THE BIGGEST ENGINE THAT COULD
"Max Wedge" is the name that put Dodge and Plymouth on the performance map in 1962 and forever.
It's the name Mopar® enthusiasts gave Chrysler's Maximum Performance engine packages for the company's 1962-1964 factory-built drag racing cars. These machines were the catalysts that made "Mopar" the name for Chrysler performance. Dodge and Plymouth versions of the engines were introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1962.
They were part of a "maximum performance" package for any model in the two car lines except station wagons. The packages were identical, except for their names. Dodge called its version the "Ram-Charger," while Plymouth used the name "Super Stock."
Tom Hoover, of Ramchargers and (later) HEMI® engine fame, led the development of the packages, endowing them with brand new "short ram" intake manifolds with staggered 4-barrel carburetors, forged pistons, heavy-duty crankshaft, a new cylinder head with larger valves and dual valve springs, a special camshaft, and "streamlined" cast-iron exhaust headers. A new adjustable cast-iron rocker arm design was used in place of the non-adjustable stamped steel rockers on all other big-block 413s. Tubular pushrods were used in place of the standard solid steel version. The list is long because virtually every part was modified on these engines-even the tri-metal engine bearings, with slightly wider clearances.
Two versions of the new Max Wedge 413 were available-one with an 11 to 1 compression ratio developing 410 hp, and another with a 13.5:1 ratio rated at 420 hp.
The complete maximum performance vehicle package included either a heavy-duty version of the T-85 3-speed manual or the A-727 automatic transmission. Also included was a 3-inch diameter exhaust system leading to "lakes" pipes that could be opened for racing. When the pipes were capped the exhaust exited through two large Chrysler mufflers to dual 2-inch exhaust pipes.
The 1962 Max Wedge packages were available starting at the beginning of May that year. According to exhaustive research by ex-Chrysler executive Darrell Davis, 298 Plymouths and 214 Dodges were produced in 1962 with the Max Wedge package. Chrysler's intent was to get as many of the 13.5:1 packages as possible into the hands of real drag racers "to win at supervised drag events and bring … the recognition [to Dodge and Plymouth] of being the hottest of the new cars on the strips," according to dealer bulletins of that time.*
The strategy worked, as the 1962 Max Wedges blew away the Chevy 409s and Ford 406s during the months following the Max Wedge introduction, moving Dodge and Plymouth from "also-rans" to the leaders of the pack on the drag strip. Tom Grove, a top Chevy 409 racer in California, said he was lured to the Mopar fold by Melrose Chrysler-Plymouth owner Charlie DiBari.
Grove immediately went out and broke all his Chevy strip records in an out-of-the-box Plymouth 413.† He also went 165.44 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Grove's Plymouths competed under the name Melrose Missile through the race HEMI era. Other racers took their cars to track records all over America, winning hundreds of trophies in the process. The transformation of Dodge and Plymouth brand's reputations in the market was total, making them the cars to beat on the drag strip.
Chrysler upgraded the Max Wedge to 426 cid in 1963 by opening up the bore to 4.25 inches. Two versions were again available, based on compression ratio-11 to 1 and 13.5 to 1. The engines were rated at 415 hp and 425 hp, respectively. The 413 engine's carburetors and cylinder heads were carried over. Late in 1963, the 426 was upgraded with new carburetors having .25 inch larger (1-11/16") primary throats (same as the secondaries). Other changes included a hotter cam with higher lift (.520") and more exhaust valve opening duration. Also a relief was machined in the head near the intake valve for more airflow. The engine was re-titled 426-II to signify the changes. Chrysler did not change horsepower ratings.‡
A "light-weight" package was also released in 1963 to make the Max Wedges even more dominant. Available only on the 13.5:1 package, it included aluminum right and left front fenders, hood with air scoop, light-weight front bumper and supports, aluminum front bumper dust shields and black front and rear floor carpets without jute backing. Also, the battery was moved to the right side of the trunk. In the trunk were "special carburetor air horn, hood sealing gasket and flame arrestor" for customer or dealer installations.
