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Top 10 Engines of All Time (#2): Chrysler 426 HEMI

 

Editor’s Note: This series counts down the Top 10 engines of all time—see how the voting was done by reading our initial post.

Image courtesy of AllPar.com

Image courtesy of AllPar.com

“That thing got a HEMI in it?”

Yes, your Top 10 Engines of All Time list does have a HEMI in it—and it’s the legendary Chrysler 426 HEMI “Elephant.”

History

Mopar is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the (Gen II) 426 HEMI in 2014.

How great is the mighty 426? When introduced as a race-only motor in 1964, it struck fear in Ford Motor Company execs and necessitated the #10 engine on this list: the Ford 427 SOHC. (You can learn more about the 427 SOHC in our earlier post). The 426 HEMI engine powered Richard Petty to an upset NASCAR win at Daytona in 1964, and 426-powered cars finished 1-2-3 at the event. The 426 HEMI was so dominant in its debut NASCAR changed its rules for engines, eliminating the use of limited-production, race-only engines and requiring all engines to be available in production vehicles.

It turned out to be a good news/bad news move for Mopar fans.

The new NASCAR rules led Chrysler to sit out the 1965 season, but the company used this time to develop a street version of the HEMI, which began appearing in 1966 Dodge and Plymouth B-Bodies. The street HEMI featured a lower compression ratio (10.25:1) than the race version and had milder timing and different intake and exhaust manifolds. Because this engine was available for production vehicles, Chrysler returned to NASCAR in 1966 and won countless races and numerous championships.

Nicknamed “the Elephant” for its size, the 426 HEMI was also quite the force on the dragstrip. A lighter drag racing package, referred to as A-990, debuted in the NHRA Super Stock class in 1965 in Dodge and Plymouth vehicles with altered wheelbases, launching the popularity of Funny Cars. With the introduction of the street HEMI in 1966, the original race version was essentially discontinued as drag racers were offered the street HEMI, which they could modify their own way. The race HEMI did still appear under the hoods of limited-edition Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas in 1968.

Fun Facts

  • Chrysler produced only 75 race HEMI-powered Darts and 75 race HEMI-powered Barracudas for 1968.
  • To this day, a version of the 426 HEMI still powers every single Funny Car and Top Fuel engine regardless of being badged by other manufacturers.
  • The 426 HEMI was, in fact, under the hood of the 1969 Dodge Charger immortalized on The Dukes of Hazzard.

Specifications

Chrysler’s original (Gen I) HEMI engine debuted in 1951 and featured revolutionary hemispherical-shaped combustion chambers. The second generation (Gen II) 426 was based on this design, but unlike the street-based Gen I HEMI, it was originally built specifically for racing. The slightly detuned street 426 HEMI offered 425 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 490 ft.-lbs. of torque at 4,000 rpm.

The 426 HEMI was offered in many vehicles across the Dodge/Plymouth platforms. This impressive list includes the Dodge Coronet R/T and Coronet Super Bee, Dodge Charger, Plymouth Belvedere GTX, Plymouth Satellite, Plymouth Barracuda, and Plymouth Superbird. It was discontinued in 1971.

Modifications

If you’re lucky enough to own a (Gen II) 426 HEMI, here are some common upgrades for the “Elephant:”

Editor’s Note: This series counts down the Top 10 engines of all time—see how the voting was done by reading our initial post.

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88 Comments

  1. Dave how comes you didn’t give HP ratings for the 426 hemi race motor !?!? and are you a Chrysler man ? How in the hell can FORDS 427 SOHC ENGINE COME IN AT 10 th place ???? or is This just your opinon ?

    • OnAllCylinders says:

      Hi Herb! The voting for this Top 10 was done by readers and followers on Facebook.

      • I second you Herb !! The Ford’s 427 is in fact a “chef d’oeuvre” of mecanics. I accord the fisrt place too (and I know those mecanics !!!)

        • Michael Megee says:

          I agree Herb, most readers have never heard of a Ford’s “sock” motor because NASCAR banned it before it ever ran one race. But Ford spent a lot of money on racing in the sixties and the OHC was a most influential technology that today is parked in our garage.

