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1971 Dodge Charger Hemi


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.

1971 Dodge Charger Hemi
The 1971 Dodge Charger Hemi was "Coke-bottle" shaped.
The Hemi engine was in its last season and brought with it
a standard vacuum-operated hood scoop.

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.

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 roofline. 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.

Above the $2707 base Charger was the $3223 500, and $3357 luxury SE. The Super Bee name came to the Charger line for ’71 as a basic performance-oriented model with a 275-horsepower 383-cubic-inch V-8 and Rallye Suspension standard. It listed for $3271. A 300-horsepower 383 was the next rung up the V-8 ladder, while the R/T returned with the 370-horsepower 440 Magnum standard. It listed for $3777. The Hemi was available on the R/T and Charger Super Bee models.

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.

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.

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.

Automotive journalist and race driver Patrick Bedard, listing his personal top-10 muscle cars for the January 1990 issue of Car and Driver, remembers how it was: “Hemis were easy to drive in commuter traffic but hard to race from a standing start because of the way the carburetors worked. At light throttle, the engine ran on the front half of the rear four-barrel. As the pedal went down, the primaries of the front four-barrel opened, followed after a bit by both secondaries at once. A good launch required enough wheelspin to get the revs up into the torque range, but it was easy to open too many throttles too soon and burn the tires. The necessary technique was quite challenging with a four-speed. If you were Hemi hunting in a lesser car, you wanted to catch him at a stop. If he fumbled and you were lucky enough to pull out a fender-length on him, you claimed victory early by backing off the power, thereby ending the run. If you were crazy enough to stay on it, the Hemi would take over in short order.” Bedard also points out that advances in tire technology by the early ’70s helped improve traction and cut quarter-mile times slightly.

With their slick new bodies, Hemi Chargers were again a winning force in NASCAR, and some observers credit Chrysler’s drag-racing experience with helping it get the most out of its oval stockers now that NASCAR required them to be closer than ever to production cars.

Dodge sold just 5054 Charger Super Bees and only 3118 Charger R/Ts in ’71, and while fewer than 100 were equipped with the Hemi, King Kong would remain a strong presence in all sorts of competitive motorsports for years to come. On the street, however, 1971 was indeed the requiem for this heavyweight.

Engine Type
V-8/RB-Block/Hemi
Displacement (cid)
426
Horsepower @ rpm:
425 @ 5000
Torque (pounds/feet) @ rpm
490 @ 4000
Compression Ratio
10.2:1
Bore (inches)
4.25
Stroke (inches)
3.75
Valve Lifters
Hydraulic
Availability
1971 Charger R/T and Super Bee

Times*:

0-60 mph (sec)
5.8
0-100 mph (sec)
13.0
1/4-mile (sec)
13.73 @ 104 mph
Top speed (mph)
115
Axle ratio
4.10:1

*Source: Muscle Car Review (1970)

Times*:

0-60 mph (sec)
5.7
0-100 mph (sec)
N/A
1/4-mile (sec)
13.73 @ 104 mph
Top speed (mph)
N/A
Axle ratio
4.10:1

*Source: Motor Trend

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