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Old 08-01-2007, 08:33 PM
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early Hemi engine history question

I am working on our wiki, a collection of hotrodding articles that anyone can edit.

I've been working off of some text that Centerline had initially entered about early Hemis, in this article: Chrysler Hemi engine. I've also incorporated some other Hemi articles from various websites, and I'm trying to confirm something about Hemi engine history.

Is it true that Chrysler's first production hemispherical-head engines (FirePower, etc.) were not referred to as "Hemis" when they first came out, and that the term "Hemi" only came into popular use with the introduction of the 426 Hemi?

Can anyone who was there confirm that? Or, is that just something I read "on the net".

Thanks.

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Old 08-01-2007, 08:59 PM
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Jon, you've really got me thinking now.I was around as a teenage car-nut in the days of the early hemis but I can't for the life of me remember whether we actually called them hemis or not.

I know we discussed the differences in the engines/heads and can remember driving my neighbors '57 Desoto FirePower.

I think that the term was just used to differentiate between engines much as one would say Ford Y-block or whatever.......it wasn't a "Buzzword" until the ad agencies got hold of it when the 426's came out

So I would have to say that "Yeah, it's got a Hemi"!!
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Old 08-02-2007, 05:40 AM
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The Chrysler Dodge and Desoto (remember Plymouth didn't offer a Hemi)factory shop manuals of that era refer to the engines as either single rocker shaft (poly) or dual rocker shaft (hemi) engines or their model/engine names i.e. Fire Power (hemi) Spitefire (poly) D-500 (Dodge's Hemi option) FireDome (DeSoto Hemi Option).

The same pretty much holds true of the Motors manuals of that era.

It seems that I have read the term Hemi first came into use by those dang old Hot Rodders (and we all know how THOSE people are with words )sometime in the mid/late 50's time frame when the engines were starting to be used in drag cars and hot rods).....so it was already in use by the time Chrysler introduced the 426 and Mother Mopar just adopted it for it's own.

Last edited by 1957plymouthhemi; 08-02-2007 at 06:16 AM.
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Old 08-02-2007, 06:50 AM
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I looked at several websites with old dodge and Desoto advertisments and saw it called the Firedome and Firepower, and references were made to "aircraft type power" (probably a reference to Chryslers v-16 aircraft motors of WWII), and I saw a reference to the "hemispherical" head design, but no mention of the shortened word "hemi" .

www.hemi.com has some pretty good old advertisments with readable text.

click on the "hemi heritage" button then on "50's era hemi", "multimedia" then look at the "vintage media".

I'd also be looking in granpaws old collection of mechanics illustrated and other magazines of that era.

I think a PM to Billy Shope would be in order here as well, as he was one of the original Ramchargers.

Later, mikey
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Old 08-02-2007, 08:47 AM
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"Chrysler's design proved so efficient that, for the past 50 years, nearly all major top fuel and funny car drag racing teams have used derivatives of the original Hemi engine design."

They didīnt design it at all, it existed long before.
Read about it here and more here
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Old 08-02-2007, 08:53 AM
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I don't remember the term "HEMI" until the dragracers started using them on a regular basis, Garlit days, probably early 60s and even then it wasn't a term used widely until Chrysler started using it. Like the rest of the guys here, Firedome, Firepower, and the term "boat anchor", they were considered too heavy for most people to use until the drag racers started making serious horsepower, than they came into demand. Most street applications were too much maintenance for the average guy, tuning at frequent intervals was a must to keep them running well. Dan
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Old 08-02-2007, 08:55 AM
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I read something somewhere where somebody was claiming that "hemi" was a fairly new term and that it was called a "double rocker" engine at Chrysler. Well, I started at Chrysler in '57 and, yes, we called them "double rockers," but we also called them "hemis." Seems to me, the terms were interchangeable from the day I got there. Of course, this is the memory of a septegenarian, so I could be wrong.

(Interesting! My spell checker flagged "septegenarian" and I can't find it in my dictionary. Hmm! Why is it used so commonly? "Octogenarian" is listed. I guess I'll have to say I'm somewhere between a teenager and an octogenarian.)
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Old 08-02-2007, 09:04 AM
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Jon,
send an email to Don Garlit's and ask......he is a walking museum of engine info and loves to talk about it....

http://www.garlits.com/

I don't recall (that's a joke) "hemi" used till the SS and A/FX 60's
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Old 08-02-2007, 09:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by malc
"Chrysler's design proved so efficient that, for the past 50 years, nearly all major top fuel and funny car drag racing teams have used derivatives of the original Hemi engine design."

They did�nt design it at all, it existed long before.
Read about it here and more here
IIRC earlier than that...

Once in my wanderings I saw a cutaway picture of the first true hemispherical head design that was dated 1905 or so...It was for some kind of pump or traction motor..I can't find it now though...

I shall endeavor to persevere.

Don't worry about that stupid spell checker, Billy...it says I spelt my name wrong..and it always wants to correct the smileys.

