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Running nitro and methanol in ’65: Recollections of a Ramcharger #17

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Running nitro and methanol in '65: Recollections of a Ramcharger #17

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

We briefly reviewed the D-600 truck last month. Shortly after I passed the specification on to Dale Reeker in Product Planning, I received a call from Dodge Truck. "Hey, we can't build this truck. The 413 is not engineered into the D-600, and the torque of this big engine will break the transmission."

My reply: "You build D-600s with 361 engines with air compressors, so the 413 will fit. This is a highway truck and will not be grinding out of a quarry at gross load in granny low. Don't worry about it."

The trucks worked great. We even made up a cruise control from a long-handled ice scraper. (Some of you Georgians don't know what that is, but someone else can explain it to you.) The stick held the gas pedal down and slipped under the steering column. It was set for 85 mph in no-wind situations and was kicked out for slowing down.

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As the '65 season started it quickly became apparent the nothing could touch our A/FX cars with the acid-dipped, altered-wheelbase, fuel-injected, aluminum-headed Hemis. The OHC Fords and Comets probably had equal power, but they were still trying to row the car down the track with manual transmissions. Nickelson's car bounced up and down as much as it went forward.

Several of the competitors, mostly GM cars, tried fuel injection and quickly found out how steep the learning curve is. So they started using nitromethane fuel mixtures. We had somewhat of a head start on them because we used a small Moon fuel tank mounted on the radiator yoke to keep a head on the Hilborn fuel pump. The tank was maintained full with electric fuel pumps feeding a Holley carburetor float valve.

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I had run methanol in the engine lab so we had a calibration for that fuel. It was just too simple to drain out the gas and change a few valves and jets to run methanol. Well, methanol gives only a 7% power increase, while 20% nitro gives a 20% power increase, and 50% gives 50%, and so on.

FuelSpeed (mph)ET (seconds)
Gasoline13410.92
Methanol1409.70
20% nitro1459.19
50% nitro1488.91
90% nitro1568.76

Jim Thornton first ran 20% against someone on the East Coast. The following Saturday night, we were to race Seaton's Shaker Chevelle at Detroit Dragway. Seaton was running nitro and on gasoline we were not fast enough, so in went the "good stuff." By this time it was dark and the dew had come in. It was my first time in the fire suit, facemask, and respirator, and it was claustrophobic and my glasses fogging up did not help. The wreck and a photo are included in We Were the Ramchargers.

The remainder of the season went very well, and the '65 proved to be a great car even if it did get a little squirrely on 90%. The following chart gives an idea of the performance gains with nitro, all with 10-inch tires.

Racing was a lot of fun because there were no rules to worry about, and the car got quicker and faster all the time. We ultimately got that car down to under 2,700 pounds. If it did a wheelie during the burnout, someone had a ¾ ratchet in his pocket to lower the front end. At the finish line there would be a shower of sparks as the oil pan dragged on the pavement, but taking it out and beating it back into shape made it ready for the next round.

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