29 July 2011

Drag Racing History - Ram Charger's High & Mighty

There is a reason that in the early '60s, suddenly every drag car sat like a frog on a hot rock, and here it is: the High and Mighty. A group of young Chrysler engineers who called themselves the Ram Chargers determined that raising the car's centre of mass would produce more forward bite. Everyone copied. The Ramchargers would become even more influential as the nucleus of Chrysler's all-conquering NASCAR, drag racing, and muscle car programmes throughout the '60s.

The "High & Mighty" was the first Ramchargers project. It ran in C/A and was powered by a 354ci hemi with 392ci heads. First outing was at the '59 Nationals, held, for the first time, at the Detroit Dragway, where it set best class speed for the meet. Texas' Billy Rassmussen won the class with his Dodge hemi-powered car. The Ramchargers chose C/A because, with the exception of Billy's car, Chevys dominated the class. The Ramchargers car went on to set and reset E.T. and speed records in the class.
Finally, the car was eliminated.

At the '59 Nationals

No, not by anything powered by a Chevy, but by a rule book. The NHRA introduced its crankshaft height rule and then changed the pounds per cubic inch from 8.6 to 8.0. With that heavy hemi engine, the first rule essentially made the car obsolete. It needed the high centre of gravity to be competitive with the Chevy powered deuce coupes off the line. (It was the first car to be deliberately raised for more effective weight transfer. The valve covers were right up against the underside of the hood.) The second rule change allowed the Chevy powered cars to recapture the E.T. and speed records. (This is not to say that a modern Chevy engine couldn't exceed the specific output of that hemi engine built back in the fifties. But, that's a sword that cuts both ways.)

The High & Mighty replica was built by members of the Chrysler Employees Motorsports Association (CEMA) in tribute to the Ramchargers’ accomplishments after it was determined that the original car had been scrapped. The car contains the original first tunnel ram intake manifold and tachometer hand marked with a “SHIFT! (dammit)” note with skull and crossbones at 5,500 RPM. The car is used for exhibition runs and to promote Chrysler and its products. It was built as it first appeared at the '59 Nationals, ugly green primer and all.
To my eyes, with this car you're just starting to see the first shoots of what will grow into Funny Cars. Bookmark this thread and compare this car with some of the cars to come.

We'll be seeing more 'Ramchargers' cars later in the series.

With thanks to all sources concerned for the info.

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