Nobody asked me, but . . .
The father of the Chrysler 426 Hemi passed away last week. Tom Hoover. But we called him T Hoover when I worked a three-month assignment in the Product Planning Race Group while a member of the Chrysler Institute Charm School. I worked along side drag racing legends, including Tom, Dave Koffel and Dick “Nasty Maxy” Maxwell. One of my assignments involved a reincarnation of the Slant-Six Hyper-Pak, a performance package that Hoover had created several years earlier for Chrysler’s compact Dart and Valiant models. I did all the calculations to satisfy NHRA tech maven Farmer Dismuke.
Them wuz the daze. That was at the end of the ’60s, a few years after Tom had gained fame if not fortune for developing the 426 Hemi that won the 1964 Daytona 500 first time out under the hood of a Plymouth driven by Richard Petty, Two years later a Street Hemi version was introduced and the rest, as the cliche goes, is racing history.
I have fond members of T Hoover seated behind the wheel of his, I believe, a 1968, black, low-line, 4-door , B-body Plymouth Belvedere. Black sidewall tires, no chrome trim, stock except for the hemi under the hood. Dressed in over coat and fedora, T Hoover would show up for Wednesday night Woodwood Ave. drag racing at the Big Boy’s at 13-1/2 mile or Ted’s Drive Inn, choose a victim and then head for 696. The mild-looking Hoover with his horn-rim glasses never got pulled over. The cops passed right by, never giving him a second look. But behind the wheel of that street hemi, and every other car he ever raced, he hardly ever got passed.