1965 Dodge Coronet A990 SS/ AFX Competition # 105-981-2

Before we get into details of this game-changing car that would permanently change the landscape of drag racing, forever... we first need to explain the story of WHY this car was created in the first place. - With the rumors and news of the new, big-horsepower 427 SOHC engine being developed across town at Ford, to dethrone the Hemi, the RAMCHARGERS knew they needed to do something. Development of the A-925 (DOHC Hemi) was in full swing. This engine was going to be a lot more than an equalizer. It was an all-out beast! The boys even nicknamed it "The Doomsday Machine"! With the possibilities and capabilities of this powerplant, spirits around the RAMCHARGERS and the rest of the Chrysler engine development group were very high. But fate would have a different plan. Apparently, the bean-counters at Chrysler were not quite as excited. The "suites" only cared about profit from car sales. And had no concern for racing. Especially Drag racing. That "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday" philosophy must not have made its way upstairs yet. With that mentality, Chrysler's lead corner-cutter, Ronnie Householder set out on a treasonous "sabotage mission". Chrysler was willing to carefully spend money on their NASCAR program. But they were a little more apprehensive when it came to other forms of racing. Drag Racing was like an unwanted stepchild. If not for the RAMCHARGERS, there may have never been any innovation in that field. Householder knew Chrysler had no desires to spend money on Drag Racing. Many innovations used on the track, were commonly trickledown developments from the NASCAR program. The engineers at Chrysler (many of them being RAMCHARGERS) were smart enough to disguise their personal developments within other performance and racing programs. This is how they were able to have so much success drag racing. It was really a lot of shared engineering. Householder's idea was that if he could get NASCAR to ban the A-925, he could save the company a lot of money in development. Because he knew Chrysler would not have the desire to continue developing an engine that could only be used in Drag Racing.

So, Ronnie Householder simply went to NASCAR and literally blabbed. He told them that Ford was building a SOHC engine for competition. And with a bragging bravado, he continued that if that Ford engine were allowed to race, Chrysler was prepared to counter with their new DOHC Hemi that's currently in development. The news of these radical, exotic new engines stunned the executives at NASCAR and they immediately moved to ban all "overhead cam" engines from competition. With that information in hand, Householder ran back to Highland Park as fast as he could to spread the news around the Chrysler Headquarters. With the DOHC Hemi now banned from NASCAR, Householder's gamble was right, and Chrysler opted to discontinue all investments, both time and finance, into it's A-925 program. Thus, instantly pulling the plug on any further development of the Doomsday Machine. And killing what would be the most powerful engine to every make its way to the Christmas Tree. Even though the engines were merely months or possibly only weeks away from being complete, it was over. The A-925 would never have the chance to create a pulse and breathe on it's own.

The ban of the Doomsday Machine from NASCAR killed it off completely. But that was not the same situation at Ford. After 3 or 4 years of getting their teeth kicked in by all of the Max Wedge and Hemi powered Dodges and Plymouths on every dragstrip across the country, Henry Ford II opened up his wallet at Ford. He insisted on doing whatever it takes to win in Drag Racing. So the SOHC 427, nicknamed "The Cammer" steered straight ahead for action in 1965.

Now, that Householder's incidental sabotage had Chrysler being "out-powered" for the first time since 1961, the RAMCHARGERS knew they needed to do something, or they would be all but guaranteed to lose their place as the Kings of the Drag Racing world. The Fords had more power. They actually developed the Cammer to outpower the Hemi. But that was not their limit. They were also putting that engine into cars which were two carline sizes smaller than anything it would be available in for public purchase. And also 2 carline sizes smaller than what Chrysler would send to the starting line. It was always Chryslers philosophy to race what they sold. Whereas Ford's thought process was "Just Win". So, the Mercury Comets and the new little Ford Mustangs were stuffed with this behemoth engine. Ford had a much lighter car, with the driver and engine both further back on the chassis, for better balance and weight-transfer. These cars were literally made for drag racing. They were so small and light, that they could meet the NHRA class minimum weight by adding over 200 lbs. of ballast to the back of the car where it would be an almost unbeatable answer to the traction problems of the day. This gave the Comets and Mustangs a 50/50 balance ratio. And with the Doomsday Machine being reduced to only a fantasy at this point, the RAMCHARGERS creative minds were forced to step up to battle from a different angle. If ya can't outpower them, just go back to basics and simply build a better car!

