By on October 24, 2008

I like Scott Brown. I spent six hours in Manhattan Motors’ parking garage with the ChryCo PR guy, waiting for NFL assassin Warren Sapp to appear for a Celebrity Car photo shoot featuring a [then red hot] 300C and a Rolls Royce Phaeton (neither of which Warren owned, natch). But then I tend to like all automotive spinmeisters. You couldn’t meet a nicer, friendlier, more auto-savvy group of people. Of course, they’re all congenital liars (although they’d probably call themselves “public relations professionals”). To wit: “The demand for our full-size SUVs has really dropped off this year,” Chrysler spokesman Scott Brown told Edmunds’ Inside Line. “Even though we got significant orders for the hybrids, it doesn’t make sense to keep the plant open for just the hybrids.” Of course, Edmunds isn’t a million miles away from the “never call a triangular-shaped digging implement a spade” philosophy. “Chrysler wouldn’t say how many of the hybrid SUVs it had planned to build at the plant in Newark, which is scheduled to close at the end of December.” The vehicles only went on sale at the end of September. But I bet Chrysler could count the number of Aspens and Durango HEMI-Hybrids sold this month on one hand and still have enough fingers left to salute TTAC. Not that Scott would ever do such a thing… [thanks to MK for the link]

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32 Comments on “Chrysler Terminates Aspen, Durango HEMI-Hybrids...”


  • avatar
    John Horner

    It seems like only weeks ago when Chrysler was crowing about how these hybrids were going to kick serious market butt …. oh, it was only weeks ago.

    How many development and tooling dollars just went swirling down the drain?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    In forty years, these hemi hybrids will be collector cars like the 1970 hemi ‘Cuda convertible. Time to snap them up and put them in storage!

  • avatar

    Paul Niedermeyer :

    First thing I thought too. Spooky.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Collectors cars? really?

    Typically a collector car has something to recommend it, besides being rare. Beauty, performance, a warm fuzzy feeling when you see one. Something.

  • avatar
    tech98

    Can someone tell me what is so great about a ‘hemi’ engine?

    I know it refers to hemispherical head combustion chamber, but what really is the advantage of this? Is it just marketing hype?

    If it is really a technical improvement why isn’t everyone using this design?

  • avatar
    jybt

    Why? WHY, Chrysler?…….

    …didn’t you kill the Avenger in about 12 hours?

    Yes, it’s that bad, if you haven’t figured it out yet, Chrysler!

  • avatar
    autoemployeefornow

    The plant was scheduled to close anyway so it makes one wonder why they went through the effort in the first place. Maybe that’s why their going down in flames. Oh well.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Can someone tell me what is so great about a ‘hemi’ engine? – tech98

    In a word, nothing. By the end of the 1970s, development of engines utilizing true hemispherical chambers had ceased around the world supplanted and dramatically improved upon by newer, superior designs. Today, “hemi” is a copyrighted word that means little.

    http://tinyurl.com/6j4wgw

  • avatar

    HEMI is a brand name for Chrysler’s powerful V8 engine. Just like MAGNUM only much more legendary. To correct Gardiner, it does mean something.

    It became famous in the 1960s and very early 70s when it powered rip snorting muscle cars. The name was derived from the design of the cylinder heads Chrysler was using at the time and it stuck.

    HEMI is a strong brand name Chrysler used today to signify it’s powerful V8s when they debuted years ago. The top line makes 425hp.

    VIPER is another brand name Chrysler uses for it’s V10. Ford uses TRITON for it’s truck V8s (based on the number of valves). GM uses LSX though it much lesser known to the public than HEMI.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Will we miss the Aspango? What about the Dakota?

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    Actually, the first generation of Chrysler V8 hemis was made in the 1950s. They kicked butt in drag racing, stock car racing and on the salt flats when they came out. The “426 Hemi” that most people associate with the name today was available in production cars from 1966 through 1971.

    A true hemi head can withstand a lot of compression without detonation, which means it an generate more useable power for a given displacement than many other designs, at least before computer simulation software was available. The current generation hemi is not a true hemispherical combustion chamber. It is more accurately a “pent-roof” chamber, I believe. A true hemispherical combustion chamber promotes formation of nitrogen oxides, which is one reason that the 426 Hemi was discontinued after 1971. There was no practical way to get the nitrogen emissions down to meet the new requirements.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I still don’t understand why anyone would buy a super-complex hybrid for a $10k premium just to make their fuel economy jump from 14 to 20 MPG – maybe.

    There is no reasonable payback for such a product, and maybe the consumers figured that out.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    One downside of a true hemi head is that you have to watch how radical the camshaft is or the intake and exhaust valve may hit during the overlap phase. Beyond a certain size, simply increasing valve diameter has diminishing returns in performance.

