What Are the Best Engines Developed By Mopar?
There were many choices for the best powerplants Chrysler engineers have developed over the years, so if we forget your favorite, we apologize. (We’re still in mourning over the Hemi).
The 413/426 Max Wedge V8
Chrysler developed the Maximum Performance Wedge (Max Wedge) engine as the competition for customers heated up in the early sixties. The engine was a high-performance motor designed for use in their new B-body lineup that also attempted to capitalize on the growing support Americans felt for racing (drag and stock car). As this new engine was introduced in 1962, the Max Wedge is considered the powerplant that led the way into the muscle car era that so dominated the sixties (although that is open to debate).
The new Max Wedge engine earned its name from the wedge-shaped combustion chamber designed to force the air/fuel mixture towards the thick side of the internal chamber. By angling the spark plug and increasing the valve sizes, engineers found that the wedge engine produced a more significant buildup of kinetic energy.
Coupled with a forced ram induction system and diagonally placed dual 4-bbl carbs, the engine had more horsepower and torque. The engine was thermally more efficient than the previous Hemi engine of the fifties and cost less to build, which did not go unnoticed by the company.
Chrysler used the 6.5L Max Wedge in its 1962 models for the Plymouth and Dodge mid-sized models. Known as the “Ramcharger 413” (Dodge) and “Superstock 413” (Plymouth), the early versions of the engine produced 410 - 420 hp. Chrysler decided to make the engine for racing applications (50 Plymouths and 50 Dodges) before offering the engine to the public. But the engine's success on the racing circuit forced Chrysler to offer them to the public.
It wasn’t long before engineers found a way to fashion the 7.0L 426 Max Wedge by increasing the bore size from 4.19 to 4.25 inches, and it was offered shortly after the introduction of the 413. The 426 Max Wedge was offered in a higher 13.5:1 compression ratio for the race track, while a limited number of Plymouths and Dodges were made for the street with an 11.1:1 ratio.
The Wedge engine was successful on the racing circuit, particularly when the Melrose Missile (a 1963 Plymouth Savoy) became the first car to record a 12-second quarter mile @ 118 mph in 1964. Nearly 3,000 Max Wedge vehicles were made during the three-year run before Chrysler dropped it for the revitalized Hemi engine.
The 426 Hemi V8
The Mopar Hemi engine did not start with the 426 Hemi that adorned many muscle cars in the late sixties. The hemispherical combustion chambered engine had its start in the early fifties. Chrysler dubbed it the Firepower V8, and using its military experience from the war (they made everything from truck and tank engines to aircraft components), it applied those lessons to making engines. The result was a powerful V8 adorned the 1950 - 51 Chrysler and other models for most of the fifties. (Except for Plymouth, which for some reason, chose not to use it).
Fast forward to 1964, with the introduction of the 426 Hemi engine, which it quickly nicknamed the “elephant” due to its size, weight, and power. The engine sat on a 10.72-inch deck, with 4.80 bore spacing, and with its 4.25 bore and 3.75 piston stroke was the most significant racing engine in its time.
Initially designed for the racing circuit, the engine was not offered to the general public. (This decision would lead NASCAR to ban the engine for the 1965 season because of rules that required any engine used to be part of the general production). It would not be until 1966 that the 426 Hemi would only be made available to the average consumer as an option.
The first vehicle to receive the Hemi 426 was a 1966 Dodge Charger, but in the next couple of years, the motor would find a home in many more vehicles, like the Plymouth Road Runner, Barracuda, and Dodge Challenger, (just to name a few). The engine would be a part of the Dodge and Plymouth lineup until 1971.
The 426 Hemi engine was about $1000, which elevated the car's cost to nearly $4k, so only a few owners chose the Hemi option. Today, however, everybody wants a 426 Hemi. In fact, in 2014, a ‘71 ‘Cuda convertible fetched $3.5 million; in 2021, another did not sell even with a high bid of $4.8 million.
