One of the most famous engines in the muscle car era was Chrysler’s 426 Hemi V8. They conceived it in the early ’50s. The Hemi engine was an innovative way of constructing the heads of the engine with big hemispherical combustion chambers; hence, the name. It also had side mounted valves. This configuration delivered more power, torque and revs than regular V8 engines, so Chrysler adopted it for most of its cars.
The Hemi family started with the 331 cid engine and went all the way to 392 cid before they discontinued it in the late ’50s. However, while looking for racing engines, a Chrysler engineer remembered the Hemi and resurrected it in 1964 as a pure racing engine with 426 cid and 7.0-liter displacement.
The new engine proved to be fantastic for drag racing and on NASCAR ovals, too. It didn’t take long for the management to understand its commercial potential. So, in 1966, the 426 Hemi became a regular production option on selected Dodge and Plymouth models. Compared to other muscle car engines of the period, the Hemi was the king, earning the nickname, The Elephant, for its size and power.
The engine, in street trim, was rated at 425 HP, but it delivered around 500 HP straight from the factory. But, the 426 Hemi was difficult to maintain. Also, it wasn’t fuel efficient and it was expensive. The last year of the 426 Hemi production was 1971 and for five years, they made around 10,000 engines and installed them in Dodge and Plymouth road and race cars, and even in drag racing boats.