The 426 Hemi
It's hard to believe it's been 50 years since the debut of the second-generation hemispherical engine from Chrysler. When Chrysler abandoned the Hemi design after the 1958 model year, it had grown to 392 inches with 380 horsepower. Due to AMA's decree that auto companies should refrain from actively supporting racing along with the time spent in developing the Wedge-engine design, the Hemi was retired as the undisputed king of horsepower of the 50's. The engine became a popular replacement in many hot rods, not only due to the huge horsepower the engine produced, but the visual effect of those massive valve covers.
The Wedge engine was doing well as a passenger car engine, and was much cheaper to build than the Hemi configuration. History has shown that Lynn Townsend and his sons were instrumental in Chrysler taking an interest in getting back to performance. His sons would frequent Detroit's Woodward Avenue, and would come home and tell their dad that Chrysler's were thought of as stodgy old-men cars with no performance. So Lynn went to engineering and said that a new direction would be performance, and he stood by that decision with a budget and a racing department. The 1962 413 Max Wedge was the first offering that came to be. It was followed by the 1963 426 Max Wedge—both engines we used in drag and NASCAR racing. While successful on the street and at Dragways, they weren't as stellar in NASCAR. In the spring of 1963 Townsend asked what it would take to win the Daytona 500 in 1964. Tom Hoover was the head of the race group at the time, and the assignment was given and budget approved in April of 1963 to build something capable of winning. The old A-311 program (Indy Hemi Engine) served as the inspiration.
Rather than start fresh, it was better to improve on the original design. After all, they knew some of the pitfalls on the Gen I Hemi, and manufacturing limitations that influenced the performance capabilities. Even in the new design, there was going to be some limitations; the bore centers were limited at the Trenton Engine plant, where the machinery had limited capabilities. Frank Bilk was assigned to do the layouts of the new head and valve gear. Hoover will be the first to admit that while he is credited as the Father of the Hemi, much of the accolades go to Frank. He had the ability to visualize designs. Using the 392 as the basis, they kept the exhaust rocker arms the same length, it was the largest and heaviest of the design, but drag racers were turning 7,000 rpm with that design. Bilk decided to tip the head inboard a few degrees, to allow the exhaust pushrod to clear the head gasket bead. This also enhanced the flow line to the intake valve. Models of the design were sent to Harry Westlake in England, where he optimized the design and shape. Forbes Bunting was responsible for coming up with a better intake manifold design. Of course during durability testing, some issues came up, a weakness in the right cylinder-block walls led to cracks forming. Time was running out, so the decision was made to supply these early blocks to the teams for qualifying, while a new design was being cast. The new block arrived just a few days before the race. The result was a 1-2-3 finish at Daytona, a better movie script could not have been written. The Hemi became the king of NASCAR for many years. The engineering team concentrated on the NASCAR version first, so next up was the drag version. It required a different setup. By mid-1964 the engine and cars were ready. Two versions of the engine were built; one was 415 horsepower with 11:1 compression. This engine featured dual Carter AFB carbs on a cross ram manifold for the all-steel cars. A 425 horsepower version with 12.5:1 and Holley carbs was built for the lightweight aluminum cars. Chrysler targeted the 1965 NHRA Super Stock class with specially built cars that became known as the A990 cars. The 1965 Winter Nationals were composed of entirely of A990 cars, with Bill Jenkins coming out on top, running an elapsed time of 11.39 at 126.05 mph. These same engines were installed in the altered wheelbase cars, and they dominated the competition. 1966 marked the year that Chrysler released the Street Hemi. The special drag race engines were continued in Super stock, but the street versions competed in the A/Stock class. With rule changes in NASCAR, Chrysler was forced to offer the engine in production cars. The rest you can say is history, the Hemi engine is iconic, as it is the winningest engine combination in NHRA racing's Funny Car and Top Fuel categories to this day and for many, many, years to come.
Dodge Scat Pack Club – 45th Anniversary
In 1968, Dodge took a unique approach in creating a marketing pitch for all of its high performance cars, and called it the Scat Pack. Dodge's requirements to be a member of the Scat Pack, meant that first, the car had to be able to run the quarter mile in the 14-seconds or better. This limited qualifiers to the Charger R/T, the Coronet R/T, the mid-year Superbee (based on the Coronet), and the new Dart 340 GTS. While the first three cars listed were all B-Bodies, the Dart was the only A-Body that made the list. It came with a small block 340 as standard equipment, and could be had with an optional 383 Magnum. The 340 was a new small block for Dodge, and would become the hottest small-block in the Mopar lineup. To identify the cars that qualified as a member of Scat Pack, the cars received dual stripes wrapped around the rear fenders and deck lid, and though the stripes themselves were standard equipment, they could be deleted if the car was ordered as such.
Print ads, brochures, decals, and clothing were offered to promote the cars. In 1970, the Scat Pack cars were listed as the Dart Swinger 340, Coronet Superbee, Challenger and Charger R/T, and Charger Daytona. Dodge also created a Scat Pack Club, complete with a newsletter, sending the Direct Connection parts catalog to members at no cost, and setting up Scat Packages of Mopar parts. These included the Showboat (dress-up kit), Read-Out (gauges), Kruncher (drag/strip), Bee-Liever (manifold, carb, cam, headers), and Top Eliminator (Six-Pack setup, electronic ignition - yes, in 1970 - electric fuel pump and cool can.) Club members got the catalog, wallet card, jacket patch, bumper sticker, 40 page guide to auto racing, the monthly Dodge Performance News, and the quarterly Dodge Scat News, for a stunningly low $3 per year.
In 1971, the price to join the club rose to $5.95, the Charger Superbee replaced the Coronet version, and the 340 Demon was added to the list. As the muscle car era was fading due to insurance rates and new emission laws, it turned out to be the last year of the promotion. The Scat Pack program ended almost as quickly as it had begun.
The Bee logo itself became somewhat iconic, and was instantly identified as the logo of the Scat Pack.