The Mopar Max Wedge 413 (and 426) engines are of course legendary; almost mythical. Their day in the sun was short-lived, due to the arrival of the 426 Hemi in 1964. But for two years (1962 & 1963), these were the largely undisputed kings of the drag strip, with a ’62 Plymouth (“Melrose Missile”) being the first stock car to break the 12 second barrier.
As a complete package, the Max Wedge engine, with its short-tube cross-ram intakes and a number of other components, apparently didn’t appear all at once initially; at some point in the 1962 MY, the 383 and 413 engines became available as options, but that initial 413 had a conventional dual-quad intake, a hydraulic cam, and lacking a few of the other hi-po components that comprised the Max Wedge. It had a 385 hp rating, unlike the 405 for the Max Wedge. As a result, although this tested 413 Dart was mighty quick, it fell a bit short of its Max potential due to that as well as a couple of other issues. But the making of the legend was well on its way.
At the beginning of the 1962 Model year, the top engine option on the new, smaller ’62 Dodge and Plymouth was the 305 hp 361; that made for a brisk car and a very well-balanced all-round performer. But the question as to whether the 383 or 413 would “fit” was on many minds. Of course they would; the 383 is the same physical size as the 361, and the 413 just has a raised deck. And sure enough, they did become available, in several hp variants; 365, 385 and 410, for the 413 (that 410 rating required the dealer-installed ram intake; the definitive Max Wedge was rated at 405 hp, FWIW). CL tested the 385 hp version in a Dart hardtop coupe and equipped with a three-speed manual with a dealer-installed floor shifter and a 4.10:1 rear axle ratio.
The results at the drag strip were frustrated by the fan belt consistently flying off at the engine’s 5200 rpm power peak, which “forced us to treat the throttle more carefully than usual. And traction from the fairly skinny 6.70-15 tires and the lack of a limited-slip differential made clean take-offs hard to achieve. The best run resulted in a 15.1 ET @96 mph. That’s well below the 14.3 @103 that the 421 SD Pontiac GP managed in a previous test. But that car had wider tires and a limited-slip differential, and quite likely had been massaged, as per Pontiac tradition.
The individual that assisted in prepping this Dodge at the strip for CL was a drag racer and had significant experience with these, especially the 383 that he campaigned. His experience was that the optional ram manifold (as used on the Max Wedge) was the way to go, along with higher compression pistons (up to 14:1) and one of several more aggressive mechanical lifter camshafts. That would allow the 413 “to hit 6000 to 6500 rpm easily.”
The test car had a wide ratio (2.55:1 1st) three speed. A close ratio (2.17:1 1st) was also available, as well as the B/W T-10 four speed. CL wrote: “Frankly, we’re inclined to favor the close-ratio 3 speed. It’s much nearer than most 3-speeds to the 4-speed’s advantage of minimizing the rpm drop during a shift, yet it eliminates the time lost in the 4-speed’s extra gear change.” This may sound like heresy, but it’s a reality that I’ve come to understand and appreciate, that the 4-speed manuals were not the panacea they’re often made out to be. And in typical driving, the extra gear on the 4-speed behind a powerful V8 is just unnecessary. Four-speeds are at their best behind a six or a weaker small V8 in a heavy car. Everyone had it backwards. But yes, a four speed conferred status, which could easily be bought by swapping a four-speed pattern Hurst shifter ball for the three-speed one.
For optimum results, harmonizing the gear ratios of a given transmission and the rear axle ratio was essential, and CL pointed out that there were a wide range of axle ratios available, all the way to a stump-pulling 6.17:1. And of course tires played a big role too, especially back then when tires technology was so inferior. Dodge even offered a drag-optimized tire option of 7.00-14 in front with 9.00-14 tires at the rear!
The tested Dart had the optional “police chassis” with heavy duty brakes (11″ drums) and suspension. But even with stiffer springs, the handling qualities were diminished due to the 672 lb weight of the big 413 in a relatively light car (3540 curb weight). The numb power steering didn’t help, and a nose-heaviness and resultant understeer were prevalent. “The 413 isn’t a good choice for ordinary highway use”.
There was some speculation as to what the 413 would be able to do in stock car drag racing, properly prepped. The guess was between 11.9 and 12.5 seconds and trap speeds of between 110 and 115 mph. Good guess, if a bit low on the speed. “The 1962 Dart stands a very good chance of chewing the feathers of its Super Stock rivals, including those of a certain big Indian!” True that.