The 440 Raised Block V8
Chrysler decided to offer the 440 RB engines alongside the 426 Hemi for much of the late 60s and early 70s. Initially, the 7.2L engine was a bored-out 383 with a cast iron block and cylinder heads. The engine had a 4.32 bore and 3.75-inch stroke. The engine produced a 10:1 compression ratio with 375 hp and 482 lb-ft of torque. In 1969, Dodge offered a higher performance version equipped with a single 4bbl carburetor or 3 two bbl carbs (called the Six-Barrel), pushing the power ratings to 390 hp and 490 lb-ft torque.
The high-output 440s were known by different names (Magnum V8 - Dodge, Super Comando - Plymouth, and TNT in Chrysler vehicles). The 440 RB was an integral part of the Chrysler lineup for many years, even though it did not receive the glory that the 426 Hemi did.
Chrysler used the engine in almost every mid-size and larger vehicle it made. The engine was known for its durability, which prompted Chrysler to continue to use it long after the muscle car movement had ended. Even though new emissions regulations would limit the power outputs of the 440 after 1972, the engine chugged along (although in a weaker state) until it was phased out in 1978.
The 5.7 Hemi Engine
When Chrysler decided to revive the Hemi engine in 2003, it was supposed to replace the 5.9 Magnum for their Dodge Ram pickup trucks. For 2004, it was the only gas-powered engine Dodge RAM offered, and it wasn’t long before the more powerful Hemi motor began appearing in other models, like the Dodge Durango, Chrysler 300C, Dodge Magnum R/T, Charger, and Challenger R/Ts and Jeep Cherokee among others.
The original edition produced 345 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque in the RAM trucks and a bit less for passenger vehicles. With a bore of 3.92 and a stroke of 3.578 inches, the displacement was 345 ci. When the 5.7 Hemi made it into the 2006 Charger, it was strong enough to run a 5.8 flat 0 - 60 and 14.1 quarter mile.
Chrysler adjusted the 5.7 in 2009, adding VCT (Variable Camshaft Timing), shortening the runners, and revising the cylinder heads to increase flow. While the 5.7L Hemi continues to be made (at least through 2023), when Dodge announced the end of the Hemi engine in all of its various displacements.
The 5.7 L Hemi was on the Ward’s Ten Best Engines list from 2003 - ‘07 and then again in ‘09. The versatile engine was a mainstay in the Chrysler lineup for several years, powering everything from Chargers to Challengers to trucks and jeeps.
The 6.2 Hellcat Hemi V8
For 2015, Dodge decided to use a supercharged variant of the Hemi engine to power the Challenger SRT and Charger SRT, with a 4.09 bore and the same stroke as the 5.7 Hemi V8 (3.578). The twin-scroll turbocharger helped produce 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. At the time, it was the most powerful engine that Chrysler had ever produced until the creation of the Demon engine in 2018 (The 2018 Demon Challenger SRT was a monster with 840 hp).
The Hellcat got its name based on the IHI twin-scrolled supercharger that forced air into the engine at an incredible rate. (The turbocharger reminded the engineers of an American fighter jet used in WWII - the Grumman F6F). The Hellcat was not a multi-displacement engine (which Chrysler offered in other vehicles), so the engine didn’t win any EPA fuel awards.
The Hellcat V8 was a capable engine that Chrysler used in various vehicles, including the Trailhawk, Ram 1500, Durango SRT, and the Charger and Challenger. It was powerful enough to run 0 - 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and the quarter mile in 11.8, with a top speed of 204 mph. When Chrysler introduced the 2018 Dodge Demon variant, the track time was cut even further to 2.3 seconds 0 - 60).
The engine lasted through the decade when Dodge used the Demon variant as the powerplant for the “Last Call” Charger and Challenger models in 2023. The 2023 Demon 170 had a 1025 hp and ran the 0 - 60 in 1.6 seconds.
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My name is Matt and I've been around cars all my life! I have owned and worked on many different classic vehicles, so I started this site to share my experiences. If you're new to classic cars, then this website is for you.Read More About Matt Lane