The Hemi engine. Your feelings depend on whether you're an aficionado or an infidel. While aficionados revel in it, infidels fear it. It's been the subject of countless stories, songs, and bench-racing sessions. The question now arises: Is there a way to update the Hemi mystique? We are not talking about the 5.7 Hemi engine that now graces the area between the fenderwells of the Dodge truck. We're referring to the behemoth that has stricken fear into countless boulevard lightweights that dared to try and overthrow a king.

Bringing the old-style Hemi into the 21st century is Mopar Engines West. MEW is the brainchild of Richard Nedbal, a true Mopar guy with his roots embedded deeply in the heyday of pre-'70s performance. Richard was born in Chicago in 1945, and his first Mopar drag car was a '58 dual-quad Plymouth. Later, he drove and raced a '64 Dodge on the streets of the northwest suburbs. It was the heyday of Mr. Norm, whose dealership was right down the street from where Richard lived. After college and a stint overseas fighting for Uncle Sam, Richard landed a job doing semiconductor and EFI research at Carnegie Mellon Institute. He was then hired to help design a microprocessor-based sequential EFI system with spark control. In case you haven't gotten the picture yet, he is, by his own admission, a combination gearhead, Mopar lover, and electronics nerd.

Timing Is Everything
When Richard called and informed us that he had created a working Hemi engine with fuel injection and no distributor, he had our attention, to say the least. His trick-he found a coil that would fit down into the spark-plug tube. Why use eight separate coils with eight separate wires leading to each plug? You might as well use a distributor instead and make it simple. Since when do we settle on making things simple? Richard explained that both the sequential EFI, and particularly the electronic distributor that F.A.S.T. calls EDIST, would need a cam signal. A crank trigger is fine for timing the injectors, and for letting a particular spark plug know when to fire. But, knowing which plug to fire and which injector to pulse requires that the system understand where the engine is during its cycle. It needs one pulse for each revolution of the cam. Richard explains that this is usually done with a modification to the distributor. Simply grind off seven of the eight reluctor points on an MSD distributor, and you will now get one pulse per cam revolution. Now you need to use a crank trigger for the crank signal since you no longer have a distributor that can do that. This works great and is Richard's preferred method. The problem: There would still be a distributor housing in the motor, even if it didn't have plug wires connected to it.

Enter the use of a Jesel beltdrive instead of a timing chain. One nice feature of the Jesel is the cam gear is exposed outside the timing cover, making cam-timing changes easy. With an exposed aluminum cam gear, Richard simply drilled a hole for a small magnet, fabricated a bracket for the cam sensor itself, and voil-a cam signal. To cover the distributor hole, he fabricated a simple distributor plug with a dummy idler-shaft from an old distributor, then machined a billet hold-down clamp and the EDIST Hemi took on a whole new look.