Over the original production life of the 426 Hemis from 1964-1971, Chrysler produced around 11,000 Hemi-equipped cars. While that number was low, it was enough, and the legacy of Hemi power never faded away. Today, Mopar is casting blocks, heads, and can provide everything required to build one of these legendary powerplants brand-new. In fact, with the aftermarket offerings in the realm of Hemi components, the range of options in just how a Hemi can be built has never been broader. While the builders in our Hemi Challenge have all earned a name for their expertise with the Hemi engine, the engine's exclusive status means that not many of us typical Mopar guys have had the honor of wrenching on one. So we'll take a detailed look at the top-end components that make a Hemi a Hemi, and let the builders in the Hemi challenge tell us what they like.
With the Royal Purple/Mopar Muscle Hemi Challenge just on the horizon, we were curious about what these Hemi engine builders had going for their top-end combinations. We know cylinder heads will be a major factor in the power production of the various engines, and we're sure the competitors thought long and hard about the direction they would take in building their Hemi competitors. we found the builders seemed to each have their own approach and philosophy about how to get the most out of their engines, and we were pleased to see quite a variety in hardware. Without a doubt, there is more than one way to make power, and we thought we'd share some of the ideas of our feature builders. The variety of ideas makes us sure the final competition will be a real eye opener.
Mike Ware, Muscle Motors
"One of the things we looked to balance in this competition is real world cost versus all-out glory. In a competition like this, there is really no end to how far you can go with exotic one-off modifications and edgy dyno-bomb combinations. We built our reputation on practicality versus cost, and giving the customer real sensible value for his performance dollar. I know the cost of the engine is going to be tallied in the results and scoring, but there will always be a level of unaccountable custom work to optimize a combination like this. I really want to put together a Hemi engine that will be legit as far as what a customer enlisting our services can expect for real-world output. Given the constraints of the rules, I feel this competition is targeted towards the hot-street guy, and, for most of them, bang for the buck and, ultimately, reliability over the long haul is what matters.
"For cylinder heads, I've decided to go with the Mopar Performance aluminum heads. From a cost-to-performance standpoint, this head is the way to go. The exhaust port is in the stock location, which saves untold headaches to the final user because, ultimately, engines are built for cars, not dynos. We are going to have the heads fully CNC ported because it is exactly the same port configuration we can give to the customer on a cost-effective basis. I can spend 80-plus hours hand-rubbing the castings just for the contest, but at shop labor rates, you do the math. The bottom line is keeping it real, and, in real terms, what we'll show is what the customer can expect. Airflow is power, so our CNC heads will be more than up to the job, but the whole combination will play to make our number."