The 23 Greatest Moments in Chrysler Hemi History
Updated May 18, 2018
The Chrysler Hemi is 64 years old. In that time its shook-up Indy and NASCAR and continues to set records in drag racing. Click next to view all 23 great moments.
Great Moments 1951
Chrysler introduces its first Hemi engine, called the FirePower, used in Chrysler passenger cars from 1951 to 1955. Most used a two-barrel carburetor and produced 180 hp until 1955.
Great Moments 1952
A 331 CID fuel-injected Hemi engine, producing 410 hp, is fitted to a Kurtis Kraft 500A roadster and tested at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It ran for 1500 miles, including a simulated 500 mile race which it completed at 4 mph faster than the track record. Alarmed, officials lowered the maximum displacement for stock block engines from 340 CID to 270 CID. Chrysler chooses to withdraw.
Great Moments Three: 1953
In the spring of1954 wealthy sports car enthusiast and America’s Cup yacht skipper Briggs Cunningham appeared on the cover of Time magazine along with three of his custom-built race cars that carried his name. His Cunningham C-4R race cars, powered by 331 CID Chrysler Hemi engines won the 1953 12 Hours of Sebring and finished third at the 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Great Moments 1956
The 354 CID engine was released in 1956, The version of the engine installed in the Chrysler 300B engine was rated at 340 hp with an optional 355 hp version available, making it the first American V-8 to be rated at one horsepower per cubic inch.
Great Moments 1958
Don “Big Daddy” Garlits sets a new drag racing top speed record at 170-mph in his “Swamp Rat” 392 Hemi powered dragster.
Great Moments 1959
The original Ramchargers team, comprised of off-duty Chrysler engineers, debut “High & Mighty” their Hemi-powered C/Altered ’49 Plymouth to win the NHRA Nationals. The Ramchargers would become an enormous force and influence on stock-bodied drag racing in the 1960s.
Great Moments 1964
After a six year absense, the Chrysler Hemi returns. The generation II engine displaces 426 CID, with dimensions so large its nicknamed “the elephant”. Intended only as a race engine, Richard Petty debuts the Generation II Hemi at Daytona, where he laps the entire field on his way to winning the Daytona 500. It’s a clean 1-2-3 sweep for the 426 Hemi at the 1964 Daytona 500.
Don Garlits breaks 200-mph quarter-mile barrier in Hemi-powered Top Fuel dragster in August at Island Dragway with an ET of 7.78 seconds and trap speed of 201.34 mph.
Great Moments 1965
NASCAR outlaws the Generation II 426 Hemi by setting minimum production levels for street use.
Bob Summers sets the wheel-driven 409.227 mph Land Speed Record in “Goldenrod” using four Hemi engines in tandem.
Great Moments 1966
Chrysler begins to offer a slightly detuned version of the Generation II 426 Hemi in production cars. NASCAR approves the 426 Hemi for competition. Richard Petty again wins the Daytona 500 in his Hemi-powered Plymouth Belvedere.
Great Moments 1967
Richard Petty wins an incredible 27 Grand National races in Hemi Plymouth; 10 in a row. Richard Petty wins his second NASCAR championship in his Hemi Plymouth.
Great Moments 1969
The winged 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona with Hemi power reigns over NASCAR super speedways. Buddy Baker driving a Dodge Charger Daytona was the first driver in NASCAR history to break the 200 mph mark on March 24, 1970 at Talladega.
Great Moments 1971
The Sox and Martin drag racing team win the Pro Stock category at six of eight NHRA events; they represent drag racing at an auto racing reception at the White House.
Great Moments 1992
Kenny Bernstein breaks the 300 mph barrier in a quarter-mile in his Top Fuel race car at the NHRA Gatornationals using an aftermarket aluminum engine block and heads based on the Generation II Chrysler Hemi design.
Great Moments 1992
Chrysler brings back the Generation II Elephant as a crate motor. Rodders and restorers around the world rejoice.
Great Moments 2003
The Hemi returns as a 5.7 L V8 for the Ram 1500 pickup truck. The Generation III Hemi that develops up to 345 hp at 5,400 rpm and 375 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm. By 2013 the 5.7 L Hemi is producing 395 hp in the Ram 1500.
Great Moments 2005
After nearly 50 years, the Hemi engine returns to a Chrysler brand passenger vehicle in the new Chrysler 300C and, after nearly 30 years, to a Dodge brand passenger vehicle in the Dodge Magnum R/T, fitted with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, produces 340 hp.
Also for the 2005 model year, Chrysler’s The Street and Racing Technology (SRT) team develops a 6.1 L version of the Hemi to power Chrysler Group SRT8 models – the 425 hp engine is the highest-rated specific-output naturally-aspirated V-8 ever offered by the Chrysler Group. Its 69.8 horsepower-per-liter rating exceeds even that of the legendary 1966 “Street Hemi.”
Great Moments 2008
Tom Burkland sets a new wheel-driven speed record with his Burkland 411 steamliner powered by two supercharged Generation II Hemi engines. Burkland hits 418.896 mph at the famed Bonneville salt flats.
Great Moments 2015
Chrysler releases the Hellcat version of the Hemi, a 6.2 L V8 with an integrated supercharged and charge cooler. Power output of 707 hp and 650 ft-lb make the Hellcat-equipped Challenger and Charger the most powerful muscle cars built by any manufacturer, in the current or classic eras.
Chrysler brings back the Scat Pack Shaker Hood on the 2015 Challenger, when paired to the most powerful normally aspirated engine in the Generation III Hemi, the cold air package boosts the 392 (6.4 L) to 484 hp.
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