A Little Controversy?

Ram Fury

Apr 18, 2018
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Colorado Springs, CO
Lads --
I have always maintained the horsepower figures on the ram-inducted '60-'61 Plymouths and Darts were just a bit on the conservative side. I base this on the HP listings of the earlier Dodges and DeSotos as the '58 Dodge Super D-500 was the 361 CID B-series engine and was rated at 320 HP (2X4V carbs). In 1959, the 383 came out and with 2X4V carbs and had 345 for Dodge and 350 for DeSoto, but they came out of the same plant. In the 1960 model year, the big engine for Plymouth was initially to be the 361 SonoRamic Commando (2X4V=310 HP), but Dodge was dropping 383s in the Dart which made the Plymouth dealers (not the division brass) upset, so Plymouth also got the ram 383 with 330 horses (not 345/350). In the meanwhile, Dodge was saying their ram 361 had 320 ponies and Plymouth was advertising theirs at 310. Same components, same plant, yet with different numbers. Now I think the real kicker is the '60 ram 413, as in the 300F with 375 ponies, so perhaps the smaller 361 and 383 ram engines, basically the same internally as the ram 413, might not generate proportionate horsepower. Thus, if the 361 is 87% the size of the 413, it follows to me that it should be getting 325-330 horses and if the 383 is 93% of the bigger engine, it should get more like 350-360. I have discussed this with some interesting people such as former Chrysler executives, engineers, historical society people, and even ex-Ramchargers and they tend to agree. I was able to test my theory this past May at a car show that allowed for 1/8 mile fun drags, so I was lucky to pit my current Big-Tailed Beast ('60 Fury 383 SonoRamic Commando/2.93 rear end) against a 69 Road Runner (335 HP/4-speed, 3.23s). This was my first time on a strip since 1961 and my first with the "christmas tree" lights, not a flagman, so he caught me a bit off the line, but I'll be darned if I didn't see his front bumper behind by the time we backed off. Interesting.
Joe Godec
I personally believe the marketing guys in the Corporation would tweak the numbers to fit their sales schemes such as low price class vs. higher price classes. The differences in peak ratings would not be all that great in the models you are comparing, it seems to me.

Regarding the rams, their purpose wasn't as much to increase top end hp necessarily, but to improve mid range torque, for example. In my 300F, mid range torque was important for most normal driving since these were heavy cars and the rams gave them a noticeable upgrade in freeway passing maneuvers, rather than top end. But the short ram cars that were used in the Daytona speed trials were equipped with the optional short ram packages to enhance top end speed, but few people actually bought those options. Most cars were sold with the long rams for improvement where people would notice it.

It is hard to make comparisons between various actual vehicles, though, due to the weight differences, axle ratios, tires, etc.
Safe --
Yup, the improvement in mid-range torque was an advertising selling point with the old folks, but guys back then who bought ram Plymouths and Darts weren't the types who wanted to use the "banker's hot rod" on a drag strip. Al Eckstrand drove his '60 Fury to win the S/SA class at the NHRA 1960 Nationals and I did pretty well in S/SA and A/SA (1961) here in Colorado as well. Our opponents were Super Duty Ponchos (389/348), Chevys (348/335) and Fords (351/360), and Eckstrand narrowly lost the top stock eliminator win to Jim Wangers' Royal Bobcat (4-speed).
I'm not comparing my old '60 Fury with Hedman Hedders and 4.10 gears with anything. I'm just saying that it seems interesting that the ram 383 engine of Dart and Plymouth (and the engine alone) was listed as having only 88% of the power of the virtually identical ram 413 in 1960-1961, while in 1959 the 383 of the 1959 DeSotos and Dodges were rated at that 93% level of the 300E's 380. Interesting things happened then as when the Ramchargers were told that drag racing was not in Plymouth's image, yet somehow or other a '61 Dart Pioneer 2dr H/T became available for them even though they approached Plymouth first in view of Eckstrand's previous successes. There is also the case of the 427 coming out initially with 450 HP in the Vette (as opposed to the 425 of the 1965's 425 horse 396), but within weeks the engine stickers were showing 425.
Incidently, serious MoPar drag racing guys usually modified the internal passages on the 30" long ram tubes by cutting the inside walls out. This was permitted by the NHRA and the AHRA as were headers and "cheater slicks."
In order to do power comparisons with motors back then, one place to look for commonality is the factory parts book! Camshafts, for one thing. Carb part numbers for another. Then varying styles of exhaust manifolds AND the related under-car exhaust system (pipe diameter, muffler inlet/outlet pipe diameters). Many already had the dual-point ignition, but checking the distributor part number can be important, too.

