We spent a half day on the dyno with the essentially stock Hemi, and then off it came for additional mods. With the factory combo, we already witnessed enough power to satisfy the needs of almost any power-hungry speed junky. Consider the entire package: mild compression for pump gas, a maintenance-free hydraulic cam spec'd for daily use, and a no-hassle single four-barrel carb sitting on a modest two-plane intake-about as foolproof as a combo can get. We had to wonder: If the Hemi could show these numbers in such a demure package, what would we find if we turned up the heat a bit?

Rollin' Thunder
Turning up the heat pointed us to the camshaft as a starting point, and this time we didn't fool around. We considered a Hemi a solid base for a serious performance mill, and we decided to move straight from a hydraulic flat tappet to a stout solid roller. Solid rollers aren't cheap, but neither are Hemis, so we felt justified. Instead of a full-on race roller, we opted for one of Crane Cams' street roller grinds-a PowerMax SR-254/374-2S-12. This cam is not for the fainthearted, spec'ing out with .254/.262 degrees duration at .050, and .587/.568-inch lift on the intake and exhaust lobes, respectively.

Along with the camshaft, the roller conversion requires the matching roller lifters, PN 66515-16, matching pushrods, PN 66624-16, and a camshaft thrust button, PN 99163, to keep the cam from walking in the bore. Also required with a billet roller is a compatible aluminum-bronze distributor drive gear, which we picked up from Milodon. A roller cam is much more aggressive than a hydraulic flat tappet, and requires a significant upgrade in valvesprings. We swapped out the factory single springs for a matched set of Crane duals (consult the cam manufacturer for recommendations for your application).

We then had a solid street-roller-equipped crate Hemi that was otherwise stock. We suspected some additional changes would be required to make the most of the new camshaft combination, but, at the time, we were content to run the engine with this single change and test it to see what kind of gain it would net. We had a bit of a delay before we could schedule a follow-up day on the Westech dyno. Unfortunately, the 950hp Holley carb we had used for a baseline was no longer available, so we substituted a 975 Race Demon carb on top of the factory dual-plane intake.

The Hemi cranked to life with the sound to match its serious performance looks. The stout street roller had the unmistakable burble of a heavy-hitting performance combo, but it wasn't so outrageous that we were afraid to run it on the street. Again, working the tuning loops, we zeroed in on the optimal jetting, and using the same 33-degree timing setting as in our previous test, we found 534 hp at 6,400 rpm. The cam change was worth 40 hp-a solid gain-and came with a good 700-rpm increase in usable powerband without detracting from power production lower in the rev range. Still, we felt the camshaft/cylinder-head combination should make some explosive power even higher in the rpm band. The key, we believed, would be to complement the combination with a change in the induction system to let it breathe even higher up the range.

With our new combo, the dual-plane factory intake manifold appeared out of place. We wanted a serious single-plane intake manifold that would add to the high-rpm breathing capacity of the Hemi heads worked by the Crane roller cam. To fill that bill, we scored a high-rise Barton single four-barrel manifold. The Barton piece has the unmistakable look of an intake single-mindedly designed for performance, and comes with Dominator-pattern carb-mounting provision. A Dominator or King Demon carb bolts directly in place, while a 4150 standard-pattern carb requires an adapter. We opted to move to a large-bolt-pattern carb-a 995 King Demon.