During the golden age of muscle cars, Chrysler’s Dodge and Plymouth divisions were at the forefront of the movement with their iconic designs and powerful engines. These American carmakers, along with AMC, unleashed a lineup of cool and high-performance models equipped with impressive V8 engines.
One of the standout engines of this era was the 340 Small Block. Part of the LA lineage of pushrod OHV small-block engines, the 340-ci V8 was introduced in the late 1960s. It was a lightweight and high-performance version of the standard 318-ci engine, featuring high-flow heads, bigger ports, and a two-level intake manifold. The small-block initially produced 275 horsepower and 340 lb-ft of torque, but by 1970, with the introduction of the Six Pack version, these figures went up to 290 horsepower and 345 lb-ft of torque. The 340 engine was available in various Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars, including the Duster 340, Dart GTS, Road Runner, Superbee, and Charger.
Another notable engine was the 383 Magnum. Part of the B engine family, the 383-ci big block was initially used in select Chrysler full-size models. However, in the late 1960s, it transformed into a high-performance V8, equipped with a four-barrel carburetor, upgraded cylinder heads, camshaft, and exhaust manifolds. This version of the 383 was rated at 335 horsepower and 425 lb-ft of torque between 1968 and 1970. Known as the 383 Magnum, it powered various Dodge and Plymouth pony cars and intermediates, such as the Cuda, Challenger, Charger, Super Bee, and Road Runner.
The 440 Six Pack was another legendary Mopar V8 engine. Launched in 1965 and produced until 1978, the 440-ci V8 was the largest member of the RB engine family. The high-performance version of the 440 featured a four-barrel carburetor and was rated at 375 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque from 1967 to 1970. However, midway through the 1969 model year, Dodge and Plymouth introduced a new version called the 440 Six Pack, designed to bridge the gap between the standard 383 Magnum and the expensive 426 HEMI. This V8 engine featured an aluminum intake manifold with three two-barrel Holley carburetors, allowing it to produce 390 horsepower and an impressive 490 lb-ft of torque. The 440 Six Pack was available in models like the Charger, Challenger, Coronet, GTX, and Barracuda.
Before the legendary 426 HEMI, there was the 426 Max Wedge. Introduced in 1962, the Max Wedge was Chrysler’s high-performance V8 engine before the HEMI took over. Initially displacing 413 ci, it received upgrades like beefier internals, new heads with larger ports and valves, a special camshaft, and a new intake with two Carter carbs. In 1963, it was enlarged to 426 ci, offering peak power of 415 or 425 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque. The Max Wedge was a drag racing-oriented engine available as an option for select Dodge and Plymouth models.
Unquestionably, the most famous American V8 from this era was the 426 HEMI. Affectionately known as the Elephant engine, it was initially created for NASCAR dominance. After being banned by the competition’s governing body in 1965, the 426 HEMI became available in street versions for the 1966 model year. Compared to the race version, the street HEMI featured dual carbs, a lower compression ratio, and standard materials for the internals. It produced 425 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque, making it one of the most powerful engines available. The HEMI became a staple in high-performance Mopar intermediates, as well as the Cuda and Challenger pony cars, until its discontinuation in 1971.
These impressive engines from Chrysler’s Dodge and Plymouth divisions defined the muscle car era with their timeless designs and powerful performance. Although the 426 HEMI often steals the spotlight, the 340 Small Block, 383 Magnum, 440 Six Pack, and 426 Max Wedge also deserve recognition for their contributions to the golden age of muscle cars.