The next and final Max Wedge changes were put in place for the 1964 model year when the 426-III engine was launched. It was pictured in photos with a complicated cast-iron exhaust system in which equal 21-inch branches came together in a series of "Y-shapes" that gathered each bank of four pipes into two and then into one via a steel tube manifold attached to the cast-iron piece.
These "Tri-Y" manifolds were created mainly for NASCAR because steel tube headers weren't legal at that time, unlike NHRA and AHRA for drag racing. Cylinder heads were also strengthened and improved. Other changes included stronger connecting rods, a new crankshaft and a larger capacity oil pan.
The big news for the 426-III package was a new Chrysler heavy-duty, 4-speed transmission. A Hurst gearshift was optional for this gearbox. The light-weight package was carried over with the addition of an aluminum radiator air shield, stone deflector and hood lock supports. Every pound was counted as Chrysler left no stone unturned in the search for weight reduction.
The 426-III packages lasted only part-way through the 1964 model year-until the introduction of the 426 "Hemispherical Head" engine in the first months of the calendar year. However, these packages are still on the drag strips today, winning sportsman-class races year after year in tribute to the superiority of Chrysler engineering.
Parts for these desirable engines are still available from Mopar today. For example, two cylinder heads for the 1962-64 Max Wedge are available in the Mopar Performance catalogue: part no. P5007494 with 2.08" intake, 1.88" exhaust (the original dimensions); and P5249824 with 2.14" intake, 1.81" exhaust (the exhaust valve was made smaller to make room for the bigger intake).
*The above information is the Darrel Davis Super Stock Package guides covering the Max Wedge and HEMI® engine package cars. For copies, contact Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are also available at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, //www.wpchryslermuseum.org.
†Grove's comments are in a multi-page Plymouth advertising insert in a 1963 Super Stock Magazine. See //maxwedge.com/extras/63ssply.php. See also //maxwedge.com/, an excellent source of information on the Max Wedge series.
‡Willem L. Weertman, Chrysler Engines 1922-1998" SAE International 2007. Weertman retired from Chrysler as Chief Engineer, Engine Design. He led the design of the 426 HEMI engine, among others.
See also: Hot Rod Magazine, May 1962, page 26 for a very detailed description of the new 413 Max Wedge (though they called it the "H-D" 413).
Courtesy of Mopar Magazine
THE HYPER-PAK SLANT SIX RACING PROGRAM: HOW CHRYSLER DESTROYED FORD AND CHEVY IN A NEW NASCAR RACE SERIES 50 YEARS AGO (OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT!).
NASCAR president Bill France had what he thought was a great idea back in 1959 for the upcoming 1960 stock-car season; a race series for compact cars. It would include the new Detroit small cars-the Dodge Lancer and Plymouth Valiant, the Chevrolet Corvair and Ford Falcon. Against the increasingly-popular imports, such as Volvo, these Detroit cars were introduced to fight off the European invasion led by the increasingly popular Volkswagen Beetle. The new Detroit small cars were expected to put up big sales numbers and push the pesky foreign cars off America's shores.
NASCAR thought the fans would enjoy watching the compacts duke it out on road courses and speedways all around the country.
The compact series was scheduled to kick off on January 31, 1960, at the new Daytona Speedway, with a race on the road course and another race on the high-banked Tri-Oval on the same day.
Cahill's Hyper-Pak product plan included a high-performance version of the standard 170-cu-in Slant Six engine1 and a beefed-up 3-speed manual transmission with a special clutch and pressure plate. The program also included a stiffened body structure. "We doubled up on the welding spots," said Cahill. He also specified racing brake linings, a harder compound that took the heat better (but warmed up slowly). There were other changes to the chassis for better handling.
Tom Hoover was given the job of developing the Slant Six for the new class. He was an engineer in the engine development lab at Chrysler. He was also a hot rodder-a member of the Ramchargers, the Chrysler engineering car club that was already on its way to fame with the wild High and Mighty NHRA record holder.
Hyper-Pak was his first racing development project at Chrysler.
