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FROM THE June 2010 ISSUE
Online Exclusive

Kitbash a mystery Hemi Dodge

Additional images, history, and speculation
Tim Boyd builds the "might have been" 1966 Monaco 500 Hemi Fastback on page 36 of the June 2010 issue. Tim submitted more material than we could fit into the magazine, so here is the additional content.

Images
1966 Monaco 500 Hemi Fastback
The 1966 Dodge Monaco 500 hardtop was a modestly successful product, but the overall design execution was a bit reserved compared to the likes of the 1966 Pontiac Grand Prix, Olds Starfire, Buick Wildcat, Mercury S-55, and Chrysler 300. Adding the fastback roof from the Chrysler 300 would have complemented the new front and rear styling of the 1966 Monaco 500 and made the car more visually competitive with the similar fastback roofs offered on the 1966 B-O-P and Mercury products.   
1966 Monaco 500 Hemi Fastback
The added visual drama of the fastback roof pairs nicely with the Dodge “delta” tailamps that were added to the Monaco 500 for 1966. We fitted our car with top-end Cragar S/S wheels and large diameter Goodyear wide-treads (available in certain 1969 to early-1970s MPC annual kits) to represent a typical “Day 2” appearance for this mythical factory prototype that was sold instead of “crushed.” Note the “Raw Hemi” license plates from the Revell 1967 Charger kit. 
1966 Monaco 500 Hemi Fastback
Our model represents an early 1966 Dodge Monaco 500 factory prove-out car, built in the pilot plant to verify engineering and assembly compatibility. In addition to the planned but not released 426 Street Hemi engine and fastback roof, our model replicates at least two other features that did not reach production – the chrome moldings running along the top of the fenders and doors, and the combination of FF-1 Light Green Metallic paint with Code P4Y Citron interior.
1966 Dodge Monaco
Paired with the 426 Street Hemi, this proposed-but-never-produced product would have easily established itself alongside other legendary late-1960s Mopars. The same “streetified racing engine in the large car body” formula could have also been applied to the aforementioned Monaco 500 competitors. While these cars unfortunately did not materialize in 1:1 scale, we can easily duplicate them in scale to represent “what might have been."
Why was the planned 1966 Dodge Monaco 500 Fastback cancelled?

    In explaining why this car was planned, it helps to remember that during the first half of the 1960s, NASCAR racing was primarily based on full-size cars such as the Impala, Galaxie, and Catalina. Dodge and Plymouth worked this to their advantage in 1963 and 1964, as their NASCAR entries were based on the Polara and Fury – which in truth were intermediate-size cars that were marketed to compete with the full-size Galaxie and Impalas.
    After the 1964 race season, NASCAR mandated a minimum 119-inch wheelbase for all superspeedway entries, so when Chrysler introduced their all new “C-Body” full-size cars in 1965, NASCAR rightly expected the new Plymouth Fury III and Dodge Polara hardtops to be their race entries. Not just bigger, but heavier and less aerodynamic, these new C-Body racecars desperately needed the power of the 426 Hemi engine to be even marginally competitive on the race track.  
    Just about then, NASCAR banned all race engines that were not available as regular, factory installed options, meaning Chrysler’s 426 Hemi (and later on, Ford’s 427 SOHC) were no longer allowed on the race track. As a result, Dodge and Plymouth boycotted the 1965 NASCAR series with their factory-backed teams. Realizing the negative impact on competition, NASCAR relented in mid-June to allow Hemis in the C-Bodies, but by then the damage had been done, and we never really got to see what these bigger Mopars might have done at the track.
    For the 1966 season, NASCAR addressed Chrysler’s concern about racing the C-Bodies by allowing them to enter their new, smaller “B-Bodies” - the Dodge Charger, and its Plymouth equivalent, the Belvedere, with 405 cubic-inch race Hemis (justified by the 426 Street Hemi’s new introduction as a regular production B-Body option). A few months later, Ford got to enter its intermediate-sized Fairlane, and Smokey Yunick constructed his famous rule-bending intermediate Chevelle.    
    With this latest set of NASCAR rules changes, there was no longer a requirement for a production C-Body Street Hemi, nor the rationale for the added complexity of using the more-aerodynamic roof from the Chrysler 300. The planned 1966 Dodge Monaco 500 Fastback Hemi joined the ranks of many other planned, but never released cars from Chrysler and the other domestic manufacturers.       

Monaco 500 History

    Among automotive enthusiasts, posthumous interest in late 1950s to early 1970s American cars resurfaced about 30 years ago and has steadily grown ever since. As these stylish and powerful cars have become desirable and more valuable, historical research has reached the point where we are now learning things about the development of these cars that would have amazed us when these cars were new. It could be the remembrances of factory race team members, magazine publishers with factory connections, car designers who worked in the Big 3 Studios, or even model car enthusiasts who have compiled rare period factory documentation on these cars. Regardless of the source, information about these long-secret factory projects is finally reaching the community of car enthusiasts.
    Relatively recent information has confirmed that this Monaco 500 almost paired both the mildly detuned 426 Street Hemi that Dodge introduced that year for their midsize cars, and the newly-tooled semi-fastback roof stamping that broke cover on the 1966 Chrysler 300 two-door hardtop. Not only would this car have met NASCAR’s requirement for production availability of the Hemi race engine, but this more aerodynamic fastback roof treatment could have improved top speed on the racing version of this full-size car. Additional evidence suggests Chrysler had plans for continued development of factory-produced Hemi versions of the Monaco 500 and Chrysler 300M in subsequent model years, including use of a larger, modified 440 wedge engine block, a Tri-Power induction setup similar to that of the 1969½ Dodge Super Bee Six Pack, and provisions for factory air-conditioning.  
    Using this same hypothesis of street-adapted race engines in full size bodies as the basis for NASCAR race cars, other “Big Bruiser” modeling projects come to mind. A number of annual kits from this era (MPC’s 1965 Dodge Custom 800 convertible, Jo-Han’s 1965-1968 Fury kits, and AMT’s 1966-1969 Galaxie 500 XL) included these race engines among their parts, even though the production variants never materialized.
    Taking this idea a step further, what about a 427 SOHC powered 1966 Mercury S-55 based on the AMT’s oft-reissued kit? Or maybe a Pontiac Catalina 2+2 with a kitbashed Ram-Air V engine based on MPC late-1960s Bonneville annual kits?  How about a 1969 or 1970 Buick Wildcat with a 455 Stage II powerplant? Or even a “continuation” 1967 Dodge Polara 500 Hemi based on the Juha Airio master now available from R&R VacuumCraft, or a 1970 Chrysler 300 Hemi similarly based on R&R VacuumCraft’s reproduction of Juha’s master? You could even build the “Big Bruiser” in its showroom version and in a ready-for-the-track NASCAR version using period racing decals.

                                                                                           – Tim Boyd

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