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Values of original Hemi cars with solid bodies and accurate restorations have been steadily moving into the stratosphere, with $200,000 no longer unheard of for the right cars



1967 plymouth satellite hemi convertible


Chrysler Corporation swears that it never produced any Plymouth Satellite Hemi convertibles in 1967, despite the fact that two have surfaced in recent years, one as-yet-unrestored production model and this 1967 "pilot" car.

Custom-built at the St. Louis assembly plant, this Satellite was equipped with a pre-production, hand-built 426-ci Hemi, four-speed transmission, and every available option including power steering, power disc brakes, power windows, a power top, and factory front shoulder seat belts.

It retains its original sheetmetal, showing 56,000 miles. This Satellite Convertable was built in spring 1966 and was the personal ride of John Berry, plant manager of the St. Louis facility where all the B-body convertibles were manufactured. The car's serial number translates exactly as it should. Full documentation and authentication are provided by marque expert Galen Govier. It's truly a "one-off" 426 Hemi convertible.

{analysis}{auto}136{/auto} This Satellite Hemi Convertible sold for $135,000 at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, on January 24, 2004. This sale price reflects the rare combination, especially in 1967, of a 426 Hemi motor and the Satellite convertible body style.

By the late '60s, Chrysler had developed an impressive range of powerful motors. In cubic inches, the 440, 383, and 340 V8s were rivals to any of the competition's offerings. But it was the 426 Hemi that asserted itself as a legend. The Hemi was the direct descendant of the only slightly less famous Max Wedge, another 426-ci V8 (in 1963 and 1964), but without the hemispherical combustion chambers. The Wedge was capable of 425 hp at 13.5:1 compression, but the 426 Hemi could produce the same output at only 10.25:1.

The Hemi burst onto the scene at the 1964 Daytona 500, where it powered the top three finishers. NASCAR subsequently mandated that Chrysler either make the Hemi available in production cars, or quit using it in racing. Hence, in 1966 the street Hemi was born. With an advertised horsepower of 425, but an actual horsepower thought to be anywhere between 502 and 520, these fire-breathing, tire-smoking (and gas guzzling) monsters were now available to Joe Public, in Plymouth's Belvedere and Satellite models starting in 1966, with the GTX added for 1967.

Plymouth wasn't offering groundbreaking styling to its customers in the late '60s, and the Satellite is no exception. With the top down, it looks like a tissue box on wheels, the opposite of the flamboyant nosecone-and-wing treatment that has come to represent the quintessential Hemi Mopars, the Daytona and the Superbird.

Out of the 2,759 Satellite convertibles built in 1966, just 27 were equipped with Hemis. In 1967, production records show just one Hemi Satellite convertible built; the model had been eclipsed by the new GTX. However, there are now two 1967 Hemi Satellite convertibles known to have been offered for sale since 2000; the car pictured here is one of them. It was built in April 1966, part of the pilot build at the factory, while regular serial production of the rest of the '67s didn't begin until four months later.

This 1967 Satellite Hemi Convertible had a red interior, a red convertible top boot, and a black canvas power top, all in good condition. The panel fit was very good, as was the white paint with the exception of a small chip and repaint in the driver's rear quarter panel. The undercarriage was clean, as was the engine compartment. When the Satellite was started before the auction, it had a satisfying, undeniable Hemi rumble. All said, it was a nicely preserved original car, with relatively low mileage.

The seller had hoped to get between $150,000 and $200,000 for the car, citing prices other Hemis were bringing. That the bidding stopped shy of these numbers was likely because the car is simply not very visually stimulating, with the styling appeal of a brick, and unhelped by its white paint. Judging by the results of the Mopar feeding frenzy at Barrett-Jackson this year, wallets were getting opened wide by the outrageously hued (Go Mango, Sublime, Plum Crazy, etc.) Chargers and 'Cudas.

Even so, this Hemi Satellite made an extraordinary price. Let's just hope the documentation that comes with this car includes more than a third-party claim that it used to belong to that plant manager. Even if that story checks out, being "one-of-two" means a lot more when you're talking about a hand-built racing car from the '30s than a mass-produced model from the Big Three. Of course, buyers of American muscle cars have long been placing their own premiums on exclusivity ("I've got the only purple one built with a factory-installed 8-track and green floormats."), as a way of differentiating one car from another.

Hemi cars are bringing ever-larger amounts of money, with buyers speculating on the appreciation potential of the motors alone. Original-motor cars with solid bodies and restorations of any Hemi-equipped model have been steadily moving into the stratosphere, with $200,000 no longer unheard of for authentic cars. With Chrysler's marketing money pushing its new incarnation of the Hemi brand name, who knows what heights the Hemi craze may reach?

Regardless, this Satellite at $135,000 is a fair reflection of Barrett-Jackson's ability to turn enthusiasm into dollars at a healthy exchange rate-the seller should be genuinely pleased with this price. While it may seem strange to call a drop-top American car on a chassis that was used for taxi-cabs a good buy at over six figures, in fact that was the case here. It's a Hemi, it's a convertible, and it may be one of two. And if you want to take along three or more friends, and put the top down while you lay down twin strips of rubber all over your neighborhood, this is the way to go.-Marit Anne Peterson

(Photo, historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.){/analysis}

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