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The Ramchargers 1966 Funny Car was built on a full tube chassis with a fiberglass body & front end. Of course a fire-breathing injected Hemi was standard!

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Ramchargers Stories - from Mike Buckel Part 19: Funny Cars Get Serious!
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By Mike Buckel and Society Staff – reprint with permission only

A major team meeting in the fall of ’65, after the racing season was over, concluded that we should keep doing what we were doing. Going back to Super Stock with a Street Hemi was not really appealing, because we had already proven ourselves in that category and there was no money in that class.  Our cars were demanding the best appearance money then available in the sport and even though we were probably making about 25 cents an hour between working on the car and traveling the money doled out at the end of the season seemed good.

It was clear that a Funny Car based upon a stock body was not going to cut it in the ’66 season, so we set about designing a car.  Jim Thornton was the primary designer that came out being welded steel tube chassis with a fiberglass Dart body with an extended fiberglass front end.  The rear axle was relocated forward to the door opening with the engine forward of the firewall. 

With the extend nose the car actually looked funnier than did the ’65.  The rear axle was narrowed so that the 10-inch wide tires, the best we had, would fit inside the bodylines.  The driver sat over the rear universal joint with a 1/4-inch thick “ass guard” under the seat.  A Torqflite push button console was fabricated and located between the driver’s legs.  The most significant design mistake was continuing to use the Super Stock rear leaf springs, because, we felt, that they were “proven”.

Woody Gilmore, of Dragster chassis fame, assembled the frame and apparently several more for other racers.  I have no idea who these other racers were or what level of success they achieved.  A roll cage was finally introduced to Funny Car racing.

Early testing at Detroit Dragway showed that the car was fundamentally sound and after installing the “big” Hilborn fuel injection pump made the car quick and fast (160 MPH+) on 90 percent.  Wheelies and a light front end prompted us to put a huge spoiler on the front that looked like snowplow blade, but it worked.

The Mercury Comets also had some teething problems but nothing compared to those we were experiencing with handling.  The really bad thing was that it would take off to the right or left at the top of second or into high gear allowing the starting line crew to read “Ramchargers” on the side of the car when it was near the finish line.  Scary Stuff! 

Late June, or thereabouts, we decided to give up on the leaf springs and go with a leading link truss coil over suspension.  When the new system was being installed the old axle and spring assembly, still with tires attached, was set aside.  Dick Jones noticed that something was definitely wrong and quickly determined that there was over 3/4-inch of static toe-in.  Under power, who knows how much?  This toe-in would cause the car to go in the direction of whichever tire was most heavily loaded at speed.  The problem was caused by the substantial bending moment in the axle between the tire patch and the mounting point of the springs.  A truss was immediately welded on the rear of the axle housing of the new suspension system.

So we tested at Detroit Dragway, with me driving.  On the second burnout the car moved stronger than I ever experienced before.  But when it stopped the left front corner was low.  Inspection reveled that the rear housing had clocked under the torque with the right side much higher than the left side.  The rear universal joint had gouged into the ass guard by nearly its thickness.  The frame-mounting bracket for the right side link had also failed.  Thornton concluded that the chassis lacked the stiffness to accommodate the link/coil setup.

We rationalized that with a straight rear axle the leaf springs could be made to work, and sometimes they did and sometimes they did not.  The car now went fast OK, but now the problem was inconsistent direction control under launch.  Overall we probably won more races than we lost but still lost too many.  At best we were on par with the Comet’s but no superiority even with 100 percent Nitro laced with Hydrazine.  Hydrazine is a rocket fuel that was added in very small quantities to the fuel to “sensitize” the Nitro.  And let me tell you, that is some very nasty stuff, deadly to inhale, and self ignites when spilled on a rag.  When the Hydrazine worked, and it was inconsistent, we were then running in the 8.30s at 170+ mph.

The ’66 car’s finest race was the Super Stock Nationals at New York Raceway way out on the east end of Long Island.  Everybody who was anybody was there and they had Funny Car classes of 2000, 2400 pounds and an unlimited class for supercharged cars that proved to be slower than the 2000-pound cars.  All the really fast cars were in the 2000-pound class.  On Saturday we lost to Eddie Schartman’s Comet when Jim had to pedal the car to escape a monster wheelie.

So on Sunday we loaded up both the front and rear of the car for the 2400-pound class.  Amazingly the car was perfectly balanced pulling a 2-foot wheelie every pass and going straight as an arrow.  We waded through the class beating Ronnie Sox in the final, running about two-tens slower than the fastest car at the meet.  The strategy fell apart when the promoter announced at the starting line that the handicap for heavy cars that had been published in the rules was to be eliminated and all cars would run heads-up.  No amount of appeal was successful and we knew that we were the victims of corruption.  Probably the most corrupt experience of our collective careers in drag racing.  We took out the heavy spare tire at the starting line preparing to run Dyno Don.  The 300 odd pounds were still on the front end.  Jim announced after a few burnouts that the car was not working so the tire was reinstalled.  We lost by 0.14 sec.

We also won the AHRA World Championships meet at Detroit Dragway in late August.  We skipped the US Nationals due to the lack of support and prize money for Funny Cars.  NHRA just never seemed to catch up with what the fans wanted and that other track promoters were offering.

See the August 1966 Car Craft Magazine Expose of the 1966 Ramchargers A/FX - Click HERE.

 

The 66 Funny car during initial shake down testing

Testing at Detroit

A "snow plow" spoiler was added to control front end lift -- no she's not a Ramcharger

Mike Buckel in the Ramchargers 1966 Funny Car

Beating Ronnie Sox at the Super Stock Nationals

Running strong at Cecil County