In an age when factory show cars often offered little more than "eye candy," it was commendable that Dodge had every intention of making the 1964 Charger one with show and plenty of go. With a 426-cid race Hemi under the hood, it would have been the ultimate expression of Dodge's will.
Unfortunately, it seemed that every time one of the rare new hemispherical-head engines was assigned for installation in the Charger, it ended up being shipped to a racer in need of an engine for the next week's race.
With show schedules looming, there was no alternative but to keep the Charger's hood closed and send it on tour with a factory-stock 383-cid V-8. Forty years after the fact, though, the ultimate 1964 muscle car prototype arrived in the form of Joe Bortz's restored Charger show car.
There has been precedent in the world of dream-car collector world to fulfill the original intentions of the builders when they themselves fell short of their goals. In this particular case, Joe's definition of meeting the original intentions was pretty lofty.
He wanted a Hemi in the renewed Charger, but he didn't want just any Hemi. He could have made it easy on himself by installing a new crate motor from Mopar Performance and calling it a very satisfying day. Instead, he wanted one of the original 15 race Hemis under the hood just like Mother Mopar had wished. Nothing less would do.
Bortz enlisted the services of noted Hemi authority John Arruzza, of Arruzza High Performance in Trinity, North Carolina, to make his special wish come true. Whether it took sacrificing Slant Sixes to the Mopar gods or dead presidents to various Hemi parts collectors, Arruzza accomplished the nearly impossible task and was actually able to locate enough original and new original-stock (NOS) componetry to build just such an engine.
The recipe included a block with an October 1963 casting -- the 13th Hemi ever cast and the oldest surviving unit. Anything older was raced to death years before.
Along with the correct block, Arruzza also used a set of original 1964 cylinder heads, a 1964 NASCAR-spec intake, and Holley four-barrel carburetor. These parts were combined with NOS exhaust manifolds, valve covers, spark plug tubes, valvetrain parts, and new aftermarket bottom-end components.
Upon inspecting the block, Arruzza found out that the rumors of casting problems that held down early Hemi production were, in fact, true. Two of the cylinders were so thin that they needed to be sleeved. With the casting defects corrected, he moved on.
Arruzza wisely added new reciprocating components in the block to prevent failures from metal fatigue. A Callies forged-steel crank swings Manley steel connecting rods and custom Ross pistons that provide a premium-fuel-friendly 9.6:1 compression ratio.
Additionally, the valves are operated by a relatively mild solid-lifter camshaft that also provides for trouble-free operation, yet still allows the 426 Hemi to crank out well more than 600 bhp when fitted with the correct NASCAR magnesium intake manifold and Holley carb.
That should be more than enough to put a large grin on Joe's face should he ever decide to really put his foot in it. Although he is not a racer, he has it in his mind to run the Charger at a dragstrip someday. Both Arruzza and restorer Fran Roxas have advised against it and told him that they won't be responsible for any failures that arise.
Whether or not Bortz ever takes that quarter-mile trip remains to be seen, but he knows that either way, he now has a dream car that can actually make good on its promise.