“Hemi”: the word needs no explanation – or does it? These four letters immediately evoke an image of automotive power and performance for both die-hard car enthusiasts and those who see their vehicles as utilitarian devices to
get them from point A to point B. But, what, exactly, is a “Hemi?” With this groundbreaking exhibition, the AACA Museum, Inc. tackles the subject in a way that is appealing to our entire audience, from gear-heads to families visiting Hershey, and everyone in-between.
“Hemi” is a prefix meaning half. For our purposes, it refers to an automotive engine with domed or hemispherically-shaped combustion chambers. The term became a standard in automotive vernacular during the muscle car era of the 1960s when the Chrysler Corporation debuted its 426 cubic inch V8 for production vehicles and
racing applications. The engine, available from 1964 to 1971, was actually Chrysler’s second successful go around with a hemispherical headed V8. The first, generation, which bore the moniker “Firepower” was in production from 1951 to 1958. The modern Hemi was introduced in 2003 and is currently available in select Chrysler Corporation cars and trucks.
“While the Hemi engine is unquestionably linked to Chrysler, they did not invent the technology, which actually dates back to the first decade of the 20th century,” states Museum Executive Director, Jeffrey Bliemeister. “This exhibition is possibly the first historical overview of this subject ever presented by a major automotive museum; with more than 35 vehicles and nearly 20 engine and cutaway assemblies, it is certainly the most comprehensive.”
In putting together this display, guest curator and museum volunteer, Bill Sangrey, delved deep into the subject’s history and left no stone unturned. His quest to fill the exhibit with vehicles that have Hemi engine characteristics put him in touch with people across the country. Vehicles are committed from as far away as Maine, Florida, and Nevada. Sangrey says, “We have over a dozen manufacturers represented with vehicles ranging from a 1914 Sterns-Knight to a current Dodge Pickup Truck. Of course, Chrysler cars from all of its divisions are well represented, including original and restored examples of Imperials, Chryslers, Desotos, Dodges, and Plymouths. Visitors will also find the unexpected, including motorcycles, race cars, and European vehicles such as BMWs, Alfa Romeos, Saabs, Porsches, and Aston Martins.” This impactful exhibit also includes a 1930 Duesenberg! The Museum expresses its thanks to Winters Automotive and Trailers of Prospect, Pennsylvania, for their sponsorship support, and Stetler Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram of York, Pennsylvania for providing contemporary Hemi-powered vehicles for display.
The AACA Museum typically changes its themed exhibits and temporary gallery displays twice yearly. This is the first change-out using outside vehicles since reopening from the extended Covid-19 mandated closure. Along with “Yeah, It’s Got a Hemi,” visitors will have the opportunity to see three additional new exhibitions.