First car (classic?) to break 100 mph in 1/4 mile:

amoralesamorales Member Posts: 196
The 1959 Pontiac Catalina 389 with tri-power (3 carbs) at
Detroit dragway. Could this be considered a classic??
It was the Godfather of the '64 Pontiac GTO (same motor)..


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    No, it's not a classic...real classics are usually very significant, low production, much older cars than 50s autos. You'd call it a "collectible" or "collector car", it would definitely be that. The rather wild styling, huge size and somewhat poor reputation for quality of most late 50s American cars keep them less popular than the slightly newer "muscle cars", but a collector will still pay decent money for a late 50s car that is in the right body configuration (ragtop mostly) and that has the right engine options. (e.g., /59 Impala convert or the Pontiac you mentioned).
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I checked a few books and can't find anything confirming the first stock car to break 100 in the quarter. Jim Wanger won the '60 NHRA super stock/stick shift class at the nationals in a Royal Pontiac, 14.14 at 102.04. Probably a 348-hp Tri-Power 389. I checked for some of the usual suspects like the FI Chevy. Can't find any numbers for that car, but the 270-hp version (same engine but with 2 4-barrels) did the quarter in 77.5 mph (with Powerglide?) so don't think the fuelie would have gotten out of the 80s even with gears and the close-ratio 3-speed.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Just found a few more mph numbers from the late 50s. A few cars in the mid-to-high 80s: '57 Dodge D-500, Ford dual-quad 312, Olds J-2, '57 Pontiac Tri-Power. A '56 Chevy with the Corvette 265 did 85 in the quarter. I thought that 77.5 mph number for the 270-hp engine sounded slow. The fuelie would have been a lot quicker than the 265/225, maybe around 90?
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,606
    One thing that may have hindered the Chevy's performance is the automatic transmission. Most of them were 2-speed autos, and I've heard what few 3-speeds they had tended to self-destruct.

    How did the bigger Mopars, like the Chrysler 300's and DeSoto Adventurers stack up back then? I know by 1957 the Adventurer's 345 Hemi put out 345 hp, without fuel injection, while the 300's were putting out up to 390 hp out of the 392 Hemi. Those were some pretty heavy cars though, compared to a 1957 Chevy. I guess the Dodge D-500, with its optional 340 hp 354 was probably at least the equal of them, considering its lighter weight.

    One thing I've always been confused about...was the D-500's 354 a Hemi or a poly head engine? The lesser 354's in the Windsors and Saratogas were poly's, weren't they?

  • tombayertombayer Member Posts: 23
    I'm pretty sure that all Chrysler V-8's of the early and middle 50's were hemi's. All Chrysler, DeSoto, Dodge and Plymouth V-8's from 1953(?)to 1958 had hemispherical head combustion chambers. They ranged in displacement from quite small up to the 331, 354, 392 size. If you've ever seen one the engine itself is very large and heavy, so a small block V-8 in some ways was a technical improvement because of the same amount of power with less weight.
    Chrysler came out with their wedge head V-8's in 1959(?) and dropped all hemi production until 1964 when they put hemi heads on their 426 motor. The wedge was much cheaper to produce and weighed less.
    Of course the old 392 hemi was the engine of choice for drag engine builders for many years, but they were just too expensive for Chrysler to manufacture.
  • tombayertombayer Member Posts: 23
    on early Chrysler Hemi's, go to, contains oodles of info on hemi's, first came out in 1951, yes there were some poly heads......
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Just going from memory, the first polyspherical heads showed up on the 241 Dodge in '54, in trucks. Poly heads were cheaper to manufacture than the hemispherical heads. The poly was the '55 Plymouth engine, first a 260 and then 270(?) that year. The cheaper Dodges also starting using poly heads, but the Royal and D-500 were still hemis. Poly heads were first used on Chryslers in '57 on the Saratoga and Newport 354s. The only hi-perf version of the poly I'm aware of was the '57-8 V-800, a 318 with 2 4-barrels. There's a road test that has the 301 4-barrel poly, the next engine down in the Plymouth line-up, quicker off the line. DeSotos and senior Chryslers were all hemis. It's almost like the poly and hemi heads fit the same blocks. The wedge came out in the '58 model year (one little-known version was 350 CID) but hemis were used that year too--last year.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,606
    I have a 1957 DeSoto shop manual, and didn't even think to look in it until now, but it confirms what I've always thought about the DeSoto engines...the 325 engine used on the Firesweep was a poly-head engine, with 245 hp in a 2-bbl setup or 260 hp in a 4-bbl setup. So I'm guessing that the 325's used in Dodge Royals and Custom Royals was a poly, as well.

