Even though it was only available for barely 6 years of production, the Chrysler/Dodge 6.1 HEMI engine is still very memorable. Introduced for 2005 and discontinued in 2010, the short-lived 6.1 HEMI powered various Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles with the SRT-8 badging. It was a slightly larger and more powerful version of the 5.7 HEMI, and was soon superseded by the even larger and even more powerful 6.4 HEMI. Depending on the model, the Dodge 6.1 made 420–425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, making it quite formidable.
While it has been out of production for nearly a decade, the 6.1 is still a popular engine. It has proven itself as a very reliable engine for longevity when stock. As well, it’s also shown to be a great power plant for those looking to make some serious horsepower upgrades. Don’t let the 6.1 HEMI’s short lifespan fool this, this was a fantastic motor and definitely deserves your attention.
Dodge 6.1 HEMI History
Previously, we’ve mentioned how the Chrysler HEMI’s creation is synonymous with the Second World War. The famous Chrysler HEMI V12 AV-1790-5B and inverted HEMI V16 XIV-2220 engines laid the foundation for what would later become such legendary motors as the 426 HEMI and 6.2 Hellcat. Chrysler had initially started making vehicles in the 1920s, and continued to do so when the war ended.
Once the government reauthorized civilian vehicle production to begin again after the war ended, they introduced their Town & Country models. These had wooden bodies and were often piloted by celebrities, and soon became very popular.
In 1951, Chrysler released the first generation of the HEMI V8 engine, first putting it in the Chrysler Saratoga, New Yorker, and Imperial. It powered the very first muscle car, the ‘55 Chrysler 300, making 300 horsepower by using two 4bbl carburetors. Chrysler continued to refine the HEMI V8 throughout the 1950s, eventually coming out with the 426 HEMI in 1964.
The 426 HEMI powered such legendary cars as the Dodge Charger, Super Bee, and Daytona, as well as the Plymouth GTX, Barracuda, and Road Runner. It could make 425 horsepower and 490 lb-ft of torque, and was one of the most violently powerful muscle car engines of the era.
The Third Generation of HEMI
That brings us to the third and current generation of the Chrysler HEMI engine. The Gen III HEMI began in 2003 with the release of the 5.7 HEMI inside the Ram trucks. Eventually, the 5.7 also found its way into performance sedans and muscle cars like the Charger/Challenger and 300C.
Two years later, Chrysler/Dodge came out with the 6.1L HEMI engine in 2005. This was a more powerful version of the 5.7 HEMI, but without the hated multi-displacement system. Horsepower was increased from 340 horsepower to 420–425 horsepower, and overall power was up 25%. Like the 5.7, Chrysler/Dodge also used the 6.1 in the Charger, Challenger, 300C, and Grand Cherokee, but it also found its way into the short-lived Magnum.
However, the 6.1 was very short-lived, not making it past the 2010 model year. It was eventually superseded by the larger 6.2 and 6.4 HEMI engines that powered many of the same vehicles. There have been rumors that Dodge is canceling the HEMI V8, but as of now they are still available for the 2023 model year – though not the 6.1.
Dodge 6.1 HEMI Engine Specifications
|Gen III HEMI
|6.1L (369.7 cid)
|Bore and Stroke
|4.055″ x 3.58″ (103mm × 90.9mm)
|16V, OHV, 2 valves/cylinder
|420 lb-ft of torque
6.1 HEMI Vehicle Applications
The Chrysler 6.1 HEMI has appeared in the following vehicles:
- 2005–2010 Chrysler 300C SRT-8
- 2006–2010 Dodge Charger SRT-8
- 2006–2008 Dodge Magnum SRT-8
- 2006–2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8
- 2008–2010 Dodge Challenger SRT-8
Chrysler 6.1 HEMI Engine Design Basics
The Chrysler/Dodge 6.1 HEMI is a 6.1 L (369.7 cid) HEMI engine with a 90° V8 configuration. It has an aluminum head and an iron block. Compared with traditional flat-topped motors, HEMI engines have hemispherical shaped combustion chambers, hence the name. HEMIs have both advantages and disadvantages, but for the most part they are known for being able to suck in lots of air and produce violent amounts of power.
In many ways, the 6.1 is a street performance version of the 5.7 HEMI that was designed for high RPM operation. While the 5.7 block was already deep skirted, the 6.1 block has the same design but is bored out 3.5mm and honed with torque plates. Like other Gen III HEMIs, there are two-spark plugs per cylinder. The combustion chambers are 74cc, with 2.075″ intake and 1.58″ exhaust valves, and flow 11% and 13% better than the 5.7, respectively.
On the cylinder heads, the intake valve stems are hollow, and exhaust stems are also hollow and filled with sodium. The 6.1 HEMI intake manifold is cast aluminum with bigger and tapered runners that flow better vs the 5.7. The exhaust is stainless steel instead of cast iron, which reduces weight and improves power. Chrysler/Dodge increased the red line up to 6,400 RPM on the 6.1, and massaged out peak power later from 5,000 RPM to 6,000 RPM.
Internals and Valve Train
The pistons are made from hypereutectic aluminum, the connecting rods are powdered metal I-beam, and the crankshaft is forged steel and has a damper. Chrysler gave the pistons oil jet squirters to reduce temperatures and ensure longevity. They are flat-topped with valve notches and have a high-load capacity, and the connecting rods were strengthened over the 5.7 version. Chrysler also gave the pistons floating wrist pins.
