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426 RACE HEMI

 CARS > MUSCLE CARS > 426 RACE HEMI

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Hemi

 

 



The Wedge Rules

In the early sixties, the 413 Wedge was Chrysler's performance engine of note. In 1962, the company introduced the Max Wedge 413. The release of this engine was directly tied to Chrysler Corporation's new president, Lynn Townsend, who stepped up to the presidency in the middle of 1961. The company gained a new advocate of performance and racing, and the change, Hoover remembers, was almost immediate.

"When Lynn Townsend came in as president of Chrysler, the good fortune was he had two teenage boys. They were known to travel North Woodward Avenue late at night. They made it known straightaway to Dad that this stuff [Chrysler Corporation cars] was nowhere. He was highly sensitive to the fact that the product line was nowhere out there with the young people. The rationale was, you can sell an old man a young man's car but you can't sell a young man an old man's car.

"There were," Hoover continues, "encouragements from Bob McCurry over at Dodge, certainly Gale Porter, Frank Wylie from Dodge public relations, and Jack Shirapar. jack was our champion. He was the guy who could carry the message from the trenches— from North Woodward and Detroit Dragway—right upstairs, jack knew what had to happen out on North Woodward.

"When Mr. Townsend, by whatever mechanism, let it be known that it was time to change the image of our product, it was just like having the clouds separating and the sun shining through. Engineering division was given the directive to get some cars out there that would do the job. I was made engineering coordinator for the whole engineering division for the race program. That was in October 1961.

"A program began in October 1961 to release in the standard-size cars performance packages based on the RB [raised-block] engine, which at the time was 413 cubic inches. I'll never forget that because Mr. Townsend himself had signed the project request to initiate it, so that was like walking into engine design with a blank check.

"The first of the cross-ram, eight-barrel 413 Wedge cars we got running was a white Plymouth two-door. Mr. Townsend himself, the chairman of the board, came out to the proving grounds one day and I took the car out there. He stood out there at the east-west straight-away and had me make a pass with the car so he could listen to the car and watch it. He had the ability to understand what it meant, and I'll go to my grave believing it was his two teenage boys who put that sparkle there.

"Those [Max Wedge] cars," Hoover explains, "hit the drag race scene like an H-bomb. They just blew everything else away by eight to ten miles an hour. I think that there's no question that the experience that all the Ramchargers had gained the preceding three or four years at the drag strip and North Woodward was fundamental to making those cars successful.

"The 413 Wedge was less successful as a Grand National stock-car engine," Hoover reveals. "If the Wedges had been more successful in Grand National racing, the need for the 426 Hemi wouldn't have existed, because the Wedges were doing a good job in drag racing, and that success was related to modifying the TorqueFlight automatic transmission for drag-racing purposes. Pontiac was the job to beat at the time, if I recall correctly. It became evident that in order to really make a big splash at Daytona Beach in the Grand National cars, we needed a better level of power."

The 413 Max Wedge and later the 426 Max Wedge were Chrysier's first true high-performance racing-engine programs. The managers of these successful programs were under the direction of Bob Rarey. He had joined Chrysler in 1942 and became assistant chief engineer of engine design in 1955 when Mel Carpentier died. By the early 1960s, Rarey had become chief engineer in charge of engine, transmission and engine electrical. When asked by Bob Anderson to take over all racing-engine work at Chrysler, Rarey balked. However, he did agree to set up a separate group, apart from production-engine design, to handle this activity. The success of the Max Wedge 413 and 426 was a tribute to his foresight and support. The engines, however, could not realistically double for circle-track racing.

The reason for this was not just the Wedge-shaped combustion chamber of the 413 and 426, but the size of the intake and exhaust valves and the design of the intake and exhaust ports. While the engines performed well on the short, quarter-mile strip, the high rpm, high horsepower requirements of stock-car racing exposed the Wedge's limitation in producing the level of horsepower necessary to win.

Willem L. Weertman would become closely involved with the new racing engine that evolved. A 1947 graduate of Yale, Weertman joined Chrysler that year and entered the Chrysler Institute. After graduating from the two-year work-study program, he began work at the Plymouth Road assembly plant. When the Mound Road engine plant was built for the production of V-8 engines, he was selected as the first resident engineer of the plant. In 1955, Bob Rarey, as the new assistant chief engineer of engine design, selected Weertman to be manager of engine design.

"We had a fairly strong factory effort with the Wedge V-8 in 1962 and '63," Weertman says, "but it was obvious to those managing the program we were not competitive with it. About that time, in late '62, early '63, it was a collective decision by our race policy people, which included Bob Rodger, who said in effect, 'Either we do something big or we should get out. What we are doing is not meaningful to the company, to our dealers or to car sales.' So [Rodger], Tom Hoover and Bob Rarey had to think about what might be possible and immediately the thought came to their minds, 'Can we have a Hemi version of our B and raised-B engines?'"

 


 
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426 RACE HEMI

 CARS > MUSCLE CARS > 426 RACE HEMI


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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.