Author Topic: Mopar to Celebrate 50th Anniversary of the Iconic 426 Hemi in 2014  (Read 5874 times)

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Throughout 2014, Mopar will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the iconic second generation (Gen II) 426 Race Hemi engine to motorsports competition and its eventual initiation to production vehicles.

To kick off the year-long commemoration of the legendary engine, Mopar has created a 50th anniversary logo. The design incorporates an elephant in reference to the engine’s moniker, which resulted from the powerplant’s imposing size, strength and power. The logo also features the trademark Hemi Orange color that covered the engine and made it even more recognizable.

“Mopar is proud to mark the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Gen II 426 Hemi, a revolutionary engine that inspired a long line of quality products in our brand’s portfolio,” says Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO-Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “The 426 Hemi is such a vital part of our heritage and a key ingredient in helping make Mopar what it is today. The success of the Hemi launched a unique brand of sought after muscle cars, and that is something we are very proud of.”

While Chrysler engineers initially introduced the original Hemispherical combustion engine design for passenger cars (as the Chrysler “FirePower” Eight) in 1951 and celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2011, the iconic and revolutionary second generation Hemi engine, so closely associated with the muscle car era, made its memorable debut in 1964.
The new second generation Hemi measured 426 cubic inches and was built specifically to win races. Two versions of this 426 race engine were built – one called the “Circuit” or “Track” engine, and the other the “Acceleration” or “Drag” engine.

The Gen II 426 Race Hemi was introduced at the Daytona 500 in February, 1964 with legendary driver Richard Petty winning the race handily in his Plymouth, while a dominating performance by three other Hemi-powered entries gave a 1-2-3 Plymouth finish, plus a Hemi-powered Dodge also made the Top 5.
Petty drove to eight victories and earned his first of seven NASCAR championships in 1964 while Hemi-powered Plymouths and Dodges amassing a total of 26 race wins. The Hemi used for the season was rated at 400 horsepower and had a compression ratio of 12.5:1.

That same year in National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag racing competition, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits--who'd broken the 200-mph barrier in his 392 Hemi-powered "Swamp Rat VI-B" travelling the quarter-mile straight-line distance in 7.78 seconds at 201.34 mph--started racing (and winning with) his all-new Swamp Rat VII, with a 426 Hemi between the frame rails.

For the '65 season, NASCAR changed the rules mandating that all engines used for its races must be available in production vehicles. This led to Chrysler's withdrawal from NASCAR competition for the 1965 season and saw Chrysler engineers concentrate their efforts in drag racing.

A new lighter drag racing package, referred to as A-990, debuted in the NHRA Super Stock class in 1965 in Dodges and Plymouths, and later in the year altered-wheelbase versions hit the nation's drag strips, launching the popularity of Funny Cars. To this day, a version of that engine still powers every single Funny Car and Top Fuel engine regardless of being badged by other manufacturers.

With the introduction of the 426 Street Hemi in 1966 for production vehicles, the Hemi returned to NASCAR racing.  During the next several years, Hemi-powered Plymouths and Dodges won countless races, numerous championships in various professional categories, and were feared by competitors.

With the availability of the Street Hemi starting in ‘66, Chrysler no longer offered a special drag racing engine. Instead, drag racers were provided with the street version, which they could modify at their discretion. The only exception was the limited edition 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracudas that remained powered by the 426 Race Hemi, with only 75 of each model produced.

The heritage of those special vehicles is celebrated each year by Mopar with the Hemi Challenge that takes place in the Sportsman class at the NHRA’s prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. The Hemi Challenge made its debut in 2001 and features these classic muscle cars, which contributed to the brand’s legendary reputation and success at the drag strip.

In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the 426 Race Hemi engine, Mopar also established the “Tom Hoover Sportsman Challenge” at the start of the 2013 season, with a winner selected from the Sportsman Stock or Super Stock classes by amassing the most points at the wheel of a Chrysler Group vehicle in the course of a season during NHRA sanctioned races nationwide.

Since its 1964 debut, the Gen II 426 Hemi remains a legend due to its reputation and performance on and away from the racetrack, the dedication and skill that Chrysler engineers put into it, as well as its rarity, since it was discontinued in production vehicles in 1971 (and fewer that 11,000 426 Hemi-equipped cars were built in all—Scott.).

The innovative engine’s offspring live on, not only in the NHRA within all Funny Car and Top Fuel machines, but also within both new production and classic heritage vehicles thanks to the availability of current day products (including the installation of a crate engine).

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