by Mike Buckel, Ramcharger • courtesy of the North Georgia Mopar Club
Match racing became the name of the game during the ’64 season. That meant the altered-wheelbase A/FX car became the prime car, and the Super Stock car was relegated to the very few NHRA events and backup. The backup was necessary as Mancini booked us someplace every weekend, usually with multiple locations and occasionally he was able to book both cars. I more or less inherited the job of second driver upon Herman Mozer’s retirement. I voted for me and no one received more votes. Thornton remained the primary driver, but with a second driver, he was able to spend a few weekends at home.
In early June the A/FX car beat Dyno Don three straight at Detroit Dragway, covering him by more than 0.2 seconds and over 1.5 mph. Match racing the A/FX car meant exclusive use of wide, 10-inch tires. As the season progressed the tires got better, and the use of rosin and burnouts became normal. The heavier standard-wheelbase Super Stock car more than held its own in match racing on wide tires.
By this time the Chrysler Engineering Race Group was well organized and had moved operations out of Engineering into an old Buick dealership on Woodward Avenue, only a few blocks away. Known as the “Woodside Garage,” it was staffed with mechanics and engineers that were into racing. Race cars could be fired-up inside without drawing a dozen labor grievances.
Testing at Detroit Dragway became a standard event with anyone running a Chrysler product welcome. The Ramchargers never missed a test day. One of the concerns that developed was the inability of the Torqueflite cars to launch hard with big tires. One approach was the Bonsai start. This was to rev the engine in neutral and punch the low-gear button. The Transmission Lab was assigned the task to make it work. They had a ’64 Dodge street wedge car for testing. The first week the trans made about five starts before failure. Their response, “We’ll be back.” The next week the trans made over 25 starts that enlisted the same response. After more than 50 starts we decided that was enough on the third try.
As discussed in We Were the Ramchargers, the A-100 pickup truck had become a staple at the Tuesday tests. We tested Bonsai starts with it after Thornton had designed and fabricated the powerplant sub-chassis. It reliably did two-foot wheelies when Bonsai started. Dick Brantsner, the owner of Color Me Gone, took it to Motor City Dragway, north of Detroit, and demonstrated big wheelies. Maverick made a living off of that truck for over 30 years.
The big thing to come out of the testing was the small torque converter. With minor modification the A-904 torque converter could be installed in the 727, which allowed hard launches with big tires. Off-idle torque was not an issue with 7-inch tires in Super Stock, and the small converter was clearly better with wide tires. The Hemi cars on gasoline were extremely reliable, and often we went racing with only two guys. Spark-plug changes were not required between runs, and there was no fuel to mix. A tire-pressure adjustment was usually the extent of tuning between races. The toughest part of the short crew was the long drive home on Sunday night.
The Super Stock car was the star of the Nationals at Indianapolis that fall with 7-inch tires and 3,200-lb. weight. Wading through a 39-car field, it won SS/A running 11.37 at 128.58. Nobody had ever run 128 mph in Super Stock. We lost to Color Me Gone in the Stock Eliminator final run with the rosin tire fiasco. Afterward we reset the Super Stock Automatic record at 11.24 and 130.06. Hoover was the happiest guy on the planet with that 130-mph run. He still speaks of it as one of his best moments along with the 126.58 mph in the ’63 wedge car at the Winter Nationals.
Next month the first late model Hemi fuel dragster.
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