The Hemi and the 481X — two formidable engine combinations, one steeped with decades of racing pedigree, and the other a more contemporary, custom engine design. Both incredibly capable, both incredibly powerful, but two distinctly different engines. But what are they, how do they differ in operation, in power and torque output, and in longevity?
The team at Pro Line Racing in Ball Ground, Georgia is arguably the authority in comparing the 481X versus the Hemi — it has deployed both combinations to great effect, in Pro Modified, Radial versus The World, Outlaw 10.5, and elsewhere. Each has and continues to set records and win races and championships; so which one is better? PLR co-owners Eric Dillard and Doug Patton, also the company’s head engine builder, approached that topic head-on.
The Hemi, as most know, is legendary for its hemispherically-shaped combustion chambers and accompanying valve angles — it’s a powerful engine with a stable valvetrain that allows it to be spun at high RPM. Given its size, that can also be a recipe for parts attrition…a point Patton adds to by noting, “the Hemi has a heavier bobweight on the crank, which makes it have more attrition, especially in valvetrain components.”
The 481X, meanwhile, is a modern-day hybrid of the Chrysler Hemi and the big-block Chevrolet — the bottom carrying a similar pattern to the Hemi, and the top loosely based on the BBC, but with symmetrical ports. While sometimes thought to be a Chrysler Wedge-based engine, it in fact does not mimic any OEM engine and is compatible only with purpose-built parts. As Patton explains, this engine was originally designed for Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car applications. The 481X produces its peak power and torque at lower RPM, and so it does indeed give up a minute amount of power to the Hemi, but gains it back in longevity — for those who are willing or able to sacrifice performance for durability.
All of that said, much more goes into the equation than simply stating the Hemi is better than the 481X or vice versa — entry cost, resale value, maintenance, track surface, class rules, and so on, all figure in. And so, we’ll allow Eric and Doug to take the conversation from here. Grab a cup of coffee, kick back, and learn more about these two incredible engine combinations.