The “Melrose Missile” ran 11.93 @118.57 on July 15, 1962, becoming the first stocker to break the 12 second barrier. That pretty much explains the basis of the Max Wedge mythology. And there probably isn’t a single unmolested ’62 Plymouth or Dodge 2-door sedan in the world as a consequence.
CL’s beloved Tapley meter (accelerometer) was quickly becoming useless with this breed of factory muscle cars, as they would pull so hard the needle “went off the scale”.
Related CC reading:
Vintage Car Life Road Test: 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix 421 Super Duty – “The Fastest Accelerating Stock Production-Line Car We’ve Ever Tested”
Automotive & Design History: 1962 Plymouth & Dodge – The Real Reason They Were Downsized
These were ugly, but fast.
It has been said before but I will repeat it: If Chrysler had car designers as talented as their engineering staff Chrysler would be an entirely different company today.
You’re mistaken; Chrysler’s designers were quite talented. If you’re going to try to make a case that Virgil Exner was a talentless hack, for example, you’re creating a tough uphill slog for yourself. The design of a thing can be good or bad, and it can be popular or unpopular—that’s two different questions; the answer to one doesn’t necessarily imply an answer to the other.
Here’s a more defensible generalisation: things would’ve been different if Chrysler had consistently built their cars as well as they tended to engineer them.
The problem was more consistency in good design rather than lack of talent. Throughout Chrysler’s history there seemed to be a tendency to hang onto a design theme past its use-by date, then play catchup. Sometimes that catchup was spectacular (1957 range, LH cars). Other times it was, well, bizarre – like here.
It looks to me as though you, too, are conflating ‘good’ and ‘popular’. They really, really are not the same thing. If they were, then McDonalds would have to be considered the world’s best food.
Actually, Daniel, I never even thought of popularity! I was thinking of my personal reaction to what I saw, ‘looking good in the context of its time’, rather than say ‘looking like a ’58 Oldsmobile’ (popular but not what I would call good looking).
Take the fifties. To my eyes the ’49-’52 Mopars were good looking but conservative, a look that seemed to age quickly. This was at a time when Fords looked radical and GM cars were like hot dogs on wheels (apologies to GM fans). Mopars looked safely familiar and, yes, conservative. American cars that looked sensible. ’53-54 Plymouths, Plodges and Plysotos looked woeful (to me). I hated them as a kid and still don’t like them. I admire the packaging but not the wrapper, you could say. Ultra-practical but not visually appealing. While I’m not doubting there was design talent in there somewhere, somehow what arrived on the showroom floor looked underwhelming. Though they seemed to sell better than Chevies and Pontiacs down under, from what I saw on the street, Fords struck gold. As we know, things got better after that. But by the early sixties style seemed to be floundering somewhat. Nowadays I understand why.
That was what I had in mind by ‘consistency in good design’. I really thought hard about how to express myself before putting finger to keyboard; I never anticipated you (or anyone) understanding me that way. 🙂
(Oh, and I SO wish McDonalds had stayed in America!)
Such a disconnect front end design. Prime example of the Thalidomide School.
It was a pretty amazing time, with the Big Three so involved engine development, marketing the speed parts directly, and so on. I wonder what the warranty looked like?
Poking through the Oakland newspapers, the dealership quickly becomes “Home of the Melrose Missile” in its ads, and then pretty unsentimentally sells off the older MM’s in the classifieds once they’re got their latest on the tracks.
[And, after sixty years, I learned that “Gaspar” was the first name NoCal drag competitor (Ford) “Gas Ronda.” Always wondered about that!]
I was surprised find this (September 1962)–from a faraway Louisiana dealer:
Gas Ronda was a name I remembered from my youth but always associated him with Southern California where he really achieved his success. So your comment about NorCal made me poke around a bit, and indeed, he was born in Hollister just to the south of where I live. As for the Dart, its long time claim to fame is of course the Beach Boys’ “Shut Down”. With the 413 winding out in low, and then really digging in, after reading this article I’m left wondering what gearing it had, but it surely had “butyl rubber “ tires.
Atlas Bucron tires from the Standard/Amoco gas stations were the butyl rubber tires of choice back then.
good thread on the HAMB about them
I would be surprised if there was 75 pounds difference between the wide block 318 and the 413. I found one source that put the weight of the old 318 at “600+” pounds, the B block 361-383 at 620 and the RB 413-440 at 670. So really, the difference between the 318 and the 383 was negligible, and the 413 only another 50#. I would make that trade for the kind of power the thing was throwing off. Just keep the gas tank full to keep weight better distributed. 🙂
It is so true – I cannot remember the last time I saw an unmolested Plymouth or Dodge 2 door sedan of this vintage.
