For Mopar, 1965 was a big year. It was the year that Chrysler Corp.’s Dodge Division put the 426 Street Wedge on I-70 and history was made as the intermediate-sized body became Mopar’s campaign body. The automaker moved away from the whale-sized likes of the Imperial and its 122-inch wheelbase with about 225 inches of overhang in its performance machines to the much more sensible and conservatively styled Coronet.
Available in hardtop, sedan, convertible and wagon versions, the 426 was to bear the Wedge designation for a couple of years, but it was already setting up a reputation for performance and by 1969, Mopar quietly tucked away the Wedge name and came up with a name that you may have heard once or twice, the Hemi.
Actually, in 1965 there was a Hemi version of the 426 Wedge. It was a twitchy, highly specialized version of the Coronet that ran with an engine compression ratio of 12.5:1 and some huge performance. Called the MaxWedge or Ramcharger V-8, its literature identified it as a hemi and this was the name that was to stick later in the decade as the engine cranked out 425 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and a stump-ripping 480 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. This very specialized version of the 426 featured solid lifters and factory exhaust headers that were capped by dual Carter four-barrel carbs.
The models that stole the show, the conservatively styled Coronet, as the “low-end” 426 Street Wedge that featured a single four-barrel carb, hydraulic lifters and a 10.3:1 compression ratio. This combo was no slouch at it cranked out 365 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 470 pounds-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm. Notice how far the performance curve was moved back on the streetable version. An “optimal” version of the powerplant was also available, however, the birth of the 426 meant the disappearance of the 413 MaxWedge and while the new Cornet looked tamer, it was just as potent as its performance-capable predecessor doing 0 to 70 in 7.7 seconds and turning a 15.7-second quarter mile at 89 mph.
The standard trannies included a four-speed Hurst shifter (the old rock crusher) and a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic and there rear-end ratios ranged from a rather tame 2.93:1 to a very tall 4.89:1. The tall rear end was packaged with the SureGrip posi-differential.
If you look closely at the lines of the 65 Coronet you’d never expect that beneath them there beat the heart of a beast. The lines were simple from dual-quad headlights that were fared into the front vertical chrome grille to the basically straight lines that carried right through the rear decklid. In reality, it was a very nice-looking vehicle with a very high beltline that was established by a chromed lip that carried from the fenders to the tires and gave the trunklid its line. If you look closely at the side view of the Coronet you can see a very subtle wedge shape. The rear end was defined by square taillights that were fared into a mid-level chrome belt that extended between the quarter panels.
The Coronet was never meant to be a vehicle that screamed “performance machine” loudly. Instead, it was far more subtle and aside from a log that appeared in back of the front wheel wells, you’d never have guessed the model’s name. It was only when you looked under the hood that you were seeing a performance legend being born that ultimately ended up as the Hemi.