Taking notes from the previous year's success with moving the wheels forward a bit, the RAMCHARGERS figured to push the envelope as far as it would go. (The 1964 A/FX car had its front wheels moved 2-3 inches forward, approximately 2%. Which, unless you had another similar car to compare with, you wouldn't notice. ...Except at the finish line!)

With a new 1965 Dodge Coronet in their possession for development, they moved the front wheels and suspension forward 10 inches and the rears were moved 15 inches forward. They figured that if a little bit worked on the previous car, then a lot should work even more. This alteration put more than 50% of the vehicle weight over the rear wheels. Upon completion of the new set-up, NHRA officials were invited to the showroom at the Woodward Garage to see, and hopefully give their blessing to, the new creation from Chrysler. No such luck. They were actually appalled by the Dodge. There was absolutely no way they'd let that car run in Super Stock or A/FX.

But the mission was moving forward already. NHRA wasn't the only game in town anyway. If ya wanted "ink" (magazine press) you ran in NHRA. But if you wanted to get paid, then AHRA was the ticket, as they paid considerably more for event winners. Also, Match-Racing was really the main source of income for the RAMCHARGERS. And in Match-Racing, the rules were not conducted by a sanctioning body. It was always an agreement between teams. And the race track across America and Canada would be writing the checks. So the NHRA's disapproval did not make any difference in the plans.

Additionally, the team had done quite a bit of learning how to reduce weight by acid-dipping body panels. So why not the whole car? Eleven cars were to be built in this manner and only sold to a hand-selected group of race teams. The elite of Mopar racers. The RAMCHARGERS, Tommy Grove (Melrose Missile), The Golden Commandos, and Dave Strickler would get the first four. With additional cars being made for Sox & Martin, Dick Landy, Roger Lindamood (Color Me Gone), Bud Faubel (Hemi Honker), Bob Harrop (Flying Carpet), Butch Leal (California Flash) and Lee Smith.

Research showed that the only place doing acid dipping, (or "Chemical Milling", as it's known in the aircraft world), with a container big enough for a whole car body, was an aircraft supplier in southern California. So, eleven 1965 Dodge and Plymouth A990 Hardtop's were pulled from the Los Angeles plant. Six Dodges and five Plymouths. They were outfitted with Sedan (Post-Car) doors, aluminum hinges, extra-long torsion bars (for the pre-determined front wheel re-location, and a host of other items specific for these cars. The Dodge factory constructed them to the point of being a body-in-white. Then they were sent off to be put on a bit of a diet at the nearby aircraft supplier. After the acid-dipping procedure, the cars came back approximately 200 lbs. lighter! Next, they were put on a train car and shipped to Detroit, where 7 of them were then delivered to Amblewagon Ambulance Company in Troy, Michigan, for the body modifications to be done just like the development car. Once the bodies were completed, they were all reassembled and shipped to their race teams.

Four cars were left untouched after they rose from the acid container. For the time being, those four were to be assembled just as all standard A990 cars. One of them was destined for the RAMCHARGERS. The team already knew that NHRA would not allow them to run altered cars. So, they took their lightened body, A990 Hemi Dodge, dressed it in Super Stock Trim and shipped it back out west for the first two races of the 1965 season. The first was the AHRA WinterNationals at Bee Line Dragway in Phoenix, Arizona, where it was to run in Super Stock. Upon arrival, the RAMCHARGERS new car had a slightly different look than the previous two years. The long candy red stripe that traced the bodyline down the sides from front to back was not there. Roof/Trunk stripes, C-Pillar stripes and lettering were all present. But no side stripes. A quick lesson in Chemistry taught the boys that the acid from the dipping was still absorbed in the steel along that part of the body. And it kept eating through the paint! So, the new 65 Coronet ran without them. The common shoe-polish lettering on the windows displayed the #105 on the Coronet. And as always, the Dodge did its job. By the end of the weekend, Mike Buckel had piloted this car as quick as 11.02 in the quarter. And made his way through the competition, cutting down the rest of the Super Stock field to a Super Stock Eliminator victory on Sunday. A week later, they headed out to Pomona, California for the NHRA WinterNationals. At that event, the Coronet ran in NHRA's A/FX Class, and wore the familiar #981. There, under NHRA's rules, the lightweight Fiberglass Comets and Mustangs had a major advantage. Even though the four Mopar entrants were lightened up from the acid bath, the weight transfer and weight distribution that those Ford/Mercury cars had was simply unbeatable. And with our Coronet running 1/10th slower on the e.t. than it did in Arizona, the NHRA WinterNationals turned out to be just another day at school.

