As the Detroit muscle car wars of the 1960s began, the Chrysler Corporation and its Dodge and Plymouth brands were pacing the sidelines. But not for long: Midway through the 1962 model year, the Maximum Performance Wedge package was introduced—the legendary combination that soon became known as the Max Wedge.
This first Max Wedge displaced 413 cubic inches and was offered in two versions: an 11.5:1 compression-ratio model with 410 hp, and an even more radical 420 hp model with a whopping 13.5:1 compression ratio. Both engines were just barely drivable on the road. In truth, they were thinly disguised racing engines, and they soon made their presence known on the nation’s oval tracks and drag strips. The Ramchargers, a drag racing team made up of company engineers, easily won their class at the U.S. Nationals with their Max Wedge-powered ’62 Dodge Dart.
For 1963, the Max Wedge’s cylinder bores were enlarged from 4.17 to 4.25 inches, increasing the displacement to 426 cubic inches, while new, higher-flowing cylinder heads were fed by an even larger pair of four-barrel carburetors. Produced in two phases of development, Stage II and Stage III, the 426 version of the Max Wedge continued the domination of America’s race tracks, as the Ramchargers’ Dodge swept the Top Stock honors at the ’63 U.S. Nationals.
The Max Wedge got its name from its wedge-shaped combustion chambers, which distinguish the engine from the company’s previous generation of powerplants that used hemispherical chambers. The Max Wedge became a bona fide performance legend in its own right. However, maybe an even greater legacy was established for the engine in 1964, when the 426 Max Wedge served as the mechanical foundation for the reborn 426 Hemi.