Later, mikey
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Old 08-02-2007, 10:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by powerrodsmike
I looked at several websites with old dodge and Desoto advertisments and saw it called the Firedome and Firepower, and references were made to "aircraft type power" (probably a reference to Chryslers v-16 aircraft motors of WWII), and I saw a reference to the "hemispherical" head design, but no mention of the shortened word "hemi" .

www.hemi.com has some pretty good old advertisments with readable text.

click on the "hemi heritage" button then on "50's era hemi", "multimedia" then look at the "vintage media".

I'd also be looking in granpaws old collection of mechanics illustrated and other magazines of that era.

I think a PM to Billy Shope would be in order here as well, as he was one of the original Ramchargers.

Later, mikey


hi jon, great web site, i remember the early hemi, my memory is a little foggy on the subject but i remember the hemi started as a 331ci engine in 1951, it was later increased to 354ci in 1954, only the 57-58 chryslers had the famous "392 hemi". after 1958 the hemi was discontinued. as mikey said the early hemis had firedome stamped on the valve covers. in auto shop in high school we had a 331 that was a take apart and put back together engine. the hemi was disigned like the radial engines in fighter planes of WW2 and was revolutanary for its time in a car. don garlets and other drag racers made the early hemi legendary by useing them in AA/FDs and altereds and gassers. even in the 60s 392 hemis were rare because racers had already blown most of them up. the thread recently about " famous picture of crankshaft blowing out of car" i believe was a hemi. don garlets also lost part of his foot in a clutch explosion in a 392 hemi AA/FD that cut the car in half. (also a famous picture) the early hemi had to be an expensive engine to produce compared to chevy and ford engines of the time because of the rocker arm-valve arrangement and cylinder head design and machining costs which probably led to its demise. for all the younger rodders out there who have never had the priveledge of digging into an early hemi you have really missed something special!!!
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Old 08-02-2007, 10:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillyShope
I read something somewhere where somebody was claiming that "hemi" was a fairly new term and that it was called a "double rocker" engine at Chrysler. Well, I started at Chrysler in '57 and, yes, we called them "double rockers," but we also called them "hemis." Seems to me, the terms were interchangeable from the day I got there. Of course, this is the memory of a septegenarian, so I could be wrong.

(Interesting! My spell checker flagged "septegenarian" and I can't find it in my dictionary. Hmm! Why is it used so commonly? "Octogenarian" is listed. I guess I'll have to say I'm somewhere between a teenager and an octogenarian.)
billy, ive read your previous posts and respect your knoledge. at the age of 71 you have earned the right to ignor the spell checker. oh, and turn around, you are sitting on your horse backwards.
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Old 08-02-2007, 02:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by red65mustang
J

I don't recall (that's a joke) "hemi" used till the SS and A/FX 60's
It was DEFINITELY used by Chrysler engineers in the late fifties. Tom's design was the "new" hemi, but the 241 Dodges (one of these was used by our club president, Herman Mozer, to claim the E/G records), DeSoto, and Chrysler engines were all called hemis in the late fifties.
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Old 08-02-2007, 04:11 PM
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Billy.

Do you mean ?
septuagenarian
a.,n., septuagenary n. & a. (person) in from seventieth to eightieth year.


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Old 08-02-2007, 05:50 PM
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Nope. That's not in my dictionary, either.

"Septuagint" is Origin's translation of the Old Testament into Greek (wrongly attributed to 70 Hebrew scholars) and September was the 7th month of the old Roman calendar, so it would appear that "septua" would be more appropriate than "septe." That would make me a "septuagenarian." But, it would make me wonder about the spelling of "octogenarian."

Thanks.

(Talk about hijacking a thread!)
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Old 08-04-2007, 12:57 PM
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Great -- thanks everyone.

I've adjusted the wiki article to read:

Quote:
Though Chrysler made reference to the engine's "hemispherical" combustion chambers, the word "Hemi" was not overtly used to market the engine. The term "Hemi" was more frequently applied by the late 1950's. This was most likely due to its colloquial use by Chrysler engineers, and dragracers of the era.
If anyone else knows a better way to word it -- go for it. Just click the "edit" link at the top of the article.

Malc -- the article covers the early pre-Chrysler hemispherical engines, further down the page. However, I've adjusted the sentence you quoted, to make that more apparent to the reader. Now, it reads: "Chrysler's 426 Hemi design proved so efficient that, for the past 50 years, nearly all major top fuel and funny car drag racing teams have used derivatives of it."

Also sent an email to Don Garlits with a link to the article and this thread.

As always, anyone should feel free to add to the article: Chrysler Hemi engine.

--------------
From what I've read, what is generally thought to be the "first" hemispherical engine design for the consumer market was the Welch, made in the early 1900's. Even then, the "hemi" aspect wasn't touted -- it was the single overhead camshaft that was the selling point (then an American industry first).

General Motors bought Welch in 1910, but discontinued the hemispherical design. The guy who founded Welch, A.R. Welch, kept building cars. If what I've read in the Standard Catalog of American Cars is true, however, any future plans for hemispherical engines by A.R. Welch were curtailed in 1913. He went on a duck-hunting trip, and there was a terrible storm. His canoe was found, but his body never turned up.
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