Special Small Block Hemi Engine Build

Building An Award Winning Hemi For Chisenhall’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster

By Ron Ceridono   –   Photography By Speed Dome Engineering & Donnie Anderson

To build any hot rod it takes tenacity and a clear vision of what the car will be, two traits Jack Chisenhall obviously possesses. He’s been thinking about his 1932 Ford roadster for 40 years and was determined to incorporate his love of Indycars in its construction. The culmination of his efforts is the stunning 1932 Ford roadster that was named America’s Most Beautiful Roadster 2023.

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002 John Beck at Pro Machine did the Hemi’s block prep then offset ground the crankshaft which required custom Cunningham connecting rods
John Beck at Pro Machine did the Hemi’s block prep then offset ground the crankshaft, which required custom Cunningham connecting rods. To reduce friction the Ross piston skirts and bearing inserts have been moly coated. The piston rings are from Total Seal.

Inspired in part by Tony Capanna’s 270ci Dodge Red Ram Hemi-powered Indycar from 1955, Mopar’s littlest Hemi engine was deemed the best choice for his Deuce roadster project when compared to the larger DeSoto and the even larger Chrysler versions. A 315ci Dodge D500 block was found and shipped off to Bonneville record-breaking engine builder John Beck at Pro Machine (530-343-9228). Beck blueprinted the block, bored it 0.060-inch oversize to 3.751 inches, then offset ground the crankshaft’s rod journals, increasing the stroke to 4 inches, resulting in 354 ci (actually 353.6 for those who like math).

Read More: From Gasser To Show Car: A Candy Apple Red ’41 Willys

003 The engine’s oil supply is furnished by a small block Mopar 340 oil pump with an Anderson built pickup and baffle assembly
The engine’s oil supply is furnished by a small block Mopar 340 oil pump with an Anderson-built pickup and baffle assembly made necessary by the shallow oil pan.

When Beck was done working his magic, the block and rotating assembly were shipped back to Chisenhall’s San Antonio shop where it ended up sitting for years. As it often happens, life (and being the head honcho at Vintage Air) interrupted Chisenhall’s quest to fulfill his vision and progress on the roadster slowed. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop his search for vintage Indy parts (like real knock-off magnesium wheels) or the continued planning for a one-of-a-kind roadster. Included in those plans were a variety of special parts for Dodge Hemis, including brand-new aluminum cylinder heads.

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004 To accommodate the roadster’s ground hugging stance Anderson fabricated a low profile oil pan with baffles and a windage tray
To accommodate the roadster’s ground-hugging stance, Anderson fabricated a low-profile oil pan with baffles and a windage tray. To compensate for the reduced depth there are “kickouts” on both sides of the pan to regain capacity.

Chisenhall’s passion for the diminutive Dodge engines led him to form a new company called Speed Dome Engineering. Along with aluminum heads, Dodge vibration dampers and water pump risers are available with possibly more things to come at a future date. Also offered are investment cast clutch and brake pedals (including a balance bar for the brakes) and a classic spoon-style gas pedal.

Read More: 1932 MyWay: Kugel’s Tailor Made Ford Roadster

005 Comp Cams ground the custom roller camshaft the hydraulic lifters are from Johnson (PN 2311DG)
Comp Cams ground the custom roller camshaft; the hydraulic lifters are from Johnson (PN 2311DG). The custom 3/8-inch pushrods required for this combo were made by Anderson.

To finish development of the Speed Dome heads and complete assembly of the engine that had begun many years prior, Chisenhall turned to engine builder and Summer Of Love nostalgia Top Fuel dragster racer Donnie Anderson of Performance Engineering (vintage.sol67@yahoo.com). Chisenhall and Anderson have collaborated on a number of engines over the years, including the 705-inch World Products Super Block powerhouse that propelled Chisenhall’s 1953 Studebaker to a 219 mph average at Bonneville (speed out the back door was an astonishing 241 mph) with one of his Vintage Air units on keeping him cool.

006 New from Speed Dome Engineering are Dodge Hemi aluminum cylinder heads
New from Speed Dome Engineering are Dodge Hemi aluminum cylinder heads. They are bolt-on replacements for the factory cast-iron heads.

Due to the length of time the short-block had been sitting, Anderson opened it up to inspect the internals then reassembled it with a fresh set of rings. Nick Smithberg (smithbergracing.com) supplied a billet roller cam blank and collaborated with Comp Cams on the profile that would result in intake lobes having 0.577-inch lift and 227 degrees duration at 0.050 lift—the exhaust specs are 0.571-inch valve lift and 223 degrees duration at 0.050 lift; the lobe separation is 112.5 degrees. To complete the valvetrain, Anderson modified the tie bars on the Johnson 0.904-inch-diameter Mopar hydraulic roller tappets to fit into the block then made custom 3/8-inch pushrods to work with the Missile roller rocker arms from Steve Lanius at Missile Enterprises (517-849-2290). Lanius also supplied the coil-on-plug ignition system, while Anderson designed and  machined the spark plug tubes that, unlike the original Chrysler design, can stay in place when removing the rocker covers.

