesting to see what they put this engine in next.

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