The “official” Muscle Car era began in 1961, when Chevrolet introduced the 409. It lasted ten years until the early ’70s when the market was gutted by insurance premiums and the cars began to be strangled by emissions limits. Of course, the Muscle Car didn’t emerge fully formed like a butterfly from a chrysalis. It evolved, quickly, more like Stephen King dragonflies.
In the early Fifties, Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler all launched large displacement overhead valve V8s. GM and Ford followed a simple design direction, aligning their valves in a wedge-shaped combustion chamber. Chrysler adopted a more intricate system utilizing a hemispherical combustion chamber with valves arranged in two rows. It was more complicated in operation and manufacture, but it followed high performance tenets pioneered by Henri, Miller, Duesenberg and Stutz, breathing through short intake and exhaust passages with the valve axes inclined to minimize sharp bends. The Hemi made good power, but was big and heavy. The manufacturing advantages of a wedge head engine quickly convinced Chrysler that its Plymouth V8, introduced in 1955, should be a wedge and it evolved ever larger progeny, up to 413, 426 and 440 cu.in. The original Hemi went out of production after the 1958 Chrysler 300D.
But as horsepower got serious the Hemi was back in Chrysler’s product plans in a big way. It had proved its effectiveness and Chrysler needed muscle to combat Ford’s “Total Performance” effort and GM’s quiet leakage of high performance goodies out the back doors of Chevrolet and Pontiac. So the Hemi, now with a taller deck height for more displacement, came back in 1965, first as an almost phantom option intended for NASCAR racing. In 1966 to meet NASCAR’s production requirements the 426 Hemi was a real, but expensive ($1,105; base price for a Satellite convertible was $2,910), street car option. It was nothing more than a modestly-cammed race car engine, and it ran. “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” meant the Hemi had found a new market, under the hood of Mopar’s muscle cars. The 426 Hemi continued in production through 1971.
The car offered here is the first of only 27 1966 Plymouth Satellite 426 Hemi Convertibles, the first year the 426 Hemi was available as a production option. It is one of only four 426 Hemi convertibles shipped with factory 4-speed transmissions and has its correct original drivetrain. Restored in 1994 to showroom condition it won its class at the prestigious Meadow Brook Concours in that year. Since then it has been little used and is presented in nearly perfect condition.