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FIREPOWER, FIREDOME and RED RAM

 CARS > MUSCLE CARS > FIREPOWER, FIREDOME and RED RAM

Used Car history 
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Hemi

 

 



Birth of the FirePower

Despite the successful test results, a Chrysler Hemi engine, or even a Hemi V-8 for that matter, was by no means certain. Convincing Chrysler upper management was a formidable task, because there were detractors within management, as well as the engineering staff itself, of both the Hemi head and the proposed V-8 configuration.

Drinkard, who joined Chrysler in 1934 and became manager of the Engine Development Laboratory in 1943, re-members the battles in the boardrooms of Chrysler over this new engine. "There were just two guys, as far as I'm concerned, that believed in the idea of the Hemi V-8 engine and tried to sell it," Drinkard recalls vividly. "Those two guys were John Platner and myself. There wasn't anybody else. Anytime you work in a big corporation, if you've got some idea and try to sell it, look out for all those guys who are going to sell some-thing else and belittle you. That is exactly what happened. Fred Zeder said, 'Look fellas, I'm not going to have any part of a V-8 engine. We've made our money on astraight eight and that's all we're going to have.' We had all these research guys in there trying to confuse the waters. Finally, K. T. Keller, the chief operating officer, said, 'Bill, I think maybe you've got the right plan.' That was the thing that turned the whole thing around." Drinkard later co-authored a paper with Mel Carpentier published by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in July 1951 detailing the laboratory findings.

Prior to and just after the war, Chrysler had tested a number of engine configurations with a multiplicity of intake manifold designs, intake and exhaust valve juxtaposition, and other mechanical variations. These included one inline five-cylinder engine, several inline six-cylinder engines, one 90 deg. V-6, and several 60 deg. V-6s and 90 deg. V-8s. One experimental V-6, the A93, had both overhead and underhead valves. The overhead intake valves were push-rod actuated while the underhead exhaust valves were directly actuated by the camshaft tappets. No concept was beyond consideration in Chrysler's search for increased engine perfor-mance. The 90 deg. V-6 was found to be unsatisfactory for smoothness, and the length and weight of a straight-eight were no longer thought to be acceptable. The compact V-8 engine appeared to be the standard for the future. Cadillac and Oldsmobile were working on V-8 engine designs for introduction in 1949, so it was this configuration Zeder and his fellow engineers selected for use with the Hemi head.

By 1948, Chrysler had a 330 ci Hemi-head V-8 undergoing testing, the A182 designed by Ray White's department. The A182 prototype Hemi V-8 was run extensively on the dynamometer to evaluate its performance after optimizing variables like camshaft timing, fuel mixture and ignition timing. It was then evaluated in a road-test Chrysler car with satisfactory results. Chrysler management was sufficiently impressed with the results of all of the A182 engines tested that approval was given for an engine of this type and size to be designed for production.

Mel Carpentier's department then designed the A239 engine, which became the first production Hemi V-8, later christened the Chrysler FirePower. It had a slightly larger displacement of 331 ci. The resulting design was shorter and lighter than the A182, and was designed with manufacturing considerations in mind.

Robert Cahill joined Chrysler in 1936. He started working in the engine development lab in 1938 and stayed there until 1953. He witnessed the first-generation Hemi's development first-hand within the tough parameters established by Drinkard. Cahill recalls, "Drinkard laid down the spec that he wanted us to be able to pass a thousand hour test on a certain schedule we had. He wanted the engine to be able to run 100,000 miles without having to replace major parts. He wanted the bearings, valves, pistons and rings to last 100,000 miles. There was a lot of effort made to do that."

One of the most worrisome problems was in the area of camshaft wear. Bert Bouwkamp knew firsthand the difficulties encountered in making this key engine component last the requisite number of miles. He entered the Chrysler Institute in February 1949, graduating in June 1951. Startingwork in the Engine Laboratory, he coordinated development of the 241 ci Dodge Red Ram Hemi. He remained in the lab for one year, then moved on to the DeSoto engine plant to supervise production of the DeSoto FireDome V-8, where he was assistant motor engineer.

"This was our first overhead valve engine," Bouwkamp says, "and the biggest problem with the Hemi was camshaft wear. We didn't have experience with valvetrain loads, and we ran into severe wear between the camshaft and the face of the tappet. Some engines failed in a few thousand miles. We had some failures right within the engine plant and after tearing them down, [it was clear] they wouldn't have gone 100 miles."

Bob Rodger was head of the group assigned to solve this accelerated wear problem. It became apparent the problem had to be attacked on a number of different levels.

"To solve this," Bouwkamp continues, "it took a change in the material of the tappet to chilled cast iron, a change to the spherical radius of the tappet to try to reduce the unit loading, a graphite-based anti-scuff coating, and an additive in the oil to finally solve the problem."

Fred Shrimpton was truly unique among all the designers, engineers and drafters who have worked at Chrysler. His career there spans more than six decades and he has been able to observe virtually every major engine design in that time. He recalls the first day he applied for work at Chrysler in 1929 as if it were yesterday. The current six-story building at Oakland Avenue in Highland Park was only three stories then. He started work as a tracer and had risen to chief layout man when interest in the Hemi V-8 and the prospect of its production finally crystallized.