Ronney Householder, Chrysler Corporation's stock car racing manager, was also on the team. "Bob Anderson brought Householder aboard Chrysler," said Hoover. Householder was a legendary racer of Midget and Indy cars before and after World War II.
The engine development was straightforward. Hoover increased power the usual ways: Get more air and fuel into the engine, compress it harder, fire it sooner and let it out easier-all the while spinning the whole assembly faster to get the horsepower numbers up. That meant a hot cam and a bigger carburetor feeding the increased air-fuel mixture volume through bigger valves and ports. Opening the valves more and holding them open longer lets more air in. More air equals more horsepower. The most visible feature of the engine was the long-branch intake manifold, topped by a Carter AFB 4-barrel carburetor. The manifold reflected Chrysler Corporation's (and Hoover's) thinking at the time, as embodied by the Chrysler 300's long ram manifolds that overhung the valve covers on the 413 V-8; not to mention the long pipes up to the carburetors on the High and Mighty.
"Bob Cahill took a car or two and did a representative endurance test," said Hoover. "It was quite a thrilling job," Cahill said in his usual understatement. "I drove the cars home and back. It was winter and we had no heat to the carburetor, so the engine would hardly run until it warmed up. And we had metallic brake linings, so the brakes didn't work the first few times until they got hot." Thrilling, indeed. Householder contributed to the endurance testing by driving one of the cars to Daytona for the races-with his family!
Hoover said, "The only real issue out of our testing was the gear that drove the oil pump. To fix that, we specified a 'super finish' on the gear-not a heat treat or hardening, but just finishing the gear better than stock."
Chrysler built seven cars for Daytona. Drivers would include NASCAR regulars Lee and Richard Petty, Larry Frank, Jack Smith and Marvin Panch along with road racers Jeff Stevens and SCCA National Champion Paul O'Shea. Lee Petty would drive the road course and his son Richard would handle the speedway.
The Valiants proceeded to dominate every phase of the road race, which was televised live by CBS. Panch won, followed by the other six Valiants. The competition was nowhere to be seen, with Joe Weatherly (Falcon), Ricardo Rodriguez (Corvair) and Jim Reed (Corvair) rounding out the top 10.
Panch, according to reports, had a trick up his sleeve for the next race, which was on the high-banked speedway. He had his crew change the rear gears to a ratio more suited for top speed. The work made him late for the start (Cahill kiddingly said he was "on the podium kissing the race queen"). By the time he got into his Valiant and headed out of the pits, the field was a half lap ahead. Nevertheless he won the race, aided by a big crash on the fourth lap that let him catch up. Most of his competition had no experience with speedway racing and had never run in a draft. At the re-start he went right to the front. The rest of the Hyper-Paks followed, easily outdistancing the Falcons and Corvairs. The Valiants took the top three spots, followed by Joe Weatherly and Curtis Turner in Falcons. The other four Valiants, including Richard Petty, were eliminated in the lap-four crash.
"I'll never forget the sound of that engine," said Cahill, who was at the race. "It sounded like a Maserati." Cahill was a road-racing enthusiast and would have heard the beautiful exhaust notes of the inline Italian 6-cylinder engine. The tones were famously described at the time as the sound of "ripping canvas."
The ultimate result of the Hyper-Pak's total destruction of the competition at Daytona was a boring race. CBS, Ford and Chevrolet weren't going to support the series, and so Bill France's great idea collapsed.
The Slant Six was designed by Willem E. "Bill" Weertman, the engine designer who would later create the 426 HEMI.
Courtesy of Mopar Magazine
ENGINEERING THE FIRST 200 MPH LAP
Larry Rathgeb, the engineer in charge of Dodge race car development, was on his way to Chief Engineer Bob Rodger's office at Chrysler Corporation headquarters in early fall 1969. Waiting there were Rodger and an angry Ronney Householder, Manager of Chrysler circle track racing. Rathgeb thought this would be his last walk on Chrysler grounds. He expected to be fired.
It was all about a Dodge Charger that went too fast, too soon.
