APRIL 18, 2013: THE BIG, BAD AND BEAUTIFUL: DETROIT’S 400 CLUB OF MONSTERS

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One of the driving forces behind the street wars of the 60s was a full-on big block bloodbath between the Big Three.

 

The boys from Detroit took it to the streets and there was only one rule: We do not take prisoners.

 

The baddest of the bad from the Big Three belonged to the 400 club and they were all bloodthirsty killers.

 

Ford and Chevy both showed up on the street with 427 cubic inches of brute force while Chrysler brought a 426 Elephant to the dance.

 

This was a war zone where only the strong survived and anything less than a big block was like bringing a knife to a gunfight, to borrow a famous Sean Connery line from ‘The Untouchables’.

 

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Ford jumped into the game with a barely legal low production street car engine that made them an instant legend with their 427 “Cammers”, high octane killers that got their name from their overhead cam configuration. The result was an engine that would vault the Blue Oval boys into the early lead with the Big Block wars.

 

The Ford 427 was a brute force powerhouse that would give their cars tire-melting torque every time a bold owner felt the need for speed. Things got downright insane when Ford wedged a 427 into a Cobra and sold it to anyone with enough cash to drive it away from the dealership.

 

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The Cobras were not sold in great numbers and there are even fewer of the original cars around in 2013 because few drivers could handle the awesome power of a 427 Ford monster mill in a light sports car. The Cobras and their owners both met a simultaneous untimely end in some cases when bad things happen to bad drivers. There were 427 reasons why neither survived the experience.

 

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The Chevy boys decided that they were not about to be outgunned by their Motown rivals so they brought out their own 427 cubic inch monster that was available as a very special option in the limited production 1963 Impala SS drag car. The Bowtie Gang called their large-and-in charge Chevy 427 a “Rat” to distinguish it from the small block “Mouse” and the name has become a legend for the General.

 

The first-gen 427 was essentially a slightly retooled 409, but the second-gen 427 was an even meaner rat. This 427 hit the streets in 1966 and took everything from full-sized Chevies to Corvettes from 0 to uncontrollable driver panic in mere seconds.

 

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Chevy made the fastest rats on the planet and Chrysler built the fastest elephants in earth history during the 60s. The 426 Hemi was the ultimate Mopar street weapon and it was a stone-cold killer known as an Elephant by both its friends and enemies.

 

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Chrysler used to do exactly what Ford and Chevy did with their 427 engines: They lied about the real horsepower and understated the number to escape the wrath of skeptical insurance companies and federal regulatory bodies. The 426 Hemi was rated at 425 horsepower and this was about as close to the truth as OJ when he went in his search for the real killer on dozens of golf courses.

 

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The truth was the Elephant was able to carry large American sedans down the road at speeds that could only be described as horrifying and well beyond the capability and driver skill set even at 425 horses. Truth was that the 426 Hemi had a much bigger herd of horses-and so did the Ford and Chevy 427s.

 

That was the magic of Detroit’s 400 Club in the 1960s.

 

It was an elite club that lived to beat the living hell out of each other whenever they held their meetings where it really counted-on the street and track.

 

Jim Sutherland

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