    • Race motor like what was in the limited production 68 dart/cuda hp figures were stout. Fastest stock vehicle ever 1/4 mile. SS/AA record of 8.92. Only cars that run in that class. No chebbs or ferds. Vernon, nope. McLaren, nope. T-bolt Nada. Etc, Etc.

  2. Billie Sue says:

    ◾”The 426 HEMI was, in fact, under the hood of the 1969 Dodge Charger immortalized on The Dukes of Hazzard”………….This is FALSE!!!

    • There were several stunt cars used instead to series. She had 318, 383, and a few 440’s. No hemis. That would be silly now wouldn’t it. Cannonball run stupidest line…….watcha got in that thing?…….383 hemi. Probably written by a bunch of Chevy goons

      • Actually you could build a 383 Hemi in there late 70s by using STAGE V heads. It was an aftermarket hemi head designed to bolt on to B&RB Chrysler engines.

  3. Gday I cant find anything on your site about chrysler australias legendary hemi 6 engine which powered the australian valiants and dodge trucks from 1970-1981.it replaced the slant 6 in 1970 it came in 3 versions 215ci 245ci 265ci, the 265 also came in race version with triple webber carbs for the australian r/t chargers ,the power fullest 302bhp in the e49 r/t charger & the fastest mass produced car over the 1/4 mile at the time. I think it should be on your site.
    Cheers dan.

  4. 426 Hemi is the greatest race motor ever, period. Cant be intelligently argued otherwise. opinions are like…….well. Remove the hemi from the NHRA record books and and see what is left. A pamphlet, leaflet, flyer. The end.

    • Hillfolk says:

      I thought it was an engine. Not a motor.

    • REALLY?????? Can-Am, LeMans, Sebring ring a bell? The Chevy ZL1 completely dominated Can-Am (world wide competition Ferrari, Porsche, Ford) for FOUR YEARS! Hemi? ZERO! L88 broke the GT speed record at LeMans by 20 MPH in 1967, and had class wins at 24 hours of Daytona and Sebring. ZL1 dominated AHRA and spanked Sox & Martin the first time out and all season on the way to the Championship! Thanks for playing!

  5. Records don’t lie, the 426 Hemi is a Legend. The hype of the Ford SOHC Engine meant nothing to Chrysler. People always try to shoe in the Ford Single Cammer engine or Boss 429 as contenders to the 426 Hemi, but you’d think in 50 years those Ford & Chevy boys would use those engines in their Top Fuel & Funny cars rather than a bored & stroked 426 Chrysler Hemi. They have the technology to remake the Single cammer engine and Boss 429 but yet they don’t because the Chrysler Hemi is KING.

    • All you Mopar guys, get a load of this. I just had a guy on another thread from YouTube tell me that back in the 80’s that he had a 70 Chevelle with a 350 with 300 hp and 411 gear and that he outran a Hemi 5 mornings in a row. Not only that he says that Hemi is all hype. I told him if that happened it was probably one of two things. 1. The guy didn’t know how to drive. 2. The Hemi wasn’t running right. After I said that, the still held to his story. It is sad that people are that ignorant and even worse they get on a public form and prove it. I told him that you don’t get to be a legend off of hype.

      • Tom, well put. That guy needed to compare apples to apples and not speak of Mopar after the emission standards were changed in the 70’s. I’ve done my fair share of research on Dodge, Chevy and Ford. Mopar had it right in the 60’s and no-one will ever take that from them. If the hemi’s were hype, then why are they still the biggest name in motorsports.

      • Ya is that the same 350 thats faster than anything in top fuel? lol

      • a 70 350 chevy probably didnt have 200 hp

      • chevy from 71 to 74 was not ready for lower compression . olds,buick,and pontiac made great running cars because they didnt rely on their name and kept trying intead of chevy who sold bogus musclecars based on ss abd z nameplates. t

    • Mylan Miller says:

      I don’t know that Top fuel cars you have been watching but the Force Cars are FORD powered an have been for years! There are no Chrysler hemis in the John Force cars weather in Top fuel or funny car!