This particular Charger started out life as a 1969 Dodge Charger 500, built by Nichels Engineering in Griffith, Ind., under Chrysler race engineering supervision-Rathgeb was the lead engineer under Paul Bruns. Chrysler race technician Larry Knowlton picked up the car in late November, 1968, and took it to Daytona Beach for testing. The engineering test car's mission was to get track information for the teams that were running Dodge vehicles in NASCAR, USAC and other stock car racing series.
Dodge built the Charger 500 to improve body aerodynamics for more speed. Ford went Dodge one better by lengthening and streamlining the nose of the midsize Torino fastback. Ford named it the Torino Talladega. Early in the 1969 season it was the fastest car on the circuit and none other than Richard Petty was driving one-and beating the Dodge Charger 500s. Something had to be done.
Race engineering contacted Chrysler aerodynamicists John pointer and Bob Marcel and asked for ideas to make the Charger go faster than the Torino Talladega. "Both came up with the same idea," said Rathgeb, "Streamline the nose and add a wing in the rear. One had a double wing, but they were otherwise the same," he said. The wing was high, not primarily for aerodynamic reasons, but to allow the trunk lid to be opened.
More important were the vertical panels that held the high wing. Rathgeb said these gave the car stability in yaw-when the rear end wanted to slide out. The panels created more drag as the car turned sideways, pulling the rear of the car back in line.
Engineering modified the test car to add the new nose and wing, and Dale Rieker was assigned to develop the street version of the car and get 500 copies built by September 1, 1969. This would qualify the Daytona to race at the Talladega 500, which was scheduled for September 14, 1969. The race was not only the debut of the Charger Daytona, but also the debut of the new Talladega track. Creative Industries would build the production cars in East Detroit, Mich. Creative had also produced the Charger 500.
Meanwhile, the engineering car went to the super speedways for testing and development. Drivers included Charlie Glotzbach and Buddy Baker. They also tested at the Chrysler proving Ground in Chelsea, Michigan. Ray Nichels engineering got busy converting the existing Dodge Charger 500 race cars to Daytonas for Talladega.
Rathgeb wanted to enter the Charger Daytona engineering test car for the Talladega 500, not to actually compete, but to "take laps and show customers the setup," he said. The car had made steady progress to the point that it would be fast at Talladega, so Rathgeb wanted to show it to the Dodge teams.
Householder was reluctant. He didn't want to run the car at its full potential, but he aproved the entry as long as the speed would be held to no faster than 185 mph. Rathgeb got Charlie Glotzbach to run the engineering car. He was slated to drive the Ray Nichels No. 99 Charger Daytona, but Nichels sent him over to the engineering test car, along with permission to use the number 88. Nichels got Richard Brickhouse to drive the 99 car.
The race was a mess for NASCAR. The new track was not ready to race. The track surface was doing strange things to the drivers. "There was talk of a 'pogo Effect,' a low frequency, high amplitude vibration," said Rathgeb. "The Ford drivers got sick, and the track was affecting Glotzbach, too. He was taking his foot off the gas in Turn One according to the recorder Wallace had in the car. "Charlie said, 'The car vibrates in Turn One and I have to close my eyes, and I must be taking my foot off the throttle.' I told him to hold his throttle foot flat on the floor when he closes his eyes."
Rathgeb ordered Glotzbach not to exceed 185 mph. "He said, 'Sure Lar,' and rolled his eyes," recalled Rathgeb, who watched as Glotzbach ran a lap of 199.987 mph in practice and then qualify the car on the pole at 199.446 mph. It was a world record, but Rathgeb knew there would be trouble. "House blew up." he said. "He thought I had lied to him."
Meanwhile, there was a driver revolt. Many of the regulars were members of a new Professional Drivers Association (PDA), led by Richard Petty. The PDA boycotted the race, thinking the new track was unsafe and the available tires were not up to the task. Glotzbach left with them. The No.88 engineering car was withdrawn and Richard Brickhouse won with the No. 99 Dodge Charger Daytona. Second through fourth were also Dodges.
