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Funny cars in 1967 and Detroit riots: Ramchargers #27

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Funny cars in 1967 and Detroit riots: Ramchargers #27

by Mike Buckel, Ramcharger • courtesy of the North Georgia Mopar Club

Throughout the season, the '67 car continued to be in the funny car field, and since the blower was installed it was as reliable as a rock. We became involved with the United Drag Racers Association (UDRA) and were racing a funny car event every Tuesday night all over the Midwest. We had hired Butch, a mechanic, who helped in the garage and drove the truck/trailer to events that could only be reached by flying. My neighbor had a Cessna Skylane and was flying us, after work, to races as far away as St. Louis, Paducah, and back home to Detroit that night. The car was then running four times a week.

Vehicle Mode of transport Stunt performer Car Auto part
By this time we had gotten away from the powered rosin for the burnouts. We purchased a drum of concentrated liquid rosin, used as a flux, and mixed it with acetone. A puddle was poured in front of the tires using Clorox bottles. The word quickly got out that the Ramchargers were using Clorox for their burnouts and this became fashionable. It was rather cruel, but necessary, when the driver would see one of the guys head go down to pour out the rosin, the engine would load up and had to be blipped. My ears still ring from my time at pouring rosin.

After 38 runs Hoover decided to inspect the engine. All was fine except the valve guides were worn to the point that the valves would rattle about ¼ inch before hitting the seats. The stainless-steel valves were not compatible with the chilled iron guides. Performance of the car had not diminished in the least. Fresh heads were installed with bronze in the guides.

We never really knew how much intake manifold pressure we were running. Isky provided a cardboard circular calculator that said we should have about 24 psi. We had installed a 35-psi gauge in the forward bulkhead, but Jim Thornton and I were just too busy to read the gauge at speed.

From time to time we found the intake manifold gaskets pushed out in spite of various glues, so we were determined to find the pressure during a test session at Motor City Dragway, just north of Detroit. The car had last been run on Tuesday night in Gary, Indiana, and was considered ready to go. We met for breakfast at Biff's, and upon going out to the truck, Dick Jones said, "Why is there transmission fluid all over the deck of the trailer?" An inspection showed that there was no prop shaft, and the transmission tail-shaft housing was cracked. Further inspection disclosed that one of the structural pieces in the subframe was missing, and there were bumps in the top of the aluminum left side wheelhouse. Apparently the prop shaft had left just as I closed the throttle at the end of the last race in Gary. I was forever after accused of being numb from the belly button both ways.

So Thornton went back to the garage to fabricate a new prop shaft, and the rest of us continued on to Motor City and changed out the tail-shaft housing on faith that the shaft itself was not bent. Balancing the prop shaft was not necessary since it had almost no tubing. Then Jim got a ticket on the way to the track for 85 mph on I-96. Jim and I took turns riding shotgun in the car to read the pressure gauge, but there was no way. Being the driver of a funny car is one thing and being a passenger was quite another thing. One does not have enough hands to hold on with.

In July, Jim Thornton and Dick Jones took the car east, finishing up on Sunday at Connecticut racing the Tasca Mustang. Butch dropped them off at New York for a flight back to Detroit. That was the weekend that the riots started in Detroit. I stayed home that weekend raking the yard of our first house in preparation for sod. The riot started early Sunday, and there was a news blackout all day, so nobody outside Detroit knew about it until about 6:00 Sunday evening. When Jim and Dick arrived, they found all of the freeway exits within the Detroit city limits closed, and they could see the fires burning south of the Ford freeway. The news said all non-essential people should stay out of the city on Monday. I, being non-essential, ordered several pallets of sod and laid it on Monday, while watching columns of smoke rise to the south.

Butch was bringing the car back through Canada, where he was diverted north to Port Huron for crossing back into the U.S. Jim and I went to the garage, removed all the trophies from the office, and made the place appear abandoned, except that Butch's Pontiac was sitting in the driveway, looking like a good target. He arrived Monday evening and safely retrieved his car. Tuesday night we continued work in the garage, and finally went to work on Wednesday. The National Guard secured the riot area on Thursday night, and it was finally over by Saturday. The real death toll will never be revealed, but it must be much more than the published 36.

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