“We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.” It was a throwaway line in the most recent Indiana Jones film that came to mind when reading the news of the passing of Tom Hoover. Although intended as a reflection on the aging action hero’s dwindling circle of friends, the line is also a sad acknowledgement that we have reached a time where we begin losing some of the greats.
Widely known as the “father” of the 426 Hemi racing engine, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, Hoover’s 25-year contribution to Chrysler Corp., closed in 1979. Yet, during his time beneath the Pentastar banner, Hoover participated in many of the most significant milestones in Chrysler’s history.
Hoover was a founding member of the Ramchargers; assisted in the development of the Hyper Pak, the oft-forgotten performance pack for Chrysler’s renowned Slant-6 engine; led the development of the Max Wedge big-block racing V8; helped develop the Pro Stock and Funny Car racing classes; helped lead a hand-picked team that developed the 426 Hemi racing engine, which dominated NASCAR and the NHRA, and helped create the Lil’ Red Express.
Even after parting from Chrysler, Hoover remained close to racing and Mopar performance, even campaigning a vintage Plymouth Max Wedge car for several years with his son. Hoover was also consulted during the development of the third-generation Hemi engine.
“Tom Hoover was an exceptional human being and an engineering genius that always wanted to go faster. Today, at Mopar, we continue to live and honor Tom’s vision. He’ll be missed,” stated Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar Brand Service, Parts and Customer Care.
“Tom was the true technical engineer driving the details of the original 426 HEMI design, preparing it for the success on the street and in racing to this day,” shared Bob Lee, who, according to FCA’s official blog, heads powertrain development for FCA in North America and is global coordinator for powertrains. “He was one of the best ever.”