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426 Hemi - History, Identification, and Kits

The Chrysler 426 “Hemi” Engine

Conceived by the need to win the Daytona 500, Chrysler engineers developed the 426 Hemispherical RB engine beginning in 1963 and it was based on their already existing RB Big Block wedge engine. Deriving its nick name from the hemispherical cylinder head design first used in the earlier Chrysler passenger car engines, and later adapted to racing configuration, the 426 Hemi was to be a full on racing design.

The centerpiece of the new engine, the massive hemispherical cylinder heads. With the spark plug placed in the top middle of the combustion chamber, gave the Hemi their distinctive look and appeal. But, it was the massive power and torque it put out that truly marked its place in automotive history. Rated at 425 HP and 480 Lbs. of torque, both figures slightly underrated, the new engine was introduced in 1964 as the A-864 426 Hemi engine.

The new engine quickly was put into the hands of race teams for full development where the engine quickly started winning and setting records. From NASCAR to Drag Racing and other motorsports, the Hemi established a foothold that is still in place in many motorsports. The design, or the basics of it, are still setting records and winning races in Drag Racing competition. From Super Stock to Top Fuel, it still reigns supreme. 

Offered to the general public via special order packages starting in 1964, mainly for the purpose of making the engine legal for race track competition, the engine became a street legend in the stop light wars. Nothing else had the presence a Hemi gave when the hood came up in the parking lots across America. The Hemi engine stayed in street car production until 1970. The last car to carry the legend was a 1971 Charger.

The Hemi has been used in other forms of racing, from Land Speed Record machines to Monster trucks and show rods, the Hemi will live on thanks to a healthy aftermarket and factory support.


Identifying a 426 Hemi

The 426 has the distributor on the front right side (Passenger side) of the engine and it sits at an angle. The 392, and earlier hemi engines, have the distributor at the rear of the block like a small block Chevrolet.


Kits with the 426 Hemi

The 426 Hemi has to be at the top of the most kitted engines in scale plastic and resin. Ever since the real engine has been around, so have scale version of it.

They range from super detailed to plastic blobs that somewhat resemble the engine.  From 1/32nd scale to as large as 1/4th scale, there is something for everyone and every taste. From stock to full competition, they made it in scale.

To make a list of every Hemi kitted out there would be a daunting task and take quite a few pages, so let us stick to the more current, and easy to find, offerings.

Revell – By far one of the most current kitted HEMI engines is the new tool 1970 Cuda kit. Continuing a strong lineage of finely made Revell kits, this one is one of the most accurate to date. Similar kits from Revell are the ’67 Plymouth GTX, 67 Dodge Charger, 68 HEMI Dart, 67 Dodge Coronet.  These kits are all in 1/25th scale and are supplemented by the Monogram 1/24th scale ’71 Cuda and the Plymouth Duster Funny Car “Cop Out”

Revell also has the HEMI in the new tool of the Chi Town Hustler and the Hawaiian Funny Cars. Almost every Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car from the early 70’s until now done by Revell, carries the 426 HEMI based engines.

AMT - Current offerings of the HEMI are the ’68 Road Runner and the 1970 Coronet.

MPC – The Bounty Hunter and Hot Rod Magazine Mustang Funny Cars, yes, Mustangs, both carry the 426 HEMI and they are the same kit with different decals.

Also from MPC, what has to be the best selling kit of all time, The Dukes of Hazard General Lee ’69 Charger! This kit is based off the Charger 500 NASCAR kit, thus it is HEMI equipped!

Testors – They saw fit to make a visible V-8 style kit of the 426 and this one is in 1/4th scale! Go ahead, build a chassis for this one!

Digging through most kit stashes no doubt will yield more versions and cars with the 426 in them for either complete builds or as donor engines for those crazy builds!

So build a factory stock correct HEMI car, a Land Speed Racer, HEMI Hydro Drag Boat or a Quarter Mile Burner, you can’t go wrong with an Elephant under the hood!

Happy 50th HEMI! May it reign for another 50 Years!


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