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1949 Pymouth Coupe - First Car of the Original Ramchargers Race Team
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The Ramchargers, How It All Began...

Written by Billy Shope

Many of the older dragracers have heard of the Ramchargers, but few have heard of the Chrysler Institute of Engineering. Yet, without the Institute, there is little likelihood that the Ramchargers would have ever come into existence.

The Chrysler Institute of Engineering (CIE) was an educational institution, funded and operated by Chrysler Corporation, which awarded a Master of Automotive Engineering degree to graduate engineers after the successful completion of a 2 year course of study. Each student was also a full time employee and would spend only the first 2 hours of each workday in class. The remainder of each day would be at his "student assignment". During the 2 years, the student would have the opportunity to "sample" the work in a number of different departments. Upon receiving his degree, he would anticipate placement in a "permanent" assignment.

I have been using the past tense in describing the CIE because it ceased to exist quite a few years ago. Although I can't be certain, I believe the reason for its dissolution was the increasing percentage of graduates who ended up at Ford or GM with higher salaries than Chrysler was willing to pay.

Anyway, as a participant in the CIE program, I made a lot of friends during those first 2 hours of each day. During class breaks, it was only natural that conversation groups would form and that each group would discuss a somewhat different topic. Guys like Trant Jarman and Scott Harvey would usually be part of a group discussing sportscars and their handling characteristics. Myself and others would migrate toward a group discussing dragracing.

And so it was that, during lunch in the Highland Park Central Engineering cafeteria, I found myself seated at a small table with a couple of my dragracing friends. Across from me was Herman Mozer, and, to my left, was Barnes Daniels. As often occurred during our conversations, we discussed our mutual desire to have a "hands on" relationship with a competition drag car. But, as usual, our dreams quickly faded when the financial realities were recognized. It was at this point, on this particular day, that I voiced...without thought...the idea that, if all of us interested in dragracing pooled our money, perhaps we could build a successful car.

Now, don't get the idea that I'm the "founder" of the Ramchargers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The words came out, as I stated, without thought and totally without the genesis of a plan. But, Herman Mozer grasped the concept and immediately began to build upon it. I'm not certain Herman finished his meal (and Herman loved to eat). He jumped up and quickly left the cafeteria, evidently planning on using the remainder of lunch time to make some contacts. Within a few short days (I wish I could recall how many), we...the original Ramchargers...were meeting and beginning the planning which would end with the High&Mighty C/A.

Initially, we had to come to some sort of agreement as to what we would build. At that first meeting, committees were formed, committee chairmen were assigned, and individuals were given tasks. I was assigned the responsibility to make performance calculations for the different engine/car/class combinations. To show the confusion during those early days, I even calculated the performance for a Jaguar-powered E/G car!

We eventually agreed that we wanted a Chrysler powered car and that we wanted to compete in a class that was dominated by high specific output Chevy powered cars. To determine the specific output of the record holding engines, we used an empirical relationship developed by Chrysler's George Wallace. We ended up agreeing that we should build a car for C/A. (Actually, the record in C/A was held by Billy Rassmussen's De Soto powered car, but his was an exception. The typical C/A was a Chevy powered deuce coupe.)

We attempted to purchase a Chrysler product from the thirties, but quickly found that they were priced beyond our budget. We did find one old collector who was almost willing to give a car to a group of Chrysler engineers, but someone let it slip that we were going to use it for dragracing and that was the end of the discussion!

The only car we could afford was a '49 Plymouth business coupe. A collector told me that it was a late '49, as it used grille components that would continue into the '50 model year.

I mention a budget, so this would be a good time to clear up some confusion as to the club's funding. In the beginning, the group received absolutely no financial assistance from Chrysler. (Many of us were actually concerned that our dragracing activities might be "discovered" by our employer and a result...we would lose our jobs.) Each member contributed an amount which, today, sounds ridiculously low. I can't remember the exact amount, but it was something like 32 dollars. That's right! Thirty-two dollars to build a car that would set best class speed on its first outing at the '59 NHRA Nationals. (Of course, with the printing presses going full tilt since '59, that 32 dollars amounts to about 525 dollars today, on the basis of the nominal Gross Domestic Product per capita.)