      • If it’s got wires going through the center of the valve cover it’s a hemi! And every force top fuel or funny car does in fact! Sorry no ford power there, they have tried but can’t compete at that power level

        • John Heelan says:

          First off almost all of you are way off. There are no Chrysler, Ford or GM engines running in any of these cars. they are all manufactured by a couple different engine manufacturing company’s, (NOT CHRYSLER). they are indeed based on a Hemi design. Not based on the Chrysler Hemi and not based on the Ford Semi Hemi Boss 429. Just based on a hemispherical cylinder. These engines have no markings that tie them to Chrysler in any way shape or form. They resemble Chrysler only in the fact that the distributor comes out at a similar angle. Tell me, how many Mopar 426 Hemi engines has anyone seen with two distributors like the engines on the track? Wires coming out of the valve cover means nothing. The 429 Boss wires also came out of the valve cover. For that matter all modular Ford V8 and many other engines now have the wire down in the valve cover.

          • Stock Chrysler Hemis on Nitro owned the top fuel categories. 392 way before the 426.Go to draglist and do some nhra history..

          • Paul Leatzaw says:

            Back in 71 we were running duel distributor duel spark-plug Hemi’s.
            For instance you can find plenty of pix of Sox&Martin’s setup…
            Yes the Force setups and ANYthing in top fuel all owe to the basic Chrysler HEMI designs.
            Typical crying fordies lol

      • Likewise. All other makes use the Hemi design. A Hemi can easily handle 1500 HP without strengthening any of the internal parts. Can’t be said for any other production engine. Give credit where it belongs.

        • The bone stock Chrysler Hemi outlasted any engine from anywhere on Nitro. It would handle the punishment of Nitro fuel.

      • Kenny Pichardo says:

        Mylan, You must be 8 years old or don’t follow drag racing. ALL of top fuel run and upgraded version of the original Chrysler Hemi! No matter what body they put over the chassis.

  6. Michael Megee says:

    The Ford SOHC motor was a 90 day engineering marvel that transformed their original 427. Ford got the idea from the overhead cam V8 Indy car that was quite successful in the early to mid ’60’s. The 427, remains to this day (as far as I know), Fords winningest race engine in its various forms. Josh, it’s true that the hype of the Ford SOHC meant nothing to Chrysler because it wasn’t hype; it was VERY real and it was very reliable as well. If it wasn’t for Chrysler’s political efforts with NASCAR at the time, the rules today might be very different in NASCAR. There are rumors that Chrysler threatened NASCAR with a DOHC, 900 HP, version of their 426 if the Ford motor was allowed. At the time the Chrysler motor was just an idea, the Ford motor was running but the pressure brought to NASCAR by Chrysler resulted in some rules changes. Ford returned the favor by arguing to NASCAR that the 426 Hemi, also, wasn’t a “production” motor and the result was that Chrysler sat out the 1965 NASCAR schedule (maybe went home to pout). The SOHC motor brought an additional 200 HP and 1500 RPM to an already pretty strong Ford 427, like I said earlier, I believe the 427 is Fords winningest race motor of all time but the motor was relegated to a colorful history in drag racing and some marine applications. NASCAR did change the rules because of the Ford motor and a few years ago when Toyota came to race they had to design a new engine because they didn’t have an engine with a “cam in block” like the rules now insist. Oh yes, they have the technology to do a lot of things but they will not rebuild an old engine, however, you have to admit that the OHC technology in the early ’60’s was definitely ahead of its time. . . . now it’s in your Toyota Camry or whatever you are driving. I know personally that in 1969 you could still buy a 427 SOHC crate motor from Ford for about $2500.00. . . and shoulda bought a Cobra for $7900.00 too! Ha!

  7. Chrysler developed a double overhead cam Hemi(called the Doomsday Machine), when NASCAR saw it, they outlawed OHC engines.

