426 Hemi Powered Muscle Cars
The 426 hemi engine was first introduced to the racing world in the early 1960s. Due to their massive success, Chrysler had to develop street versions of the 426. In order to do it, there were several changes modifications. However, the muscle car era was born, and there was a continuous struggle to be the best motor company throughout its existence.
Chrysler trademarked the term "hemi" when they promoted it during the 1964 NASCAR season. It was a huge success, but NASCAR told Chrysler they must produce a 426 hemi engine for the general public if they wanted to race. You can learn more about this turn of events on our History of the 426 Hemi Engine page.
In the meantime, let's take a look at all the different racing and muscle cars that used the 426 hemi engine:
Plymouth Belvedere - Back in 1964, a version of the Plymouth Belvedere was used on the NASCAR racing circuit. The engine swept the first four spots of the Daytona 500 that year, and one of the drivers was Richard Petty. Due to the massive success, NASCAR told Chrysler they had to produce several "street" hemis in order to be involved with NASCAR. It took the company over a year to produce a detuned version of their racing engine.
Plymouth Satellite (1966-1971) - One of the first vehicles to dawn the 426 hemi engine street version was the Plymouth Satellite. It was considered to be the top model in Belvedere's mid-size line. Some believe it used the 426 hemi in 1965, but this was considered a "Commando" engine as opposed to the hemi. It was a huge difference from the other standard options. These vehicles only offer 180hp to 330hp.
Dodge Charger (1966-1971) - The beginning of January brought forth one of the muscle car era leaders; the Dodger Charger. Even though the 426 hemi engine was underneath the hood, the car itself had several innovations. Additions like wood-grain steering wheel, full length console, courtesy lights, and electroluminescence lighting for the gauges. Many would say; the Dodge Charger was well head of its time, especially with a 426 hemi and the first street vehicle to use a spoiler.
Plymouth GTX (1967-1971)- By 1967, the 426 hemi engine made its way into the Plymouth GTX, better known as the gentlemen's muscle car. This particular model had grille and rear fascia similar to the Plymouth Satellite, as well as other similarities. It was originally setup with a 440, but buyers could upgrade to the 426 hemi with an additional fee. Eventually the GTX was nicknamed; the Elephant. It could hit 60mph in 4.8 seconds and run a quarter mile in 13.5 seconds.
Dodge Dart (1968-1969)- By the time the 426 hemi engine was in the Dodge Dart, it went from a full-size vehicle to a mid-size vehicle, and then to a compact version. Its name was taken from the new military aircraft; the Delta Dart. Due to the small size, several changes needed to be made to the vehicle. In fact, a sledge hammer needed to be used on the fender wells to install the 426 hemi engine. By the time they were finished with it, the Dodge Dart could run a quarter-mile around 10 seconds.
Plymouth Barracuda (1968-1969) - The 426 hemi was installed in the Barracuda by 1968. However, only 50 of them were offered by Hurst Performance, and they were used for drag racing purposes. Even though they were primarily used for racing, anyone could purchase them, but they came with a hefty price tag. This usually eliminated the blue collar workers. No one knew at the time, but while the Barracuda was fast and powerful, it was considered a pony car to the Plymouth Road Runner.
Dodge Super Bee (1968-1971) - A revised version of the Dodge Coronet, the Super Bee was a two-door coupe that ran for a four year period. Even though it was a well known muscle car, there was a very limited supply. If a buyer was looking to purchase the Dodge Super Bee with a 426 hemi engine, it would raise the price over $1,000. Due to the heavy expense, only 125 of them were sold. Those who bought them could hit 60mph in 7 seconds or less with a standard engine, the 426 hemi engines almost guaranteed a drag race win.
Plymouth Road Runner (1968-1971) - The inception of the Road Runner developed due to reincarnated concepts. The goal was to figure out how to build a Plymouth muscle car that could run quarter-miles in 14 seconds or less. This didn't seem like a difficult process, until you heard the price. The trick was figuring out how to do this with a $3,000 or less vehicle. The Road Runner was able to overcome both obstacles, but it didn't involve the 426 hemi. If the customer wanted to have this feature, it would cost an additional $714.
The popularity of this vehicle, even without the 426 was unbelievable. While Plymouth was hoping for about 2,000 vehicles sold, they reached around 45,000 in 1968 alone.
Dodge Charger Daytona - A limited edition of the Dodge Charger, the Daytona was a tribute to the Daytona 500, and its main need was to win on the NASCAR circuit. It definitely left its mark in NASCAR history. It became the first vehicle to break 200mph back in 1970 (Talladega). The original engine was the 440, but some collectors preferred the 426 hemi engine. It was only available in 1969, and the cost was around $4,000. If you had one of these collectibles today, it would be valued around $300,000.
Plymouth Superbird (1970) - By 1970, the muscle car era was winding down due to environmental issues and overall production costs. Consumers seemed to be getting tired of the muscle cars, but there were still plenty of interested buyers, especially the racing world. Plymouth decided to come out with the Superbird in 1970 to accommodate their fans.
In fact, it was actually called the Road Runner Superbird. The goal was to make better modifications to the original Road Runner, and still offer that V8 426 Hemi. However, the true reason for building the Superbird was to get Richard Petty back from Ford. It was successful, but the street versions were a complete failure.
There were almost 2,000 units built in 1970, and the majority of them had to be turned into original Road Runners to be sold. Fast forward to today, anyone with a Superbird will be sitting on a valuable item. They have been sold for as much as two million dollars.
Plymouth Barracuda (1970-1971) - Yes, there were different versions of the Plymouth Barracuda. They resurfaced in 1970 with an E-body as opposed to the original A-body cars. Production vehicles could still have a 426 hemi V8 installed, but it was a pricey addition. There was an extra $1,228 upgrade fee to make it happen. However, buyers continued to pay the extra money because it was still considered to be the best engine on the market.
Dodge Challenger (1970-1971) - Whether it's 1970 or 2012, people still love what the Dodge Challenger has to offer. It was one of the last muscle cars to be built in the 1970s. It was considered the answer to the Camaro and Mustang, but it was much too late.
There were four hardtop models available, and the standard engine for the V8 was a 230bhp, 318 cu in with a two-barrel carb. However, individuals could once again add the 426 racing hemi under the hood. The Dodge Challenger with a 426 hemi ran the fastest quarter-mile (13.2 seconds).
The last of the muscle cars, the Dodge Challenger sold over 165,000 cars. The 2011 Challenger sold almost 40,000 in the United States.
Monteverdi Hai 450 SS (1970) - Probably one of the most interesting vehicles to have a 426 hemi engine, the Monteverdi Hai was supposed to rival high-end cars like the Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati. Unfortunately it never came to be. The price was too stiff during 1970 ($27,000), so Monteverdi never made the initial invoice of 49 units. Twenty years later they made replicas for museum purposes.
The 426 hemi engine is by far one of the biggest and baddest engines ever to be produced. If you own an old muscle car or want to build your own, the 426 will definitely win a lot of people over.