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Old 08-02-2003, 10:48 AM
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More on the Chrysler hemi engine legend

As you all know by now I am an early hemi fanatic. There have been many threads on this board (mostly by me!) telling the story of this fabulous engine. Here is one story I bet most of you don't know about.

Did you know that a 1952, 331 long bell-housing hemi ran @ Indianapolis setting several track records? They were doing some tire testing for Firestone and strongly considering entering it in the Indy 500 that year which it likely would have won, but the organization in their infinite wisdom quickly passed rules that disqualified the engine.

At that time, Indy cars were front engine, usually a 4 cylinder Offy, and had a long wide cigar shaped body and tall narrow tires. The hemi car had a Kurtis-Kraft chassis. Top speeds were respectable in the 150mph range.

In time trials before the race, the hemi powered racer hit speeds of over 170mph on the straights and averaged over 135mph for 500 miles. The 500 mile track record was 128.922mph at that time. The engine had stock internals except for higher compression pistons (remember they came from the factory with forged cranks high nickle castings, exhaust valve seat inserts, etc.), fuel injected, not supercharged like the Offys, dry sump oil pan, magneto, a little bit of intake and exhaust porting, and generated 400hp @ 5200rpm. Rear gears were 3.03 when the Offys were running much higher ratios and screaming their engines. They ran the car for 1450 miles at the track and it required absolutely no maintenance, not even spark plug change. Conversely, the Offy competitors were supercharged, ran at +8000rpm and barely survived 500miles before they hand-grenaded.

Can you imagine if they had been allowed to run the race what it would have been like to hear those Offys zipping by with that all too familiar screaming engine, then have the hemi rumble by sounding like an idling top fueler!! That by itself would have been worth the price of admission.


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Old 08-02-2003, 11:30 AM
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Willys.
question 4 ya?
Are the Rods forged? If so, Why do they say to only run the Hemi engines at lower rpm's? Looks like with a strong motor like that, they woulda reved the hell outa em. Just curious. HG
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Old 08-02-2003, 01:48 PM
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Yep, forged rods too. I don't know who said they won't go to high rpm but they can. Drag racing hemis have always been run @ 7000rpm and up. Geometry and block rigidity is similar to a SBC. Valve train is more complicated but so well designed that it will take the Rs too. One reason may be that you can generate so much bottom and mid range torque with the hemi, why go to extremes? In fact, that is what they did with the Indy hemi mentione above - it made 400hp @ 5200rpm while the usual small Indy engine made 500hp @ 8000rpm, yet it sounds like the hemi could have driven around the Offy at will.
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Old 08-03-2003, 06:04 PM
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I have to disagree just a little with Willy's on the valve train.

The Hemi valve train operates at some extreme push rod and rocker angles and although the factory units are more than adequate for stock and mildly modified engines they will not last for long in engines using high valve spring pressures, high rpm, and high lift cams. If you're building an early hemi for drag racing where these conditions generally exist, most usually go for roller rockers which can stand the stress.

For a street motor, when you have all that grunt and you're not going racing, you don't really need those high dollar parts.

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Old 08-04-2003, 06:31 AM
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This should be in the Hotrodders' Lounge .
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Old 08-04-2003, 07:57 AM
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Good point Centerline. I did make it sound like you could take the stock engine in your grandpa's '53 New Yorker install 6.88 gears and spin to to 10,000rpm, no problem! Can't do that.

A hemi wil never be able to rpm with a SBC, however a SBC can't keep pace with a VW or a rice burner, a Rice burner falls short of a turbine (like Mickey Thompson's turbine that fell a lap short of winning the Indy 500 due to a bearing failure - so Indy outlawed turbines), but a turbine falls way behind a slot car motor which can spin 100,000rpm. I'm referring to the 8,000rpm range as being high rpm for a hemi which is still respectable. And the hemi is not unique in needing an infu$ion of $$$$$ to go over 5,500rpm. An SBC needs screw in studs instead of the pressed in ones, roller rockers to replace the sheet metal ones, roller cam etc.

Also, don't get the idea that you can go get a Keith Black hemi and be immediately competitive in the Indy 500. The '52 season was unique - For and Chevy were still poking along with their flat head and straight-6 top-or-the-line engines. It would be years before they had anything to compete with the hemi. Furthermore, chassis technology was very immature so a 700# engine could push one of those chassis around a corner as well as a feather weight Offy. Once Ford and Chevy got their small V8s perfected, the hemi was far outclassed for roundy-round racing. All comes down to technology catching up to parts available. Witness that drag racing top eliminators in the early and mid 50s were motorcycles!
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Old 08-04-2003, 09:15 AM
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Good post, Willys. I remeber reading about the testing a few years back, pop. mechanics, I believe. I've often wondered what may have happened to some of the "newer" technology (at the time) if the racing sanctions hadn't outlawed them. Nascar and Indy with their parity standards, it would seem like a whole lot of race teams working to develop better technology if they were allowed to race the hemi, maybe Chrysler would have been number 2 in auto sales? Smokey Yunic, (an idol of mine in my teens)came up with many clever ideas (cheating?) to push the game to greater elevations. The small block chevy has been the same basic engine for 48 yeas now, maybe if that hemi hadn't been banned there could have been some major changes in that department. hmmmm... Dan
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Old 08-04-2003, 01:41 PM
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Good point. "Cheating" is the only way technology is allowed by sanctioning bodies. Witness what Allen Johnson is doing in the NHRA Pro Stock division. He has so much more power than the other competitors that it isn't funny. With the restrictive rules this shouldn't be possible, but he as stumbled on a secret and is cleaning up. This weekend he was racing Curt Johnson in the semi final round. Curt is son of old fox Warren Johnson so he knows a few tricks himself and is second to Allen in the standings so isn't a slouch. He cut a PERFECT light (has only been done 48 times in the history of NHRA Pro Stock) but Allen still drove around him like he was standing still. Jeg Coglin won the final but had to put an 0.06 sec. hole shot on Allen and still only won by 0.023 sec.

I guess the parity rules are necessary to put butts in the seats but it sure is frustrating to gear heads who want to see new tech.
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