The First Year of the 426 Hemi

While having conversations about Mopar engines, the 426 Hemi is one coming up often. Many people have questions including, what was the first year for the 426 Hemi?

1964 was the first year for the 426 Hemi Engine. It was a race version used for Nascar and drag racing. 1966 marked the first year for the 426 Hemi street engine used in vehicles produced for the public.

This article will take a close look at the first years of the race and street Hemi engines. In addition, I’ll include each model of the car they were produced for and how many of each.

The following Hemi car specifications and facts were learned from my personal experience and research, Mopar manuals and brochures, webinars, books and articles.

The First Year of the 426 Race Hemi (1964)

In 1963 Chrysler was using the 426 max wedge engine to run in race cars. They knew the limitations of this engine and vigorously sought a better option.

The engineers were given the task and immediately went to work. They decided to use the Hemi head design used in the 1950s on the max wedge block.

The first engines were assembled at the Chrysler Engineering Center in Michigan. They were sent to Daytona just in time for the 1964 Daytona 500.

The 426 Hemi dominated the race by taking four out of the top five winning positions. The Hemi dominated the whole season.

It also dominated at the drag strip. In 1964, Chrysler sent the race engine to Don Garlits who was already racing with the 1950s version.

Due to the success, Nascar imposed new rules mandating all engines used must be in production and available to the public.

This retired the engine from Nascar racing in 1965 for one year. Chrysler had a way to remedy the problem which resulted in the production and showroom availability to the general pubic.

The First Year of the 426 Street Hemi (1966)

To satisfy the new rules and race the Hemi at Nascar again, Chrysler made the 426 Hemi available to the public for the first time in 1966.

The street powerplant was a detuned version of the race engine. It had a milder camshaft, reduced compression ratio, different intake and exhaust manifolds.

I couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like walking into a Dodge or Plymouth showroom and buying a Hemi powered car. This thought makes many people wonder, what was the first car to have a 426 Hemi?

The first cars to have a 426 Hemi from the factory were the 1966 Dodge Coronet, Plymouth Belvedere, Plymouth Satellite and Dodge Charger.

Cars Produced for the Year

1966 Cars With a 426 HemiQuantity
Plymouth Belvedere677
Plymouth Satellite844
Dodge Coronet741
Dodge Charger468
A total of 2,734 cars was produced in 1966 with the 426 Hemi engine.

Check out the production numbers for all years in my article, 426 Hemi Production Numbers.

1966 Dodge Coronet

741 Dodge Coronets were produced with the Hemi in 1966.

  • 36 Coronet hardtops (2 of them 4-doors).
  • 49 Coronet Deluxes.
  • 340 Coronet 500 hardtops.
  • 289 Coronet 440 hardtops.
  • 6 Coronet 440 convertibles.
  • 21 Coronet 500 convertibles.

The 1966 Coronet came in different models including the base, 440 or 500. Many of these cars were plain Jane looking grocery getters.

Many had bench seats, dog dish hubcaps, no racing stripes or hood scoops.

Imagine the look on a Chevy’s driver’s face in 1966 when he just got blown away from one of these plain looking cars.

At the next light the other driver understands what happened when he finds the small Hemi emblem on the side of the fender.

One of the first ’66 Hemis I ever saw was a plain looking Coronet with hubcaps. We almost walked past it thinking it was just a regular car.

Find out about who invented the iconic engine in my article, Who Invented the 426 Hemi and Designed it.

1966 Dodge Charger

468 Dodge Chargers were produced with the Hemi in 1966.

  • 250 4-speeds
  • 218 automatics

Not only was it the first year for the engine, but it was the first year for the Charger as well. The fastback, sleek boldness was aimed at the younger professional.

Like the Coronet, many of these cars had hubcaps. Although overall, the Charger had a sportier look, especially on the inside.

Find out the real reason it’s called the elephant in my article, Why the 426 Hemi is Called the Elephant Engine.

1966 Plymouth Belvedere

677 Plymouth Belvederes were produced with the Hemi in 1966.

  • 79 Belvedere l hardtops with a 4-speed.
  • 57 Belvedere l hardtops with an automatic.
  • 1 Belvedere l station wagon with a 4-speed.
  • 1 Belvedere l station wagon with an automatic.
  • 275 Belvedere ll hardtops with a 4-speed.
  • 251 Belvedere ll hardtops with an automatic.
  • 4 Belvedere ll convertibles with a 4-speed.
  • 6 Belvedere ll convertibles with an automatic.
  • 1 Belvedere ll station wagon with a 4-speed.
  • 2 Belvedere ll station wagons with an automatic.

The Belvedere was a plain car and many of them with the powerplant came with bench seats, column shifter and dog dish hubcaps.

The five station wagons were special order cars through the Specialty Vehicle Department.

Learn more about the carburetors in my article, The Carburetors on a 426 Hemi.

1966 Plymouth Satellite

844 Plymouth Satellites were produced with the Hemi in 1966.

  • 503 Satellite hardtops with a 4-speed.
  • 314 Satellite hardtops with an automatic.
  • 16 Satellite convertibles with a 4-speed.
  • 11 Satellite convertibles with an automatic.

In 1966, the Satellite was the top model from the Belvedere line.

Read up on the last year of the 426 Hemi and what cars it came in. Check out my other article, The Last Year of the 426 Hemi.

First Cars With the 426 Race Hemi in 1964 (NHRA & Nascar)


The first cars with the race Hemi in 1964 were the Plymouth Belvedere/Savoy and the Dodge Coronet/330/440. They were developed for drag racing in the NHRA.

They were both lightweight cars with aluminum bumpers, fenders, hoods and doors.

1964 Dodge 330 (A864)

  • 55 Dodge 330s were produced with the race Hemi in 1964.

Check out all the Hemi engines produced prior to the 426 in my article, Hemi Engines Made Before the 426 Hemi.

1964 Plymouth Savoy (A864)

  • 55 Plymouth Savoys were produced with the race Hemi in 1964.

Find out all the cars which came with the 426 Hemi in my article, What Cars Had the 426 Hemi: Street and Race Hemis.


The first cars with the race Hemi in 1964 for Nascar were the Plymouth Belvederes and Dodge Polaras.

The 1964 Daytona 500 race was the first day ever the 426 Hemi was raced for the public to see. The mighty engine didn’t disappoint as it took 1st, 2nd and 3rd places.

The quick video below is Richard Petty’s 1964 Belvedere with the 426 Hemi.

1964 Plymouth Belvedere.

The photo below is a Dodge Polara used in Nascar during 1964. This particular car was raced by Bobby Isaac.

The video below is the 1964 Daytona 500.

426 Hemis Racing in the 1964 Daytona 500.

Find out why the Hemi was banned twice in my article, Why the 426 Hemi was Banned From Nascar.

Any questions or if you have more information you’d like to contribute, send us an email found on our contact page.

Article Resources

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *