By Dave Ashton
The first and last vehicle of any kind usually gains interest from collectors and enthusiasts alike. In today’s world, the last vehicle that rolls off an assembly line is photographed, videoed, and documented to the nth degree. But in the early years of muscle cars, meticulous documentation wasn’t always the priority. Which is why the last Hemi ever built it’s not so much of a cut and dry story.
Initially, we thought the process would be straightforward. A quick Google search popped up a well-publicized example of the restoration of the supposedly last Hemi. But on further research, it seems that one or two vehicles are also claiming the title.
In reality, there had to be one vehicle with a 426 Hemi dropped in it which was the last one officially produced. But with differences between scheduled and production dates, VIN numbers, and what was officially documented, leads to a few vehicles claiming the title.
The 426 Hemi hit the Charger R/T in 1966 coming from NASCAR heritage with cast iron heads instead of the racing aluminum versions, low compression ratios, better valve timings, and upgraded exhaust and intake manifolds to achieve the 425HP and 490 lb. ft. of torque. However, by 1971 federal emissions put a halt to these huge engine types. The Hemi engine name lives on in present-day vehicles, but it’s the original design and configuration which still holds up today.
The ‘White’ 1971 Dodge Charger R/T
The fuss about the white 1971 Dodge Charger R/T seems to start in 2013 when the vehicle was acquired by renowned Charlotte-North Carolina muscle car experts RK Motors. The vehicle had finished an extensive restoration and was to be shown for the first time at the Food Lion AutoFair, Charlotte Motor Speedway that year. According to a Hemmings article, the vehicle was ‘1 of 33’ cars produced in 1971 with the 426 Hemi engine and a TorqueFlite automatic transmission.
The car was originally sold in Ohio with the original owner being told by the people at Glavic Dodge, Wickliffe, Ohio that it was unlikely the car would ever be built. The vehicle was subsequently produced at the Lynch Road plant, Detroit, on June 18, 1971. This apparently was two weeks later than a previously documented vehicle.
In the early 1990s, the R/T was bought by Joe Angelucci who originally spotted the vehicle years earlier. It wasn’t until the original owner fell ill that the car was agreed to be sold to Joe. From which the car was left in its original state until it was restored by RK Motors.
The Last HEMI – Segment 1- The Journey Begins
The ‘Blue’ Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda
Zipping over the description from a 2018 Barrett Jackson auction, this particular Hemi-Cuda was ‘one of 59’ known HEMI Cudas built-in 1971′(contrary to the above 33), which has also had a full restoration and only 23,772 original miles on the clock.
It has an original four-speed manual transmission, Dana 60 rear end, A34-code Super Trak Pak, A34-code Super Trak Pak, and comes with the original broadcast sheet.
Which is the original last Hemi-ever built?
If you care to wade through the comments from the Hemmings article link above, it adds more fuel to the fire rather than a decisive conclusion. Some say up to 60 US-spec Hemis were built for the R/T, not including Canadian built vehicles.
One of the most conclusive articles on this topic is from moparconnectionmagazine.com. Basically, the article wraps around Tim Wellborn and his employment of the ‘Prove It’ firm to track down the originality of the last Hemi vehicle.
The team eventually uncovered the fact that there were four plants producing Hemi vehicles in 1971. As assembly lines regularly produced vehicles beyond their assigned build date, there was no way to accurately date the last Chrysler Hemi assigned car. The report produced by the firm says that the white Charger, therefore, couldn’t be the last Hemi-version.
The ‘yellow’ 1971 Dodge Charger R/T owned by Tim Wellborn as seen below had a scheduled production date of June 11, but rolled out on July 30 (according to the Fender tag and window sticker), which was the last day of production for Chrysler vehicles in 1971.
It would be great to hear comments and feedback about this topic for which vehicle you think is the last Hemi powered vehicle from the golden era of muscle cars.
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