The Mopar HEMI is arguably the most recognized engine of the muscle car era. However, its roots go back to WWII, when Chrysler engineers worked to develop more powerful engines for fighter aircraft. Following the war, the hemispherical head technology developed for military aircraft engines was first used in Chrysler cars in 1951. When the Detroit muscle car wars began, Chrysler's answer was the second generation HEMIs, in the form of the legendary 426. Nicknamed the "Elephant" for its colossally large heads, between 1965 and 1971, the 426 HEMI was available in everything from the humble Dodge Dart to the NASCAR-inspired wing cars. The engine saw equal success on the circle tracks and drag strips across America. However, with the end of performance inspired cars in the early 1970s, the 426 HEMI was no longer offered by Chrysler as an engine option. It wasn't until 2003 that horsepower made a comeback, with the introduction of the third generation HEMI engines.
If you are looking for the last second generation 426 HEMI produced in the golden age of muscle cars, why not start by taking a look at the white 1971 Dodge Charger, restored by RKM Performance Center. Records show the car was built on June 18, 1971, a full two weeks later than the oldest documented 426-equipped car, making it the final vehicle to leave any Chrysler plant with a factory-installed HEMI.
When a Wickliffe, Ohio salesman took the customer's order in 1971, he told the hopeful buyer the car would likely never be built, because Chrysler had discontinued the HEMI. Against all odds, and to the delight of the customer, the bright white car with full R/T striping was delivered just three weeks later.
In the late 1970s, the 14-year-old son of a racecar driver saw the car sticking out of a garage, and immediately recognized it as a performance legend. After 10 years of negotiations with the owner, a deal was made by the Mopar sleuth to purchase the Charger R/T. Several years would pass before the car was discovered to be the last HEMI.
It is believed to be one of only 33 1971 R/Ts originally outfitted with the HEMI / automatic transmission combination.
History and Documentation
The car has recently been restored with 100% OEM sheet metal and a long list of original and NOS parts.
Various Views of the Last Hemi Dodge Charger