Joe Gibbs wasn't kidding when he said "it always comes down to people." In 1958, the people in charge of Chrysler pretty much saw themselves in the family-car business except for a few high-end "touring cars" like the Chrysler 300D and the Dodge D-500. Enter a group of Chrysler Engineering Institute students, whose idea of an appealing car echoed those of the Dodge Brothers and Walter P. Chrysler. For them, affordable performance developed through great engineering, and team work seemed what a swelling post-war market was calling for. Quietly, at some risk to their jobs, they began to covertly fight back with technologies found on the Engineering room's cutting room floor. Eventually, proclaiming themselves the Ramchargers, they emerged from the shadows to build Chrysler's racing program, and rediscover cooperative ways of doing things buried with the deaths of Walter P. Chrysler and John and Horace Dodge.
Who the Ramchargers were is most easily understood if two things are kept in mind. First, they were always a free-standing group; financially and operationally from Chrysler. Members' activities were always after hours and off the clock from Chrysler. However, several members' day jobs at Chrysler did eventually involve developing its race program. Second, there were four phases through which the group evolved during its life: Phase 1) spanned 1958 and 1959, when a confederation of individuals working on their cars banded together to form an NHRA-sanctioned Hot Rod Club, the Ramchargers. Phase 2) spanned 1959 through 1961, with the group evolving from a confederation of individuals with separate interests to a group with a common interest. This federation built the first team car in the form of a '49 Plymouth C/Altered; "High and Mighty," followed in 1961 by the team's first Super Stock Dodge. Phase 3) spanned 1962 through 1967, where the team incorporated itself, raced Super Stocks, developed the Funny Car, and introduced the 426 Hemi to Top Fuel. After 1967, in Phase 4) a number of members retired to their day jobs at Chrysler, while four members opened Ramchargers Racing Engines, building engines. They opened five Detroit-area speed shops, while competing in Top Fuel and Funny Car through the mid-1970s.
The uphill battle Ramchargers members faced in changing Chrysler's attitude toward performance cars is dramatically told in their new book, We Were the Ramchargers. Perhaps a victim of their own success, Ramchargers members were successful enough in legitimizing performance at Chrysler, that they have been largely forgotten. Still, it should be understood Ramchargers members did not work in a vacuum, but were supported by able co-workers who also made contributions to their various projects. But, the list of their creations probably stands alone in automotive history and reads like the Chrysler muscle car encyclopedia including: The '60 Valiant Hyper Pak package, '61 Dodge Optional Super Stock, '62 Max Wedge Super Stocks, '63 Max Wedge Super Stocks, '64 Max Wedge and Hemi Super Stocks and Factory Experimentals, '65 A990 Super Stocks and Altered Wheelbase cars, '66 D Darts, '67 Street Hemi Drag package, '68 Hemi Dart and Barracudas, '69 440 Six Packs, '70 AAR Barracudas and Challengers, '70-'74 Barracuda, Duster, Dart and Challenger Pro Stocks and Motown/Mopar Missile program.
So, who were these guys? Actually, over a 20-year period spanning 1958 to 1978, 40 different individuals contributed as Ramchargers. However, in 1963, the Ramchargers became a Corporation with a "hard core" of about 11 members who would account for many of the group's greatest accomplishments. Several of them became founders of Chrysler's race group while continuing their after-hours activities at the Ramchargers off-campus garage. In an effort to help readers of Mopar Muscle connect the dots, we decided to expose individual names, faces, and accomplishments for several of this later group. True to the Ramchargers' one for all and all for one group structure, members are presented in alphabetical order. Nicknames that Ramchargers so relished bestowing upon one another are included.