Although street rodding has developed into a distinct segment of the automotive hobby there's no denying its lineage and the impact that those early days of drag racing had upon it. Over the years street rodding and drag racing have grown further apart, each becoming much more sophisticated. And while it's hard not to be impressed by the performance of contemporary quarter-mile campaigners, for some of us the pinnacle of the sport was that remarkable period when gassers reigned supreme.
For some time we've wanted to build a STREET RODDER version of a gasser but never came across the right car until recently when we found a complete, running, 1950 Plymouth three-window coupe. Suddenly we had visions of a version of the legendary Ram Rod (later called High & Mighty) first campaigned by the Ram Chargers (their name eventually became one word). Granted that car actually ran in the Altered class due to the chopped top, it was totally lacking in refinement and aesthetics--in fact it was considered to be downright ugly then, an opinion that most of my cohorts share today. Although our Plymouth, dubbed Ram Rodder, will be similar in some ways to the Ram Chargers' racer as it will have Hemi power, tin interior and not much in the way of luxury accoutrements, the top won't be chopped, nor will there be eight megaphones hanging out of the fenders or a roof-high air scoop. Our aim is to build something fun and affordable that can be driven on the street and bracket raced when we feel the need for speed.
To fit the gasser theme we decided on a straight axle frontend from Speedway Motors. Although the installation could have been done by removing the original independent front suspension and hanging the semi-elliptic springs below the frame the bulky front crossmember and shape of the `rails took up needed space in the engine compartment. To make the swap cleaner, we turned to Brent VanDervort at Fatman Fabrications for help.
This is a recreation of the...
This is a recreation of the original Ram Rod that won C/Altered coupe and sedan class at the '59 NHRA Nationals. The Ram Chargers' Plymouth was a '49 and what it lacked in looks it made up with ingenuity. Powered by a 354 Chrysler, the ram manifold had a scoop on the carbs that was higher than the chopped top.
While known for independent front suspension kits when we explained what we needed, Brent, who is almost always up for something out of the ordinary, agreed to send a pair of Plymouth frame stubs from an IFS kit without the crossmember and control arm mounts. In the rear we're going with a Currie 9-inch with Art Morrison ladder bars, Panhard bar and coilovers.
As we would be lopping off the front of the frame, preventing the severed 'rails from going their own way and keeping everything square during construction was a concern, so we came up with a frame table of sorts--we welded the Plymouth to our hoist. We spanned the ramps of the rack with two lengths of I-beam, welded the frame to the I-beams and the I-beams to the rack. In the front and rear we used lengths of angle iron to attach the frame horns to the rack's cross beams. When we're done with the chassis, a little work with a grinder and some touch-up paint and the rack will be good as new.
Although we had planned to steam clean the underside of the Plymouth before modifications began, deadlines and the weather dictated that we de-scuz just those areas of the chassis where changes were to be made and a thorough cleaning would have to wait until later on.
So far we've removed the stock running gear, cut the front framerails and put the front stubs in place--the good news is all that went smoothly. In the rear we installed the crossmember to anchor the ladder bars. The bad news is that didn't go smoothly and it had to be repositioned due to an error on our part--check out the photos to see our mistake and the solution. Even after having to fix our screw-ups we're very happy with the progress made over one weekend. Next we'll add steering, front and rear suspension and get Ram Rodder up on all four wheels.
The basis for Ram Rodder is...
The basis for Ram Rodder is a '50 Plymouth. Fairly solid, there's some minor rust in the floor we'll have to deal with once the chassis work is done. Just under 17,000 business coupes were produced; the dog is an optional extra.
Paul Willis jumped in to help...
Paul Willis jumped in to help tear the Plymouth down. The front sheetmetal was removed as a unit. Like all Mopars the coupe has a stout frame, yet the shipping weight was under 2900 lbs.
With the wheels and tires...
With the wheels and tires removed the chassis rests on a pair of I-beams that span the ramps of our four-post lift. When we checked the frame we found it had never been damaged and all dimensions were within 1/16-inch.