Less is More

The 1964-65 330 and Coronet Race HEMI®

The first of three Package Cars equipped with Dodge’s re-born 426 Race HEMI® was released in the shadow of Richard Petty’s astonishing February 1964 victory at the NASCAR Daytona 500. Though the HEMI vehicle’s primary goal was to break Ford’s grip on NASCAR and USAC speedway and road course competition, a secondary goal was to dominate drag racing.

The 1964 Race HEMI Package Cars were assigned engineering number A864, and took the Max Wedge’s theme of “adding lightness” to a whole new level. It was a crucial move since the extra-beefy block and broad shouldered cylinder heads made the new Race HEMI almost 70 pounds heavier than the outgoing 426 Max Wedge. That weight was added right over the front tires, the worst place for traction on a rear-wheel-drive platform. Without corrective action, the Race HEMI’s 50 extra horsepower (before serious tuning) would likely be completely wasted by tire spin off the line.

To correct the situation, aluminum front fenders, hoods, hood scoops, front bumpers, front doors (1964 only) and other small bits replaced stamped steel items. Inside, the bench seats of the Max Wedge era were replaced by lightweight Bostrom Thin Line buckets from the A100 forward-control pickup truck. The rear seat, dome lamp, heaters, radios, air conditioning, power windows, power brakes, power steering and all other luxuries were forbidden and aluminum hood scoops were made standard equipment regardless of body sheet metal type or compression ratio.

Weight reduction reached unheard-of levels of fanaticism with these cars. To wit, the metal coat hooks were eliminated from the headliner, reverse lights were eliminated, the 1964 (only) American Racing Torq-Thrust front mag wheels came minus the usual “bullet” center caps, the passenger side windshield wiper was replaced by a metal plug, the factory-issued tube steel headers and removable (bolt-on) dump caps fed into absurd single exhaust systems with width-wise mounted mufflers (that could easily be filled with ballast) and special length rear leaf springs nudged the rear axle center-line forward by one inch.

This overview is too brief to list all of the upgrades and modifications made to Dodge’s second-ever drag race Package Car, but one look at the pictures easily conveys the core message: these cars were mean, no-nonsense Tiger Tamers of the first order. Nothing else came close.

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