- THE FINEST PIECE OF CHRYSLER-BACKED RACING HISTORY IN PRIVATE HANDS
- NEVER BEFORE AVAILABLE TO COLLECTORS
- HIDDEN FROM VIEW FOR 35 YEARS
- ONE OF ONE
- THE ULTIMATE COLLECTIBLE MUSCLE CAR
- THE CROWNING JEWEL FOR THE HEMI/MUSCLE CAR COLLECTOR
When Chrysler introduced the redesigned Hemi engine to the world in 1964, it immediately began to dominate NASCAR and NHRA racing. NASCAR, worried that its fabled parody was threatened, announced a ban of the Hemi engine for the 1965 season. Ronnie Householder, who was Chrysler’s Director of Racing in the 1960's, made the decision to “pull” Richard Petty, who was the face of NASCAR throughout the 1960's, from the NASCAR series for 1965.
Concurrently in Phoenix, Arizona in the 1960's was a young former Marine jet fighter pilot, Bob Montana, who owned a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership and who had a passion for all forms of racing. Bob’s dealership had been hosting the Ram Chargers Drag Racing Team for several years during the NHRA Winter Nationals held near Phoenix and he had developed friendships with Chrysler racing executives. Bob enjoyed SCCA sports car racing and, coincidentally, American’s only race car designer and constructor, McKee Engineering, had just begun construction of a series of mid-engine tube frame sports racers which could be modified to accept the new Hemi engine.
Ronnie Householder recognized that a McKee race car with Hemi power would provide Richard Petty with an additional choice of race series in 1965, and an order was placed with McKee Engineering for a Hemi powered, tube frame mid-engine sports racer.
In January of 1965, while attending the Chicago Auto Show, Richard Petty visited McKee Engineering with Chrysler racing executives and was offered the opportunity to campaign the factory-backed racing effort in the emerging unlimited sports racing series, Can-Am. Because the car could not be completed by the beginning of the racing season, Richard proceeded to drag race throughout the 1965 season and for 1966 returned to NASCAR. It was left to Bob Montana to campaign the Hemi McKee. The Hemi McKee raced on a national basis from 1965 through 1967 in Can-Am and USRRC races along side the McLearens, Lolas, Chapparrals, Ferraris and Porsches of their day. By 1968, the monocoque race car chassis had become preferred over the tube frame chassis, and the Hemi McKee thereafter raced only in regional SCCA competition.
The car was retired in 1969 and, following Bob Montana’s untimely death in 1971, the car remained in storage for the next 35 years, until its restoration was completed in the summer of 2004, when it debuted at the Mopar Nationals in Columbus, Ohio.
In the summer of 2005, the Hemi McKee was invited to both the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Chichester, England, and the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey, California. The car also appears on Daimler-Chrysler’s website: www.hemi.com.