Looking back on the formative years of Stock, Super Stock, and Factory Experimental door slammer drag racing (1962-1965), the exploits of Chrysler Corp stand taller (often literally) than the competition. Sure, Ford, Mercury, Pontiac, and Chevrolet factory high performance vehicle development engineers made sure their S/S and FX offerings packed plenty of horsepower and dabbled in lightweight body parts, but when it came to preparing the chassis and suspension to handle that power, Chrysler was much more thorough.

The 1962–1964 Dodge Ramchargers and Plymouth Super Stocks (commonly referred to as Max Wedge cars) were solid performers in sanctioned Stock and Super Stock competition. Their light, fully-unitized bodies, asymmetric leaf spring packs, (optional), aluminum sheet metal kits and industry-exclusive TorqueFlite automatics, were a perfect match for the 450 to 500 horsepower delivered by the cross-rammed 413 and 426 Wedge. But, let's remember, drag racing was only half of the picture. Winning races on NASCAR oval tracks was just as important to Chrysler's performance image and the Max Wedge heads weren't delivering superspeedway glory.

To rectify the situation, the A864 426 Track Hemi was introduced on February 23, 1964, at the Daytona 500. The Hemi's superiority over the Ford, Pontiac, and Chevrolet competition was undisputed with a 1, 2, 3 finish line sweep, and a 10-mph jump in average lap speeds. But, when the cross-rammed Race Hemi hit the strip in late June of 1964, drag racers had another 100 horsepower to deal with, and the Max Wedge chassis setup—hindered by the tires of the day—wasn't cooperating. Tire spin was a major problem.

Let's remember that soft-compound wrinkle wall drag slicks weren't readily available until midway through the 1965 race season. Making matters worse were the rules governing maximum tire tread-width set forth by the sanctioning bodies (NHRA, AHRA, NASCAR Grand Stock, etc.). Their respective Stock and Super Stock classes mandated the use of puny 7-inch-wide cheater slicks with grooved "street" treads. In the more liberal Factory Experimental and Modified Production classes, slicks were allowed, but maximum tread width was limited to 10 inches. Something had to be done to get the Hemi's extra power to the strip, and several avenues were explored—with the 1965 altered wheelbase funny car fleet being the pinnacle of these efforts.

This is the story of how Chrysler explored retro-fitting a pair of Dodge Super Stocks with straight axles as a possible means of gaining extra traction—while simultaneously appeasing the NHRA and its class mandate that performance enhancing components come from the factory parts bin. In the late summer of 1964 Dodge sent two complete A100 Sportsman van front axle and leaf spring assemblies to a pair of up and coming drag racers by the names of Dick Landy and Bill Flynn. That Landy was based in Sherman Oaks, California, and Flynn out of Providence, Rhode Island, is not a random detail.

Though Landy and Flynn had proven their Max Wedge and Race Hemi racing skills in 1963 and early 1964, there were plenty of other successful Mopar racers in the nation's heartland and southern states who could have just as easily qualified for the A100 van axle hand out. Rather, Dodge selected these guys because they were on opposite ends of the country. As such, they'd be able to expose race observers—ranging from casual Friday night spectators to NHRA track officials—to the availability of the new straight axle conversion kit on both coasts.

This played into the fact that—to be legal for Stock, Super Stock, F/X and M/P race duty—the NHRA required factory issued part numbers. Backyard lash-ups were relegated to the less prestigious gas classes where media attention was sparse. In the case of the van-sourced spring and axle setup, part number 22352 was assigned. An important footnote is seen in official Chrysler documents informing the NHRA about the over-the-counter straight axle kit. Dodge took pains to describe the assembly as being from the Dodge Custom Sportsman wagon. With its many glass windows and three rows of bench seats, it could be registered for use as a passenger car rather than a commercial vehicle. This ducked around an NHRA mandate restricting the adaptation of truck parts for cars.

Though the Sportsman van's leaf springs, beam axle and drum brakes are far from featherweight, the total mass was actually 35 pounds lighter than the stock B-Body torsion bar front suspension. According to a story that appeared in the April, 1965 issue of Drag Racing magazine showing the van axle going under Dick Landy's 1964 Race Hemi sedan, the logic went like this: "The removal of 35 pounds. from the front end more than justifies this conversion. Here's proof: let us suppose the 118-inch wheelbase represents a 10-foot lever, with the rear axle serving as a fulcrum. With a conventional front suspension, we have an excess of 35 pounds, 10 feet from the fulcrum, which equals 350 foot-pounds. To counter-balance this, we would need 117 pounds of ballast placed three feet to the rear of the rear axle, or 350 pounds one foot to the rear. Using the 117 pound ballast (which is illegal) we are then carrying 152 pounds of excess weight. Remember this: No matter how much weight you chop off, as long as you have a conventional suspension, you are carrying 35 excess pounds."

The source of these somewhat complex calculations is not stated in author John Durbin's story, but it's possible—and likely—Jim Thornton had a hand in their creation. Thornton, a member of the famed Ramchargers factory drag race team, was in charge of A864 and A990 Race Hemi body and chassis development, and was a major proponent of wheelbase shuffling. But having restricted time and manpower resources to work with, many of his team's theories were assigned to trusted privateers for execution. Delivery of the needed hard parts was typically handled by Chrysler Corporate Product Planning with Dale Reeker or Frank Wylie serving as point men and parts-dolers.

And so it was that Landy and Flynn were entrusted with participating in the straight axle/B-Body experiment in the final months of 1964. In the case of Landy's silver 330 series sedan, the car has received a lot of magazine exposure over the years in titles including Hot Rod, Super Stock and Drag Illustrated, Drag Racing and many others. And happily, the car still exists—fully restored—in the hands of noted Hemi historian and research author, Pete Haldiman. As for Flynn's white Yankee Peddler 440 series hardtop, period magazine coverage was minimal. Though it won Modified Production laurels at the 1964 U.S. Nationals (with Max Wedge power) over Arnie Beswick's 421 Tempest coupe—11.95 to 11.68, few images of the car appeared in print. The only ones that come quickly to this authors mind ran in the January, 1964 issue of Super Stockers In Action.

The current whereabouts of Flynn's 1964 hardtop are unknown. The consensus is it's been lost to time. But if any Mopar Muscle readers can shed light on its actual fate, we're all ears. Until the car resurfaces, the next best thing is vintage photographs. Thanks to lifelong Connecticut drag race fan Brian Frederick, numerous photos of Flynn's exist—including one blockbuster color image in its final form. Taken at various Eastern strips including Connecticut Dragway, Dover Raceway, and New York strips in Wingdale and South Glen Falls. Let's give Flynn's 1964 Dodge axle car its fair share of attention.

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