SO YOU want the toughest streeter the lawmakers will let you register? That’s a big ask if you live in Queensland — especially if you want a blown Hemi. Time to reach for the rulebook.
This article was first published in the May 2005 issue of Street Machine
Warren Core, from Maryborough, really did his homework on this one. As a matter of fact he started this quest for the baddest blown big-block four years before he even bought the car! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. First, a bit of background on the boy.
Warren is a mad Moparphile. His first car was a VH Valiant Ranger 265XL, built to replicate a VH Pacer/RT Charger. That created the desire to own an Aussie muscle car — an E38 Charger — which was restored faithfully and won the gong for best panel and paint at the Royal Pines Concourse d’Elegance Australia.
Read next: Carnage 440-powered 1963 Dodge Phoenix
One of the major drawbacks Warren found with this type of car was you couldn’t modify it if you wanted to keep the peace with enthusiasts and your insurance company, so interest in that scene soon wore thin. What he needed was a car he could truly enjoy.
In 1997 Warren purchased one of the ultimate nostalgia motors — the Chrysler 392 Hemi big-block.
“My whole aim was not just to have another trailer queen,” he says. “I wanted to drive my blown Hemi on the street, which is not something you would see every day. It had to be fully registered and have full street and strip driveability.”
Read next: NASCAR-powered 1970 Dodge Challenger
That’s a big ask, and Warren’s first-choice 1971 Chrysler Valiant two-door coupe was knocked back by the engineers. They hinted that a heavier car would be more likely to pass the power-to-weight ratio test — the governing factor in any legal engine transplant. It took four years of research before the perfect match was found.
The 1962 Dodge Phoenix was deemed the likely candidate as it’d been equipped with a cross-ram induction 413ci big-block. With this info, the project got the initial nod from Queensland Transport boffins.
A good, clean Phoenix was purchased from Fred Martin of Yeppoon in 2001. Sporting the factory 318ci Poly engine, with 15x10 rear boots and 15x8s up front, it was the ideal choice.
“It had to be big, bad, black and blown. Well, blown later,” Warren says. “This engine had to be supercharged. Once you’ve been blown there’s no way you can ever go back to being normally aspirated.”
And what an engine. Known as elephant motors due to their size and weight, Hemis are easily identified by the sparkplugs through the tappet covers. No other big-blocks compare for sheer presence.
The rebuild of this 1958 motor included a 40-thou overbore and 8:1 compression. The camshaft is a Howard’s Racing street and strip blower cam; the rest of the internals are stock 392 Hemi. The entire induction set-up, from the Weiand Blower manifold to the twin 600 vacuum secondary Hollys on top of the B&M 6/71 supercharger, was set up by renowned engine builder Russell Jones on the Gold Coast.
Blower boost pressure is 10psi on street fuel, with the blower running a 1:1 ratio with the crank. The car’s run 12.1@116mph with some fuelling problems — expect seriously faster times soon.
“It’s just running out of fuel at the moment but after speaking to the right gurus we are overcoming that,” Warren says.
Bob Grant in Brisbane built the 727 Torqueflite auto, bolted to the back of the Hemi with an alloy adaptor. Full manual shifting duties are taken care of by a B&M Pro Ratchet. Stall speed is around 2500rpm.
The standard 1962 8¾-inch open diff, with its 3.23 ratio, does its utmost to deliver power to the pavement but it’s a lost cause. The long-term goal is to run a Moser Dana 60 diff with nodular iron case, 4.11 ratio, mini spool, and 31-spline billet axles.
“The car itself only owes me about eight grand,” says Warren. “The driveline owes me a lot more than that! But I didn’t want a too-pretty car that I’d be afraid of driving. If the car gets irreparably damaged, I’ll swap the driveline into something else — maybe a hot rod!”
The car itself remains basically stock other than a pearled steering wheel and a bloody great thumpin’ Pioneer Competition stereo unit, with twin boot-mounted 10-inch subs and twin 600W amplifiers pumping music to compete with the Hemi up front.
Grinding two tons of Detroit behemoth to a halt is now easier thanks to a front disc-brake conversion kit, supplied by Rod Hadfield. Exhaust gases are directed to the rear via a twin three-inch stainless system, with stainless Edelbrock mufflers.
So what’s it like to drive a blown Hemi-powered Dodge on the street? According to Warren, one word sums it up: “Awesome!”
How’s the fuel economy? “The what? Well, if you don’t take it over 3000 revs, you can get two hours of driving. But that’s a problem when you come up to hilly bits …”
But all that motor hanging out the hood must have the machinery boys reaching for their citation books, surely?
“Nope — I have the correct hood power bulge and air filters in the boot for when I leave shows. It all goes back on and is sealed from underneath. Don’t worry, we’ve been through all that!”
In the past 12 months, the Dodge made the long drive from Maryborough for a bunch of events, including Wintersun, Nostalgias, Musclecar Shootout and Mopar Sunday, all without a hitch.
The last word came from Warren’s 10-year-old son, James, when a guy was checking out the Dodge and said: “Nice car son.”
“Yeah,” replied James, “but only the real tough ones can drive home again!”
HEMIS, or to be more precise hemispherical combustion chambers, are among the cleverest, most efficient horsepower-making engine designs. Imagine a domed piston flying up to meet an equally domed combustion chamber. A pair of angled valves let gases in and out. Smack bang in the middle of all this is a sparkplug. The shape of this chamber and the location of the valves and sparkplug make an efficient, strong bang.
Chrysler made the Hemi famous in the 50s and can safely lay claim to having mass-produced more Hemi engines than any other manufacturer. V8 Mopar Hemis ranged from the Dodge 241ci (140hp) up to the legendary 426ci (425hp) fitted to Dodges and Plymouths.
Early Hemis were expensive to produce and spawned the Poly engine — lighter, and cheaper to build. Basically still a Hemi, it had a few changes: combustion chambers were cast rather than machined; single rocker shafts and relocated valves cut weight and cost. Identifying the Poly is easy — it has the jagged-edge tappet covers.
1962 DODGE PHOENIX
Colour: Just black
Engine: 1958 392 Hemi; 40-thou overbore; 8:1 compression
Cam: Howard’s Racing blower cam
Heads: Stock, with stainless three angle-cut valves
Blower: B&M 6/71, 1:1 ratio, 10psi
Manifold: Weiand blower
Carbs: Twin Holley 600 vac secs
Ignition: Stock distributor; 6AL MSD
Exhaust: Block huggers; twin three-inch stainless system; Edelbrock stainless mufflers
Radiator: Custom five-core
Trans: Bob Grant 727 Torqueflite; manual shift
Shifter: B&M Pro Ratchet
Adaptor: CRS Alloy
Converter: Mopar, 2500rpm stall
Tailshaft: AMC Rambler, modified
Brakes: HQ calipers, Chrysler discs (f); stock drums (r)
Wheels: Tasmans 15x8 (f), 15x10 (r)
Tyres: Michelin 195/80 (f), BFG 265/50 (r)
Wheel: Pearled stock
Sounds: Pioneer Competition system, twin 600W amps, twin 10-inch subs, twin 6x9s (r), twin six-inchers (f)