1971 Dodge Charger Hemi - End of the Era

The end of an era as it would be the last year the Hemi would be found under the hood of the Dodge Charger, the car we are gonna focus on today in this edition of Crown Classic Cars. Few would have imagined such a fate. American automakers had been pushing power and big engines for nearly two decades. Now, by 1971, Detroit was reducing the power. Chrysler was holding out, though. One of the last items anyone would have expected on the 1971 Dodge Charger option sheet was the 426 Hemi V-8, but there it was. It wasn’t intensely promoted, to be sure, but it was there. Granted, not many folks ticked the Hemi option: just 85 Chargers were built with it in ’71. But if not many Hemis were delivered, that didn’t mean the Hemi didn’t still deliver. As had been the case since its 1964 debut as a race engine, the Hemi was rated at 425 horsepower and had 490 pounds/feet of available torque. MoPar kept the compression high, too, at 10.2:1. While most car makers were detuning their big block engines and lowering compression ratios, Dodge stood out from the crowd by keeping the 426 Hemi alive with the same horsepower and torque numbers it had in 1970. The legendary engine would fade from the lineup after this year, but the Charger that was its last home was a radically new Chrysler intermediate with an elongated “Coke bottle” shape and a semi-fastback roof-line. Wheelbase for once was down, to 115, two inches shorter than the 1970 version. If the Hemi was evidence that Chrysler was holding onto the performance era, the slant-six cylinder engine that came standard in the base ’71 Charger was a sure sign that MoPar had glimpsed the end of the muscle age. The base V-8 engine was the 318. It also sported ventless side windows, concealed windshield wipers under the hood, and a split front bumper. The new shape came after extensive wind tunnel testing meant to maximize the power of Chrysler’s Hemi engine for NASCAR. So successful was the new Charger in that respect alone that Richard Petty continued running the 1971 body until it was no longer eligible for competition. All R/Ts received a blackout louvered performance hood, special door skins with simulated air extractors, and Rallye wheels. A colored racing stripe vectored aft from the cowl, following the beltline. Rear deck spoiler and chin spoiler were optional. Hemi Super Bee models were less radical, with fewer door vents, but still striking with their bumblebee graphics. The Super Bee package got you features such as heavy-duty suspension and brakes, Rallye Instrument Cluster, and performance hood with blackout treatment. And with the Hemi, the Ramcharger vacuum-powered air scoop was standard. This feature fed fresh air into the carburetor by pulling a knob located on the dashboard. It also had a really cool graphic that was visible once the scoop was activated. The Super Bee was created to be a worthy adversary to the Plymouth Road Runner and the Pontiac GTO. High-back bucket seats, Slap-Stick or Hurst pistol-grip shifter, console, full instrumentation, trimmed pedals, and a choice of audio options were found inside. The 426 Hemi cost an extra $883.55 (not including required extras) and was available with standard four-speed or optional TorqueFlite. Sure-Grip differential was a mandatory option. Eleven-inch drum brakes -- 3 inches wide up front, 2½ inches wide at the rear -- were standard in both Super Bee and R/T. Hemi Chargers also had a vacuum-operated hood scoop activated by a dashboard switch. It allowed cold air to reach the twin Carter AFB four-barrel carburetors via the shortest path. Dodge’s Performance Parts Catalog, titled “Hustle Stuff for the Dodge Scat Pack,” was one more signal that excitement hadn’t been forgotten. The list of available goodies included not only Dodge-brand components but shifters from Hurst, performance cams from Racer Brown and Iskenderian, headers from Hooker, and Edelbrock manifolds. They achieved a 0 to 60 time of 5.7 seconds and dashed the quarter mile in 13.73 seconds running 104 miles per hour. Compared to the 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454, the Hemi Charger was 0.3 seconds quicker from 0 to 60 and 0.27 seconds quicker in the quarter mile. The 440 Magnum would still give a Hemi -- or anything else on the road -- a heap of trouble in street racing. One advantage of the 440 had been that it was easier than the Hemi to keep in tune. In 1970, however, Chrysler gave the Hemi hydraulic valve lifters, which helped keep the engine in optimum tune and made it a more viable street sweeper. Quarter-mile times were in the high 13s at more than 100 mph -- fine numbers for any era. July 30, 1971 – the final day of production for the greatest production performance engine of its time. Only 85 Hemi Chargers were created in 1971. 63 Hemis went into the R/T and a mere 22 Hemis were planted under the Super Bee’s hood. This superiority was not cheap. With a price ranging between $707 for the R/T and $837 for the Super Bee, the Hemi was roughly one-fourth the price of the car. There’s also very little mention of the 426 Hemi in any Dodge advertisement or brochure from 1971. It’s almost as if Dodge wanted to keep the Hemi a secret. Truth is, with Uncle Sam and the insurance companies putting the squeeze on the muscle car, it’s no wonder the Hemi disappeared after 1971. The record states that a 1971 Dodge Charger Hemi Super Bee, is equipped with the last 426 Hemi ever produced. It is known on the auto circut as the highest known VIN number, or the last Hemi car that rolled out of a Chrysler’s factory. You don’t see every day this kind of Mopar, probably you will see it once in your lifetime, if you are lucky enough. So look we included some photos for you to see. And just like that, it was over. When the Hemi Charger appeared in 1966, it entered the market where the Pontiac GTO and Ford Fairlane had already established their reputations as formidable competitors on the muscle car scene.

But the end of the decade, the Hemi Charger had earned its legendary status and was now a fierce contender on the street and drag strip. The 1971 Hemi Charger was the last holdout to this legacy.

Thanks for reading our history of the last Hemi. If you are looking for parts give us a call or check out www.Crownauto.parts or CrownClassicautoparts.com