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The Ramchargers prototype 1965 A/FX Altered Wheelbase(AWB)fuel injected drag car. The Ramchargers built this on a Plymouth body.

This car and the AWB Dodges and Plymouths that followed would change the face of drag racing forever. They became the first of the "funny cars".
Ramchargers Stories - from Mike Buckel Part 15: Plans for 1965

By Mike Buckel and Society Staff – reprint with permission only

Late in the ’64 season, Dyno Don turned a 10.75 sec run at Cecil County Dragway in his ’65 Mercury Comet with the new overhead cam (OHC) engine.  This being quicker than our ’64 A/FX car was running, and it caused us to ponder on what to do for 1965.  It was clear that something radical was in order.  The Comets were smaller, lighter and with a shorter wheelbase than our B-Body cars.  Add to that the fact that the OHC engine made 25 to 50 hp more than our cross ram Hemi.

Changing to an A-Body was out of the question at this time since the Corporation had no interest in offering big engines in the compact cars.  You may recall that the little 273 LA engine had just been introduced in Darts and Valiants.  Chrysler was promoting the new 5 & 50 warranties, which stood for 5-years and 50,000-miles.  The 273 was dubbed the 5 & 50 engine because it was 5 years too late and 50 cubic inches too small.  We needed a plan to make the B-Body cars competitive in A/FX where the Comets and Mustangs would be running. 

Advancement in Super Stock would also be required as NHRA outlawed aluminum body panels and we expected Ford to make the OHC engine available in the Thunderbolt package.  Ramcharger Tom Hoover was still the race manager in engineering and he tasked Ramcharger, Jim Thornton with coming up with solutions to these problems.  His work resulted in the famous A990 cars and the altered wheelbase “funny cars.”

The A990 cars were a very well executed follow-on to the highly successful Super Stock package cars of ’62, ‘63, and ’64.  The bodies were steel but with numerous weight reduction features including aluminum heads on the Hemi that brought the cars in at less than 3200 lbs.  These were certainly the most prepared racecars ever offered by an automobile manufacturer in production and they proved successful in NHRA Super Stock racing.

The A/FX problem was not so easily solved.  A three-point program was conceived and implemented to address the perceived disadvantages: weight distribution, total weight and engine power.  If all three elements were successfully implemented we would have parity with the Comets and Mustangs in all categories except for frontal area.

Weight distribution was addressed by relocating the wheels the maximum amount.  If a little wheel movement was good in ’64 than a lot more would be good for ’65.  The front wheels were moved forward to the front bumper.  The rear wheels were moved forward so the wheelhouses were at the rear of the door opening.  A prototype Plymouth was modified and the process documented in the Chrysler Engineering Structures Lab.

The total weight issue was resolved by dipping the complete body-in-white in a tank of acid.  This is a common practice in the aircraft industry, known as “chemical milling.”  Ramcharger, Dale Reeker came up with this idea.  A suitable tank was located in California and 5 Plymouth and 5 Dodge bodies, framed in the Los Angeles plant were dipped and shipped to Detroit.  Arrangements were made with an ambulance body shop to convert the cars to altered wheelbase in accordance with instructions from the Structures Lab.  The Ramcharger car was not converted at this time.

The third element, engine power, was addressed with fuel injection.  This approach would not close the gap on the OHC engine but would make a dent in the problem.  A Hilborn fuel injection system was selected and Hilborn produced the manifolds.  I was still working in the Engine Lab and focused on determining the best inlet pipe configuration.  Probably 50 variations were tested with 7 ½ inch tapered tubes selected for best power.

 Next time, putting this all together and making it work.


"Dyno" Don Nicholson's 1965 A/FX SOHC Comet

The Ford Single Overhead Cam (SOHC) 427 Hemi drag engine

The 1965 A990 Dodge Hemi Super Stock

The aluminum head 426 Hemi in the 1965 A990 Super Stock cars

Just a few of the different length injector tubes tested by the Ramchargers for their AWB A/FX car

A peak into the next column -- the first run !