For some folks, April 26 is just like any other day on the calendar. For others, it represents a day of automotive celebration. Among Mopar and muscle car enthusiasts, today is known as 426 Hemi Day. This of course is in reference to one of the most potent engines to come out of the muscle car era: Chrysler’s 426 Hemi V8. In order to properly highlight the importance of this 7.0L lump of metal, let’s take a moment to discuss one of the most iconic engines of all time. Here’s your 426 Hemi Day rundown.
Hemispherical cylinder heads, cross flowing valves, and domed pistons are the classic trademarks of Chrysler’s Hemi engines. While we might all associate this design with the high-horsepower muscle car era, Chrysler first toyed with a Hemi engine during WWII as an upgraded powertrain for the P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane. This V16 engine never saw service during the war, but it would plant the seed that became the mighty 426 Hemi V8. In the early 1950s, the automaker would utilize this technology to create the FirePower V8, and saw De Soto, Imperial, and Dodge all follow suit. These engines were built between 1951 and 1958, and are known as the Gen-1 Hemi motors.
In 1964, the first of the Gen-2 Hemi engines were developed for use in NASCAR. More specifically, it was designed for use in the Plymouth Belvedere stock car. Then in 1966, a street-going version was made available to the public in order to meet NASCAR’s homologation rules. This 426 cubic-inch V8 engine was known as the Elephant, due to its immense displacement, footprint, and power output. The motor was rated at 425 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque, which we know today are much lower figures than what the V8 could actually muster. The 426 Hemi V8 became an instant classic, serving duty in cars like the Plymouth Hemi Cuda, Plymouth Road Runner, Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger, and even the unrivaled aero-cars of the era. The 426 Hemi V8 was available for order between the years of 1965 and 1971, and has become quite desirable among the collector crowd.
In fact, a 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda convertible powered by the 426 Hemi V8 smashed records back in 2014 when it sold at auction for an outstanding $3.5 million. It was one of only two Hemi-equipped drop tops with a four-speed manual, and it remains the most expensive Mopar ever sold. All in all, Chrysler believes that only around 11,000 of these awesome engines were ever produced, which says something about how much of an impact they had on automotive culture.
The story of the 426 Hemi lives on today, thanks in no small part to the litany of Hemi-powered muscle cars on offer from Dodge. Furthermore, the Elephant V8 was brought into the modern era by way of the Hellephant crate engine, which is today’s most extreme Mopar engine. The 7.0L V8 produces 1,000 horsepower and 995 lb-ft of torque, which would have seemed insane back in the 1960s. As the industry transitions away from ICE-powered vehicles, take a moment to celebrate this glorious V8 on this 426 Hemi Day. We might not have a chance to do that much longer.