WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Ground zero for the gasser stance.
When Paul Soliz described his orange Plymouth gasser—our cover car—as “so ugly it’s bitchin’,” he could have been talking about this ungainly (but very historic) Plymouth drag car. The original High & Mighty ’49 Plymouth business coupe was not only the inspiration for the name on Paul’s gasser, it’s considered ground zero for the whole nose-up stance that today is a gasser hallmark.
The Plymouth, originally known as the Ram Rod, was the brainchild of a group of young Chrysler engineers for whom drag racing was a passion and a common bond. In the late 1950s, they formed a club called the Ram Chargers (later Ramchargers) and, at first, worked on modifications for their personal cars. They soon realized, though, that to make a real mark in drag racing, they’d need to collaborate on a purpose-built race car. The fact that the NHRA was bringing its National meet to Detroit in 1959 provided further motivation.
Their next-to-no budget limited their choice in vehicles to this Plymouth. Its engine was a wounded 354-inch Dodge truck Hemi that was repaired and then fitted with all kinds of, for the time, experiments in making power, including an intake manifold with long runner tubes to create a ram effect for the incoming charge and individually tuned header pipes with distinctive trumpet-shaped outlets.
Making power is one thing; getting it to propel a 3,000pound Plymouth quickly was another challenge altogether. As engineers, though, they were able to literally do the math to figure out how to get as much of the car’s weight over the rear tires as possible when the car launched. Their solution was to raise the car’s center of gravity. As Ram Charger founding member Bill Shope told Steve Magnante in Steve’s story about the car in the Aug. 2000 HOT ROD,
“When we were done, we had the engine raised up so that it was nearly 3 feet from the strip surface, and the car sat almost 6 feet tall, even with the chopped roof !”
The car may have looked strange, but it worked. As Bob Pendergast wrote in his coverage of the “Motor City Spectacular” in the Nov. 1959 HRM, “No lack in ingenuity was apparent with ‘Ram Rod’ entered by Ram-chargers club of Detroit proving point with new ‘C’ Altered record.” The car’s owner, Herman Mozer, drove the Ram Rod and is credited with the 109.75-mph record.
Mozer didn’t win the class that weekend, nor did the 392-powered, newly painted, sponsored, and christened The High and Mighty win C/altered a year later when it ran at the Detroit Nationals again. But it upped its own class record, this time to 111.52 mph. And with the awkward but effective Plymouth on their résumés, many members of the Ram Chargers would go on to make racing history for Ma Mopar.