Wayne Erickson was joined by Ramcharger teammate Dan Mancini, along with his National Record holding C/Gas A311-powered Dodge. A founding father of the Ramchargers, Wayne worked side-by-side with Tom Hoover in the Fuel Systems Lab, developing Chrysler's electronic fuel injection system, but his real passion was drag racing. Following his passion is how he eventually mated the sledgehammer power of Chrysler's abandoned A 311 Indianapolis engine to a '53 Dodge for domination of NHRA's C/Gas class. Tragically, disaster struck at the 1960 U.S. Nationals, when an exploding flywheel severed a fuel line, resulting in a fire that would take Wayne's life. Tom Hoover, Wayne's best friend states, "Had he lived, he may well have become Chrysler's first engineering race coordinator."
Tom "Chrome" Hoover
To understand Tom Hoover, all you really need to know is that he chose to start a career in the auto industry. He knew Chrysler was where he wanted to be after he inadvertently overheard a Chrysler A-311 Indianapolis engine run. With a Master's degree in physics from Penn State, a Master's in Automotive Engineering from the Chrysler Institute, coupled to a passion for high-performance engine design, you have the makings for Chrysler's first engineering race coordinator. Recommended to then-Chrysler President Lynn Townsend after the successful development of the Valiant Hyper Pak, and the Ramchargers' success at the 1961 U.S. Nationals, Hoover hit the ground running. Bringing other Ramchargers in to assist, he coordinated creation of the Max Wedge, 426 Hemi, 440 Six Pack/440 6-Barrel, AAR small-block Trans Am cars, Hemi and small-block Pro Stock cars, along with numerous other projects. He also oversaw their field development through the efforts of sponsored racers nationwide. Through it all as a charter member of the Ramchargers, he continued to spend several nights a week building team motors and traveling to races on weekends. Appreciation for these efforts have bestowed upon him the moniker "Father of the 426 Hemi" and Car Craft magazine's coveted "Ollie" Award.
As a high school dropout, Dan brought a different type of resumé to the Ramchargers' roundtable. Hailing from Detroit's tough Downriver area, he developed a wealth of hard-won fabrication skills from working in gas stations and the garage behind his house. By the age of 22, he had built three dragsters, including the #2 Drag News-ranked Top Gas Dragster in the country. It would be the first of three, twin-engine dragsters he and driver Don Westerdale would use to rule the Midwest, regularly defeating racers on the caliber of Connie Kalitta. But, late in 1962, Dan was hired to work in the now-famed Woodward Garage, where he befriended several Ramchargers while extolling the virtues of racing a dragster. His responsibilities and accomplishments included the fabrication of too many vehicles to list here, but suffice to say they involved nearly every drag, exhibition, NASCAR, and muscle car prototype produced by Chrysler during the 1960s. This would even include cars like the Hurst Hemi Under Glass and the Little Red Wagon. But, his greatest contribution undoubtedly came from rescuing a scrapped prototype 426 Hemi and building a Top Fuel chassis to put around it. Having convinced Ramchargers members on the merits of folding the dragster into the team, they proceeded to introduce the 426 Hemi to Top Fuel drag racing. Persevering through monumental frustrations, Dan and company gradually unlocked the secrets of the 426 Top Fuel Hemi with record-setting results. Evidence of this in 1965 (its first full year of competition) was: setting track records at 93-percent of the tracks raced at, the NHRA Top Fuel National Record, and recording the first of three Low E.T.'s of the Meet at the U.S. Nationals.
Dan "The Nose" Mancini
Born to a family of racers, Dan was helping clean clay off of the family Sprint Car by the age of six. By his mid-20s, his immersion in the racing world was racing a string of highly-successful circle track cars, while becoming a carburetion and dynamometer technician at Chrysler. He soon befriended a number of Ramchargers (along with practically everyone else), bringing great mechanical aptitude and seasoned racing maturity to the group. He seamlessly assisted in cross-pollinating ram tuning research at Chrysler, and the application of it to the Ramchargers' team efforts, leading to the development of the first tunnel ram manifold. With expertise garnered in the carburetion lab, Dan also functioned as the Ramchargers' Carter carburetion expert, while assisting Tom Hoover in building team engines. Simultaneously, with formation of Chrysler's Race Group in 1962, Tom Hoover would appoint him "honcho" of the famed Woodward Garage, responsible for construction of Chrysler race prototypes and testing.