    Another downside to both hemi and canted-roof designs is that, if you wish to obtain high compression, you need to have large domed pistons that are heavy and hurt flamefront propogation. The connecting rods, crankshaft, etc. must be built stronger to handle the large reciprocating mass, which adds more weight.

    PS: The 426 Hemi was under-rated at 425hp. This rating was carried-over from the 426 “Max Wedge” that preceeded the 426 Hemi. The measured peak horsepower of 426 street-Hemis was something north of 500hp, based on the rating system used at the time. Improvements were also made to the Hemi in 1970, but these were not reflected in its advertised horsepower rating.

  • avatar
    NickR

    A hemihead also makes room for larger valves and reduced shrouding of the valves, allowing for greater efficiency when the valves are partially open.

  • avatar
    br549

    Oh, and those fat valve covers looked just downright wicked.

  • avatar
    rochskier

    Not surprising since these cars were basically pointless greenwashing.

    I can understand that Chrysler was trying to shift their image for the times, but there are better, more productive ways than to reign in an excellent American V8 like the current 5.7L Hemi.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Mike66Chryslers: “PS: The 426 Hemi was under-rated at 425hp. This rating was carried-over from the 426 “Max Wedge” that preceeded the 426 Hemi. The measured peak horsepower of 426 street-Hemis was something north of 500hp,”While true, since the 426 Hemi was a detuned race engine, all that horsepower was made at the upper end of the RPM band and really wasn’t suitable for street use. A box-stock 426 Hemi could be beaten by many more mundane engines.

    Chrysler’s first V8 engines were the older fifties’ Chrysler FirePower hemi engines (in 331, 354, and 392 sizes) and, although not as powerful, were a lot more practical for daily use. Dodge and DeSoto had their own versions (called Fire Dome and Red Ram, respectively, with different sizes due to different bores and strokes) but the FirePower Hemi was the best version. In fact, no parts interchange between the Chrysler, Dodge, and DeSoto fifties’ hemi engines.

    That’s the irony of the legend of the Hemi. The reality of the ’66-’71 426 version was that it was expensive, high-strung, and too maintenance-intensive to sell well. Thus, their rarity and collectable status today.

    Interestingly, Ford came out with their own version in the late sixties (the Boss series) which had a ‘Semi Hemi’ cylinder head design. It was not a ‘true’ hemi and I think it was actually closer to the ‘canted roof’ design mentioned earlier. Trouble was, it didn’t run any better in box-stock form than the Mopar.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    I love learning the engine history tid bits. Top notch commentors who really know their stuff, thanks.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    I’ve heard that back in the day when the ’69 Daytona Chargers were sitting on car lots not being sold, some dealers actually removed the wings! Today the few Daytona’s that survived are worth a pretty penny. I’m not saying these hybrids will end up as such, but they could for at least having an odd history.

    I always did laugh when I heard the term hybrid with SUV. Great, so you just paid an extra $15k for a vehicle that gets 5 extra mpg (well something like that) over a stock one!

  • avatar
    br549

    The reality of the ‘66-’71 426 version was that it was expensive, high-strung, and too maintenance-intensive to sell well.

    I think that was often the deal killer (besides initial cost) back then. Between having to run high octane gas (it wasn’t any easier to shell out for then than it is now) and consistently replace fouled plugs, plus numerous other idiosyncracies, it just was not the powerplant for the general buying public, or even the typical weekend drag racer for that matter.

    BTW, I don’t think the precise shape of the combustion chamber–whether or not it was truly hemispherical–was the distinguishing characteristic as much as the unique “v” valve outlay and centered plugs. Back in the late fifties, Dodge would hide the plug wires in a channel within the valve covers, creating a very, very clean look.

  • avatar
    BMW325I

    Is it too hard to put a diesel engine in the Durango?

  • avatar
    50merc

    Any discussion of the Hemi is incomplete without recalling the great Chrysler 300 and 300B “stock cars” run by the Kiekhaefer Mercury Racing Team in the glorious 1955 and 1956 seasons. There has never been a more elegant brute on the NASCAR circuit, as can be seen in the photos at this site:

    http://www.300b.info/page%207.htm

  • avatar
    windswords

    Ford’s version of the Hemi, the Boss 429 was also known as the “Blue Crescent”. Blue for Ford blue (I guess) and crescent for the hemispherical combustion chambers. Like the Hemi the Boss 429 didn’t behave too well at the lower rpms, it wanted to run fast in the high rpm band.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Here’s more Hemi-Love:
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/hemi-love/

  • avatar
    Usta Bee

    Perfect timing by Chrysler, bring out hybrid SUVs just as gas prices are dropping to the lowest point in over a year.

