Car Modification - Hemi 426 Rebuild
Car Modification - Hemi 426 Engine Rebuild
When Chrysler first introduced the hemispherical combustion chambered engine in the early 1960s, it was groundbreaking.   Originally designed for performance on the racetracks, the Hemi 426 proved so successful at its original intent – in its first appearance at the Daytona 500 in 1964, Richard Petty used a Hemi engine to take the checkered flag – that soon there was a sizable demand for street machines with Hemi engines.

While the racing success came early and often, and dealers were able to sell a respectable amount directly to street consumers, the early 70s marked the end of the Hemi 426, as most racing circuits outlawed the engine and Chrysler discontinued production in 1971.

Fast forward almost 20 years, and the Hemi made a comeback, albeit in a slightly different form.  Seeking an engine with ample power and torque, Chrysler reinvented the timeless engine and began installing the Hemi engines in their Dodge pickup line, sparking new interest in the classic model.

Since that time, classic Hemi vehicles have become highly sought-after; there were roughly 10,000 Hemi cars produced between 1964 and 1971 at a cost of $3000 to $4000 each, and now they are among the most valuable collector vehicles in existence.

Meanwhile, restoration enthusiasts and engine builders have increasingly turned their focus on the original Hemi 426, not just for its racing prowess, but also as a durable and reliable engine for cars, trucks, boats and hot rods alike.

For many gearheads, nothing can match the flair and performance of having a classic Hemi under the hood. However, there are some considerations that a builder must make before embarking on a Hemi 426 rebuild.  Perhaps the most crucial consideration is cost; Hemi rebuilds are generally more expensive than other 1960s engines, owing mostly to the difficulty in obtaining the specific parts needed.

The cost can vary wildly, however, and some Hemi rebuilds can be done for a few hundred dollars.  Others, however, can cost as much as $1,500.

The disparity has to do with the adaptability of the original 426s.  While stock Hemi 426 parts are widely available and generally reasonably priced, modified versions can be more of a chore to deal with.  And many of the original Hemi 426s were modified, whether for racing or a customized street version.

Original Hemi 426 parts can still be found with minimal effort, both for stock engines and modified versions – with one notable exception being the DeSoto models, for which parts are extremely scarce.  However, knowing which specific parts are needed when dealing with an engine that has been modded (and often machined) is the tricky part, and while many parts are interchangeable between the various versions, care must be taken to ensure that all parts are compatible.  The good news is that interest in restoring the 426 has led to an upsurge in manufacturing parts specifically designed for rebuilds – the downside to this is that there are so many parts available, it can be difficult to determine which one is correct for your rebuild.

Because of the extra knowledge needed to effectively study the engine components and ensure part compatibility, and the potential for bigger costs to find a rare part, Hemi 426 rebuilds are recommended primarily for those that have experience restoring other classic engines.   The difficulty of actually rebuilding the engine is not so great, but failure to properly match parts can ruin the experience, so proceed with caution.

The Hemi 426 is one of the greatest production engines every produced, and its staying power in the collector/rebuild world is staggering.  Many builders are specifically seeking out the Hemi because of its rediscovered reputation as a classy and powerful engine.  If you are looking for a challenging and rewarding restoration project – one that will ensure that your friends and family can give you no guff – then it is hard to go wrong with an engine that has had such a huge influence (despite limited early production) as the Chrysler Hemi 426.

Author Bio:

Roger Morrison is a classic car enthusiast and an off-road aficionado that has recently taken to blogging to share his passions with others.  His current project is as an online publisher for Chrysler Australia.


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