    A few years back, I remember seeing a 1956 Chrysler Windsor in the junkyard, and whatever it had was definitely a poly-head engine (exposed spark plugs, "saw-tooth" shape of the lower edge of the valve covers). According to my auto encyclopedia, it should have been a 331.1, with either 225 hp or 250 hp (2bbl vs 4bbl, I guess).

    Now, something else I'm curious about...the Dodge 315/325 and the DeSoto 330.4, 341, and 345 all have the same stroke...3.80". Could this be an indication that DeSoto and Dodge used the same block? I know the Chrysler's block was bigger and heavier back then, but not sure about DeSoto/Dodge.

    While the DeSoto Hemi's were phased out for 1958 in favor of 350 and 361 wedge-heads, it looks like the Dodge 325 held on another year, along with the Chrysler 354's and 392's. Chrysler's engines were replaced by 383's and 413's for 1959, while it looks like the Dodge 325 was retired in favor of a slightly bored out 318...a 326 offering 255 hp.

    As for another possibly high-performance poly, this encyclopedia mentions a 325 from 1957, standard in the D-500. The horsepower is listed as 285/310, so evidently it came in two flavors, in addition to the more mundane 245 and 260 hp engines.

    Oh yeah, as for performance's about all I could find listed in this encyclopedia, and take it with a grain of salt: 1958 DeSoto Firedome w/ optional 305 hp 361 (standard in Fireflite): 0-60 in 7.7, 0-80 in 13.5, "and reached 115 mph with little strain". The main reason I question this is because the same book states that a 1959 Chrysler 300-E, "With 10.1:1 compression, Torqueflite, and a 3.31:1 rear axle ratio, the E could run 0-60 in less than 8.5, and reach 90 mph by 17.5 seconds." According to this book, the 300-E had a 413 with 380 hp. The book also lists weights...a '58 Firedome 2dr HT base weight was 3825 lb, while the '59 300-E 2dr HT weighed in at 4290. Would the 300-E's added weight be enough to offset 75 hp advantage it had over the '58 Firedome?

    Here are a few more acceleration quotes from this book...
    1951 Chrysler Saratoga: 0-60 in 10 seconds, top speed, 110 mph
    1957 Dodge (no model specified, I'm guessig a Coronet), 245 hp 325: 0-60 in 9.5 seconds.
    1960 Chrysler 300-F, 4speed manual, quarter mile in 16 seconds at 85 mph

    As for the the original topic of this forum...first car to break 100 mph in the 1/4 mile...I'm still wondering what it could be. From memory, one of the quickest road test I remember was a Car & Driver (or Motortrend, forget which) test of a 1986 or '87 Buick Grand National. They got it to do 0-60 in 4.9 seconds, and the 1/4 mile in something like 14.9 seconds@95 mph. Of course, your mileage may vary ;-)

  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I think the '57 D-500 engine was a hemi. There was an optional engine, the D-501, that was the 354/340 used in the '56 300. BTW the optional 355-hp 300-B engine was the first to claim one hp per cubic inch, was the 340-hp engine with milled heads (10:1 CR) and 3-inch exhaust. Apparently brought out just before Daytona Speed Week.

    The 300 was geared more as a high-speed crusier, with 3.54s in the first ones and 3.36 by '57. According to John Gunnell's book on 300s, they were relatively slow off the line (fairly tall gearing and lots of cam) but were still accelerating at 80-90 mph. He's got some 0-100 times in the 24 second range for the '57.

    Has two roadtests of the '59, one showing 0-60 in 8.3 seconds and 0-100 in 22.5 seconds. The other test has a 1/4-mile time of 17.2 and 92 mph. The mph shows a serious weight-to-horsepower ratio but the time is slower--lots of weight and tall gears held it back. '59 standard ratio was 3.31 or 2.93.