It seems to be hard to get a pretty solid number for the 3118 poly weight. I found one source where the owner weighed his engine at 550 lbs, but without starter, carb, fan or alternator. How much do those weigh?
Another angle is to compare the 318 Plymouth 318 that CL tested (and we posted): Its curb weight was 3335 lbs. This Dart 413 weighed 3540 at the curb. According to the Encyclopedia, a Dart 330 V8 hardtop coupe weighs 40 lbs more than a Savoy V8 4-door sedan. So if we add that to the Savoy, its adjusted weight is 165 lbs less than the 413 Dart, which did have p/s, unlike the Savoy.
There may be other differences than just basic engine weight. For instance, the tested 413 had dual quad carbs; they (and the manifold) weigh more than a single quad. Bigger radiator? Other factors?
Starter + carb + fan + alternator = 35 ± 2 pounds.
Thanks; that sounds about right. Which means the 318 poly might have hit 600 lbs depending on exactly what was on it or not, but probably not anything significantly more than that.
FWIW, I have been told a 318 Poly is 60 lbs. heavier than a LA 318, So….
Sorry I don’t have a verifiable source.
SAE paper № 640132, “Chrysler Corp.’s New 273 cu in. V-8 Engine” (W.L. Weertman & E.W. Beckman, 1964) states new casting techniques were employed in the major castings which enabled an overall weight reduction of 50 lb under that of the present 318 cu in. engine and The finished block including main bearing caps and bolts weighs 149 lb.
And paper № 680019, “Chrysler Corporation’s 340 Cu. In. V-8 Engine” (J.W. Dean & H.M. Casebeer) says The block weighs 146 lb.
So now we probably have enough data to infer the weight of the old-type 318, or at least get close enough.
I’ve come across an official Chrysler source that says the A 318 poly weighed 605 lbs. And the LA 273 weighed 550 lbs.
“Like uncapping a volcano” when unleashing the power of these MOPAR engines was a driving impression used by one of the mags at the time. I still like the quirky design of these Dodge and Plymouth models.
These so-called ‘Max Wedge’ (I don’t think they were ever officially called that by Chrysler, BTW, but were known as Stage 1, 2, etc.) engines got all kinds of glowing hyperbole from the car rags at the time.
What they didn’t talk about (at least not much, anyway) was how difficult it was to drive the highest performance versions on the street. I mean, c’mon, a 14:1 compression ratio on the street? Really?
From what I can gather, these were truly Super Stock specials in that they were designed specifically for straight line use, a quarter mile at a time. On top of the high compression, they also had lumpy cams which were barely able to run at idle.
While normal drivabllity was always an issue with any of these high-strung, sixties, detuned race engines (the Street Hemi wasn’t much better), the Max Wedge was one of the absolute worst.
This car is famously regarded as one of the “stars” in the Beach Boys’ “Shut Down”, in which it races a fuel injected Stingray. It is not quite clear from they lyrics which car won.
“Declinin’ numbers at an even rate
At the count of one we both accelerate
My stingray is light the slicks are startin’ to spin
But the four-thirteen’s really diggin’ in
Gotta be cool now
Power shift, here we go”
the corvette wins – here’s the next two verses
Superstock dodge is windin’ out in low
But my fuel injected Stingray’s really startin’ to go
To get the traction I’m ridin’ the clutch
My pressure plate’s burnin, ‘ that machine’s too much
Pedal’s to the floor, hear the dual quads drink
And now the four-thirteen’s lead is startin’ to shrink
He’s hot with ram induction but it’s understood
I got a fuel-injected engine sittin’ under my hood
Shut it off, shut it off
Buddy, now I shut you down
Yep, I still have a fuelie ’63 C2 like in the song and it really does go at the top end. The independent rear end should have given our Beach Boy (Dennis?) much better traction than the 413 off the line, though. Even my very healthy 427/425 ’66 Sting Ray would just squat at the rear and get traction if you were careful with the throttle in 1st, even on Pirelli 4000 215/&0/15s when I street raced it back in the ’90s when young and reckless. Once you were in 2nd it would just walk any of the cars I raced. My discs also helped slow down after that, unlike some of the Muscle cars with their drums (and my ’63, too!).
Now everything has 500+hp, sticky tires and traction and stability control, so easy compared to how squirrely those old monsters could get.
