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HE HEMI TODAY

 CARS > MUSCLE CARS > THE HEMI TODAY

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Mopar Performance

Today, Mopar enthusiasts view the passing of the 426 Hemi as a milestone. As with most milestones in automotive history, the former glory of a particular car or engine remains just that. When Chrysler struggled to cope with the emissions and safety standards in the seventies and reorganization and rebuilding the corporation in the eighties, performance was not a major issue in the product offerings. Seeing the return of the iron-block Chrysler 426 Hemi was as plausible as turning water into gold.

Implausible perhaps, but not impossible. Certain events occurred in the late eighties that made the prospect of Chrysler offering the venerable 426 iron block to Mopar enthusiasts a serious possibility.

When Larry Shepard joined Chrysler in 1966, the reputation and popularity of the 426 Hemi were growing dramatically In 1970 he moved to the race group and concentrated on drag racing. Chrysler received many requests for information regarding the 426 Hemi as well as their other engines, and performance tips from both professional and amateur racers alike. Shepard worked alongside Dave Koffel, who handled the professional racers; both men reported to Tom Hoover.

"Back in those days," Shepard re-members, "Koffel worked with the contract racers, but they didn't have someone for what we'd call the 'door slammers'—someone to coordinate with our customers who had questions. Koffel would receive countless letters asking questions concerning performance, and there weren't enough hours in the day to handle them."

That job fell to Shepard. He began sifting through the filing cabinets full of letters with questions and began sorting them according to their specific query. These covered the gamut, from each of Chrysler's engines to the cars themselves. He also fielded phone calls with promises to get back to them with an answer. Koffel would often direct him to the engineer with specific knowledge regarding the performance area in question. Shepard felt he should never have to ask any question twice, and always wrote down the information. He began cataloging the answers to questions and putting them into binders. Still, this was far from ideal.

It occurred to Shepard that it would be more practical to write a bulletin in a given area and send that in response to a query, rather than responding to each letter or phone call individually. He began writing technical bulletins addressing key performance issues that were most frequently asked and originally these bulletins were given away. Later, the bulletins were sold through the Hustle Stuff parts catalog. Eventually, these bulletins were compiled into one book and sold through Chrysler's Direct Connection parts catalog. This book grew to such a size, it was decided to split it and publish two books, one for engines and the other for chassis.

In 1987, the Direct Connection name was changed to Mopar Performance. This name was readily identifiable by every enthusiast and tied in with existing parts sold by Chrysler. With the name change came the mandate to emphasize hard parts —the parts Mopar enthusiasts wished to buy—such as engine blocks, cylinder heads, intake manifolds, crankshafts, pistons, camshafts and so on.

"Looking back over our shoulder," Shepard says, "that decision has allowed us to become more visible in the performance marketplace and opened the door to very large dollars to allow capital-intensive programs."

At drag races around the country and such events as the Mopar Nationals, the Mopar Performance traveling display always draws crowds. Shepard never misses these events because it keeps him in tune with the enthusiasts who use Chrysler products. He began hearing complaints on the scarcity of 426 Hemi blocks and the outrageous prices that were being asked. Many of these blocks were more than twenty years old and had seen hard use. Additional demand was placed on the market by restorers of street Hemi cars, and those simply interested in putting a 426 Hemi in their Dodge or Plymouth or in a custom street rod.

The resurging interest in the 426 Hemi led Shepard to the conclusion that Chrysler should offer the 426 Hemi iron block to meet this demand.

"The guy who has a Hemi race car sitting in his garage as well as the guy who has a Hemi car for restoration—this is where we obviously knew we had a market and that's why we decided to do it."

The decision to reissue the 426 Hemi iron block was the biggest commitment Mopar Performance has ever made in terms of dollars and in overcoming some serious obstacles.

"The Hemi tooling was lost many years ago," Shepard admits, "so we would have to go back and make the tooling all over again. We've built up slowly up to this point, making intake manifolds, crankshafts, camshafts and so forth. Our goal at Mopar Performance was to be able to build a Hemi engine from top to bottom from our parts catalog. Will having Hemi parts change the way people think about the Hemi? We think so."

With its firm decision to reissue not only the 426 Hemi iron block but also cylinder heads and every part needed to build a complete engine, Chrysler has ensured its most famous V-8 will be available to Mopar enthusiasts for generations to come.

 


 
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HE HEMI TODAY

 CARS > MUSCLE CARS > THE HEMI TODAY


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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

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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.