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Indy and the Chrysler Firepower: Myths, Legends, and Reality

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  • Indy and the Chrysler Firepower: Myths, Legends, and Reality

    I posted below in another 11 year old thread with an obscure title, and think probably it deserves a new thread.

    I am researching on the original 331 Firepower Chrysler engine, which Chrysler called the Dual Rocker and not a Hemi (tm), which on it's own has some Cred for production engines going into the halcyon days of the mid 50's and the American automobile.

    I have created a youtube channel which will document my roadsteration of a family heirloom 1954 235hp 331 Firepower New Yorker. I plan on doing a series that isn't just the typical "Barn Find 1954!!! Will it Run and Drive after XX Years" ala Vice Grip Garage (I am a big Derek fan, love his channel) but will complement the admittedly amateur back yard mechanic shtick with History and Myth Busting.... and boy, does this engine have some pretty strong claims that shout out for some debunking.

    The one I am inquiring about to the Indycar experts here, is on the A311 Project, and it's connection to the scene in the AAA 50's.

    The 331 cid tested earlier at Indy was so fast it scared all those established interests to death. They rapidly changed the rule which had allowed a larger displacement to be used on production-based engines. Mickey didn't get his until 1962. The photos show a late model A311 of 271 cid (but still the Chrysler block) as tested at Indianapolis in 1952. Although competitive, the car was not a winner as the earlier test work with a 331 cid A311 had predicted.
    In his history of the Chrysler hemi, Curtis Redgap wrote:
    For all his stoic outward appearance, James Zeder was immensely proud of the Hemi engine. He also had a desire to see it be used in racing applications. He had an eye on the Indianapolis 500, the greatest spectacle in racing at the time. He had the lab begin experimenting with the 331 Fire Power.
    John Platner and Don Moore were deeply involved in building the "Indy" engine which received the designation of A311. It was built with 8 Hilborn fuel injectors, big valves and ports, streamlined big exhaust manifolds, and a modified camshaft that made the engine make "burbling" noises at idle. Under the guise of testing tires for Firestone and Goodyear, the engine was installed in an Indianiapolis special racer. With the A311 engine, it easily ran the same lap speeds as the specialized Offenhauser and Miller racing machines.
    The true opportunity to put the A311 to the test came in June of 1954. Shortly after the running of the 1954 Memorial Day 500, Chrysler Corporation dedicated its Chelsea proving grounds. The first four finishing Indy drivers were invited to bring their racers over to christen the 4.7 mile long oval race track. With wide lanes, and banked curves, the drivers were able to hold their cars wide open all the way around. The single fastest lap that day was made at 179 miles an hour.
    Then the Kurtis Kraft tire test car with the Hemi A311 made a couple warm up laps. Coming out of the 4th turn, the driver opened the engine up. It screamed by the centrally located pits and timing stand. Its deep Hemi bellow could be heard all the way around the long track. When it went by the next time, it was rolling at 182 miles an hour. And then did it again, and then again. Mr. Zeder and his engineers were delighted. They knew that a stock block engine with push rod technology could easily compete at Indy, and most likely, easily win.
    It was not to be. The news of the test was given wide publicity. In a flurry of activity, the engine size rule was changed to allow only a 272 cubic inch limit for stock engines. A slight decrease in piston stroke easily achieved the 272 size. However, down on power, it didn't qualify. It would not be the first time that rules were changed by sanctioning bodies when Chrysler came out to play.

    http://wildaboutcarsonline.com/cgi-bin/pub9990262549620.cgi?categoryid=9960414856560&acti on=viewad&itemid=9990414857246

    Ok here is the big one.... Chrysler got screwed by a late rule change and the old boys Indy club banned the motor. The thread below said this is BS. Let's go oldtimers, fill me in. Search engines almost universally buy the story above, but I know there is more to the story.

    Link to the post in the other thread...

    Originally posted by Michael Ferner View Post
    That's a bogus story in itself, and the "effective job of propaganda" was actually done by the Hemi fans, possibly (probably?) supported by Mopar, so that the story is still believed by many, including this poster. There was no rule change to allow more CID for stock blocks until many, many years later (1966, iirc), and there was not even a proposal or a discussion in 1952 or '53. All that happened was that Chrysler put a standard displacement and hot-rodded Hemi in an Indy Car and tested it at "somewhat competitive" speeds, and intended to built a short-stroke version for Indy proper. Which they did, and which proved uncompetitive. End of story.​
    This 7k subscriber channel has 146k views (to date) with the Indy references at the 23 minute mark.

    The Chrysler Hemi engine has been around for a long time, maybe even longer than you think! This engine goes back to WWII when Chrysler designed a V16 for th...
    Last edited by sightlines; 03-18-2023, 10:09 PM.
    Asked how he’d like to be remembered were he hit by a bus tomorrow, Tracy doesn’t hesitate: “I’m a race-car driver. At the last second, I’d swerve and avoid the bus.”

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