The 426 cubic inch Hemi is the most famous of Mopar motors from the 1960s, but Chrysler didn’t reintroduce the Hemi until 1964. Before the 426 Hemi, there was another high performance V8 with that displacement capacity. When the muscle car era dawned in the early sixties, Ford had their 352, Chevy had their 409 and Pontiac offered “tri-power” carburetion, Mopar enthusiasts put Chrysler’s 383 V8 to good use, but it wasn’t designed as a performance engine. Chrysler recognized the marketing value of success at the track and in street racing, so they started to develop a V8 engine with a wedge shaped combustion chamber, 413 cubic inches of displacement, and a wild aluminum “crossram” intake manifold, specifically for drag and oval track racing. That combination became known as the Max Wedge engine and in 1963, capacity was increased to 426 CI. Gas flow research on the Max Wedge led directly to the development of the 426 Hemi. The Hemi is indeed an iconic engine, with its distinctive spark plug location in the middle of the valve covers, but I’ve always thought that the Max Wedge, with its two offset carburetors and air cleaners, is just a meaner, more purposeful looking engine. Perhaps appropriate to the side by side air cleaners, at the Packard Proving Grounds’ Cars R Stars show, there were two ’63 Plymouth Sport Furys, sitting side by side, both with 426 Max Wedge engines. For more on the Max Wedge (or any other Mopar engine, for the matter) visits Allpar.
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