When it came to the engine, we did find a way to stretch our budget. One member of the group was aware that hemi engines were occasionally returned to Dodge Truck on warranty. These engines were then disassembled and inspected. We had members of our Tom Hoover...who were perfectly capable of performing that inspection, so a working arrangement was agreed upon with the inspection group at Dodge Truck. The Ramchargers would perform the teardowns and inspections for a certain number (I've forgotten how many) of engines in exchange for those parts necessary to build a complete engine. And, that's how we got a complete 354 Chrysler hemi for our C/A.

Of course, we didn't want to run a stock truck engine, so the search began for "speed" components. Chrysler was, at the time, doing a lot of investigative work into "tuned" intake manifolding. As part of this work, a crude intake manifold had been used which consisted of a plenum supported above the engine on steel angle. Connection to the ports was by fuel resistant hose. (Yes, it does look like ordinary radiator hose.) This allowed relatively easy changes in runner lengths during the dynamometer testing. Testing with this manifold had ended and, as was the customary procedure, it was scheduled for destruction. I don't know the details, but, somehow, between the dyno room and the shop, the manifold was "saved" and subsequently smuggled out of Central Engineering.

Since the rules allowed an exhaust pipe for each cylinder, we decided to employ the latest information on tuned exhausts. Each pipe ended with a cone. This acts to reduce energy losses during the time when ambient air is being brought back into the pipe. (This is while the valve is closed.) Perhaps the most beneficial effect of this exhaust system was psychological. The car made more noise than a AA/FD! There was also a downside. The tuning resulted in a "hole" in the torque curve which corresponded with the launch rpm. So, it took a bit of practice for the driver to launch without either a bog or excessive wheelspin.

We couldn't afford a "California" camshaft, so the stock C-300D camshaft was installed.

To increase the compression ratio, we ordered some cast pistons from Jahns. Unfortunately, there was some confusion on the order and we ended up with a 10:1 compression ratio.

We learned that the NHRA Nationals were coming to Detroit for the first time in 1959, so our goal was to have a car for that event. It was "down to the wire," but we made it! Parts were actually being bolted on as the car was going through Inspection. There was no time to install the rear fenders and the car was painted in an ugly green primer.

During the C/A eliminations, a member of another C/A team noticed our car, ran back to tell others, and we soon had a group around the car laughing so hard that tears were rolling down their faces. We weren't offended. We thought the car was pretty funny looking, too! It happened that was the next car we eliminated, which somewhat dampened their gaiety.

But, considering we had essentially a stock engine...except for the manifolding..., what could we hope to accomplish? Well, according to my performance calculations, we could expect to be at least competitive.

And, competitive we were! Billy Rassmussen beat us in the eliminations (and everyone else), but we set best C/A speed for the meet at 109.75 MPH. Later, with a higher compression ratio and a roller camshaft, the car set...and reset...both ends of the C/A record.

And that was the beginning of the Ramchargers story.

The following is a listing of all the original members compiled by Maurie Leising.
Herman Mozer was the first president. (If you'll recall, he was the guy who organized the first meeting.)

List of Ramchargers as of 12-15-59 for the 1960 Model Development Program were:

Jack McPherson; Co-Chairman of Body
Troy Simonsen; Co-Chairman of Body
Barnes Daniels
Pete McNichols
Larry Michelini
Bob Mullen
Doug Patterson
Bill Tite
Dick Burke; Co-Chairman of Suspension, Traction & Steering
Dick Maxwell; Co-Chairman of Suspension, Traction & Steering
Fred Gluckson
Dwight Knupp
John Rhodes
Bill Robinson
Bill Shope
Gary Schwartz
Skip McCully; Co-Chairman Engine
Maurie Leising; Co-Chairman Engine
Wayne Erickson
Tom Hoover
Dan Mancinni
Wayne Ulrich
Chuck Hartung
Ray Kobe
Herman Mozer; Coordination

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