    • Mylan Miller says:

      the so called Doomsday machine was no more than talk! The engineers at ford had lots of experience with a Dual over head cam Engine they al ready had one that they used in Indy and one in Formula one! They could have easy made a 4 cam engine. The 427 high riser Won 35 Races in 1964 racing against the hemi, the 427 was a production engine, the Hemi was a race only engine only a hand full of guys with the right connections
      could get one! Nascar ban both the Hemi and 427 high riser because Junior Johnson claimed most Americans were Chevy people they should have a winner in Nascar! This was the start of the Chevy favoriteisiom and it never stopped

  8. Don Prudomme said they had to replace the block in his SOHC digger every week.

    • Mylan Miller says:

      That is BS the 427 ford engine was strong enough to stand 24 hours of 7000 RPM at Leman, there wee on 426 Hemis at that race! The ford 427 was such a bad engine it won 36 NASCAR races in 1964! If the SOHC was not ban no body would have even herd of a 426 Hemi!

  9. The legendary elephant. This was such a powerful engine. Have to agree with some of the others, there should be more talk about horse power.

  10. Drive by Drew says:

    There is some mis…stating of reality here. Hemi style heads are on top fuel dragsters…..Hemi is a style of combustion chamber ……often seen on race motors…..that style head which Mopar did not invent has been around long time. Just because a race motor has a hemi style head does not mean it is Mopar.

    • (V)oPar Matt says:

      Drew you really need to study up on what is bolted to together in today’s Top Fuel machines. Yes they are HEMI style heads and they will actually bolt up to an original 426 Gen II cylinder block. The truth can not be hidden. As far as the sloppy Ferd SOCKS go that sloppy 6 foot timing chain was and is their Achilles heel. (V)oPars rule now as they did then.

    • Your silly, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIkmxUFjrVs&t=137s Bone stock 392 chryslers on Nitro fuel owned the drag strip. Do some research on draglist.com.

  11. Drive by Drew says:

    Mopar had had and used very good marketing of the word Hemi. But it has been very misleading in many ways also.
    .

  12. Drew, NHRA fuel engines are still to this day based on the original Chrysler design. It’s in the rule book. Grab one and have a look.

    • being a diehard mopar man I still thought that one day Chevy with all of their money and research would come up with a motor to dethrone the HEMI. But I guess it wasnt meant to be. To go faster than anyone you still have to pour nitro into a hemi no other combination will work period. It seems to be an unwritten rule of the universe. LIke no one will ever eclipse Richard Pettys 200 wins!

  13. Gee guys. Seems to me that back in the day (60’s) a guy by the name of Mickey Thompson developed Hemi style heads for your dad’s Pontiac. Chrysler built one of the best and most powerful designs, but certainly not the only one. Think Jag, Alfa, Aircraft engInes and even tank engines Chrysler designed during WWII.
    The Hemi design is all about volumetric efficiency. Flow numbers don’t lie. Regardless of who designed it.

  14. The problem with the Hemi is it was way too rare. What good is an engine if nobody can find one or own one? I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and I never saw one owned by anybody where I lived and I lived in a decent sized town. There were plenty of 440, 383, 340, 318 though.

    • Interesting Carl, I live in a moderate sized Canadian town, Red Deer, Alberta. Approximately 100,000 people, I own a ’68 hemi charger, a 2011 5.7 hemi ram and a 2015 Challenger Hellcat, 6.2 hemi. The hemi may not be as common as say a chev 350, but it is still pretty popular ! As well there are probably more gen 2 hemi cars now than mopar originally produced, thanks to the aftermarket and the soaring values of original hemi cars. One last thing, as far as I know, I could drop a complete KB top fuel engine right into the engine bay of my 68 charger, it’ll bolt right up, that’s how close it is to the original design. ( admittedly that thing would turn my charger into a pretzel first time out ! )

      • Kenneth Bewley says:

        your 2011 hemi ram and your hellcat are HEMI’s that are HEMI’s in name only. If it don’t have a Hemispherical combustion chamber then it’s only a badge car.

    • I grew up in the 60’s. The street hemi was not that strong. A good 300hp 327 could bust them with ease.

  15. One small (large) error. In your fun facts, you are incorrect about “every” funny car and Top Fuel engine is based on the 426 Hemi. You have forgotten about the McGee’s in Australia building a total alternative engine configuration. The OHC motor. Mediocre success though.

    • The McGee was a twin overhead cam configuration based on the 426 Hemi block. A friend of mine had one in a Top Fuel car and never had any success.
      Kenny Bernstien’s operation bought one but never used it in competition. They were fairly well thought of in boat racing though. NHRA outlawed them in their Fuel classes.