The valve train is an overhead valve (OHV) pushrod design with hydraulic lifters. The camshaft is very aggressive, with durations of 221°/225° (intake/exhaust) and lifts of 0.571”/0.551”. This engine did not have variable valve timing and was not given the multiple displacement system (MDS). The throttle operation is drive-by-wire, and the throttle body is 80mm.
Dodge 6.1 HEMI Common Problems and Reliability
As we’ve said before, we consider the 6.1 HEMI to be a generally reliable engine. In fact, the entire third generation of HEMI motors can be said to be very dependable with minimal problems and issues. Considering the SRT-8 platform, most 6.1 HEMIs are not candidates for exceptionally high mileage, but they still more than hold their own past 100,000 miles.
Previously, we looked at the top 3 most common 6.1 HEMI problems. We’re just going to summarize the main points here, so make sure to check out the article for the full in-depth breakdown.
Most Common Engine Problems
- Lifter Roller Failure
- Oil Consumption
Of the three most common problems, by far the most prevalent issue is lifter roller failure. The rollers themselves end up seizing and coming in contact with the cam lobes. If the problem gets bad enough you will hear a ticking sound, and it can lead to metal shavings in the oil and eventually lifter roller failure. Recently, we looked at problems with lifter failure on the 5.7 HEMI, but it also applies to the 6.1, too.
The next most common problem is with spark plug misfiring. As we mentioned, the 6.1 HEMI uses a twin-spark plug design, making for 16 plugs total. On the 6.1 powered SRT-8s, people have complained about spark plug failure as early as 30-40,000 miles. Changing spark plugs early and often is a good defense, especially on a high-powered engine like the 6.1 HEMI.
Finally, some people have complained about oil consumption issues. It’s not very common, but some HEMIs can start to really burn oil after only 40-50,000 miles. Sometimes, this can be traced back to huge power upgrades and/or low quality oils. Using high quality oil and potential investing in a catch can are good ways to prevent oil consumption from becoming a catastrophic problem.
Performance and Upgrades
Out of the box from the factory, the 6.1 HEMI already comes with a very formidable 420–425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Inside the Challenger SRT-8, the 6.1 HEMI could power sprints of zero to 60 mph in just 5 seconds, with a ¼ mile time of 13.5 seconds @108 mph. Pretty impressive times considering the 4,100+ lb boats they have to power.
Still, if you’re looking to add even more performance to your 6.1 HEMi, there are quite a few options. Briefly, we’ll give you a few ideas on how to get you started on your build, and show you some examples ranging all the way from 550 horsepower up to more than 1,000 horsepower.
6.1 HEMI Upgrades
For those looking at adding a modest amount of horsepower to your 6.1 HEMI, your three most common mods are going to be an intake, long-tube headers, and an ECU tune. From the factory, the 6.1 HEMI already has a “cold air intake,” so what you’ll be looking for with an upgraded intake is something with a larger filter, larger diameter piping, and less restrictive piping. This will improve airflow into the engine, increasing power and adding a bit of noise.
Adding long-tube headers will also increase airflow out of the engine and add some good power. From the factory, Chrysler already equips the 6.1 with stainless steel exhaust pipes, but the catalytic converters are still pretty restrictive. Opting for high-flow or catless headers will gain 10-20 wheel horsepower over stock.
Adding a tune is the next easiest mod to do, and it will net you 5-15% power increases without any hardware changes. If you combine an intake and headers and a tune, your tuner can utilize your mods to make even more power. Intake, headers, and ECU tuning are your top 3 mods.
Camshafts and Forced Induction
After those mods, your next step up is going to be looking at a more aggressive camshaft. Depending on the profile, you can add as much as 100 horsepower with the right camshaft. While the 6.1 does not have variable valve timing, a larger cam will definitely net some serious horsepower gains.
Those looking to make more than 500–525 horsepower are going to need to go with forced induction. Smaller blowers will make modest horsepower that will be enough to snap your neck back while burning some serious rubber. This article from Motor Trend has them throwing a CARB compliant Edelbrock E-Force supercharger on a 6.1 HEMI and making 556 horsepower and 501 lb-ft of torque.
Another article from Motor Trend has them throwing on a larger 3.6L twin screw supercharger from Keene Bell. Running on 22 PSI of boost, the setup made a whopping 1,003 horsepower and 881 lb-ft of torque. Naturally aspirated, the engine had made 510 horsepower through long-tube headers, ported cylinder heads, and a more aggressive camshaft.
Dodge 6.1 HEMI Engine Summary
Overall, the 6.1 HEMI, though short-lived, was a fantastic motor put out by Chrysler/Dodge. They used it exclusively inside the SRT-8 trim, where it powered some memorable 300Cs, Chargers, and Challengers, from 2005–2010. Depending on the model, it made between 420–425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, and could go from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds with a 13.5 second ¼ mile @108 mph.
Powerful out of the box, the 6.1 HEMI can also be easily modified to make more than 1,000 horsepower with the right blower (or turbocharger). Staying naturally aspirated, you can still clear 500 horsepower with the 6.1 HEMI, making it great for more reasonable builds geared for the street.
The 6.1 HEMI is also widely regarded as a reliable engine, capable of lasting more than 100,000 miles without needing any sort of rebuild. Still roaming the streets in thousands of Chryslers, Dodges, and Jeeps, the 6.1 HEMI is truly a fierce motor.