Recollections of a Ramcharger, Part 19: Finishing Up 1965

The Ramchargers were inducted into the Drag Times Hall of Fame in Henderson, North Carolina, the weekend of October 14, 2011. All but three of the living original Ramchargers were there including several that had built the new High and Mighty.

Hall of Fame group picture.

The replica High and Mighty was there along with the ’71 Mopar Missile. Who should walk up on Saturday and say hi but Tommy Grove of Melrose Missile fame. His ’64 Plymouth beat us by four inches for Stock Eliminator at the ’64 Winternationals. He is now living just west of Atlanta, and I urged him to come to NGMC meeting.

In July of ’65 the funny car became the first full-bodied car in the eight-second bracket at Cecil County, Maryland. Big funny car shows, some with as many as 50 cars, became the rage in ’65, and we won several of these events. NHRA still did not accept the altered-wheelbase Dodges and Plymouths, so we did not take ours to the Summer Nationals. Most of us did go with the dragster. It was the only dragster running the 426 Hemi.

Drag racing's first tuned exhausts.

The dragster was already sitting on the national record of 7.31 seconds and 214.78 mph and running on only 70-80% nitro. The car was the top qualifier at 7.50 seconds at 210.76 mph, a full six mph faster than the second qualifier, the Hawaiian. A rod failed on the second round of Top Fuel Eliminator, and a one-hour engine change was necessary. We had a built up engine in the trailer, but it was bare with no accessories. We got it mostly together with Dan Knapp stuffing the magneto in the staging lane. The intermediate shaft was off by at least a tooth as it fired but would not idle. We did show everyone the potential of the new engine.

All told, the dragster set track records everywhere it went in ’65 and won several big fuel meets, including the NASCAR National Drag Racing Championship in West Salem, Ohio. We ended the season well satisfied that we had the two best cars in their respective classes.

Chrysler had already announced termination of support for funny cars, which left us with a choice of Super Stock with Chrysler or continue to go with a funny car. There appeared to be no real advantage to Super Stock as the track promoters were only interested in funny cars and to a lesser extent fuel dragsters. A Super Stock car would be a national event only car.

Our godfather at Dodge, Frank Wiley, said he would help us all he could, but his budget was constrained. Therefore, we collectively decided to soldier on with a funny car in ’66, knowing that it would have to a unique design – no more stock body. After many meetings over breakfast in the Chrysler cafeteria and in the Woodside Garage, we decided on a Dart body with a stretched front end, and the driver located as far rearward as possible. We knew that the center of gravity needed to be low to avoid excessive wheel stands.

Jim Thornton began making layouts and ultimately the final design of the chassis. The drawings were forwarded to Woody Gilmore, of dragster chassis fame, for fabrication. I just recently learned that Woody made a total of eight chassis, but what happened to the other seven is unknown. The body was to be fiberglass, and a target weight of 2,000 pounds was set. All the wheels were set in motion for construction of the car in early ’66.

We planned to continue with the Torqueflite transmission and fuel-injected engines with big loads of nitro, against Dan Knapp’s advice; he still advocated the blower.

The fatal mistake in the design was the decision to stay with leaf rear springs. They had served us well in the past, and we saw no real reason to change.

Talk about the series in the Allpar Forums • Read other Ramcharger Recollections • Allpar racing page

1. Introduction: Joining the Ramchargers10. Drag Racing the Hemi19. The 1965 championships
2. 1961 Super Stock racing, experiments11. 1964 Hemi Domination 20. Puzzling results in ’66
3. Racing a Chevy on its home turf12. First Late-Model Hemi Dragster21. Rocket fuel, girdles, and springs
4. Trying Automatics13. Max Wedge Family Car22. Squirrely runs and a strong finish
5. 1962: Max Wedge, Indy Nats, Big Trucks14. Birth of the Funny Car23. Back in the engine lab...  
6. Al Eckstrand’s Last Ramchargers Race15. The Trip from Hell24. A revolutionary new body
7. Testing Tires and a New Rig 16. Clobbering Ford, “Funny Cars”25. Supercharging the big Hemi
8. Match Racing, Engine Lab, Jail17. Nitro ’6526. At the SAE presentation, 2012
9. The Hemi: Elephant Rising18. Big loads of nitro27. The 1967 racing season

 

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