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  #1  
Old 06-06-2014
ob1jeeper ob1jeeper is offline
(Steve) (KG7EWF)
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Default RIP "Thunder" Thornton. AKA: Mr. Ramcharger
For those of you old enough to remember, the Ramchargers were a Drag Racing juggernaut during the '60's.

While many thought they were a "factory team", in fact, they consisted of a group of Chrysler engineers interested in drag racing, who banded together forming a club that built, and campaigned the cars, outside of their day jobs as engineers in various departments @ Chrysler.

Their first dragster was based on a 49 Plymouth business coupe with some radical (for the time), "Zoomie" exhaust stacks. These style exhausts are common today on many of the professional class drag cars, but in the day when they first showed up at the track, the club members were ridiculed mightily, at least initially. It was not long before the "High & Mighty", was setting records and winning a high percentage of it's races, and many of the racers were trying to emulate those exhausts.

The club president was an engineer by the name of Jim "Thunder" Thornton. It was under his guidance that many innovations, both safety and speed related, along with a host of drag racing records were set. Jim was one of the first drivers to go over 200 mph in a dragster.

Due to their successes, the marketing departments of both Dodge & Plymouth were willing to back the club with entry fees, and some production parts, (but only Dodge was represented by the Ramchargers. Plymouth countered with "the Golden Commandos"), and the rest was up to these die-hard drag-racing engineers to make it all work.

In the late 60's an early '70's, it became bad business (Insurance industry pressure, against "Muscle Cars"), and the Ramchargers club disbanded, with some members remaining active in various forms of racing, while others went on to other pursuits. Jim left Chrysler, and moved on to Rupp Mfg., where he took the position of director/chief engineer of their snow-mobile racing program.

He followed that by taking a position @ American Motors/Jeep, as the chief engineer/director of Jeep R&D. I met Jim during the 70's, and he became both my friend and a life long mentor to me, both professionally and personally. A finer gentleman, or engineer I've never met.

Jim passed away earlier this week, from a long bout with cancer, and today he was laid to rest.

It has been a tough week for many of us who knew Jim, and I will miss him dearly, but also will take comfort in knowing he is in a better place.

Last edited by ob1jeeper; 06-07-2014 at 09:00 PM.
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Old 06-06-2014
johnpa johnpa is offline
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Default Re: RIP "Thunder" Thornton. AKA: Mr. Ramcharger
Rip
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Old 06-06-2014
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GOTMTNS GOTMTNS is offline
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Default Re: RIP "Thunder" Thornton. AKA: Mr. Ramcharger
Sorry for your loss Steve.
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Old 06-06-2014
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dzJeepChic dzJeepChic is offline
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Default Re: RIP "Thunder" Thornton. AKA: Mr. Ramcharger
I'm sorry to hear this Steve; sorry for your loss. Take comfort not only that he is in a better place, but that he left this world a better place. Who knows how many drag-racers benefited from his ideas and innovations? Thanks for the back story.
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Old 06-06-2014
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Bradywgn71 Bradywgn71 is offline
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Default Re: RIP "Thunder" Thornton. AKA: Mr. Ramcharger
Thank you for sharing. Sorry for your loss.
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Old 06-07-2014
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91AzXJ 91AzXJ is offline
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Default Re: RIP "Thunder" Thornton. AKA: Mr. Ramcharger
I remember the tail end of the Ramchargers and between them and people like Mr. Norm, Mopars had a great deal of success on the drag strip and streets. I campaigned a 68 Hemi Charger during the early 70s around the midwest, and always admired those who came before me.
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Old 06-07-2014
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Default Re: RIP "Thunder" Thornton. AKA: Mr. Ramcharger
Sorry for the loss of your friend.
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Old 06-07-2014
Ladybug Ladybug is offline
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Default Re: RIP "Thunder" Thornton. AKA: Mr. Ramcharger
Good post Steve.....I know how much Jim meant to you, and am sorry for your loss.
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Old 06-07-2014
mynr1 mynr1 is offline
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Default Re: RIP "Thunder" Thornton. AKA: Mr. Ramcharger
Nice story Steve...Sorry for the loss of your friend. Al
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