  • avatar
    jybt

    Is it too hard to figure out that nobody would buy the Durango over the Kia Borrego and improve the stupid thing?

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Airhen: “I’ve heard that back in the day when the ‘69 Daytona Chargers were sitting on car lots not being sold, some dealers actually removed the wings! Today the few Daytona’s that survived are worth a pretty penny.”This is incorrect. Chrysler was able to sell all 492 of the ’69 Dodge Daytonas relatively quickly.

    The ‘wingcar’ that Chrysler had extreme difficulty unloading was the ’70 Plymouth Superbird, many of which languished on dealer lots for years. Chrysler found out very quickly that the entire market for those NASCAR specials had all bought Daytonas the previous year.

    While it may have been so bad that some Plymouth dealers did actually remove and replace the nosecone and wing in a desperate effort to sell them as regular Roadrunners, the only true documented examples of this were in Maryland because that state didn’t recognize the nosecone as a bumper (which it wasn’t). It was quite an extensive undertaking, too, since the front fenders and hood of the Superbird were from the ’70 Dodge Coronet and would have to be replaced to convert the car to a standard Roadrunner, as well as the bumper and grillwork.

    On a somewhat related trivial note, these few Maryland ex-Superbird Roadrunners are very likely the source of the ‘factory’ 440-4v Roadrunner myth (the 440-4v was the standard Superbird engine), none of which were actually installed at the factory in any ’68-’71 Roadrunner. Other than the few Superbirds and rare, full-size Sport Fury GTs, the high-performance 440-4v in Plymouths was exclusive to the GTX.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    windswords: “Ford’s version of the Hemi, the Boss 429 was also known as the “Blue Crescent”. Blue for Ford blue (I guess) and crescent for the hemispherical combustion chambers. Like the Hemi the Boss 429 didn’t behave too well at the lower rpms, it wanted to run fast in the high rpm band.The best example of how poorly the hemi-style race engine ran on the street was neither the 426 Hemi or Boss 429, but the Boss 302, where the small displacement absolutely killed any low-end torque.

    Ironically, Ford was able to cure these ills with the short-lived Boss 351, one of the better, overall high-performance engines to ever come from the Blue Oval boys. It’s unfortunate it arrived at the very end of the musclecar heyday (and in the bloated ’71 Mustang) and never really had a chance to establish the reputation and sales it deserved.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @Robert Farago
    Rolls Royce Phaeton

    Really? Wasn’t that a VW? (Not that RR never made phaetons, but that would belong in “Old Cars” not “Celebrity Cars”)

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I agree with Rudiger, regarding Maryland Superbirds. I grew up in Maryland and remember Sherwood Plymouth in Baltimore had several sitting in a storage yard on York Road late into ’70 and in early ’71. They were a teenage attraction and I would go and check them out; I thought at the time they were the goofiest looking car that I had ever seen.

    Excellent comments on the Chrysler Hemi. The engines we absolute legends. I would like to add that they were brought back into production in 1964 with a 426 CI displacement to compete in NASCAR with Ford’s 427. The Mopar Max Wedge engines were not competitive with the big Ford or Pontiac’s 421 SD. To make matters worse, Chevrolet was going with the new Mark II 427 at the time (though it was quickly killed by GM brass)and Mopar knew they needed to up the ante to be competitive. In those days, “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” was all the rage and all manufacturers wanted a piece of that action.

    Mike66Chryslers is right-on about the Hemi’s demise, it couldn’t meet emission standards set forth by the Clean Air act of 1970 and the engine was quietly killed. NASCAR never liked the Hemi but did allow it to run until 1974 (under the three year past-production rule). NASCAR felt that the Hemi design gave an unfair advantage and was always looking for ways to hamstring the motor with either displacement caps (404 CI displacement) or smaller carburetors. The 358 CI cap enacted in 1974 eliminated the Hemi from competition for good.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    rpol35: “The 358 CI cap enacted in 1974 eliminated the Hemi from competition for good.”If the same rules were in effect today, and NASCAR was still using ‘stock’ parts, the current 345 CID (5.7L) ‘Hemi’ engine would thereotically be legal for stock-car racing.

    It’s worth mentioning that the original Chrysler hemi engine was the 1945 XIV-2220 V16 designed to be used in the P-47 Thunderbolt WW2 fighter plane. Although it never reached production, the research helped Chrysler when they eventually came out with their first OHV passenger car V8 in 1951.

    Chrysler and Continental also jointly developed an air-cooled hemi-head V12 for use in the M-47 Patton tank.

  • avatar
    davey49

    I’m more disappointed with the news that the Durango is going away. Hopefully Chrysler will be able to introduce a large SUV later on.


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