  16. Hemi will always rule fact

  17. Hi I late 1966 I bought, what I was told, the first Plymouth Street Hemi into Texas. O.R. Mitchell in San Antonio had it sitting on the show room floor. Immediately I wrote a $1000 deposit check! Three days later I wrote a second check for $2698.75 TT&L and drove it home to Austin. Made a break-in run to Pomona Calif for the Winter Nationals.
    While there I had the engine blue-printed (I was a tad concerned about how many hard ‘test run’s might have been made before I bought it) and had a Racer Brown camshaft kit installed. The cam was just a little bit hotter than stock and the builder said the valve train was great. Also while out there I found Doug Thorley and asked him to build a set of headers for the car. He used my car as a prototype for header design for the street-hemis, both Plymouth and Dodge. With the dumps open the engine was thunderously LOUD. LOL
    Drove it back to Austin and used it as a daily driver (got only 1 ticket for being loud even with dumps closed) Raced car on weekends at San Antonio Drag Raceway, Oak Hill in Austin, Green Valley near Dallas and Little River.
    Never beat! I had a set of 413 long ram manifolds and installed them. Big end was much faster with them on. Set State record at SADR at 126.76mih/12.7 sec.
    Only bad thing that ever happened was spinning and insert on the start line at SADR.
    A whole bunch of nice folks helped push the car on its trailer. The race mechanic I had fix the insert problem wasn’t quite as reliable as I thought though. He forgot to tighten a rod-cap!! s.o.b. Didn’t do much damage, luckily.
    Daughter was born in late Fall of ’67 and I had to sell the engine to pay the hospital/doctor bulls. That hurt then and still hurts these many years later!
    Had a robust 383 I intended to put in the car, but lost my job and had to give it to the machine shop for the bill….another painful incident. Finally had to sell the Plymouth body to keep bills paid. Lost track of it soon afterward.
    All I have left are the two cancelled checks and a hellofalot of great memories.
    I cringe to think of the worth of the original car, I bought for $3698.75, is today.

    (A great friend in those days was Luke and his Wife Idelle Lucas. He & she ran a ’64 426 wedge Plymouth. He came over one day after I called him over to see my new car. Car was parked inside an old 1-car garage. As I opened the doors Luke asked” why the hell did you buy a Comet??”)
    There was a famous race 427-Comet around Texas in those days in a very similar color….kinda Silver Blue.
    Anyways, that’s the story I had to tell. Thanks

    Dave S
    Texas

  18. Mylan Miller says:

    In Race trim the Hemi was fast, as a street car the Hemi was a stone, in our local hot rod club back in the late 1960’s to 1971 we had 3 hemi cars. A 1968 Road runner, a 1970 hemi Cuba and a hemi Challenger! the guy that owned the road runner was best at keeping his in tune. The Cuda and Challenger were never fast enough to beat the 1969 440 6 pack Roadrunner that was top dog in our group! I seen the Hemi Roadrunner beat the 440 6 pack once in 3 years of racing!

  19. Mylan Miller says:

    Facts of 426 Hemi and Boss 429 By 1974 the 351 Cleveland was making the same horse power at the same RPM as the Hemi did at its peak before restrictors!
    With a production engine not a one off race engine!

  20. Kenny Pichardo says:

    Again Mylan, The horsepower numbers were manipulated to fit with all other manufactures for insurance purpose. Also, you can’t compare what one car runs versus the other because you have too many variables like builder, tuner, condition and drivers. Everybody lies on what they have in their setup. If all is equal whether is street or all out race. The Hemi usually always wins.

  21. Many thanks to Mylan Miller for mentioning the Ford 351 Cleveland Small Block mass production engine. But it will most certainly open that messy can of worms full of misinformation that first started over 40 years ago as the result of a somewhat respectable automotive performance magazine that published an article written by a well known journalist, which was based on ignorance and opinions rather than facts.

    I would be ignorant to even suggest that a showroom stock production Ford canted valve small block engine of the early seventies could perform as well as the “Hemi” or the other big block engines produced during that era. But there are a couple of reality based facts that can be found in the record books that deserve to be mentioned.

