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5 Most Expensive 426 HEMI-Powered Classics Ever Sold at Public Auctions

Nowadays, any classic car equipped with the mighty 426 HEMI is expensive. Still, these five rare and highly original examples sold at public auctions take the notion of expensive to another level.
1970 Monteverdi Hai 450 SS 17 photos
Photo: Gooding & Company
1970 Monteverdi Hai 450 SS1970 Monteverdi Hai 450 SS1970 Monteverdi Hai 450 SS1966 Dodge HEMI Coronet Deluxe Four-Door1966 Dodge HEMI Coronet Deluxe Four-Door1966 Dodge HEMI Coronet Deluxe Four-Door1969 Dodge HEMI Daytona1969 Dodge HEMI Daytona1969 Dodge HEMI Daytona1970 Plymouth Superbird1970 Plymouth Superbird1970 Plymouth Superbird1971 Plymouth HEMI Cuda Convertible1971 Plymouth HEMI Cuda Convertible1971 Plymouth HEMI Cuda Convertible1971 Plymouth HEMI Cuda Convertible
Named after its hemispherical combustion chambers, Chrysler's 426-ci (7.0-liter) HEMI V8 started life in 1964 as a race engine developed for NASCAR.

Two years later, a street version conservatively rated at 425 hp was unleashed on public roads in Plymouth and Dodge intermediates.

From that point on, the engine became the most fearsome production V8 of its era, seeing use in the most epic Mopar muscle cars and two European models that never made it past the prototype stage.

Though it wasn't the first, last, or most potent HEMI ever produced by the Chrysler Corporation, the 1966-1971 426 is unquestionably the most legendary due to its accomplishments on the road, drag strip, and race track.

Because of its immense popularity, surviving cars equipped with the engine demand large amounts when going under the hammer, and here are the five most expensive ever sold.

1970 Monteverdi Hai 450 SS - $577,500

1970 Monteverdi Hai 450 SS
Photo: Gooding & Company
As I mentioned before, the 426 HEMI was used in two European models that never made it past the prototype stage. One was an experimental version of the innovative Jensen FF, and the other was this fascinating sports car.

Developed by Swiss carmaker Monteverdi, the Hai (shark, in German) was the company's attempt to build a mid-engine sports car that could run circles around the Lamborghini Miura.

Built around a bespoke tube chassis topped with a sharp-angled body designed and built in Italy by Carrozzeria Fissore, it made its public debut at the 1970 Geneva Auto Show.

Since Monteverdi had been sourcing V8s from Chrysler for previous production models, the HEMI was deemed perfect in terms of power and cost for the mid-engine supercar.

The original plan was to produce 49 copies, but only two prototypes were completed due to financial constraints.

Monteverdi kept one that still resides in the company's museum, while the other was sold to a private buyer.

The latter prototype made numerous appearances at prestigious car shows and benefitted from a thorough restoration. In 2012, it was sold for $577,500 through Gooding & Company at an auction held at Pebble Beach.

1966 Dodge HEMI Coronet Deluxe Four-Door - $660,000

1966 Dodge HEMI Coronet Deluxe Four\-Door
Photo: Berrett-Jackson
During its debut model year, the street version of the 426 HEMI was available under the hood of four intermediate Dodge and Plymouth models.

The four, and all others that featured the engine on their option list from 1966 to 1971, were two-door cars.

However, five factory-built cars with four doors also received the HEMI, albeit through special orders from influential customers.

One of those cars is this 1966 four-door Dodge Coronet Deluxe, which may just be the coolest American-built sleeper sedan of all time.

Unlike other ultra-rare models from the muscle car era, this one survived in mint condition, racking up a few miles on the odometer.

In 2007, the car ended up under the hammer at a Berrett-Jackson auction, where it fetched $660,000.

1969 Dodge HEMI Daytona - $1.34 Million

1969 Dodge HEMI Daytona
Photo: Mecum
Like the 426 HEMI, the Charger Daytona was conceived to dominate the NASCAR Grand National Series.

Ford won the series in 1968 with its Torino SportsRoof (aka fastback), proving that raw power was no longer enough and kickstarting an aero war.

The Mopar camp responded with drastic improvements for the Charger, which gave birth to the Daytona.

To homologate the model for NASCAR, 503 street-legal models were produced during the 1969 model year. The vast majority left the factory with the 440 Magnum (433 units), while only 70 received the HEMI.

Of those, few have survived in excellent condition, with few miles on the odometer, and unlike 1969 when dealers struggled to sell them, these cars are currently some of the most sought-after American classics in the world.

In recent years, several have sold for six figures. The current record for the most expensive Daytona is held by the Copper Metallic example shown above, which fetched 1.43 million at a Mecum auction earlier this year (2023).

1970 Plymouth Superbird - 1.65 million

1970 Plymouth Superbird
Photo: Mecum
As radical as the Charger Daytona looked, it failed to stop Ford's improved Torino Talladega, so Plymouth engineers developed a winged warrior that could.

Though it looked very similar to the Daytona, the Road Runner-based Superbird had many subtle differences, including a less pointy nose, a wing with a different geometry, and a vinyl top.

For the 1970 season, NASCAR homologation requirements changed from 500 road-legal examples to one for every two of each manufacturer's US dealers. In other words, Plymouth had to build and sell 1,920 Superbirds.

To accomplish that, the company made the car available with three engine options ranging from the standard 440 Magnum to the 440 Six-Barrel (aka Six-Pack in Dodge slang) and 426 HEMI.

Ultimately, 1,935 street-legal Superbirds were sold, and the race version won the 1970 Grand National title. Of those, only 135 units featured the mighty HEMI.

Like surviving HEMI Daytonas, these rare Superbirds have sold for millions in recent years. The orange example shown above is the most expensive, selling for 1.65 million at a Barrett-Jackson auction in 2022.

1971 Plymouth HEMI Cuda Convertible – $3.85 Million

1971 Plymouth HEMI Cuda Convertible
Photo: Mecum
Completely redesigned for the 1970 model year, the Barracuda became one of its era's most gorgeous muscle cars.

I say muscle car because, even if it was technically a pony car, the Cuda had an optional engine list that featured heavyweights like the 440 Magnum, 440 Six-Barrel, and 426 HEMI.

The third (and final) generation survived on the market until 1974, and it was optionally equipped with a HEMI only during the 1970 and 1971 model years.

Most of the E-body Cudas were two-door hardtops, but Plymouth also sold a two-door convertible version, of which only 21 received A HEMI.

Of those, 14 were built in 1970 and just seven a year later. One of those ultra-rare HEMI Cuda convertibles sold for a whopping $3.85 million at a Mecum in 2014.

Though another '71 example went under the hammer recently, with the highest bid reaching $4.8 million, the owner's reserve was not met, so the blue example above remains the most expensive 426 HEMI-powered classic ever sold at a public auction.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
Vlad Radu profile photo

Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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