Always liked the ’62 Dodge, strangely enough. I’ll admit there are some challenging angles that I like to think some more studio time might have fixed.
It’s always amazing to read the about multiplicity of drag-focussed mechanical options back then. This article alerted me to far more things than I was previously aware of. Drag racing must have been incredibly popular in early-sixties US for Mopar to have offered so much in the way of go-fast gear.
They had originally planned to used curved side glass which I believe would have helped some, but I like them as-is. I was a youngster with older brothers at the time, and cars were the smartphones of the era. Plenty of Hot Rod and car culture magazines. A good portion of the popular music was about cars, and drag strips were everywhere. And the radio commercials for the drag strips saying who would be there Sunday Sunday Sunday…
Even with that curved glass, I’d still reckon the rear roof/quarter panel junction is a bit off.
Yours was a very different culture compared to Australia at the time, but then you guys (stereotypically at least) seemed to have more disposable income. And those sixties US car magazines were amazing, made ours look like backyard efforts.
Great models; I have a passable twin of that Charger on the end. 🙂
Just this week had a discussion with my 75 year old brother on how you could graduate high school back then and get a job with the telephone or gas company and make a fine middle class income including a pension. And he knew people who just worked at the gas station and one year later could buy a Chevy SS.
thanks that Charger is cool in dark gold. My favorite is B5 blue Coronet
The 62 Dart was my first car, and I wished it had been a two door; however, being a 4 door hardtop wasn’t too bad….I had wheels! LOL!! 🙂
That’s a cool first car brother! My first car was a ’76 Dart Custom, with 4 doors (which allowed for great ingress/egress of my buddies) and the 225 slant 6. I loved that copper colored beast, I learned to drive in that car and how to drift it on the dirt roads webbing through our neck of the woods. I actually drove past a red ’64 Dart nearly identical to the one in the post that was for sale one day. It was also a 6-cylinder model, with the weirdest push-button transmission I had ever seen. Had it been a 413 equipped machine, I probably would have done anything to get it, it was beautiful and didn’t have a scratch on it, and only a couple of tiny rust spots. Looking back, I should have bought it anyway, but the tranny was weird and slippy, and I was afraid it would leave me stranded. Oh well, missed opportunities…
The downsized 1962 Mopars get a lot of vitriol but, frankly, I rather liked the roof, particularly the angled rear window, and wonder how things might have turned out if the Chrysler stylists hadn’t went so bonkers with the front and rear styling (particularly the Dodge’s ‘warthog’ front). With a more traditional grille/headlights/taillights, they might have sold quite a bit better.
When sales tanked horribly, they were cleaned up a bit for the following year, which included using a flat rear window.
These cars certainly have some great details, I like the windshield / A pillar / vent window treatment, its a shame the Valiant windshield wasn’t done this way.
Also the way the lower body tucks under, gives an athletic look.
The worst part for me is that heavy sculpturing around the rear wheel, take that away and I can live with the rest.
Was going to say something along these lines, doubt anyone could accuse them of being pretty, but they certainly are distinctive.. which I guess was what they were going for.
Definitely have some great design details though the overall look is kinda disjointed.
With the Newberg scandal consuming the entire leadership ranks, there must have been mass confusion at the highest levels of Chrysler, way more than was the normal chaos for that company, during the design phase of the downsized 1962 Mopars, and that allowed some of the weirder stuff to slip through into production.
There’s a story over on ateupwithmotor’s website about the cars that says the Dodge president at the time, M.C. Patterson, was the guy who insisted on the warthog grille with embedded headlights for the car and, evidently, there wasn’t anyone in charge (Tex Colbert was surely in over his head at that point) to shoot down what could easily be considered the car’s biggest styling faux pas.
What’s fascinating (to me, anyway) is that Ford used the exact same gimmick for 1969 Mustang (itself a take on the 1968 Shelby GT-350/500) but, because it was integrated so much better into the styling, no one gave it a second thought.
I posted the ’69 Mustang comparison some years ago on this site. Yes they did integrate it better. I think the same could be said about the Edsel and late 60’s Pontiacs. Design can be too far ahead of it’s time. I think that the Dodge front end was emulating fighter jet engine intakes.
Love the F-100 and those “quirky looking” 62-63 MoPars! Those cars look like they jumped right out of The Jetsons cartoon. You can compare and critique their styling all day but, folks; at least someone made an attempt which is unlike what’s coming off the line today!
I never liked that body style. Give it all the help you can. Put some nice looking white wall tires on the car with deluxe wheel covers.