    Before the 500 cubic inch engine displacement rule became mandatory in NHRA Pro Stock drag racing, Ford 351 Cleveland based engines with the typical modifications of the day were dominant with multiple National Championship titles

    The NASCAR record books are also a reliable source of information about the winning performance of this particular Ford small block engine. Can it handle the 8000+ horsepower of supercharged nitromethane applications that require total aftermarket engine components that happen to have hemispherical shaped combustion chambers ? Of course not. But I don’t recall ever seeing a flame belching nitro burner on the street either.

    Sure the Chrysler 426 “Hemi” and Ford 427 Single Overhead Cam engines weren’t approved for competition in NASCAR sanctioned racing. But the only engine that has been banned, restricted or totally outlawed the most times at tracks across the country is any Ford engine with “Cleveland” style cylinder heads. Not opinion…just published facts in the rule books !

  22. USMCinfantry says:

    According to John aka “Bo Duke” Schneider in a Jan. 2012 Hot Rod Magazine interview there were no Hemi powered Chargers used in the series. “We had a lot of 440’s but none were Hemi’s.” Which stands to reason. Hemi Chargers were rare from day 1. And they went thru A LOT of Chargers during the series. And Hemi Chargers have always been expensive compared to 383 & 440 powered cars.

  23. Take a look at who has dominated the Pure Stock Muscle Car Drags for the last 15 years: L88 Corvette! Hemi Cuda isn’t even close! In Feb 1993, Corvette Fever ran an L88 vs a Shelby Cobra, pure stock, on street tires. The L88’s best run: 11.88; Cobra: 12.52.

  24. The guy from Texas with his 66 street hemi story is so full of chit it makes me laugh! First of all a 1966 car hit the street in late 65, a full year before this idiot bought his and claims to have the first one in Texas? 2 Doug Thorley would have made headers for the street Hemi cars at least a year before this idiot went to Calif! 3 I doubt that he had his engine “blueprinted at the winternationals. 4 His claim of using 413 long ram intake manifold is more bullshit since any Mopar guy and most Ford and Chevy guys know that 413 wedge manifolds wont fit on a Hemi engine! I just tell it like i see it..

  25. CHARLES BAKER says:

    Cars and politics! Everyone has their own opinion.

  26. most of the replies have come from a bunch of Razzle Dazzle Wankers!

  27. i like razzing about cars ,but one thing is true….chevys were not ready to run on lower compression . olds,buick,and pontiac seen the writing on the wall and had begun early how to make good power due to air flow instead of compression in the sixties. thats why those three outran chevies by a bunch starting in 1971. there was a little dropoff but chevies sank like a rock….im a mopar fan but we still recognize the 455 pontiac sd as one of the monster motors of all time. and the w30s, and stagege 1s ran great up through 1972 … chevy sold bogus musclecars for 4 years to the public from 71-74

  28. Well all of you ford guys juuust might be able to win on the street, but bring your 429 boss to the strip to face a 426 hemi.. you’ll find out juuust how fast your car is 🙂 not to mention the hemi was really made up to what it is all because they thought the 413 cross ram was too much.. the only power chevy really experienced was a 454, 427 rat, and a 409. To me, chevy will never be anything more than a beefed up teenager car. you want a man’s car? buy a mopar.

  29. john f conrad says:

    which first generation v-8 hemi motor was or is the most dependable ? what early hemi transmission worked the best , also .

  30. James Delk says:

    There was a 1969 charger 500, 4sd manual, 12:1 comp, mechanicals…lifters, 2-4’s
    I owned the car for three years. 41/4 x 41/4. Bought at Mid city chrysler, Jax. Fl.
    Race Hemi. Gator nationals 1970 11:23 street tires. To say race 426 hemis were not placed into 69 mopars is a mistake. This is the fact of it all gentlemen, the elephant hemi, well tuned , race or street engines did stand alone as the most powerful production engines
    made in America and arguably in the world. They were difficult to keep finely tuned, but when correctly tuned were all but impossible to beat street dragging, given that the driver understood how to start. Exceptions to all that abounds…but given the norms , those are the then and everlasting facts. jd

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