Surprisingly Not a Stripper By MIKE COVELLO (08:30 April 21, 2003) Chrysler's 426 Hemi occupies a unique place in the annals of performance car lore. While Ford’s Boss 429 engine only appeared in the Mustang for two years, and Chevrolet’s all-aluminum Rat motor was sparsely sprinkled among its top performance models, the Elephant engine found its way into a variety of Chrysler products, from ’Cudas to Coronets. The 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T came standard with a 440-cid 375-hp Magnum engine, but for those seeking victory at the drag strip, the 425-hp Hemi was the weapon of choice. According to conventional wisdom, owners ordered their new car for quarter-mile duty with the least amount of weight possible to increase their acceleration prowess. This meant many Hemi-powered cars sported bare rubber floors and dog dish hubcaps, instead of carpet and mag wheels. The formula must have been correct, because legions of competitors won races, eliminations and championships with the Hemi. John Marshall of Lynn, Massachusetts, came of age in an era when even Lynn matrons were seen puttering around town in cars as potent as this example. Marshall was able to locate an immaculate version of his childhood dream car, but it took more than seven years to convince the previous owner to sell him this Dark Green Iridescent Coronet. Unlike its bare-bone brethren, Marshall’s trophy winner is more valuable because it has every factory option offered except for bumper guards and headrests. But despite his preference for displaying his Coronet with mirrors ringing its perimeter (the better to see the as-new undercarriage), Marshall’s car is no trailer queen. “These cars were meant to be driven,” he exclaim-ed as we settled into the vinyl bucket seats. A wide dashboard greets us with a ribbon speedometer, whose right side seems to beckon the needle to race toward its 150-mph terminus. The tachometer is perched on the chrome-topped console, and can be swiveled to face either driver or passenger. The Coronet shakes when Marshall prods the dormant Hemi to life. As the twin Carter four-barrel carburetors drink their first drafts of premium fuel, the smell of high-octane sets off memories of adolescent shenanigans. Marshall pulls back on the console-mounted chrome lever, and drops the Torqueflite transmission into drive. The obvious weak link in the Coronet’s chain of propulsion is the big-for-their-day, bias-ply tires. These 7.75x14-inch narrow bands of rubber could never hope to successfully harness the 490 lb-ft of torque immediately available from the Hemi. Marshall needs to use a light foot to successfully turn the horsepower into traction. Too much throttle, and the tires will quickly turn to vapor. Not enough, and the big hardtop will bog down with an embarrassing belch of high-test. Thanks to years of practice, Marshall gets it just right: The front end rises up, the back end squats down, and the leader of the Dodge Rebellion rockets forward with a thunderous roar and the sweet smell of burning rubber. The Hemi still has the ability to thrill a jaded automotive journalist. Chrysler’s production of the 426 Hemi ran from 1966 to 1971. The company stopped making the Hemi before it had to strangle the powerplant with emerging emission controls, so it remains a pure muscle motor. Thanks to the efforts of engine builders like Keith Black and Ed Donovan, the Hemi continued to win drag races through the 1970s and ’80s. Hemi motorsports engineer Larry Shepard, keeper-of-the-Hemi-flame, answered the prayers of drag racers throughout the land by announcing in 1998 that you could once again buy a complete 426 Hemi direct from the factory.