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Monday February 10, 2014
Why did Chrysler Dump the Hemi? '70 Duster 340 Test, 2001 Roush Mustang Test, 1956 Packard Review, John Force Wins @ Pomona - and More!

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Why did Chrysler Dump the Hemi?
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1957 Hemi

The 1957 Chrysler 300 may have been the high water mark for the Series 1 Hemi. The 1958 model delivered the same HP.

Long Ram 383 under song

A 383 long ram under full song on the dyno - circa 1959.

by Wild About Cars Staff - reprint with permission only

Few of us were around (or old enough to recall) the big news for 1959 at Chrysler – the Hemi was gone! Though still available in the Imperial, the big bad 392 was history, replaced by the “RB” 413. Know this, Chrysler took a lot of heat from the performance community when they dropped the Hemi in favor of the wedge big block.

But the real question was why? First, we have to go back and understand the times. Wedge engines were sophisticated and combustion chamber design was far enough along that solid HP was not a problem in the non-hemi camp. Buick’s rather tame 401 made a solid 325 HP, Caddy’s Eldorado had 390 cubes and 345 HP, Lincoln showed up with 375 ponies, and a Pontiac 389 punched out 345, and many of these engines were slow turning high torque power plants.

When you add in the cost of manufacture of a 392 Hemi and its cubic inch limitation, the smart move was to go wedge. Further, Chrysler noted that in 1956-57 they had 2 Chrysler engines (the Hemi and the Poly), three Desoto mills, two Dodge engines, and three Plymouth V8s. All the separate supply chain issues, the training and separate service costs – and most of all – the huge R&D costs to improve and redesign these V8s was just insane. And we must remember that Chrysler was number 3 in the big three – so reducing costs version production numbers was a priority.

When Chrysler designed the B and the RB block, they took into consideration the Country’s appetite for large displacement engines, and made sure RB could go all the way out to 500 cubes if necessary, and the B to 400 inches.

They also designed it so that it could be delivered in engine sizes from 350 to 440 with no extra cost, and could use the same cylinder heads and machining - making it an engine that could be shared across the entire Mopar line. The reduction in manufacturing costs, the ability to provide parts and pieces to all brands, virtually wiped out their huge supply-chain cost and delivery issues in one stroke.

Chrysler knew its cars were sought by many for their performance, so there was the Hemi mystic and lure. From 1954 on, there was a Hemi in each brand except the lowly Plymouth. Surprisingly, however, it was Plymouth that proved to Chrysler that the wedge could make it when paired up against the Hemi.

Plymouth started the ball rolling performance-wise in 1956 with their 303 cube Fury – making 240 HP when the mighty 2 4-barrel Chevy and Ford had 225. By ’57 the 318 Commando made 290 and in 1958 it pumped out 305 ponies from 350 cubes . . .

To Read more about the Hemi versus the RB Wedge!


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1970 Duster 340 Test 1970 Plymouth Duster 340 Road Test

Car Life tested the Duster 340 in March of 1970 and what came to mind for them was "deja vu" - that is, the car may look new and sharp, but it was the same execution of the Valiant, first introduced in 1964. Not to say that they didn't like it, they loved it! Light weight, low frills, but great performance! This 340 equipped Duster clipped off a 14.72 @ 94 MPH with a Torqflite trans . . .

Click here to read more about the 1970 Plymouth Duster 340!

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1959 Pontiac Catalina Test 1959 Pontiac Catalina Road Test

Hot Rod tested the 1959 Pontiac Catalina in their December 1958 issue: "We knew this was the car we had to test . . ." They were impressed with the new "Wide Track" chassis and the ease of handling and were surprised by the power of the 2-bbl 280 HP 389. (The 389 debuted in 1959). A strike by the auto workers prevented the delivery of the 345 HP "Tempest" engine they wanted, however . . .

Read the test of the1959 Pontiac Catalina!

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2001 Roush Stage 3 Mustang Modern Muscle - 2001 Roush Stage 3 Mustang Test.

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CLICK HERE to Read more about this new offering.

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