After leaving the West Coast, the RAMCHARGERS and their 65 Dodge headed home to Michigan. The car was quickly sent to Amblewagon for its modifications. A new stencil had to be created for the lettering on the sides, due to the new wheel locations. There was no turning back now. Even though NHRA would not allow altered wheelbase cars in Super Stock or A/FX, it was clear that the future of drag racing was headed in this direction. And with the instant popularity of the "funny" looking Chryslers in Arizona, it would be only a matter of time before NHRA changed their tune. Everyone wanted to see these cars run. And if AHRA was the only place to run them in A/FX, then so be it. They paid more anyway!

Aside of the drastic body and suspension modifications, many other "Hot-Rodding" modifications were made. Not running the car in sanctioned classes, the canvas was rather blank, as to what the team was allowed to do with the Coronet. Bigger tires, Hillborn Fuel Injection, more cubic inches (472) and some Nitromethene were worked into the engine bay, thus creating one of the most iconic, successful and ground-breaking cars ever to come from the RAMCHARGERS stable. THIS was the beginning of the "Funny Car"! Wearing a hand written "FX 2" on the windshield, the new RAMCHARGERS Funny Car would set out to terrorize anyone foolish enough to line up in the next lane, for the remainder of the 1965 season.

The only setback of the season was a crash that put the A/FX Coronet on its roof, completely collapsing the thin, acid-dipped steel. The RAMCHARGERS, never a team to let something as trivial and petty as a roll-over crash, hold them down, they sourced a new steel roof from the Chrysler stamping plant and welded it onto the car. The A/FXer was back in action only one week later.

Continuous chemistry and experimentation with Nitromethane had incredible results. After starting the season in this Coronet with a best time of 11.02 at our first event in February, a mere 6 months later would show a screaming crowd at Cecil County Dragway the first full-bodied car to run an 8 second quarter mile!! The RAMCHARGERS literally took more than two whole seconds off of the Coronet's E.T. in the same season!

After a dominating 1965 season with an incredible car, 1966 was on the horizon. The competition was getting stiff. Ford was continuing to empty their bank account to support their racing effort. And the RAMCHARGERS were already hard at work, planning for the forthcoming season. Before they even had the opportunity to put their '65 car up for sale, fellow A/FX AWB racer, Bob Harrop crashed and destroyed his "Flying Carpet" Dodge. Harrop's plan for 1966 was to continue with his current program, and he knew exactly where to get another 1965 Altered Wheelbase Dodge. Harrop knew that the RAMCHARGERS would be changing cars over the winter, as they did every year. A deal was struck, and the 1965 A/FX Hemi Coronet was sold to Harrop, and rode off into the sunset.

With 1965 behind us, the A/FX car already sold, and the Funny Car evolving rapidly... the team turned their focus to 1966. Once again, it was back to the drawing board for the RAMCHARGERS.

The beginning of 1966 did not show any more love to Harrop than the end of '65 did. Now wearing a "Flying Carpet" paint job, the former RAMCHARGERS AWB Coronet found itself upside-down again, as Bob Harrop became the only person to crash and destroy TWO Factory Altered Wheel Base A990 Mopars. Only 11 were made, and Harrop destroyed 2 of them. This marked only the 3rd time that an Original RAMCHARGERS Race Car would meet its ultimate demise at the dragstrip.

With 1965 behind us, the A/FX car already sold, and the Funny Car evolving rapidly... the team turned their focus to 1966. Once again, it was back to the drawing board for the RAMCHARGERS.

If you have any information, photos or stories of this 1965 Dodge AWB Coronet,


CURRENT STATUS: Crashed / Destroyed:

Cecil County Dragway. Cecil County, Maryland



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