"That thing got a Hemi?"
Those are some of the most famous words in the vocabulary of any Chrysler fan. The Hemi engine remains something of a mythical beast, a highly desirable option in any model in which it was offered. It can mean the difference between an affordable muscle car and a multi-hundred-thousand-dollar Barrett-Jackson auction special.
The Chrysler Hemi was first developed in 1950 as the FirePower engine. Designed with hemispherical combustion chambers, it was a very old but rarely-used solution (dating back to 1901 at least), one which allowed for improved engine breathing. The air/fuel mixture was able to reach the pistons better, improving performance. After a long period of selling six-cylinder cars, the FirePower was a real kick in the pants.
Dodge first received the Hemi in 1953, in the form of the Red Ram 241 cubic inch V8. It was put in cars like this '53 Dodge Coronet and was good for 140 horsepower. Dodge would eventually receive much larger-displacement Hemi engines in the next decade (426, anyone?) but the "Baby Hemi" Red Ram of 1953 was the original and still popular today among hot rod builders.
This Coronet is a very interesting car. Introduced in 1949, the Coronet was Dodge's top model. The styling is typical early-50s cheap-car blandness, but the 1953 models were all-new with a much more modern body that forever abandoned the old-style pontoon fenders. The most distinctive detail is the ram's head hood ornament with red details (Red Ram, get it?), and it looks awesome. That, along with the cool "Dodge V Eight" badge really set it off. This car is equipped with the Gyro-Torque semi-automatic transmission, basically a two-speed manual with a sort of overdrive unit attached to it, and coupled to a torque converter. Gyro-Torque was last used on 1953 models, replaced late in the model year by Hy-Drive and then succeeded by the PowerFlite fully automatic transmission in 1954. The amazing thing about this car is that it's unrestored with 22,000 original miles. It's had one repaint in its life and been kept in running condition. Around 1963 it got new license plates. That's about it. It's an incredible time capsule and a fantastic example of the breed.