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1972 Dodge Demon AA/FC

Ramchargers Finest Thing

By , Photography by Tom Fedrigo

"I needed some engine work and decided since the Max Wedge was named after the Ramchargers, why not have them work on it?" Ed says. He took all the parts to Detroit and walked in the front door of the Ramchargers' store in Taylor, Michigan, and met Leroy Palarchio, one the original Ramchargers, and contracted them to build engines for his Super Stock campaign.

Ed also had a passing interest in Pro Stock, but when the rules began to change, he looked to other forms of racing. At a fuel hydro show on the Detroit River, Ed first heard a nitro engine. "That's how a race engine oughta sound," Ed says. It was a pivotal moment when Ed decided to go nitro racing in a Top Fuel car.

Ed talked to Phil Goulet and Leroy about the idea of buying a fuel engine from the Ramchargers, and they both thought he was nuts. "You have no frame of reference to own, operate, drive, or care for one of these cars," was the reply. About two hours later, a bargain had been struck. If Ed would apprentice with them for a year, they would build him an engine. Ed simply said, "Where do I sign up?"

Ed spent a year with the Ramchargers, learning about fuel racing. At the end of that year, there was a motor built and waiting. Ed met Phil, Clare, Alan Gillis, and Dan Knapp and installed the engine in an AA/Fuel dragster. The car was crashed shortly after at Dragway 42, ending the campaign.

When Jim started the restoration, he turned to Ed Schrader to find the original parts. Fortunately, most of the original engine parts from the Ramchargers dragster were still in Ed's garage now in Gilroy, California. He had magnetos, BRC connecting rods, blower, and manifold, and he was able to find additional parts and make them available. "It was Dorne Rigby that put the parts together," Ed says. "Clare and I were pieces guys."

In 1971, Jay Howell of Prock and Howell (Warhorse AA/FC) was Dorne Rigby's neighbor. Through this stroke of luck, Dorne had access to the cars and the people around the Ramchargers and soon moved from Gratiot Auto Supply to the newest Ramchargers store in Warren, Michigan, to work the parts counter. During the off-season, the Ramchargers Demon was stored there, and Dorne spent a lot of time with the car.

Dorne remembered, "Clare drove the car in 1972 and 1973. I went to Indy, the Gators, Dragway 42, and many other match races...if the race was close to the area, I got to work on the car in the pits; Alan Gillis or Phil Goulet would give me jobs like laying down VHT and backing the car up."

Dorne continues, "If the car was crashed, it would be repaired in a day, so they used whatever body they had. The car was a Demon but got a Duster body in its last year. This was common practice. It's hard to say how many times the body was changed or repaired as racing went on—maybe two or three times? It was easier to paint in a Demon grille on the Duster for the car. The last version, as it was raced in 1974, was driven by Dick Rosberg, before it was retired, as you see it here."

Jim Matuszak asked Dorne to be the project manager on the restoration and make it as exact as possible. As Jim and Dorne chased parts, Dorne Rigby handed parts to Al Bergler. He was chasing down the previous owners and searching through pole barns to find parts for the restoration. Driving hundreds of miles, tracking guys like Alan Gillis who was a mechanic on the original car, Dorne uncovered incredible pieces of history. "The rearend is a Ramchargers Dana 60, and the pig is made of magnesium," Dorne says. "The Logghe chassis still has the bump for the two Lee Eliminators oil filters." Regular oil filters would burst, so the bright-pink Lee HP filters were used on the car. "I think the lime-green and pink psychedelic patterns on the Lee oil filter packaging were something left over from the hippie generation." The dual-filter mount has an original Ramchargers name cast into it. They also found the two-speed Lenco drive with Clare's unique foot shifter. These parts were found in Canton, Michigan.

"The rear wheels are E/T 16x13 one-piece spun aluminum that were built for professional racers in that era. Around 1972, the Cragar Super Trick came out as bolt-together part that was cheaper and lighter, and they could also be anodized or polished, so E/T stopped making these," Dorne says.

They were also lucky enough to find parts from Della Woods, who had an original Ramchargers oil pan. The pan had been discarded in a corner, while the Woods team was swapping parts, and hadn't moved in 40 years. Dan "Hawkeye" Van Auken, who originally built all the Ramchargers oil pans and valve covers, was kind enough to build another set of valve covers.

Al Bergler Race Car Bodies in Shelby Township, Michigan, received the parts, and Al began to piece the car together using the original sheetmetal. His experience with the original car was the foundation for the work. "Over the years, other teams had welded a bunch of other parts onto the car and added a six-point cage in an attempt to update the car. I had to take all that off," Al says. "It has the original chrome-moly cage and Dana rearend, and the chassis is from Logghe, same as the Motown Shaker Funny Car."

The Hemi has a new World Products block that uses a new "3⁄8" stroke crank (for 484 inches), but most of the rest of the parts are surprisingly original. Ed kept rare pieces like the magneto, the Danekas supercharger, the manifold, and even the camshaft. The original rods were anodized red by Phil Goulet and were found and used in the new engine. All these parts were meticulously restored and assembled into a running nitro Hemi.

The car was restored and repainted using the original paint codes and colors from the 1972 livery. Through a remarkable chain of events and with the drive and vision of Jim and Julie Matuszak, this AA/FC was able to live again. Rules prevent it from racing, but it is going to be toured as a cackle car in the summer. For more information, go to RamchargersFunnyCar.com.

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