Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival
Saturday June 2, 2018
In the mid-sixties, the Detroit Horsepower Wars were getting serious, and with the runaway sales success of mid-sized sporty cars with big V-8 engines, bigger was better – both in performance and eventual vehicle sales. Cars like the Mustang, Camaro, Challenger, Chevelle, and ‘Cuda would eventually all become sales leaders, luring younger buyers into the showrooms with performance as the bait.
So, for the next few Tuesdays, we’ll post a Facebook photo of one of the 8 biggest Detroit-built V-8 engines ever built, and ask you to identify it and provide the highest SAE horsepower it produced. We’ll take it easy on you for this first one – and WARNING: SPOILER ALERT – you can find the correct answer below: Here’s our first Big V-8.
With the success of the Chevrolet 409, GM was planning to unveil the 427 for the 1966 model year. Ford had already released their 427 in 1965 to do battle with the already very popular Chrysler 426. Chrysler responded by raising the bar another notch to fight the competition, and developed the 440 V-8 engine for 1966. The Chrysler 440 V-8 engine was built from 1966 to 1978 and became one of their most desirable power plants. It was also the last Mopar engine that was over 400 cubic inches.
The 440 was available in the 1967 – 1970 model years rated at 375 HP with a single four-barrel carburetor, and from 1969 – 1971, you could get a 440 “Six-Pack” with triple two-barrel carburetors that would push 390 HP. This setup was 3 dual carburetors that were designed so that the center carb fed the engine when cruising down the road and then when the customer really wanted the extra power they could simply stomp down on the gas and the other 2 carbs would open up and give the engine everything it needed. This allowed the car owner to get better gas mileage on the highway as well as maximum performance at the drag strip. The “six pack” setup was used in many of the most popular Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars of the late 60s and early 70s. This included the Dodge Super Bee, Plymouth Road Runner, and the 1971 Cuda shown below
For 1972 all engines, including the 440, featured lowered compression, more conservative cam timing, and other changes to comply with the new tighter emissions regulations. The 1972 440 produced only 335 HP gross, which equals 225 HP under the new SAE net rating system. Engine power dropped a bit each year until 1978, when it had fallen to 255 HP even in police specification, and was limited to use in large sedans and specialty police packages.
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