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1964 was the year the top Detroit horsepower making machinery went nuclear. A similar juncture happened in the world of aviation back in 1945. That’s when the superior performance of jet propelled war birds like the Messerschmitt Me262 put even the hottest piston-engine, propeller motivated jobs on the trailer – so to speak. Suddenly the North American P-51 Mustang wasn’t so impressive and the worldwide switch to jet power was on.
A similar night-to-day transition happened with the arrival of the 426 Hemi. With its superior breathing potential, the 1962-1964 413 and 426 Max Wedge Mopars were outgunned. The same goes for anything being made by GM or Ford. The 421 Super Duty, Ford 427 High-Riser and Chevy Z-11 427 were simply not in the same league as the Hemi.
Though GM is known to have been working on a number of exotic hemi-head and overhead cam V8 engine designs that could have threatened Mopar’s new Hemi, its self-imposed ban on racing development snuffed that flame in March, 1963. This was spurred by a looming fear of government anti-trust action. GM wanted to keep a low profile to avoid unwanted attention.
Ford wasn’t spooked by the possibility of government attacks and got with the hemi program within weeks of the unveiling of Chrysler Corp.’s potent 426. Its SOHC 427 proved to be a very serious threat to the Hemi Mopars and further validates the fact that the world of stock-body door slammer drag racing is divided into two distinct worlds; pre-Hemi and post Hemi.
Going even further, the new breed of hemi head engines was only half of the story. To make effective use of the previously unheard of output, Chrysler engineers devised more suitable “airframes”. The 1964 Dodge and Plymouth Race Hemi sedans were fitted with aluminum fenders, hoods, front bumpers and even doors. The goal was to offset the 100 extra pounds the big hemi heads placed over the front tires. Out back, the size of the trunk mounted battery fitted to previous Max Wedge lightweights was nearly doubled and it was mounted to a thick steel plate that was bolted farther back on the trunk floor than in wedge applications – further maximizing the leverage-effect on the rearward weight bias.
Though many Mopar Hemi collectors and fans get hung up worshipping flamboyant offerings like the Hemi Superbird and Hemi ‘Cuda convertible (which we love…hold the hate mail), we’re just as impressed by the ’64 factory-built Race Hemi sedans. They may lack bright colors and fancy stripes, but they are the epitome of brutal. Wanna make the guy in the ’64 Tri-Power GTO crap his pants? Show up in one of these. That’s why we were so shocked to see what happened to the ’64 A-864 Dodge discussed in this story. Let’s watch and learn together.