Back in Highland Park, Rathgeb was on his "last walk." This was not good. "I was grateful and privileged to work for Chrysler," he said. It would be a disaster to lose his job. His boss, Dean Engle saw him on his way out of the race engineering office and said he would go along. When they arrived at Rodger's office, Engle spoke up, as Rathgeb remembers. "He said, 'I want to make a comment. The purpose of racing is to, number one, get the pole, and, number two, get the win.' Bob Rodger looked at House and said, 'Well?' There was no response. Then Rodger said, 'I think that in the future we should communicate better.'" The meeting was over. Rathgeb got his reprieve. Life could go on for a while longer-and it would get a lot better for both Rathgeb and Dodge.
A few months later, in February 1970, Rathgeb's phone rang. It was Frank Wylie, Dodge public relations director for racing. He asked straight out. "Can we go 200 mph at Talladega?" He already knew the answer, and Rathgeb confirmed it. "Wylie had already called NASCAR. Or was it the other way around," said Rathgeb. NASCAR would let Chrysler have the track at no cost. "He said he wanted Buddy Baker to drive, and he asked what it would cost. I thought a while and told him $3,500 to $3,700."
Rathgeb was scheduled to be at Atlanta for a race near the end of March, but it was rained out, opening up some time to go to Talladega. George Wallace would fly in. The car was in Huntsville, Ala., already, with mechanics Fred Schrandt and Larry Knowlton. Gary Congdon of Holley would also come along to support the effort. "He went to all the tests," said Rathgeb.
They all met at Talladega with the engineering test car: Buddy Baker, NASCAR officials, including chief timer Joe Epton and President Bill France Sr. and representatives from the Goodyear Tire company were there. On March 24, 1970, Baker climbed into the car and began lapping the high-banked oval. He was immediately over 190 mph with a lap of 194; then 198, stopping every few laps for adjustments by the engineering team. Finally on the 30th lap he became the first driver to lap a closed course at over 200 mph, with a speed of 200.096 mph. He stopped at the pits to enjoy the celebration, then went back out and ran off laps of 200.330 mph and, on his 34th lap, 200.447 mph.
There is only one "first" in many aspects of human achievement. Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile in 1954 and Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon. Buddy Baker was the first to lap at over 200 mph, and he did it in a Dodge.
The historic engineering test car still exists. Chrysler technician Greg Kwiatkowski found it after something of a quest for the "holy grail" a few years ago. USAC Stock Car Champion Don White had acquired it and raced it on short tracks for a few seasons before unceremoniously retiring it to the weeds behind his shop. The car is now in Kwiatkowski's garage undergoing a very deliberate restoration.
Rathgeb, Pointer, Wallace, Bill Wright, manager of the Dodge race car garage and John Vaughan, the instrumentation specialist at the time of the record runs, have all visited the famous racing artifact. Rathgeb has been back to see it as recently as 2009.
This Dodge Charger Daytona-the race engineering test car-is truly the holy grail, not just for Dodge and NASCAR, but for the whole world of racing, because it is the first car to surmount the most recognizable racing barrier of all. The 200-mph lap.
Courtesy of Mopar Magazine. Greg Kwiatkowski photo at allpar.com
Chrysler'S High-Performance Pioneer
Who is the father of the HEMI® engine? Tom Hoover is the consensus answer for the 426 HEMI, but what about the first Generation HEMI engine-the Chrysler FirePower V-8, introduced in 1951? We think that, if there is a "father" for this engine, he would be James Zeder.
James C. Zeder, Chrysler Vice President and Chief Engineer during the post World War II decades, was the much-younger brother of the legendary Fred Zeder, one of the famous "Three Musketeers," Zeder, O. R. Skelton, and Carl Breer, who helped Walter P. Chrysler in the founding years of the company. His older brother was a legendary practitioner of the engineering arts-giving Chrysler robust and reliable-if not exciting-cars and trucks. James was just as capable but had an added dimension. He appreciated the excitement that was possible when technology was taken to the limit of the engineer's imagination.
When Chrysler embarked on the long-term study of engine technology that led to the first-generation hemispherical V-8 engines, James Zeder was a leader of the effort as the company considered all the high-performance auto and aircraft engines of the world-starting with the dawn of the internal combustion engine.
