"Dandy" Dick Landy was one of drag racing's first factory-sponsored drivers and one of the all-time greats of Super Stock and Pro Stock. Landy's '65 A/FX Dodge is arguably the best-known altered wheelbase car of all time, and his prowess both behind the wheel and with mechanical innovations remains legendary. Landy performed performance clinics at Dodge dealerships coast-to-coast, and a cigar clamped tightly in the corner of his mouth became synonymous with Landy - he very rarely appeared without one. Landy won several Pro Stock titles in the early days of the class and countless championships in both the NHRA, AHRA, and IHRA. Dick formed Dick Landy Industries in Los Angeles, where hundreds of race engines have since been produced, and he had a hand in building virtually every form of racing engine known to exist. Dick passed away in 2007.
Ray Nichels began his racing career with Midget Sprint Cars at the age of fifteen back in 1938. By the 1950's, he had formed his own company, Nichels' Engineering, and was turning out the fastest and best-built stock car racers in the nation. Pontiac noticed this and he began building cars exclusively for them, until 1963 when Ron Householder of Chrysler made Nichels' Engineering the official "house" race car builder for Chrysler. From that point forward, Nichels pioneered NASCAR technology hand-in-hand with Dodge and Plymouth, sharing his discoveries with other factory builders such as Cotton Owens and Petty Enterprises. Much of Chrysler's success in NASCAR was due to Ray Nichels, and his familiar Nichels' Engineering logo appeared on winning cars coast-to-coast.
Cotton Owens is one of the most versatile all-around figures in the history of NASCAR. He began his career in the 1950's as a driver and actually was the NASCAR Whelen Modified division champion in 1953 and 1954. He began winning Grand National races in 1957 and by 1959 finished second in overall points to the legendary Lee Petty. Owens' biggest claim to fame came as a car owner and builder, delivering Dodge some of the biggest NASCAR wins in their history. Buddy Baker became the first driver in history to better the 200 mph mark during a race at the 1970 Talladega 500 driving Cotton Owens' famed #6 Daytona. When Owens finally left the sport in 1974, no fewer than twenty-five drivers had wheeled Cotton's cars in almost 300 races and had won thirty-two national events.
Otto Rosenbusch is perhaps the greatest unsung hero in the Mopar hobby. For most of his career with Chrysler Corporation, Otto's given title was an executive in Chrysler's Special Events and Public Relations department. During those years, he gathered important artifacts from the company's early days; everything from Walter P. Chrysler's personal desk to the original 1924 Chrysler prototype touring car, thousands of smaller items, and concept and dream cars of all shapes and eras. The collection formed the nucleus of the Chrysler Historical Archives. His fame, however, was cemented when Chrysler teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1970's and early 1980's, and Otto literally dispersed the collection of cars and relics, hiding them with trusted collectors so Chrysler Corporation couldn't sell them off. His efforts saved the collection and virtually everything you see in the WPC Museum today exists because of Otto Rosenbusch. Otto passed away in 2004.
In 1959, at the Chrysler Engineering Institute, a discussion began in the lunch room between a group of young performance-minded engineers that they needed to form a racing team to develop technology for this growing sport. Their groundwork led to some of the most innovative technological breakthroughs in the history of drag racing. The Ramcharger Club, as it was officially known, evolved and changed through the years, with a constant roster of between twenty and fifty Chrysler engineers serving as mechanics, technicians, and drivers. They pioneered tunnels rams, altered wheelbase cars, Funny Car technology, fuel injection, and countless other mechanical wonders that became standard fare in all classes of the sport. Their familiar red-and-white "candy stripe" Dodges were synonymous with drag racing perfection well into the 1970's. The individual members of The Ramchargers are too many to name here, so we wish to humbly honor all of the Chrysler engineers and employees who gave their time and resources to be counted among these pioneers of drag racing and performance car technology.
Without Larry Rathgeb, the legacy of Chrysler's NASCAR domination in the late sixties and early seventies would be quite a different story. Rathgeb began his career with Chrysler as an engineer and worked his way through the ranks to become the head of Chrysler's "Special Vehicle Group" by the mid-sixties. This made Larry the "get it done" man for securing race teams and building stock cars that won races. Rathgeb's accomplishments with Chrysler in the sixties and seventies are numerous, but his biggest legacy will always be that of being the man who took the Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird from fantasy to reality. Rathgeb was there when the Daytonas broke 200 mph, he was there through the NASCAR Hemi ban and the NASCAR wing car ban; Larry Rathgeb was the guy Ford and GM loved to hate. Without Larry Rathgeb's work, Chrysler wouldn't have owned NASCAR for almost an entire decade.
While Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin have their drag racing roots back into the late 1950's, it wasn't until they formed a friendship, and finally a team, in 1963, that history put them on a path to drag racing immortality. By 1966 they had switched to Plymouth, become a factory-sponsored team, and the legendary status of Sox & Martin was legitimately on its way. From those days of running an A/FX Barracuda, on through to running Super Stockers, and then later absolutely dominating Pro Stock in the early seventies, the red, white, and blue Plymouths of Sox & Martin became an American institution. Carrying on well into the late seventies, the tightly knit crew held together like family. For the better part of two decades, perhaps no cars in the country were more immediately recognizable at the drag strip than those of Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin. Equally impressive, the cars they built for countless customers through the years were often their most fierce competitors. Few people literally changed the face of drag racing in the same way as the Sox & Martin racing team did, and we highly doubt the sport will ever see anything like them again.