By Steve Magnante
The ninth annual Spring Festival of LXs is now over, and its 1,200-plus participants are — by now — back to work and getting set for next year’s event. I’m still amazed by the variety of modern Dodge LX-based cars that turned out. We saw 4-door Magnum wagons, 4-door Charger sedans and 2-door Challenger pony cars, most of which packed 5.7-liter HEMI® power beneath their sleek hoods.
Here’s the thing about the 5.7-liter HEMI — unless you’re talking about the just-released Shaker hood scoop option for Challengers, the 5.7 suffers from modernitis, an aesthetic condition brought on by its use of coil-on-plug ignition and single-inlet throttle body architecture. Between that and the various sensors needed to support the electronic control systems, 5.7-liter HEMI engines — like virtually all 21st-century engines, regardless of origin — generally looks better with an engine cover.
But customizers will be customizers. Walking through Spring Fest’s many rows of classy Dodges, I spotted many unique efforts to customize the appearance of the mighty 5.7-liter HEMI. The beauty is, it doesn’t take much money to get a totally original outcome. Here are some highlights.
Without the engine cover, the 5.7-liter HEMI engine’s exposed coil-on-plug ignition, fuel rails and front-loader throttle body looks pretty busy.
These days even soccer moms ask if “that thing’s got a HEMI in it,” and viewers expect to see something customized. That’s why Dodge stylists conjured this tidy and effective engine cover. But to many Dodge owners, it’s a blank canvas, ripe for decoration.
This patriotic scene was painted onto the otherwise stock cover using an air brush. Only a light sanding of the plastic surface is needed to help the paint adhere. Engine heat is low enough to prevent fading and blisters.
Complementing the purple paint on the car body, this cover has been painted darker purple and highlighted with grape-hued smoke swirls. Note how the cover’s horizontal ribs and HEMI call-out logos are decked out with paint to match the body color. It’s tasteful and easy on the eyes.
This Charger is called the Black Widow and plays up the deadly arachnid’s black and red hues. The standard gray center insert was blacked out, then vivid red highlights were applied to the ribs and logos. The effect is furthered by color-coordinated under-hood accessories.
The engine shroud on this yellow Charger Daytona is stock except for the substitution of a contrasting-color center panel, done appropriately enough in HEMI Orange. Thanks to its sheer size, the 5.7-liter HEMI’s engine cover delivers bold results when custom decorated.
Fans of Southern rock will immediately identify with this treatment. Again, without a single physical modification to the engine shroud, a totally fresh look is achieved through paint alone.
The shroud on this HEMI Charger has been cut open to remove the horizontal ribs. In their place, the owner added black anodized aluminum mesh to help heat escape. The body-matched red paint and Charger graphics set it apart.
This Charger wears a home-brewed Shaker/shroud setup. The beauty of the 5.7-liter HEMI engine shroud configuration is that it simply snaps in place. A quartet of mounting pins, attached to the engine, accept rubber O-rings. Installation, or swaps, can be done in seconds and requires no tools.
It may look like a second gen 426 HEMI in this LC Challenger, but don’t be fooled! Those “cast aluminum” valve covers are actually textured plastic replicas intended to give this third gen HEMI some retro looks while covering up the coil-on-plug ignition architecture. The car is the Dodge 1320 Challenger show car. Thus far, these nifty rocker covers are a one-off exercise… thus far.