Bob Cahill worked in the engine lab at that time under John Platner, director of experimental engine development. Cahill remembers the exotic European engines that were tested, including an Alfa Romeo DOHC six and a Riley two-cam pushrod hemispherical-head four-cylinder. The tests confirmed what Zeder already knew-that the hemispherical combustion chamber in a V-8 engine was the answer.
He and engine development supervisor William Drinkard promoted it in the face of the elder Zeder's preference for a more conventional layout. James and Drinkard won the battle and the HEMI was born in 1951 with the Chrysler FirePower V-8.
To James Zeder's possible surprise (and delight), the engine was immediately adopted for racing. Here's what he said in an October 1952 engineering paper about the Chrysler plans for future development of the engine: "The course which we set for yourself- [was] one of orderly progress with no fireworks-only FirePower! Then we met the hot-rod boys-or rather they adopted us with all the gusto attending induction into any other tribe of wild Indians [we're sure he would choose another way to say that today] … it was a pleasure and, in many ways, an inspiration to meet a group of men in whom are rekindled the enthusiasms of an earlier era; men to whom owning and driving a car are sport and adventure, and not merely a chore inherited by default from the streetcar motorman.
"Nor has the association been technically unprofitable. The boys may not always have the solution to the differential equations, and are sometimes impatient of questions involving 'why?', but they have had the opportunity and the interest to find out 'how?'; and many of their answers are remarkably good." He obviously noticed, and was impressed by, the HEMI engines showing up at the drag strips, dry lakes and the Bonneville salt flats-and the road courses of America, not to mention HEMI -powered Chrysler sedans winning in NASCAR and in the Mexican Road Race.
Inspired by the hot rodders, Zeder embarked on an all-out program to improve the HEMI engine's performance, and he left no stone unturned. His engineering departments investigated compression ratios to confirm their benefits, but concentrated on volumetric efficiency-the ability of an engine to breathe-by means of larger valves, better-flowing ports and intake manifolds with multiple carburetors- and even fuel injection.
There were separate high-torque and high-horsepower developments. The high-torque option (photo this page) had what might be the first "tunnel ram" manifold. This all led to associations with some interesting projects, namely Briggs Cunningham's Le Mans efforts that gave new respectability to the Americans and to the HEMI, and also Chrysler Corporation's successful attack on the Indianapolis Speedway during the summer of 1952 that led to an even more successful counter-attack by the Indy establishment that effectively shut the program down. John Platner and Don Moore were deeply involved in building the "Indy" engine, with the collaboration of Zeder, Ray White, John Platner, Mel Carpentier, William Drinkard, and Ev Moeller (the latter would lay out the 426 HEMI for engine design chief Bill Weertman).
But Zeder saw benefits for high performance that transcended motorsports. His words in the 1952 paper demonstrated an appreciation of how high performance could offset the effects of tight oil supply 57 years ago(!): "In recent years, the hoary specter of petroleum depletion has retreated, but not vanished. Should politics or geology make it brazen enough to threaten again ... It will be necessary to preserve gallons of crude oil ... and for this purpose the high compression engine may well come into its own … as the compression ratio is increased, both power and thermal efficiency are increased … This interchangeability of power and economy is fundamental; for any increase in specific power may be expended to decrease size, which requires less work and automatically improves economy."
His words predicted that, in the interest of fuel economy (not to mention emissions abatement), the industry someday would introduce smaller engines with higher specific power. There was a flurry of such activity as a result of the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and subsequent tightening of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), but 2009 has seen the U.S. Congress authorize a huge increase in CAFE standards while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) was poised to implement new carbon dioxide emission standards, which is equivalent to requiring greater fuel economy.
Not only that, but Congress was debating the institution of regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 (as provided by House Resolution 2454-the Cap And Trade Bill). Zeder's prediction had come true, so we are now seeing a huge interest in small engines with high horsepower through high compression, turbocharging and other "hot rodding" methods. Zeder was more than a one-dimensional thinker, having the breadth of knowledge to see the automobile in the universe of human interest. He would have been comfortable today, marrying high performance with efficiency in a world he saw coming a half century ago.