by Mike Buckel, Ramcharger • courtesy of the North Georgia Mopar Club
The ’67 funny car worked very well right from the get-go. The first full-throttle passes were made at good old Detroit Dragway against Fast Eddie Schartman’s Comet. It took several races for him to put us away, and that was the only time throughout the year that the car was outperformed. The only adjustments required were softer rear shock valving and ballast on the rear axle.
The car never faltered from straight ahead the entire length of the track. It ran 8.3s at 170 mph, which was faster than the ’66, even though we were running the same injected nitro combination. Piston damage also increased to the point where it required four to six new pistons per week. The tops of the pistons yielded to the extent that the top rings were stuck. This was not from heat, just cylinder-firing pressure. We reasoned that the new car would take much more power, resulting in faster times and increased piston damage.
This increased maintenance burden got us finally listening to Dan Knapp about putting on the blower. Although Tom Hoover was not in love with nitro or the increasing speed of the car, he set about building the first blown motor, a 483 cubic inch with a Moldex crankshaft cut out of a billet of 4130 steel, making lots of chips. Hoover took the crank into engineering for inspection where it was reported to be the most dimensionally correct crankshaft they had ever measured.
As in the dragster, we used soft passenger-car bearings so that they would comply with the bending of the crankshaft under load. It had 8.5:1 compression and all the good stuff Knapp had developed for the dragster. The head, main bearing, and cross-bolt holes were increased one size, and a Detroit supplier provided Super-tanium bolts that were better than Grade 8.
The aluminum heads were machined for stainless-steel fire rings around each cylinder with stainless-steel valves. The Isky flat tappet camshaft we had been running in the unblown engine along with the dragster was retained. The 6-71 blower ran at 35% overdrive. This compression and overdrive were radically aggressive tunes in those days. The 50 degrees of spark lead was by this time well known in the sport, but the 426 Hemi was the only engine that would take it without major and spectacular structural failures.
It all came together in June for the Super Stock Magazine Funny Car Nationals at Cecil County, Maryland. Dan Mancini booked us with a $500 guarantee against the $2,500 purse, which was big-big money in those days. We arrived at the track early in the afternoon to check out the new combination. Wow, it felt like the car had just grown a second engine.
We had been running M&H tires because they had much better bite at the starting line than the Goodyears, although the Goodyears were faster at the top end. On the second burnout the kickdown carrier in the transmission sheared off of the output shaft. We installed the spare transmission and concluded that we needed to save it. So we installed the Goodyears and decided to pedal it in first gear, use more throttle in second gear and wood it in high gear. In an effort to save parts we made no additional runs.
There were about 50 cars at this meet, so the chance of winning was very low considering the possibility of a red light, snooze at the line, or breaking parts. We were the first to go, along with Arnie Beswick. Arnie thought he was ready, as he had really tanked up the Pontiac.
Arnie jumped out to a three-car-length lead while I pedaled and shifted. When I hit high gear and put the pedal to the metal, Arnie dropped back so fast I thought his car had broken. It turned out that the car ran eight seconds at 185 mph, and Arnie made his first 170 mph run. The car went perfectly straight all night, running these kinds of times with nary a wiggle, even though we had stuffed in another 1,500-plus horsepower. It took until 2 a.m., but we won the thing!
We never again failed a transmission during a race, but we were finally beginning to find the limits of the TorqueFlite transmission. A steel kick-down carrier was fabricated, but after six runs the needle bearings in the pinion gears were being crushed, and the kick-down band and high-gear clutch were tired. Routine maintenance evolved into changing the transmission every week, cleaning the pan of the nitro-contaminated oil sludge, and inspecting the bearings. The bearings generally looked good with one shell being replaced about every other week. Try torqueing the main-bearing cap bolts to 145 ft.-lbs. with the car over your head on a hoist.
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