What’s under the hood? Walk the aisles of any great car show, and it’s one of a car enthusiast’s favorite pursuits. We just returned from the Carlisle Chrysler Nationals in Pennsylvania and had a great time. Besides the large presence of thousands of Mopars and parts, we had a great time looking into the engine compartments of a variety of cars. Peering at the engines, we typically saw how the owner transformed his or her imagination from an idea into horsepower. Varying from blueprinting a stock engine for the best power to building something wild. Among many of the cars, we saw some pretty cool, pure stock, or modified original engines. Everything from Slant Sixes to small-blocks, B-engines, 426 Hemis, 440 Six Pack engines, or the latest big-power fuel-injected Hemis.
But then there were the cars with either very unusual engines transplanted from drastically different cars or an unusual factory option in the engine compartment. One of the most unusual and powerful-looking engine transplants we saw was a Viper V-10 engine installed into a ’69 Dodge Charger. Although that engine is already known for outstanding power levels, the owner (a lifelong dealership mechanic by trade) added even more power with his own custom twin-turbo system. Wow, what a crowd that setup drew!
Under the category of an unusual factory option in the engine compartment, we saw a mid-’60s A-body Dodge Dart GT with the standard fare 225 Slant Six modified with some custom Offenhauser items, but equipped with factory A/C and the old-style RV2 piston compressor. Yes, we’re sure some have seen or owned a Slant Six with factory A/C before, but it’s definitely one that wasn’t very common.
Then, under the hood of a perfectly gorgeous post-world War II Chrysler convertible wearing an exceptional pastel light green paintjob, we found a late-model, fuel-injected Hemi engine. The installation was so well done that the car looked like it came from the factory with this setup. Yes, not a trace remained of the original L-head Spitfire straight-eight. On the outside, the car looked like something Fred Astaire would’ve driven in a late ’40s movie.
Then, we noticed a small crowd converging around a late’60s Dodge cab-over flatbed medium duty truck. The cab was tilted over as a group of guys were checking out the engine of this Dodge truck. Dodge cab-overs were manufactured from 1966 through 1971 and used a Dodge van front body section above the front axle. The standard trusty workhorse engines for these were Slant Six gas engines, but this one was powered by a big-block Chrysler (probably a 361 or 383) with a two-barrel to provide lots of low-speed torque. If this were under the hood of something like a ’66 Chrysler, most wouldn’t have even given it a second look. But the fact that it was powering this unusual vehicle certainly added a lot of intrigue to it. Plus, the quality and craftsmanship of the entire vehicle’s restoration was excellent.
Automotive imagination is key to our hobby and is what defines it. Whether the imagination directs one to maintain a survivor, restore a muscle car, build a high-performance engine, drivetrain, and suspension, or make a never-before-heard-of engine swap look like a factory install, it’s what powers our hobby. Just imagine what could be under the hood of your next project.