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Pontiac Firebird - The Hemi Then And Now

Think You Know Your Elephant? Get The Facts When We Show You...

Photography by Steve Magnante

426 Fashion Show
No other powerplant in the automotive universe can wear so many hats and look great in every one of them. Here's a roundup of classic Hemi induction setups and build styles. Each one gives the burly beast an entirely different look. Try one on for size.

If you're into the more traditional look of dual quads, go with an original dual-plane Street Hemi manifold-or the just-released MP reproduction of same. Then slap on a set of vintage Carter AFBs or Edelbrock Performers and you'll love how the dual carbs make the massive Hemi look so right. You can even go a step further and score a Stage V Engineering single-plane Rat Buster or MP eight-barrel (P4510633). Either one opens the door to the use of Holley carburetors-something the stock Street Hemi casting's close spacing can't handle. Rami Khory's '69 Charger R/T was born with an L-code 440 Magnum, but he's upgraded to this Rat Buster-fortified 540hp elephant by Submission Engines.

A more hard-core NMCA outlaw vibe is possible when one of the new generation of single-plane manifolds is coupled with a Holley Dominator. This Stage V Engineering/ Ray Barton casting sits atop Kevin King's all-aluminum Hemi from Huntington Beach, California. Built by Submission Engines, this 572ci beast runs a Keith Black block, Stage V Engineering heads, and 12.5:1 slugs and makes 880 hp at 6,700 rpm. It powers King's street-legal '69 flip-nose Road Runner to low 9s in the quarter. Mondo single-plane Hemi intakes are also available from Indy Cylinder Head.

The single four-barrel Hemi traces its roots back to the very first Track Hemis that swept the '64 Daytona 500 (NASCAR disallowed multiple carbs). While some feel a single carburetor gets lost between the Hemi's broad shoulders, the setup actually works very well on street and strip machinery like Steve Lowe's '68 Charger from Pomona. Steve's 528 crate Hemi still wears its box-stock M1 P4876188 dual-plane casting mounting a Holley 850. Further civility comes from a March serpentine pulley kit and real live air conditioning, something that was never offered on the '66-'71 Street Hemi when new.

Some say the only proper Hemi induction is a cross-ram. Those cast for 1964 and 1968 factory race car packages are aluminum, while the 1965 A990 piece was lighter magnesium. Originals are scarce, but Rick Allison and the guys at A&A Transmission have been making faithful magnesium reproductions like this for several years. The whole point of the cross-ram layout is to take advantage of the naturally occurring resonant frequencies present in the intake tract when the valve opens and closes. The 12.4-inch total runner length is tuned to provide a slight supercharging effect above 5,000 rpm. The power and look are so popular that everything you see here, right down to the correct green return spring, is available in reproduction from A&A, Kramer Automotive Specialties, Mancini Racing, and others, so you no longer have to scrounge through piles of used-up race parts to get a cross-ram on your Hemi. More modern cross-ram designs are available from Indy Cylinder Head and Ray Barton for nonpurists.

The cross-ram look has evolved radically through the years. While reworked stock castings-with the plenum tops cut off, then re-welded after internal mods were made-used to be the norm on class-legal Super Stock Hemi cars, NHRA finally allowed the use of fabricated intake manifolds as long as the carburetor centerlines are offset at least 1 inch. This is the class-legal SS/AH Hemi that powers Dave Raybourn's Mean Fish Hemi Barracuda from Modesto, California. Clearly its one-off intake is more of a tunnel-ram than a cross-ram, but it's part of the recipe for Raybourn's 8.63/153.3 performance. Unlike most modern SS/AH entries, this is a real '68 Hemi Barracuda. Wearing serial number BO29M8B299127, it was originally delivered to Pennsylvania drag racer Tom Myl back in 1968 and has been a drag car all its life. The VIN's second letter, O, stands for Super Stock. What other Detroit automaker was this cool?

Now we're talking. In the '50s, Chrysler worked closely with Stu Hilborn and developed several direct-port mechanical fuel-injection setups that saw use on stock-block Indy car race engine and alcohol fuel projects. These experiments quickly spawned part numbers in the Hilborn catalog, and fuel-injected Gen I Hemis became a common-and feared-sight on strips across the nation. In 1965 Chrysler and Hilborn teamed up again on direct-port mechanical injection for the Gen II 426 Hemi to accommodate the use of alcohol and nitromethane in altered-wheelbase Funny Car applications. Today Hilborn, Crower, and Kinsler all offer these wicked setups in either mechanical or electronic modes. This Hilborn-equipped 472 Hemi has been fitted with electronic controls and runs sweet and smooth in traffic.

For some, this is the only image that comes to mind when you say Hemi. No other engine looks so brutal with a Roots-type huffer bolted on top; some even look silly. Not the Hemi. The fact is, no other engine design is as capable of surviving in the world of Top Fuel like the Hemi. Just ask guys like John Force and Don Garlits if you need proof. This evil blown Hemi powers Sonny Wells' '71 Demon.

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