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The engineers started the power war by dropping the healthy Chrysler Cross Ram 413 engines into lightweight unibody Plymouths and Dodges and when they hit the dragstrip everyone else was playing catch up. The Plymouths and Dodges had excellent power in ’61 and ’62 but the
they would have
the power of the cars in ’63. The styling was also questionable, so that was also drastically improved. The word was out that Ford, Chevy and Pontiac were releasing new larger cubic-inch engines to compete on an even level with the Chrysler offerings. The engineers at Chrysler just had a smile on their collective faces when the new Max Wedge 426 engine was introduced
with a factory short
runner Cross Ram
intake. It was
rated at 425
as Chevy’s 409 and Ford’s 427, but the actual horsepower was a great deal more. The other companies found out quickly that the Plymouths and Dodges were still the cars to beat. At many National drag races the Super Stock finals saw Plymouths racing Dodges because all of the other brands were eliminated.
Chrysler was also competing in NASCAR racing and was doing well with the new engine. This was an area where the Ford powered race cars were on top of their game and there was generally a lot of competition between the manufacturers. The ’63 season was a good one but the Chrysler engineers thought they needed a slight advantage in ‘64. The engine’s were improved for the ’64 season but the important change was a new roofline that was released to improve the Plymouth’s and Dodge’s aerodynamics. In ’64 it became a two company showdown because GM backed out of racing at the end of the ’63 season. Apparently the bean counters had their way, or the GM management realized that the company just didn’t have an engine that could compete with the Fords and Chryslers.
The Chevy “Mystery Motor” seemed as if it could, but it was an engineering exercise, not a regular production engine and wouldn’t come into production until the end of ’65.
Plymouth and Dodge came out with the new body style with the slant back roofline and both looked as if they were moving when they were standing still. Walt Dill was a race fan and thought the Dodges were better looking cars. They were also a step up in class from the Plymouths so they came equipped with a variety of small refinements. Walt wanted a 426 Dodge so he went to his dealership on April 17, 1964 and special-ordered the 426 hardtop. He ordered a four-barrel 426 backed by a four-speed transmission. He was told that the car would take nine weeks to deliver, but a few days later the dealership called and told him that they had his car. He responded and it was exactly what he ordered.
As it turned out, the Dodge he wanted was already on the lot but it was equipped with dual-quads. The dealership changed the intake over to a single-quad and everyone was happy. It’s an interesting fact that the purchase price was only $2,720 out the door! Walt was living in Phoenix at the time and was a married to Jan, so this was going to be their family cruiser. Walt would have ordered the dual-quad version but he knew that the car would run better on the street with the standard intake.
Walt did have a need for speed so the Dodge made weekly visits to Beeline Drag Strip on Saturday nights. It also made weekly visits to Lion’s Dragstrip after the Dills moved to Southern California. With a single-quad intake the Dodge turned 13.80-second elapsed times with speeds in the 102 to 105 range.