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Read More: 1971 Barracuda Built For Speed

007 While there were minor changes to the water passages to facilitate the casting process the intake and exhaust ports are the same as the factory Dodge D500 heads
While there were minor changes to the water passages to facilitate the casting process, the intake and exhaust ports are the same as the factory Dodge D500 heads. The fully machined combustion chambers measure 64 cc.

Topping the Hemi is a custom sequential fuel-injection system by Cody Chapman of Chapman Industries. Two separate manifolds mount individual 2-inch throttle bodies, which all connect by hoses to a “balance box” under the engine’s valley cover. The speed density system operates in closed-loop configuration, relying on an oxygen sensor, TPS sensor, and engine rpm for the fuel map. The Holley Dominator ECU controls the fuel-injection system as well as the ignition timing.

008 Speed Dome cylinder heads come with stainless valves 1 900 inch intake and 1 55 inch exhaust
Speed Dome cylinder heads come with stainless valves, 1.900-inch intake, and 1.55-inch exhaust. Valve stems are 0.310-inch, guides are bronze, and the valve seats are hardened inserts.

With Anderson pouring over every detail of the engine’s assembly it was finally ready for a dyno pull where it produced 415 hp at 5,500 rpm and flat torque curve that peaked at 452 lb-ft at 3,900 rpm. Chisenhall’s America’s Most Beautiful Roadster really is a one-of-a-kind roadster, so it’s fitting that it be powered by a one-of-a-kind Dodge. MR

009 The billet adjustable rocker arms are from Missile Enterprises shown here with the original style Hemi spark plug tubes
The billet adjustable rocker arms are from Missile Enterprises shown here with the original-style Hemi spark plug tubes.
010 Anderson machined custom aluminum spark plug tubes to clear the rocker arms
Anderson machined custom aluminum spark plug tubes to clear the rocker arms. O-rings are used to prevent oil from seeping past the tubes and into the spark plug wells.
011 Missile Enterprises supplied the WeaponX Coil Sets
Missile Enterprises supplied the WeaponX Coil Sets.    
012 The rocker covers are factory Dodge D500 with bumps to clear the adjustable exhaust rockers
The individual coils have seals that fit over the top of the spark plug tubes. The rocker covers are factory Dodge D500 with bumps to clear the adjustable exhaust rockers.
013 Cody Chapman built the billet aluminum faux distributor
Cody Chapman built the billet aluminum faux distributor. It serves as the camshaft and crankshaft position sensors for the Holley EFI system.
014 Chapman fabricated the electronic stack fuel injection system
Chapman fabricated the electronic stack fuel injection system. Inside the oval housing on each throttle body is a 38-pound injector that operates at 58 psi.
015 Mounted to the engine’s aluminum valley cover is the fuel distribution block that also houses the throttle position sensor
Mounted to the engine’s aluminum valley cover is the fuel distribution block that also houses the throttle position sensor. It’s meant to look similar to a mechanical fuel injection barrel valve.
016 Above the throttle position sensor is a bell crank that operates all of the individual throttle valves
Above the throttle position sensor is a bell crank that operates all of the individual throttle valves.
017 Another Speed Dome product the water pump riser was designed to place a 19 inch clutch fan in the middle of the radiator
Another Speed Dome product, the water pump riser was designed to place a 19-inch clutch fan in the middle of the radiator. There is also an auxiliary 18-inch Vintage Air brushless electric fan inside the radiator shroud.
018 The Speed Dome riser accepts a Mopar 440 water pump
The Speed Dome riser accepts a Mopar 440 water pump. The riser also has a cast-in alternator mount.
019 Each of the two intake manifold assemblies include a pair of water outlets that deliver coolant from the heads to the radiator
Each of the two intake manifold assemblies include a pair of water outlets that deliver coolant from the heads to the radiator.
020 Coolant from the outlets in the heads flow to the radiator through a stainless steel Y pipe fabricated by Hagy and Chisenhall
Coolant from the outlets in the heads flow to the radiator through a stainless steel Y-pipe fabricated by Hagy and Chisenhall. A thermostat with a bypass is located inside a machined housing built into the upper radiator tank.
021 the oil pan providing the much needed ground clearance required a custom 7 inch flywheel and twin disc clutch built by McLeod
Used to reduce rotating mass and to tuck up with the oil pan providing the much-needed ground clearance required a custom 7-inch flywheel and twin disc clutch built by McLeod.
022 The reverse mount starter is from Quartermaster It’s accessible through a removable panel in the transmission tunnel
The one-off bellhousing was carved out of a solid block of aluminum by master machinist Gary Gates. The reverse mount starter is from Quartermaster. It’s accessible through a removable panel in the transmission tunnel.
023 Sending power to the Winters quick change rear end is a TREMEC 6 speed manual transmission
Sending power to the Winters quick change rear end is a TREMEC 6 speed manual transmission. The tight confines under the car with the exhaust and belly pan and the need for ground clearance dictated the location of the starter.
024 Hagy and Chisenhall fabricated the custom exhaust system that includes an X pipe and Borla mufflers
Hagy and Chisenhall fabricated the custom exhaust system that includes an X-pipe and Borla mufflers. The entire system was ceramic coated.
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