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1964 Hemis being run up in test mode prior to shipment.

Ramchargers Stories - from Mike Buckel Part 12: Early 1964 - The Hemi arrives

By Mike Buckel and Society Staff – reprint with permission only

The joy of winning everything there was to win at the 63 Nationals was short lived.  We were aware that Henry the Duce, Ford II had opened the treasury to win every form of automotive motor sport that there was.  Our intelligence disclosed that the Ford drag racing budget was more than 10 times what Chrysler was spending on all forms of racing. 

Ford efforts in drag racing to date were essentially an embarrassment, as none of the cars were within 5 mph of the pace required to win.  In the fall of 63 we were booked into a match race with the prototype Thunderbolt with their best driver, Bill Humphreys.  We smoked him three straight at Detroit Dragway.  We were about a mile per hour faster and 15 hundreds quicker.  Two weeks later Bud Faubel smoked him three straight at Cecil County.  The outlook at Ford was definitely better.

But unbeknown to all of the Ramchargers, except Tom Hoover, was that the Hemi was coming.  The story of the birth, design and development of the Hemi is so perfectly described in Dave Rockwell's book, We Were the Ramchargers that I will not attempt to repeat or embellish it.  I had just accepted a position in the race group of the Engine Development Lab in the fall of 63 and unbeknownst to me, it was the last gasp of the wedge.  The Stage IV wedge heads had been released for the 64 Super Stock package cars.  Needless to say there was great shock and awe when the first Hemi parts showed up in the Lab's Motor Room.

The first Hemi engine, EX-1 was moved into dyno Room 15 on December 6 1963.  Room 15 had an electric dyno, which is a large diameter (3 ½ foot) generator.  The power generated from absorbing the engines power heats a large grid of resisters on the roof and the dyno can also be run as a motor.  The dyno was rated at 400 hp and 5,000 rpm. 

Two days were devoted to motoring tests to verify oiling and valve actuation.  It was after 5:00 P.M. when the first power run was made.  Ev Moller, the Manager of the Engine Lab came down and took over.  The engine was configured as a NASCAR single 4-bbl on the two-plane intake manifold.  Arnold Hyden was the operator and I was the engineer.

As the engine speed went up I was calculating the power, with my slide rule, and writing that down on the data sheet.  At 5,000 rpm the observed power level was well over 400 hp.  I pointed this out to Ev, who said, "Keep going."  Even the old guys can get excited.  We went to 5,600 rpm and 525 hp.  This was a full 35 hp more than the best ever wedge.  After that pull, the dyno was out for rewinding for six months as the internal wiring had shifted.  The engine was moved to Room 12 with a 600 hp, 8,000 rpm water brake dyno and testing focused on the 1964 Daytona 500 commenced.  The outcome of that race is well known to all that have Mopar blood in their veins.

Meanwhile the Ramchargers were preparing two 64 Dodges for the Winter Nationals.  One was a Super Stock Automatic with the Stage IV engine.  The second was the A/FX car, one of the first 4 cars with the new Hemi.  Jim Thornton had been quite creative in the design of the A/FX cars by relocating the front wheels ahead 3 inches and the rear wheels ahead 4 inches.  The rear wheel relocation was considerably complex as the wheel wells and quarter panels required modification.  Can you say funny car?  These cars became known as the "2% cars" (2% was NHRA's allowable wheelbase alteration to make up for factory tolerances) although they were really more like 5%.

At almost the last minute we decided to take the unsold 63 to the Winter Nationals.  As our plate was full, we hired an engine builder out of the Motor Room to put together a well-used block with new Stage III heads.  The combustion chambers were cc'd and sent off for machining.  The chamber volumes were not measured before the heads went on.  Oh-Oh

Lions Drag strip was rented when we arrived in Los Angeles to mostly test the A/FX cars, which, had not yet been run.  The cars would go no faster than the wedge engined cars and a decision was made not to bring them to Pomona.  The debut of the Hemi would have to wait for spring.

Mike Buckel (right) and colleague monitor the very first dyno pull of the new 426 Hemi Dec 6, 1963

The 426 drag race version of the new Hemi

The new 1964 Ramcharger A/FX Hemi car -- the first of the 2% cars

The 426 Hemi in super stock trim

Bob Tasca's 1963 427 Fairlane: "Zimmy 1" - the prototype of the 1964 Ford Thunderbolt -- we beat it in three straight