Dick "Broom" Maxwell
Growing up in Peoria, Illinois, the son of a Caterpillar engine designer and Chrysler enthusiast, Dick Maxwell wanted "nothing more than to work at Chrysler and design engines." Arriving at the Chrysler Institute with such a pedigree, Dick immersed himself in construction of the Ramchargers High and Mighty C/Altered car. He soon established himself as a dedicated Ramcharger with an appetite for racing, and he joined the Race Group at Chrysler in 1964. His responsibilities were as diverse as they were important to the success of the Chrysler program, including: interacting with sanctioning bodies and negotiating rules, selecting and writing contracts with racers for factory support across Plymouth and Dodge's 44 sales zones, dissemination and implementation of technical information to racers, and special projects like the Summers Brothers Goldenrod streamliner. By 1972, in response to racers' needs for a reliable parts supply, Dick developed the Direct Connection Parts program, which would eventually become Mopar Performance. He ascended to overall director of the Race Group in 1975, where he thrived until his retirement in 1998, but not before being inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame. Through much of it, Dick spent weeknights and weekends with the Ramchargers pitching in wherever needed, while always maintaining a Mopar street racer to combat the latest North Woodward prowler out of the GM Tech Center.
Jim "BB Eyes" Thornton
As valedictorian of his high school and college mechanical engineering classes, Jim Thornton had a running start on having the right stuff when it came to the thinking end of drag racing. As a high school kid with the audacity to dirt track his daily driver, becoming a member, driver, and eventually president of the Ramchargers was just a matter of appreciating his blessings. Well regarded by Ramcharger teammate and Chrysler Drag Racing Coordinator Tom Hoover for his keen mind and ability to work with others, Jim became a pillar in the Chrysler race program as assistant drag racing coordinator. As a suspension expert, Jim was catalytic in the development of the altered-wheelbase concept. Experimentation began with the '63 Ramchargers team cars, moving the wheels about an inch, which they simply considered "production variation" and continued with the now famous '64, "2-percent" A/FX cars. This culminated with the '65 AWB "Funny Cars." Jim's fingerprints are also all over other '63-'68 Super Stock cars, like the '65 A990, sometimes called a Thornton "clean sheet" creation. A quintessential organizer, Jim's work lists provided daily direction for the team. "Dyno" Don Nicholson said of him as a driver, "He was very sharp, as tough as, or tougher to beat than anybody, but he was often overshadowed by the car because it was so well-known." Still, he was named the Professional Drag Racing Association "Driver of the Year" in 1965, and was at the wheel of Ramchargers cars when they broke Drag Racing's 9-second, 8-second, and 7-second barriers.
This is but a small historical reflection of some of the early members of The Ramchargers, and if you want the complete history, you need to check out
We Were the Ramchargers. There are 304 pages, of history accompanied with pictures filling the hardbound edition. You can get yours by either calling toll free 877/606-7323, or going to http://store.sae.org.