Poor old Chrysler was left to pick up scraps in the sales charts and showrooms during the Sixties, as the drag-strip craze swept America from coast to coast with the mantra, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”
That’s well and all, but unfortunately GM and Ford were stripping the tarmac off quarter-miles everywhere with their high-powered machines. In order to beat them in the early Sixties, a group of motley Dodge engineers got together and formed the Ramchargers drag racing team with the aim of dominating the strip.
Their first car was a horrendous-looking 1949 Plymouth they called the High and Mighty. But in the middle of the decade the guys started taking showroom-fresh cars and modifying them for stupendous trap speeds.
After they started dropping 426 Hemis in their cars, the Dodges were simply unbeatable, but the chase for sub-10-second times didn’t end there.
The Ramchargers and Chrysler realised that the quarter-mile craze was even bigger than they thought, and more involvement in drag racing became the norm for all the Big Three. Chrysler’s cars that rolled up to the Christmas tree to embarrass Chevys and Fords kept evolving to the point that someone had the bright idea of chopping up bodies to shorten the wheelbase.
A couple of inches here or there would be fine, in order to have more weight hanging off the back of the car therefore aiding traction off the line.
The thing is, though, the guys kept chopping until one day they showed up at the drag strip with an 18in-shorter wheelbase. As you can imagine the car looked ridiculous. Funny, in fact. That’s it, it was a ‘funnycar’ — the term was coined, and an entire class of short wheelbase drag racing cars began. And they are still racing strong today.
Anything that the Ramchargers touched back in the Sixties — the golden era of muscle car drag racing — is gold today, which means finding something legitimate is as hard as coughing up the, well, priceless price tags.