by Mike Buckel, Ramcharger • courtesy of the North Georgia Mopar Club
As we left off last month, the Ramchargers had limped into Phoenix for the AHRA Winternationals for the inaugural event at the Beeline Dragway, which was on an Indian reservation. We were there a week early to shake down the new car, and the Indians were setting up their concession stands. They were making adobe bricks on the spot for concession stand construction. As it turned out, they had the best drag-strip food I remember eating, although I don't know what it was, and they were pleasant to deal with.
All the sponsored Chrysler racers were there, many with acid-dipped, altered-wheelbase funny cars, including Ronnie Sox and Bud Fauble. The Chrysler-prototype, altered-wheelbase Plymouth, car #588, was there with a prototype loose torque converter. Forest Pitcock, one of my dynamometer operators and a Golden Commando, was the designated driver. I made several passes in the car, and with the loose converter it felt like an old Power Glide or Dynaflo – mash the gas and wait a while.
Our car ran great from the time it was taken off the trailer. Dodge provided working space and car storage at a local dealer. The dealer was featuring Dodge D-100, six-cylinder, manual-transmission pickups with a stainless-steel stripe along the side of the fenders and doors for $1,695. Wow, how times have changed.
The starting system was what is now called the “pro tree” with one yellow and green. Leaving on the green was way too late, and I lost in Super Stock class to Bud Fauble's altered-wheelbase Dodge. Sunday was Stock Eliminator where all the Super Stock cars plus the Stock class winners and fast qualifiers ran off. By counting to one on the yellow and going, I waded through the Super Stock cars.
The lower-class cars were lined up one car length forward for each class, and a flagman was used. On the last run the guy was so far ahead I could barely see him. I was probably gone by 10 car lengths when the flag was thrown. So I won Stock Eliminator with 11.02 seconds at 131 with standard wheelbase and carburetors.
The following week in Pomona we had to race the Mustang/Comet OHC cars as the altered-wheelbase cars were not allowed by NHRA. We were about 0.10 second off the pace, and a Mustang won. This proved our point that without the altered wheelbase and fuel-injected engines we were overmatched.
We started on moving the wheels on the car upon returning to Detroit and focusing on getting the fuel-injection system to work. The story of that development is well documented in We Were the Ramchargers. Tom Coddington was the key guy in this development, which proved that car testing is just as important as dynamometer testing.
When the snow melted in April, we tested with the Ramchargers’ altered-wheelbase car. In back-to-back runs, the fuel injection was 0.10 seconds and 2.5 mph faster than carburetors. The car was now a mid-to-low 10-second car at 135-plus mph. Meanwhile, out West, Dick Landy in his altered-wheelbase injected car cleaned the clocks of the OHC Fords in Bakersfield, California. Ford actually took out advertisements deriding the “funny” Chrysler cars, which cemented the name.
Dale Reeker, now in Product Planning, called and requested a specification for super tow trucks. I did the 221-inch wheelbase, air-conditioned D-600 crew-cab with air brakes, 413-3 engine, two-speed rear axle, and five-speed transmission with short fourth (fourth-gear ratio is midway between the high and low rear-axle ratios). Saddle tanks went the length of the crew cab, carrying more than 100 gallons of gas. Seven of these trucks were built and shipped to a Petty-recommended body builder somewhere in Carolina before going to the racers. I loved that truck and wonder what ever happened to them.
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