Bob Golfen’s story last week on the ClassicCars.com Blog about the 50th anniversary of Chrysler’s 426 Hemi engine got us to thinking about the cars in which that engine first hit the road.
That’s the road, not the race track.
As Bob noted, the engine made its debut in 1964 with a 1-2-3 sweep of the Daytona 500, but was banned for the 1965 stock car racing season because the engine had not been available in any 1964-model-year passenger cars.
Chrysler remedied that by putting the 426 Hemi into nearly 7,000 cars for the 1965 model year (and NASCAR invited the Hemi-powered Dodges and Plymouths back on the track in 1966). However, as pointed out in the Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975, only 360 of those nearly 7,000 1965-model-year passenger cars were equipped with all-out, highest-performance “Race Hemis.” The automotive encyclopedia notes that “Race Hemis” were sold “as is” and carried no manufacturer’s warranty.
Anyway, we all remember when muscle-car era Hemi ‘Cudas became million-dollar collector cars, but how have the cars that first carried the historic engine fared with classic car enthusiasts?
According to the Kelley Blue Book Collector’s Edition price guide, the presence of a factory-installed 426 Hemi in a 1965 Dodge Coronet boosts its value by 75 percent.
Meanwhile, the Hagerty Price Guide reports that a Hemi-powered 1965 Coronet two-door sedan in “fair” condition — meaning it’s a “driver” but in need of restoration — should be available for around $12,000. It adds, howeveer, that same car in concours condition likely will cost you only around $35,000.
Make that Coronet a concours-condition hardtop and the price escalates to around $50,000. Make it a convertible and you’re looking at $70K.
The Coronet was Dodge’s “intermediate” sized car. It’s cousin was the Plymouth Belvedere. Their competitors included the Ford Fairlane and Chevrolet Chevelle.
For the 1965 model year, the 426 Hemi also was available in the full-size Dodge Polara and Custom 880 and Plymouth Fury. It is interesting to note, however, that the Sport Fury convertible that was the pace car for the 1965 Indy 500 carried not a 426 Hemi but a 383-cid Commando V8 under its hood.