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Confirmed: Tom Hoover, Father of the Hemi, Passed Away

by David Zatz on

Tom HooverTom Hoover, the “father of the 426 Hemi,” passed away yesterday from complications of Guillain–Barré syndrome.  His health had been reported as improving as late as April 29.

Mr. Hoover was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the son of an auto mechanic. He developed an interest in cars at an early age, and, after military service in Korea and graduate work at Penn State University, he joined Chrysler Corporation in 1955.

After earning a master’s degree at the Chrysler Institute of Engineering, Mr. Hoover’s first assignment was a fuel-injection system for 1958 cars (the “Electrojector”). While the system wasn’t successful, due largely to the state of the art of materials at the time, he displayed a gift for fuel and air management design.

Tom Hoover and Don Carlton

In 1958, Hoover joined Dick Maxwell, Wayne Erickson, Don Moore, Herman Mozer, Bill Roger, and Jim Thornton to form the legendary Ramchargers. This led to Hoover’s assignment to performance engine development, culminating in the 426 Hemi V-8 that made its racing debut powering the top three finishers in the 1964 Daytona 500.

He also worked on the legendary slant six, including the all-out Hyper-Pak racing variant.

One of Mr. Hoover’s last projects at Chrysler was the Dodge Lil’ Red Express of 1978. In Car & Driver testing, the Dodge was the fastest or second-fastest stock American vehicle that year, along with the Corvette (with optional L82 engine).

Tom Hoover and Al Adams

Tom Hoover left Chrysler in 1979 after becoming concerned about the company’s future. He worked for General Electric until 1984, followed by a stint at Bosch and a position as chief engineer for Walbro Orbital, where he engineered fuel-supply systems, and received several patents.

Tom and Marge Hoover retired to his old hometown of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. They later moved to Denton, Texas.

Chrysler continued to honor his legacy with the Tom Hoover Sportsman Challenge Award for the top NHRA Sportsman Class participant driving a Mopar; and by giving him the Mopar President’s Award at the NHRA Mopar Mile-High Nationals in July 2014, where he was the grand marshal. Mr. Hoover and Mopar CEO Pietro Gorlier signed reproductions of the blueprints for the engine.

Even in retirement, Hoover remained active. DaimlerChrysler called him in to consult on the modern Hemi during its development, and he was a popular figure at car shows. For more on Tom Hoover, see Allpar’s biography of him

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