"Mel Carpentier came up to me one day," Shrimpton remembers, "and said,'I wantyou to layouta Hemi head.' I laid out all three engines—the Chrysler, the Dodge and the DeSoto. That was a lot of fun. I really liked it. It was something different. Then we had a strike, so I rolled all the stuff up. We were gone for 104 days; it was a long strike. When I came back, those drawings were gone, but we had already started on detailing drawings. In fact, we knew so little about them, we made details right off the layout drawings. The big problem was getting spark plugs down through the center and how to seal them."

Because the spark plug was located between the intake and exhaust valves and slightly offset from the cylinder's centerline, some means had to be developed to permit changing the plugs without having to remove the large valve covers. A steel tube was designed with a flange at the lower end that acted as a gasket as the spark plug was screwed into the cylinder head. Snapping the spark-plug wire onto the spark plug was facilitated by a long ceramic boot. To prevent oil from leaking between the tube and the valve cover, an ignition wire cover, or channel, compressed a neoprene O-ring with a steel washer, creating a seal around each tube as the ignition wire cover was screwed into place. The ignition wires were hidden by the ignition wire cover until they exited the back of the valve cover near the distributor, giving this first-generation Hemi engine a clean look.

Chrysler's new engine featured other improvements. The crankshaft employed shot-peened and machined undercut fillets to eliminate tool marks and surface roughness and greatly improve fatigue strength. The use of hydraulic tappets was to achieve quiet valve operation and to enhance the life through constant control of opening and closing ramps.

Chrysler worked with Carter to design a water-jacketed carburetor throttle-valve body with integral automatic choke to prevent engine stalling due to carburetor icing. A dual-breaker distributor provided a reserve of ignition voltage at high speeds.

The durability of this new Chrysler engine—given the name FirePower— was as important as all the engineering that went into it. More than 8,000 hours of dynamometer testing and more than 500,000 miles on test cars were involved in ensuring long-term durability. The engine was finally ready and released for production.

For the 1951 model year, Chrysler introduced the Chrysler FirePower V-8. The engine had a displacement of 331.1 ci and produced 180 hp at 4000 rpm and 312 Ib-ft of torque at 2000 rpm. This represented a more than forty percent boost in horsepower and a sixteen percent increase in torque over the straight-eight engine of 1950. And it was 91/2 in, shorter than the inline engine.

The Chrysler FirePower V-8 was introduced in the long-running (since
1939) Chrysler Saratoga and New Yorker, as well as the Chrysler Imperial and Crown Imperial. The Imperial was the flagship of Chrysler; the Chrysler Imperial 80 had been introduced in 1926. The engine was a marketer's and advertiser's delight. While not a high-performance engine per se, it was Chrysler's first V-8 passenger-car engine and it bristled with features that made great advertising copy. It developed more power than either the Cadillac or Oldsmobile V-8s, and didn't require premium-grade fuel like its competitors.

Harold Welch began working at Chrysler in 1935. As did all graduate engineers, he entered the Chrysler Institute, a two-year work-study program. In 1937 he was assigned to the mechanical laboratory. In 1940, he moved to the engine development laboratory and became assistant manager, under William Drinkard. He recalls the impact the new Chrysler FirePower had on the automotive industry.

"It was jokingly said," he says today, it made the lights on the top floor of the General Motors building burn extra hours at night. It's sometimes blamed for kicking off what was generally referred to as the horsepower race."

As planned, Chrysler expanded availability of the Hemi-head design to other makes. In 1952, the DeSoto FireDome V-8 made its debut with a displacement of 276 ci with 160 hp at 4400 rpm. Dodge received its Red Ram Hemi V-8 in 1953. It was the smallest of all the Chrysler Hemi V-8s, with a displacement of 241.3 ci; it generated 140 hp at 4400 rpm and 220 Ib-ft of torque at 2000 rpm. The engine was offered in the 114 and 119 in. wheelbase versions of the V-8-equipped Coronet that year.

 


 
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FIREPOWER, FIREDOME and RED RAM

 CARS > MUSCLE CARS > FIREPOWER, FIREDOME and RED RAM


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TITLE: Muscle Car Used Car History Vehicle History Report at Auto Lemon - Used Car History Check

Cars Directory : Auto, Automobile, Automotive, Car, Cars, Vehicle, Vehicles, Used Cars, New Cars, Used Car, New Car Price

Site Description: Car Consumer Reports and Consumer Guide on automobile, brake, buying car, car care, car cost, car safety, cooling system, drivetrain, electrical, exhaust, emission, fluid check, fuel system, ignition system, lubrication system, suspension and steering. Offers Free VIN Check, VIN Check

Cars Topics: car consumer reports on automobile, brake, buying car, car care, car cost, car safety, cooling system, drivetrain, electrical, exhaust, emission, fluid check, fuel system, ignition system, lubrication system, suspension and steering.