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Mopar racing legend Larry Rathgeb passed on today

by David Zatz on

Racing legend Larry Rathgeb, one of Chrysler’s famed msucle-era engineers, passed on today.

Rathgeb was inducted into the Mopar Collector’s Guide Hall of Fame in 2012, which pointed out that he became the head of Chrysler’s Special Vehicle Group in the 1960s. He built numerous winning stock cars, and, in their words, “took the Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird from fantasy to reality.”

Larry Rathgeb was the lead engineer for racing development on the Dodge Charger Daytona. Curtis Redgap wrote, “He had somehow cajoled, begged, and pleaded that he be allowed to get the engineering mule qualified for the first Talladega race in September 1969.  He felt that he had to ensure that the car qualified fast enough to sit on the pole of the race. His belief was that if the car did not qualify first, the money allotted for further development might be pulled away…on September 9, 1969. Ronnie Householder, head of all Chrysler Racing, gave Mr. Rathgeb the OK to get the engineering mule qualified…[racer Charlie Glotzbach] set the clock at 199.466 miles an hour [for a full lap at Talladega.” (A closer to stock car hit 200.558 mph, a new world record, in March 1970. The story of how that car was found and rebuilt is at allpar.com.)

He was instrumental in breaking the 200 mph stock-car speed record, and a major force in Plymouth’s domination of NASCAR for nearly a decade.

For 1976, Dodge had a complete W2 racing mackage package, developed under John Wehrly; Willem Weertman credited Larry Rathgeb with creating a Kit Car which included that engine for racers. The Kit Car had a 340, 355, or 360 cubic inch engine, depending on the model year. At a later point, he was involved the M4S concept car.

Larry Rathgeb had many other cars to his credit.

Fellow Mopar racing legend Bill Adams, a mechanic who built prototype cars and raced (and who was on the Viper project from the beginning to nearly the end), reported that he passed away yesterday at around 2 pm. He had contracted the coronavirus at “Seasons of Bloomfield Hills.”

According to John Wehrly, the family will have a memorial “after the pandemic or when appropriate. Larry will be cremated.”

 


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