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The following text is an extended abridged exclusive for MoparMAX readers from Geoff Stunkard’s upcoming 192-page book entitled HEMI: A History of Chrysler’s Iconic Engine in Competition. The book will be released in July 2015, and we will have several short segments here as part of Mopar Musings or as stand-alone features. This issue, Stunkard jumps in at the start of 1965 to lay the groundwork for the Ramcharger’s legendary run at the eight-second barrier. 1965 AHRA and NHRA Winter Events. Updates on the book are being put onto facebook under the name HEMI: Chrysler’s Unique V8 in Competition.
When the AHRA’s season opened in 1965 at Beeline Dragway near Phoenix, Arizona, on January 29, there were seven entries ready for a class Jim Tice’s crew designated Ultra Stock. The Golden Commandos raced the 558 ‘mule car’ here, driven by team member and dyno operator Forrest Pitcock and equipped with Hilborn injectors; all the other entries were still carbureted at this time. Sox & Martin’s new car was so light it was damaged during transit and was hastily repaired at a local dealership, but Sox went to the top of charts with a 10.74 in qualifying before bending the car again; the team cleverly named it ‘The Paper Tiger.’ Butch Leal, Dick Landy, Bud Faubel, Bobby Harrop and Lee Smith also made this event in their new fully-altered cars, but Leal and Landy both had to withdraw before eliminations with manual transmission woes.
Also on hand as part of what would be classed as AHRA modified-wheelbase ‘Super/Stock’ class were the four new NHRA-legal A/FX cars – Lindamood’s Color Me Gone and the Ramchargers Candymatic (with Mike Buckel driving) for Dodge, and the Melrose Missile of Grove/DiBari and the Eckstrand-driven Golden Commandos car, plus Strickler in his 1964 aluminum-nosed Super Stock car that was now running in NHRA Modified Production trim, as his new car was still being worked on. S/S-1 was for AHRA stock-wheelbase, steel-bodied Formula 1 Super Stockers (equivalent to NHRA’s Super Stockers but with any width tire allowed inside the wheelwell) with new ’65 Plymouths of Bill Jenkins/Doc Burgess, Dick Housey/Ted Spehar, and class winner Joe Smith/Fenner Tubbs as highlights. After qualifying on Friday, the sixteen fastest cars from six classes (three for sticks, three for automatics) were run off on Saturday for a Mr. Stock Eliminator class crown; the damage to Leal, Landy, and Phil Bonner’s sole Ford entry, a 427” Falcon, led to three more S/S-1 legal replacements in the program.
When the smoke had cleared, Bud Faubel’s altered U/S Honker Dodge took home $1,000 in prizes and money. Faubel had been an awarded fighter pilot and occasional NASCAR driver before getting on the straight and narrow in the early 1960s, and had actually DRIVEN his Amblewagon-built car back from Detroit to Chambersburg, Pa., on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in cold weather. He would later recall this helped him understand the value of heat-cycling a cylinder block, something Tom Hoover had also been contemplating. Faubel would be a visible racer during the ‘65 season with this car and others. He ran a 10.96 to win the Mr. Stock Eliminator crown during Saturday’s class runoffs title over Eckstrand’s identical 10.96 in the Commando’s S/S car, while Mike Buckel took the Ramchargers NHRA-A/FX legal ‘S/S’ machine to a handicap victory in the overall Top Stock Eliminator on Sunday over Del Blades in a D/S Chevy.
Meanwhile, a week later, the four A/FX legal cars raced Ford’s new fastback Mustangs and Comets with SOHC power at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, which incidentally was run that year in one day due to inclement weather. The results were unimpressive, with only Tommy Grove going to the semifinals. Moreover, he had accepted a deal from Ford prior to the event, and it would be his last ride in the Melrose Missile; Charlie DiBari’s noted car and backing then went to a mechanically-minded racer named Cecil Yother for the remainder of the season and beyond.
Sunday afternoon, two new fastback Mustangs, specially equipped with SOHC engines by Ford subcontractor Holman-Moody, ran off for the Factory Stock crown (which was basically the A/FX class eliminator at this event); Bill Lawton won. It was noted in an analysis by Super Stock & Drag Illustrated magazine at the time that the new Mustangs did not meet the letter of the law in NHRA Factory Experimental, either; they were actually altered by 2.18%. However, the show must go on, and with the Chrysler factory out of A/FX for all practical purposes the rest of 1965, the Mustangs and Comets would own the class that season. The altered cars would race at the first Springnationals at Bristol in a special Match Bash class, which Strickler and his now finished Dodge won.