Toyota Made ‘Hemi’ Hot Rod V8 Engines You’ve Never Heard Of

The Hemi engine has become synonymous with the most powerful engines from Detroit and the Chrysler Group. Corn Toyota also designed the technology. For decades, the “Hemi” engine has been installed on the most sought-after Dodge Chargers and Challengers. The Chrysler Group first introduced a Hemi engine in 1951. At the time, the 331 Hemi produced an impressive 180 horsepower with its displacement of 5.4 liters. The legend of this engine culminated with the Dodge SRT Hellcat model, which, thanks to supercharging, produced more than 700 horsepower. But in no case does the Hemi engine belong to Dodge or the Chrysler Group.

Simply, Hemi is a shortening of Hemispherical. In one of these engines, the combustion chamber has a different shape from a conventional engine. Most cylinders have a flat design which, although it is cheap to make more fuel, touches the walls of the cylinder. This extra contact means that more heat can escape from the chamber and reduce the pressure inside the cylinder. Essentially, let the power of the fuel run wild.

Using a hemispherical design instead of a flat design reduces the volume of fuel coming into contact with the walls, thus reducing power loss. As manufacturers scrambled to find ways to increase their engine’s power output in the 1950s and 1960s, many turned to this style of engine.

Chrysler’s Hemi Engines dominated NASCAR in the 1960s and achieved great commercial success because of it. Manufacturers who wanted to expand into the North American market and build better engines were inspired by here. One of these companies was Toyota, who made a line of Hemi engines which saw production until 1997.

Toyota experienced a taste of American muscle.

What were the Toyota Hemi engines?

Toyota Century in Jay Leno's garage
Jay Leno’s garage

The most famous of Toyota’s Hemis is the 3V, a 3.0-liter V8 engine that saw its introduction in 1967. The engine produced 150 horsepower, meaning that per liter it rivaled some of Detroit’s most powerful engines at the time. The famous second-generation Hemi engine, the 426, produced 425 horsepower with its displacement of 7.0 liters.

Toyota saw great value in this technology and stuck with it for two more engine generations. The 4V and 5V took over from the 3V and, with increased displacement, saw 190 horsepower from a 4.0-liter power pack. Toyota replaced the final engine with its V12, the 1GZ-FE which powered Toyota’s most luxurious cars for twenty years until 2017.

The V-series engine is the most intriguing in Toyota history with Hemi engines. After all, it was their most powerful entry with technology. It also has an exclusive benefit as the engines did not find their way into cars sold outside of Japan.

RELATED: Here’s Why Toyota Should Sell America’s Century

What cars were they in?

1997 Toyota Century

Before the Japanese automaker switched to the V12 engine, the Hemi V engine series was Toyota’s flagship engine. As such, it has found use throughout the century. The car is a luxury sedan in the same segment as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or the BMW 7-Series.

The Century is in its third generation. In 2018, it fully embraced hybrid technology as the future of luxury automotive, with its blend of power, economy and silence. What enthusiasts expect from a Hemi engine is in stark contrast to all of this, the word denoting the era of gas guzzlers. However, Toyota built one of these engines and incorporated it into its flagship Japanese model.

The Hemi V engine for Toyota did not start its life in its Century model. It started off simply as the V of the second generation Crown sedan. A 2.6-liter engine built in aluminum, it had no intention of competing with the American Muscle Car. It had a modest 114 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque.

The company did not stop producing less powerful hemispherical engines, the T engine family used this technology to get more power from their 1.4 and 1.8 liter displacements. These motor models like the Corolla and the Celica around the world but are a more mundane application of technology.

RELATED: Toyota Supra MKV Eurofighter Is A 1000 HP 2JZ-Swapped Drifter

Why did they leave production?

1996 Toyota Supra

Since the inception of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class “Ponton” in 1954, the number of engine options has grown exponentially. When the second generation of the Toyota Century was released in 1997, it was in direct competition with the W140 S class. The Mercedes could be fitted with around 400 horsepower from a V12 engine. In Japanese automobile culture, having an imported foreign car has become a sign of an individual’s success, due to its high price tag. As a result, the Century needed a major overhaul to win in this increasingly competitive segment, so the next car went for its V12 engine.

At the same time, Toyota was enjoying great success with its small family of JZ engines. The 3.0-liter 2JZ engine in its most powerful form, the 2JZ-GTE, produced over 300 horsepower at the factory. Their Hemi engine could not achieve this number because the design cannot have four valves per cylinder.

Toyota made the right decision by abandoning their Hemi design, the 2JZ engine has much higher performance potential. Frequently modified Supras produce over 1,000 horsepower at the wheels, creating a legend within the JDM scene. This, combined with manufacturing difficulties, led Toyota to switch to other models. One example is a shed roof which reduces cylinder area but also allows four valves per cylinder.

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