DaimlerChrysler's says demand for its retro 5,7-litre Hemi V8 engines is outstripping supply. The 5,7-litre pushrod unit powers the Chrysler 300C, which arrives in South Africa in the second-half of 2005.

DaimlerChrysler's says demand for its retro 5,7-litre Hemi V8 engines is outstripping supply. The 5,7-litre pushrod unit powers the Chrysler 300C, which arrives in South Africa in the second-half of 2005.


"What we see is a tremendous shortage of our Hemis," Chrysler president and chief executive Dieter Zetsche said this week, adding that Chrysler had underestimated demand for the big 5,7-litre engine, which is available in Dodge pickups, SUVs as well as the Chrysler 300C and Dodge Magnum sport wagon.


Will South Africans go nuts over the Hemi-powered Chrysler 300C when it arrives? According to DaimlerChrysler SA, an estate version of the retro saloon and several Dodge models could also be launched here in the not too distant future.


With its hi-tech hydraulic valve filters, the Hemi V8 uses what Chrysler calls its multi-displacement system to shut off the valve systems on four of the eight cylinders, effectively converting the 250 kW 5,7-litre V8 to a more frugal V4 at cruising speeds.


The 5,7-litre Hemi will be offered as an option on the new Grand Cherokee, and, as CARtoday.com reported earlier this month, Chrysler is also building a 313 kW 6,1-litre version that does duty in the 300C SRT-8 unveiled at Pebble Beach earlier this month.


The high-performance engine has a reinforced engine block with increased coolant flow, forged steel crankshaft, high-strength powdered-metal connecting rods, floating-pin pistons (cooled by oil injectors), and an oil pan modified for reduced oil foaming.


The fuel economy of the Hemi is not particularly good - the 6,1-litre engined 330C reportedly returns a consumption figure of 16,8 litres per 100 km on the urban cycle and 12,3 litres per 100 km in freeway driving conditions - but they hark back to Detroit's muscle car days of the 1960s and 70s, when horsepower was king, and have clearly resonated with US consumers.


To meet demand for the Hemi, Frank Ewasyshyn, Chrysler's head of manufacturing, the company was looking at expanding capacity at the plant in Saltillo, Mexico, where it builds the engines.


"We can expand the capacity of the current site," Ewasyshyn said of the Mexican plant, which builds about 460 000 engines a year, including roughly 368 000 Hemis. "We're still discussing our ability to respond to the market."