1967 Dodge Dart Funny Car
Competition # 120

After taking the previous year's disappointment as a learning experience, the RAMCHARGERS set out to make things right again.  The Dodge had just released its all new redesigned Dart for 1967 and it was a beauty.  This new version of the A-Body platform had been lengthened and widened, and now was even available from the factory with a 383 Big Block V8! The new platform and striking good looks would be the canvas for what would become one of the most successful cars ever to come from the RAMCHARGERS stable. 

First the decision on how to build it.  Jim Thornton had convinced the rest of the team that acid dipping steel cold be as light as fiberglass, if not lighter.  And actually be more rigid.  Additionally, copying the flip-up bodied Comets was an absolute NO.  The RAMCHARGERS were determined to beat the proven layout of success with their own innovations.  The recipe they have been known for, for almost a decade now.   Beyond all that, having a vehicle with a much more "stock" appearance was very important to the team. 

Throughout 1965 and 1966, the RAMCHARGERS played a giant role in developing the (now) famous Little Red Wagon, wheel-stander truck.  And it was studying this truck that opened their eyes to how they would build the new Funny Car's chassis.   

Fenders, doors and quarter panels were sourced directly from the stamping plant at Chrysler.  They were welded together to make a complete bodyside.  Then acid dipped for weight savings.   Afterward the sides were attached to a magnesium floor.  The hood, trunk lid and tail panel had to be split and modified, as the entire car was 6 full inches narrower than a standard Dart for public use.  Instead of splitting the roof to narrow it, to match the body, a new Fiberglass Roof was constructed, complete with front and rear pillars.  The roof was made to be removable, so that the car could also compete in Roadster classes in addition to the new Funny Car class.  

For the start of the 1967, the team continued with their Nitro/Hydrazine burning, 472 cubic inch, aluminum headed Hemi.  The Hilborn fuel injection system was also retained.  Jay Howell handled the assembly and welding on the chassis, which was designed by the RAMCHARGERS, themselves.  The car had a revolutionary removable subframe to allow for major engine/transmission work.  The engine was set back behind where the Firewall would be on a standard passenger car.  Jim Thornton and Mike Buckel piloted this vessel from the center of the Car, with his legs straddling the transmission and the top of his head peaking out of the top of the back window.   In 1967, this seemed incredibly odd.  But looking back at it now, the boys once again showed how they were way ahead of their time. 

Right out of the gate, the new Dart was a monster.  On its debut, at Detroit Dragway, the Dart was paired against Eddie Schartman in his flip-body Mercury Comet, in a best of 5 match race.   Eddie would end up winning the 5th and deciding race.  That would be the only time all year that the new Dart would be outran.   A minor shock/rear-suspension update and the car was a fantastic performer.  Straight as an arrow every pass.  And more than a tenth quicker and a couple mph faster than the '66 car with the exact same engine combination. 

But if you know anything about the RAMCHARGERS, it's that "anything less than the best - is unacceptable".  And even still, being "the best" wasn't ever enough either.   That being said, after months of pressure from Dan Knapp, the boys decided to adapt a supercharged system from the team's Dragster.    A set of 8.5:1 pistons and a new stroker crank combined to create a 483 cubic inch engine, and the big blower was dropped on top of it all.  The new setup, with its 35% overdriven 6-71 blower and 50 degrees of timing, added over 1500 horsepower to what was already more than likely the fastest Funny Car on the circuit.  Many other engine builders tried building engines with specs this radical.  But if it wasn't a Chrysler Hemi, it just couldn't take it.   Mike Buckel said it felt like that added a second engine to the car.   

The first time out with the new blown Hemi was at the Funny Car Nationals, at Cecil County Dragway.  The Dart performed magnificently. Normally on M&H tires, as they hooked better out of the hole, the team was running the car on Goodyears. They did this to try to save the last transmission they had on this trip. Where the Goodyears lacked in starting line traction, they made up for it on the big end.  This would take a lot of the strain out of the trans on launch, by decreasing the amount of driveline "shock".     

In the second race of the event, Buckel lined up against the supercharged Pontiac of Arnie Beswick.  Arnie was always a fierce competitor, and a bit of a pioneer himself, with supercharged cars in A/FX and Funny Cars.   Arnie knew that the new Dart in the next lane was no slouch.  So, he had his Pontiac turned all the way up.  (Most teams usually did).   And when the tree fell, The Farmer was on it.  He launched like a scalded dog as Buckel had to pedal the Dart out of the box.  Within a split second, Beswick was out on the Dodge by 3 cars.   But when the Dart found traction, Buckel started to reel him in.   By the end of the track, Mike flew past Arnie like he was tied to a stump.   Arnie ran his first ever 170 mph run on that pass.   And it was completely obliterated by the Dart, blasting to an unimaginable 183 miles per hour!  Obviously, Buckel and the team took the Dart to victory that weekend. 

That was how the new Dart ran in 1967.  The most dominate car in all of drag racing.  It held both ends of the record books and with top speeds well over 190mph.   The team knew that the once only dreamed-of 200mph barrier was just a few passes away from becoming a reality for them.   So, at the end of the '67 season, the team converged and had a meeting about what the future held for them.  If they marched forward, it meant taking everything to the next level.    Becoming a full-on professional race-team.  And with that, would also mean a lot more time away from home.   That was already a problem for all of them.  Their wives felt like "single-moms".    And their children were growing up almost without their dads.  The boys were really missing out on a regular home-life with their families.   So, collectively, they decided to go out on top.   And the majority of the original team retired from racing, and continued on with their day jobs at Chrysler.  Four of the team members decided to carry the banner into the future, and bought-out the rest of the team and the rights to the name, and evolved the RAMCHARGERS into the next stage of their existence.   

The Dart was sold.  And would soon meet its ultimate demise, just as so many of the previous team cars had after leaving the team.   While traveling to a race, the truck towing this car had a crash, sending the trailer and the current NHRA record holding Funny Car into an overpass wall, destroying it. 

The 1968 season would mark the first one since 1958 where the RAMCHARGERS did not have a car (other than their Top Fuel Dragster) to enter into competition.  And with the RAMCHARGERS not having an entry in the Funny Car class, you might think that their name would be removed from the top of the record sheet.  But that was not the case.  Throughout the entire 1968 season, the RAMCHARGERS' 67 Dart would remain the recordholder, with not a single entrant in the Funny Car class being able to top this Dart's performance from the previous season!


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