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Commentary by Pete Hagenbuch,
who helped to create many of Chrysler’s most famed engines.
[Play audio --> ]
Oh, this is one of my favorite cars. I always loved this. I love the name, if nothing else. It’s a Dodge Custom Royal Lancer D500. Now beat that! And the D500, that was one great power pack.
The 300 also had a Hemi, which we didn’t call a Hemi. Everybody at Chrysler called those hemi-style cylinder heads “Double Rockers,” referring to the double rocker shafts on each cylinder head. It had two rocker arm shafts. It wasn’t called a Hemi.
The engine that was called the Hemi didn’t come out until 1964, but in the original V8 series, each car line had their own Hemi, their own double rocker. Not even one interchangeable part, except for fasteners, etc. That was Chrysler and DeSoto and then Dodge; the Chrysler came out at 331 cid and went up to 392. The DeSoto came out at 276 cid and ended up at 340.The Dodge started out at 244 cid the first year, the Dodge Red Ram; it ended up at 315.cid.
We made this thing we called the polyspherical chamber, the lower price engine, once it was realised just how expensive it was to build the double rockers. That’s why I’m so high on the current Hemi, because it’s the first one that has superior performance, it passes emissions standards, and makes money for the Corporation. Yeah, it’s got a Hemi.
Bob Lee, who was in charge of the Hemi design, is one of the guys from Design that we used to kid… we taught him all he knew.
... And then there’s the Cordoba. This was when the industry was no longer going for performance. It was a nice car, it really was. It’s a nice car. It doesn’t have much in the way of punch, but it does have beautiful, fine lines.
Question: Corinthian leather?
Corinthian, thank you. Fine Corinthian leather, and they did.
Gene: Is there any significance to having a gas pump next to it?
The reason for the gas pump, is that this thing doesn’t gobble gas, at least not in gallons per mile, like this one.
For any of you that don’t know, this is the first 300 letter car, though it never really had a letter. We started calling it the C300 [in 1955], when they had already decided on the 300B, but it was never the A. We were true to that for, what, twelve years? Then, after many years, we brought out a 300M, and now we have a 300C, again. I like the car, but they could have been a little smarter with the name.
Here’s a car I like. [Plymouth Fury] This is a good car. It didn’t have a Hemi, just had two big four-barrels and a wide open dual exhaust, and an unsilenced air cleaner. It was a great car.
You know, these cars are better now for collectors than they were for people that drove around in the salt, because if you didn’t watch it one day you’d come out to get in and you’d notice rust. The headlight eyelids were one of the first things to start going from the salt, and it used to develop full wheel cutouts in the back, just like the Chevy and the Olds did.
I think with the Christine model, it fixes itself.
It was a lousy car, and I loved it. I loved the way it rode and handled. It had lots of power. You just wanted to have it on the West Coast or in Florida, then you probably could enjoy it for years. You know, the salt monster seemed to have crept up on us, when we weren’t looking. I mean us, the industry, not just Chrysler. It got the Japanese too.
Now, this one, people think the taillight’s a joke. [1955 Imperial] It was a nice car. Pretty car.
Well now, here’s another savior of Chrysler Corp. The first minivan, the first ever. My wife just absolutely loved hers. I didn’t mind it, as long as I didn’t have to drive it, because it felt like it was dragging an anchor. I had several of these as lease cars, and I ordered them with the Mitsubishi 2.6 liter 4 cylinder. Those were the only options [for the first years], 2.2 or 2.6. Now, the 2.6 had a lot more torque. It was a nicer car to drive. It didn’t get terrible gas mileage, not as good as our 2.2 but it wasn’t too bad.
The 2.2 was a great engine. It was a lot better than it should have been. We worked hard on that engine. Oh, we had performance improvement programs, at least four times. We ended up raising the top end on it way over ten percent, which is huge.
Gene: What did your performance improvement program involve?
Oh, ports, shape, exhaust system, slickening up the intake manifold, even trying a tuned intake, with equal branches on a log. That was neat, but they wouldn’t buy that, it was too expensive. With the engine laid back like that, you could do something really great, with either the intake or the exhaust, but not both, because they were both on the same side, and to go to cross flow would have been a huge expense. That would be the way, with the exhaust ports on the opposite side from the intakes.
You could do huge things with a four cylinder, with exhaust. Just equal lengths, down to a single pipe. I don’t think there’s anything that’s better than running separated headers, dumping into the atmosphere. You can do an awful lot of things on a four cylinder or a six cylinder, either one. Sixes really respond.
I think that is pretty decent looking. Of course, I like all two seaters. Above all, I love the Auburn Speedster, and I think the reason I love it is, I can’t think of another car that’s as “ah, go to hell, all we have here is two seats and room for one bag of golf clubs. If you don’t like it, don’t buy the car.”
Concept cars are concept cars, to begin with. Once in a while, something happens, like with the Viper. There was a Crossfire, too, concept, and the end result was fairly similar. One really neat feature of the Crossfire concept, it had one big wiper blade that parked vertically on center. It covered the whole windshield. I don’t know how it worked in a rain storm, you know, it’s got more distance to travel, but I thought it was a neat idea.
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