3 Business Lessons from the 1964 Launch of Chrysler’s 426 Hemi

Fifty years ago this past March (2014), Richard Petty went 174.639 mph in his ’64 Plymouth–his 426 Hemi-powered ’64 Plymouth, and NASCAR would never be the same again. Chrysler’s new engine took the top three finishes at the 1964 Daytona 500, the very first motorsport event it entered and pandemonium ensued.

How did underdog Chrysler build this amazing engine and win a race that General Motors (with all its money) could not, and then get gear heads to talk about it for 5 decades?

It’s because Chrysler made the Hemi recognizable, available, and relatable.

1. It was recognizable -> It was painted Bright Hemi Orange

2. It was available –> There were enough engines in the wild that you’d know somebody who had one. But not so many that they became belly-button boring.

3. It was relatable -> because it had a prominent wide valve cover with spark plugs in the middle–to ensure everyone knew what they were looking at.

Ask a car guy to explain the advantage of the Hemi head, however, and most won’t be able to do so–but it turns out that doesn’t actually matter. “It’s a Hemi.”

Is your own product recognizable, available, and relatable? If so, Great! If not, then you have some work to do!

These lessons come from a couple of great columns in a recent issue of Hot Rod Magazine by Thom Taylor and David Kennedy.