by Ramcharger Mike Buckel
When planning the ’67 car, we knew that a fresh concept was needed to correct the deficiencies of the ’66 car. We had learned that the power and available traction had gone far beyond the capability of rear leaf springs, and that the chassis must be much more rigid to handle the torque of the engine on 100% nitro, plus a shot of hydrazine. The Comets, with the Logge chassis and flip-up body, were doing well, but there was no way we were going to copy them. In fact, we were determined to take an entirely new approach.
After much deliberation, we looked back at the A-100 truck we had modified with a pivoting power cradle that went on to become the Little Red Wagon. The engine, transmission, and rear axle were mounted to a subframe that pivoted off the main frame in the vicinity of the torque converter.
The more we studied this concept, the more we liked it. The subframe could be very ridged, and the driveshaft could be very short, or non-existent, since there was no relative motion between the transmission and rear axle. The fiberglass bodies were were heavy, at the time (this was before carbon fiber), so we looked again at acid-dipped steel. We also wanted the car to look as close as possible to a stock car.
Putting lines to paper with a ’67 Dart body, we could get the wheels in the correct location with the engine behind the windshield. The roll bar and driver's head were sticking out the back window. The car was to be narrowed six inches to improve access to the engine at the track. To make the car more “stock” appearing, the 8¾ rear end was narrowed so the tires nicely fit into the wheel openings, and the width of the beam front axle was set so that the narrow front tires also nicely fit the wheel openings. The center of gravity was as low as practical, with a nose-down attitude to preclude aero lift and provide front downforce.
The more we thought about it, the better the design looked. The plan was to use fenders, doors, and rear quarter panels fresh from the stamping plant, with the flanges not rolled. After acid dipping, these flanges would be welded together so each side of the car was one big and very light piece.
The flanges were protected from the acid by painting them with rack-coating material. This stuff is used in acid dipping and plating processes to prevent the rack holding the part from being attacked. Dave Koffels, of Flintstone Flyer fame and later a Direct Connection guy, knew a guy in Ohio with a suitable tank and the dipping was done. The tank was not large enough for the roof, so we used a fiberglass roof. The roof was heavier than the entire car body, and could be removed to make the car a roadster. Dave said that the used acid was poured down the storm sewer, so there was a town in Ohio with a very clean sewer system.
We did most of the frame’s layout and fabrication and had Jay Howell, a certified welder who built chassis, put it all together. Magnesium bulkheads attached the welded body flanges to plates welded to the frame. There was no structure behind the rear bulkhead behind the driver.
A magnesium floor sat on top of the frame extending to the body insides. The driver was on the floor, feet forward, extending to the firewall with a transmission push button console between his legs. Two casters were welded onto the leading cross member of the subframe, both to protect the oil pan and to allow the entire subframe to be quickly removed and rolled around for major engine/transmission work back at the garage. The body was lifted away from the subframe by a strap on the rollbar and an engine hoist.
Another friend of Dave Koffels fabricated and installed the aluminum interior. The car came in under 1,900 pounds. Photos of the car under construction and disassembled are included in We Were the Ramchargers.
I believe that this car design would still be competitive today. Removal of the body for engine rebuilds would be no more complicated than body removal between rounds on the current funny cars. The torque cancellation subframe could handle the high loads of the 10,000-hp fuel Hemis of today.
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