Oldsmobile sounded the gun in America's "horsepower war" with its 1949 Rocket V-8, but Chrysler's new 1951 Chrysler New Yorker "Hemi" was a shot heard 'round the world.
The 1951 Chrysler New Yorker's "Hemi" engine could reach up to 300 horsepower.
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Though not a new idea, the Hemi -- named for its combustion chambers' half-dome shape -- produced more horsepower per cubic inch than any other engine around. In initial form it made 170, 10 more horses than Cadillac's contemporary V-8 of identical size, and even minor modifications could easily yield 300. But though a New Yorker convertible paced the 1951 Indy 500, the Hemi wasn't raced much before mid-decade because the cars it powered were large and lumbering. And Chrysler did little to change that, its 1950-54s being mainly brighter, smoother renditions of its square and stodgy new '49 generation. (So little change occurred for 1951-52 that Chrysler didn't even keep separate production tallies.)
Chrysler paid the price as sales steadily declined to crisis levels by 1954. Government-mandated production curbs during the Korean War didn't help. Nor did inflationary pressures that boosted the New Yorker convertible's price by $700 for '51 to a lofty $3916. As a result, sales were just 2200 in 1951-52. The cheaper six-cylinder Windsor convertible managed 4200.
The 1951 Chrysler New Yorker was a contender in the
"horsepower war" of the 50s.
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