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Recollections of a Ramcharger, Part 15: The Trip from Hell

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

We Were The Ramchargers is now available as an audio CD from The Society of Automotive Engineers. It's the same price as the book - $39.95. Narrated by Dave McCelland.

The Ramchargers built up our acid-dipped '65 body with parts from an A-990, except that we had an aluminum front end including doors and other associated lightweight goodies. The wheelbase was standard, more or less, as we intended to run S/S at the AHRA Winternationals in Phoenix and A/FX at the NHRA event in Pomona. The acid was still working to some degree as the red stripe along the belt line would not adhere. So it went West with a stripe missing.

Land vehicle Vehicle Car Motor vehicle Truck

Jim Thornton and I were planning to drive the crew-cab D-300 truck, with six brand-new Goodyear tires, and the car trailer to Phoenix. My wife, Carole, and 2-year-old, Brenda, would travel with us the first day to St. Louis and spend the week with my mother. On the morning we were to leave, Jim called saying he had an appendicitis attack and was going into surgery. During the day I rounded up Dan Mancini and Tom Hoover to go, but they could not leave that day, so they would fly to St. Louis on the morrow. Carole, Brenda, and I launched out of Detroit at about 5 o'clock that evening.

Approaching Benton Harbor, Michigan, the temperature gauge went to the peg. Fortunately there was a service station still open. You remember real service stations? While Carole and Brenda slept I dropped off the trailer and put the truck inside the shop, stripped off the A/C compressor and removed the thermostat. Put it all back together, reattached the trailer, paid the bill, and upon returning to the truck noticed the temperature gauge was again on the peg.

This time I noticed that there was no water circulating in the top tank of the radiator. Again dropped off the trailer and put the truck back inside, stripped off the A/C compressor, and removed the water pump. The impeller fell on the floor. Ah ha! The spare engine in the truck has a water pump although with a very small impeller. Put it all back together, reattached the trailer, paid the bill, and started down the road. By now it was after midnight.

Carole took over after a while as I caught some Zs in the back. Somewhere south of Chicago, I was awaken by a sharp scream. A heavy fog had settled in on old US-66, and Carole had been following a truck. Then the truck's lights went out.

I took over and pushed it into St. Louis early the next morning. I caught some Zs as Carole picked up Dan and Tom at the airport. It was about noon when we hit the road again.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, we inquired as to a good place to eat and were directed to Jamil's for the best steaks we had ever eaten. Determined to push the 100 miles on to Oklahoma City, none of us made more that 15 minutes at the wheel without falling asleep.

The next morning we installed a new water pump and headed out. With the 426 Street Wedge the truck was fast, and we drove it hard even through snow in north Texas. Then we started losing tires - blisters and shedding tread. We drove into Phoenix on five tires, and several of those had sidewall blisters. The first order of business was to purchase six Michelin tires. During the return trip on the Oklahoma Turnpike the left-rear wheels left with the outside wheel crossing the median and hitting a southbound Buick. The Michelin dealer probably did not properly torque the lug nuts, and certainly did not re-torque them after 100 miles as specified.

Next month: racing the '65 on gasoline.

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