Chrysler's first new Hemi V8 since the 426 went out of production in 1971. Its predecessor put 10,000 copies on the street in five years; the new one will put 40 times as many there each year.
By the end of this year, DaimlerChrysler's new Saltillo Engine Plant II in Saltillo, Mexico, will be ready to churn out 440,000 5.7-liter Hemi V8s annually for the Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks, though an aluminum block version may also see use in the rear-drive replacements for the Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde, and Chrysler 300M due in the 2004–2005 time period. The iron block/aluminum head Hemi truck engine is 56-lb. lighter than the 5.9-liter V8 it replaces, and produces 41% more horsepower (345 hp @5,400 rpm) and 12% more torque (375 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm), making this overhead valve engine one of the most powerful available in the light truck market. In everyday use, the Hemi also is expected to produce 8% to 10% better fuel economy.
"The assignment to ready a replacement for the 5.9-liter engine came in 1996," says Bob Lee, director of Rear Wheel Drive Engine Engineering for the Chrysler Group, "but we didn't start in earnest until late 1997, as the 3.7-liter (V6) and 4.7-liter (V8) were being designed and launched." This meant a lot of 18-hour days for Lee and his team, punctuated by a short delay in the program as Daimler-Benz and Chrysler merged. The merger, however, also gave the group the chance to compare notes with their Daimler colleagues, specifically about the use of two plugs per cylinder. "We discovered that we knew some things they didn't, and they knew some things we didn't," says Lee.
The initial design studies for the Hemi covered a lot of ground, and investigated a number of design and production possibilities. One concept, in particular, would have delivered the entire valvetrain to the line as a cartridge, where it would be bolted to the block. "There were a few problems with this idea, despite the fact that it would have simplified the production process by having a single supplier deliver the completed unit on a just-in-time basis to the assembly plant," says Lee. Specifically, the tolerances between the cartridge and the block would have necessitated complex machining operations, and the design of an engine block very different from that found in production today. "One of the benefits of this design," says Lee, "was that it would have made it simple to add variable valve timing, but the benefits didn't justify the costs." In the end, Lee and his team settled on a simple design, roughly the same size as the company's 4.7-liter V8, that could be modified to include both V6 and V10 variants.
The cast iron block is a deep-skirt design with five cross-bolted main bearing caps, and cylinder bore spacing that is the same as the 5.9-liter V8. A forged crank was considered, but rejected due to cost. "When you design an engine like this," says Lee, "you look at things like a forged crank, but you prepare everything such that an expensive, difficult-to-machine piece like this isn't necessary." Once the aftermarket gets its hands on the engine, Lee expects a forged crank to become available, just not from the factory. The aluminum cylinder heads have hemispherical combustion chambers, two valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters with roller followers, two spark plugs per cylinder activated by separate coil-on-plug ignition systems, and are cast using semi-permanent molds. The single camshaft is located high in the block to optimize the pushrod angle–something the legendary 426 Hemi, with its severely canted intake valve, did without. "That engine trapped a lot of fuel in the cylinder," says Lee. "This one doesn't." The new Hemi has an included valve angle of 34.5º, a compression ratio of 9.6:1 (it was 10.25:1 on the 426 motor), and dual wide-band knock sensors.
Siemens VDO supplies the integrated air-fuel module that reduces 26 separate components to two parts in the assembly plant. In addition, Lee insisted that one supplier be used for the entire engine in order to increase fastener commonality. Federal Mogul was given oversight over sealing, and premium elastomeric press-in-place pieces were used to eliminate leaks. "We've had no warranty work on the 4.7-liter V8 for weeps or leaks," says Lee, "and we wanted to continue this with the Hemi." The Hemi also marks the first production application within Chrysler of an electronic throttle controller in a rear-drive vehicle. A DC motor coupled to reduction gears opens and closes the throttle and compensates for changes in engine load arising from engagement of the air conditioning compressor, alternator, power steering pump, etc.
When all was said and done, Lee and his team brought the engine in on time and well under budget. Both high- and low-compression units are slated, as is EGR management for the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) version. The number of in-bound part numbers was cut 20% (to 127), and production suppliers were reduced by 27% to 61. And though Lee and his team learned a lot from this project that will be applied to future engine programs, right now he wants to take a break. "Those 18-hour days get really old after three years," he says. "Really old."