I may write lots of headlines that are on the sensational side, but this title is one hundred percent true. The three Chrysler Hemi engines you see in the photo above and below have violently killed hundreds, maybe thousands of cars since the early 1970s and two of the three are still at it every day…even today. The good news is that their automotive murders have helped save countless lives and limbs. What the hell does all of this mean? Read on to discover the story of the murderous Hemis that have helped humanity.
The Calspan Corporation is located in Buffalo, New York and is one of the premier automotive and aerospace safety companies in the world. The company began life as Cornell Aeronautical Lab and was eventually spun off into Calspan. As pioneers in the field of automotive crash research and its documentation, Calspan needed something to keep themselves at the forefront of that industry in the early 1970s. What they came up with would change the course of automotive history, but it required horsepower…and lots of it.
Calspan engineers had come up with an idea that would advance crash testing well beyond the limits of crashing a single car into a fixed object in the form of a wall, another car, or guardrail, etc. The wanted to recreate real world accidents with moving cars and different angles among other situations. They devised a pulley and tow system using steel cables to propel the cars and called up Chrysler to order up all the horsepower that they needed to move the driverless vehicles. That call netted the lab three solid lifter, dual quad, top of the heap Hemi engines that would provide the last piece of their puzzle.
The engines were installed in an interesting manner. As you can see below, one engine sits by itself while two engines are installed front to back and linked together. You can also see the two Torqueflite transmissions which passed the power from the crankshafts to the driveshafts and ultimately onto the winches which pulled the cables and moved the cars. We’ve tried like hell to dig up as much info on these things as we could but the best we can figure is that the two engines hooked together were used to get the cars moving while the third was used to actually maintain their speed once it was achieved. There had to be some sort of rudimentary computer that controlled the speed of the vehicles as a human controlling the throttle wouldn’t be completely accurate. Taking another stab, we’re going to guess that a big transmission from a truck or piece of heavy equipment was used to hook all three engines together and that a truck or heavy equipment rear end was used to spool the reel of cable. Those were pieces readily available a the time this was built and were certainly strong enough to handle the loads.
Amazingly, two of the engines are still powering test crashes today at Calspan…or so we have been told. We’re going to contact them and try to visit the place for a follow up story…and maybe even see those two angry elephants wreck some cars like they have been doing for the last four decades in the name of making the cars and trucks we drive safer.
Is that cool or what?
Consider this a teaser. We’re working on bringing your the full, long form story regarding three engines that have killed more cars than any others before or since!