    You're right, the poly showed up in the Chryslers and DeSotos before '57. In fact, the '55 Windsor used a 301 that was probably a poly, maybe the same 301 used in the '57 Plymouth. The '59 Dodge 326 does look like a bored out 318 at 3.95 x 3.31.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Wouldn't all Hemi heads have a center spark plug, due to the peculiar valve arrangement? I recall a 1955 Dodge Royal Lancer I had with the spark plugs centered in the top of the head...or am I hallucinating?

    One thing I believe about these 0-60 times for 1950s cars...I think many of these autos had very low gearing in the differential, as evidenced by rather modest top speeds....not that you'd WANT to go over 120 mph in a 4400 lb car with soft suspension, feeble brakes and 2 ply tires!
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,606
    Mr. Shiftright,
    According to my auto encyclopedia, the '55 Dodge Royal should have had a 270.1 V-8, called the "Red Ram". It's got a 3.63x3.25 bore and stroke, and put out 175 hp base. The book doesn't specify on whether it was available as a poly, but if it had the spark plugs right through the center of the top of the head (you had to take a cover plate off the valve covers to get to the wires and plugs) then it was a Hemi. The original Red Ram, from 1953, was a Hemi, a 241.3 with a 3.44x3.25 borexstroke.

    As for the gear ratios back then, I know they had a variety of options. One of the first 300's (don't remember if it was a '55 or '56) could be ordered with something like a 6.17:1 ratio. I'm sure that thing must have been a screamer...and a guzzler!

    As for some REAL old performance times, this book also mentions the 1931-33 Imperial, powered by a 385 inline-8 with 125 hp. It weighed about 5,000 lb, and did 0-60 in about 20 seconds, with a top speed of 96 mph. Now THAT's a little scary, although supposedly Walter P. Chrysler put heavy emphasis on good brakes.

  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Shiftright, you had a Dodge? With, like, chrome? This must have been in a previous life.

    I've got a banker's box full of '50s road tests that would probably answer most of these questions, but ol' Speedshift is working 70 hours a week during one of real estate's periodic upturns so it may be a while.
  • carnut4carnut4 Member Posts: 574
    so I looked in the "Standard Catalogue of American Cars-1946-1975." According to the engine listings for Dodge and Chrysler from 55-57, the 55 Dodge 270 was available in both Hemi and "poly" heads-same bore and stroke. The Chrysler 331 and 354 engines, according to the book, were also available in both hemi and poly heads-same bore and stroke. It gets even more confusing if you study the other mopar engines from the 50s. Apparently the original DeSoto 276 hemi was a bored and stroked version of the original Dodge 241 hem1, which became the 270 in 55. Chrysler juggled so many different bores and strokes on their V8 engines from 52-62, it's definitely hard to follow. But apparently, there were basically two hemi engines-the original Dodge and DeSoto hemis, in various bores and strokes, and also in "poly" heads, and the larger Chrysler hemi, which was made in 331,354, and 392 in sizes, and available in "poly" heads only in the 331 and 354. Right? Whew!
  • amoralesamorales Member Posts: 196
    1964 publication "Stock Cars at the Drags" There are articles about Hayden Profitt, Jim Wanger, Grumpy Bill Jenkins, Don Nicholson, Al Ekstrand and his 413 Dodges and numerous articles including the article on the 1959
    Pontiac Catalina w/Tri power 389 breaking 100 in 1/4 mi at
    Detroit Dragway. Possibility exits your local library may have these old publicatiuons on microfilm....


    early sixties stock car drag racer
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Thanks for the reference. What did you race? Wanger is one of my heroes. Race winner and marketing genius, doesn't get much better than that.
  • amoralesamorales Member Posts: 196
    '55 Chevy BelAire 2 dr hardtop with 327, 750 Carter AFB,
    muncie 4-speed, cutouts at exhaust pipe from engine,
    3:70 axel. Turned 105 mph in 12.4 secs at Lyons Drag strip
    in Wilmington, Ca in mid '62 until 1964, then sold car and went in Air Force.
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