There WAS a power hierarchy in Chrysler as with GM/Chevrolet. The Chrysler letter cars had to have the most horsepower, as a Camaro Z/28 could not out-power a Corvette, even with the same engine specs (the Corvette had a better under-car dual exhaust system than the Camaros did).

Back when the ram-inducted street cars came out, getting that boost of mid-range torque was VERY important in "two lane blacktop America" to get around slower vehicles. I imagine that IF you were going slow enough to get an automatic kickdown all the way into Low gear, that front end rose and the car leaped out to get that pass done.

The drag race cars, on the other hand, needed 4-series rear axle ratios and higher rpms to get to the finish line first. Aided by some Atlas Bucron "sticky" tires!

NHRA (and others) would "factor" the factory horsepower ratings in order to allegedly make the competition "more even", regardless of the factory ratings. In some cases, this made some cars more competitive and others less competitive, but it was done and still is in the stock-based classes. This could also be done to allegedly get more wins from Chevys than Fords or Mopars, it was claimed. But some particular Chevy motors were factored up (like the one year 327 with a Carter AVS, rated at 275 horsepower, that was really closer to the 327/300 in actual power output). Just part of "the game" back then.

Also realize that carburetors were not typically "common" from one model year to another, back then. If there was one with a larger (although "cfm" was not mentioned back then) size for a new engine package, it happened. Which is why chasing numbers for the carbs in the parts book is important, at least to see if they were the same. A normal 4bbl did good to break 500cfm in the later '50s and probably earlier '60s.

To do a good comparison, you'll probably need a spread sheet about 12" wide to include the "different" engines, where they were installed, and all of the other stuff I mentioned above. THEN, you can research the road tests of the particular times, too. Which would be another set of data to sift through!

Back when "Hot Rod" did a dyno test of a '67 Chrysler 383/325 engine, I used that data and the data I derived from an article from "Car Life" on how much power actually got to the ground (using 1/4 Mile E.T. and Trap Speed) to determine that when I'd corrected that raw data (from the magazine road tests) into a 4000lb car, 3.23 rear axle, H78x14 tires (as a "common point of comparison) that the Chrysler powertrain (TorqueFlite and rearward to the ground) allowed about 86% of flywheel horsepower to get to the ground. In that scenario, it might take another 20 flywheel horsepower for a DeSoto to run along side a Plymouth Savoy, engine size and other things being equal.

As an aside, a '62 Chevy Biscayne or BelAir with an optional 327/300 engine would have had a 3.08 rear axle ratio from the factory (let's say with a normal PowerGlide automatic, which was their main automatic back then, although there was also TurboGlide (think Buick DynaFlow in operation). An Impala with the same engine/trans would have had a 3.36 rear axle ratio. Why? The Impala was "the best Chevrolet", and it was a little heavier with all of its additional trim and such, but the Impala couldn't be embarrassed by a lower-line model in performance at the "Stop Light Grand Prix". UNLESS, the Biscayne owner had a deeper optional rear axle ratio and Posi-Traction. But as for standard and normal optional equipment, the Impala had to be "the best". An Impala was more prone to have factory a/c and could have other power options (steering, brakes, seat, windows, etc.) than the Biscayne "base model". I don't recall Chrysler or Ford taking things to that particular level, though.

Granny late returning to the nursing home before curfew could blow away just about anyone from a stoplight with her 283 Powerglide Biscayne.
A 440 TorqueFlite couldn't come off the line faster.
Granny late returning to the nursing home before curfew could blow away just about anyone from a stoplight with her 283 Powerglide Biscayne.
A 440 TorqueFlite couldn't come off the line faster.
Commando --
Au contraire. That '60 Fury with the 383 SonoRamic Commando I had back in 1960-1964 even surprised a couple of '62 409/409 Impala SSs at a Stop Light Grand Prix or two (or three or four). They'd out-wind that Big-Tailed Beast at the end of a quarter, but NEVER off the line! Also, I took delivery of a '65 Sport Fury (426-S/4-speed) at 1:00 PM on November 21, 1964, and at about 8 that evening I caught the world's most overrated muscle car ('65 GTO) at a light; three blocks later, he was in my rear view mirror and I was indicating 85. The replacement for my '65 was a '67 R/T (375 horse 440/4-speed) and even with that piece of spaghetti shifter, was an even better street racer.
That's one good thing about being an old fudd: I can say I actually experienced the "Golden Age" of the American muscle car. Incidently, my wife drove both the Sport Fury and the R/T, neither with PS, and in high heels, no less (and not bad with the clutch and shifter -- even that Inland Steel junk).