View Full Version : Ralph Ridgeway/Debs Automotive


rridgeway
03-24-2010, 09:45 AM
There seems to be a lot of interest in what I accomplished during the 15 years that I raced in the 60's and early 70's so I am including the information that was covered during my induction into the New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame this past summer.



Ralph Ridgeway, racing biography


I purchased my 1st. 55 Chevy in 1959. This was primarily a street driven car but at the urging of Dave Riley, my roommate at Northeastern University, I began to drag race the car in C/Gas & D/Gas from 1960 to 1962.

I bought a 1958 Corvette in 1963. This was also a street/strip car that I ran undefeated in C/MSP in 1963.

In 1964, I purchased another partially built 55 Chevy and made it into a race-only car that I ran in NHRA C/MP and D/MP from 1964 to 1968.

I won C/MP class at the 1965 Nationals in Indianapolis.

In 1966, with this car, I won 27 out of 28 races for class and won Street Eliminator 15 times. Also I set an NHRA record at Sanford, ME.

For 1967, I ran undefeated in class, won Street Eliminator 5 times, and won 12 Bucks or Cups Eliminators. I also won my class at the Spring Nationals @ Bristol, TN, The Nationals @ Indianapolis, and the AHRA Nationals in Long Island. I set 17 AHRA records including 10 at New England Dragway on July 1, 1967. I had low ET and top Speed for class at both Bristol and Indianapolis.

In 1968 I only ran locally (New England Dragway, Lebanon Valley and CT. Dragway) and some of the northeast record meets with my biggest win of the year at the fall Suffolk, VA meet.

I won my class at 33 different tracks in the US and Canada and broke the ET and Speed records for my class at: New England Dragway, Lebanon Valley, Connecticut Dragway, New York National, Napierville Canada, Bristol Dragway and Indianapolis Raceway Park.

My best times with this car were 11.66 ET at 118.8 MPH.

I sold the car to Les Davidson of Montreal, Canada at the end of 1968.

In 1969 and 1970, I campaigned a 1969 Camaro from Norwood Chevrolet of Warwick, R.I. in Super Stock, E/Gas and D/MP. I set an AHRA record at New England Dragway on 8/2/70 (11.46 ET) in E/HR class.

My last car was a 1970 1/2 Camaro sponsored by Beacon Chevrolet of Lynn, MA. The best this 3375# car ran with a 306 cu. in. engine was 10.9 at 125 MPH.
I set an IHRA F1 FMS class record for 1/8th mile with an ET of 7.60 at St. Eugene Dragway, Quebec, Canada on 8/7/71.

All of my cars were sponsored by Debís Automotive of Springfield, MA and Millerís Machine Shop of Haverhill, MA. I also received product sponsorship from Crane Cams and Schiefer Clutch


Ridgeway Biography follow-up



RIDGERUNNER RAM MANIFOLD


In 1965, I started to experiment with some of the cross-ram intake manifolds that started appearing on the market. These manifolds increased mid-range power but did not produce the top end (above 7500 RPM) power that the conventional in-line dual quad manifolds produced. This analysis was based on chassis dynamometer testing at Debís Automotive and actual drag strip testing of my 55 Chevy.

We (Carl Debien and I) determined that the cross-ram runners were to long for effective high RPM horsepower. We started looking at what else was available to come up with a shorter ram length. We settled on a Chevrolet fuel injection manifold to which we modified the runner lengths and the inside of the plenum chamber to suit the use of carburetors above the plenum. The original FI unit only had air introduced into the plenum, not an air/fuel mixture. We then machined a suitable top plate to mount the AFB carburetors I was using at the time. The car was instantly .1- .2 seconds & 2 MPH quicker.

Shortly afterwards I switched to Holley carbs. In order to make jet changes to the in-line Holleys, we had to take one of the carbs off the manifold to remove the float bowls. To eliminate this issue, we turned the carbs sideways to make removal of the float bowls for jet changes easier. We also made a different top plate for the manifold to run a single 4 bbl carb. With the ability to switch top plates without removing the whole intake manifold, I was able to set several AHRA records in one day by quickly switching from a 2-4bbl carb set up to a single 4bbl carb.

In 1968, after winning the 1965 Nationals and the 1967 Spring Nationals and Nationals plus the 1967 AHRA Nationals and setting 17 AHRA records, we decided to manufacture and sell our own high-rise in-line intake manifold- The Ridge Runner Ram.

Car Craft Magazine came to New England Dragway shortly after we started production for a mid-week test demonstration of my car with the new production manifold. (See Car Craft, November 1968).

We produced several hundred small block manifolds and about 100 big block manifolds during the next few years.



RIDGEWAY RACING ASSOCIATES ROCKER STUD SUPPORT


In 1972, after breaking a rocker stud, I purchased a Jomar Stud Girdle. I found this stud girdle difficult to work with and also that when tightening the U-bolts that held the adjusting nuts, the valve lash changed.

I started Ridgeway Racing Associates in 1973 along with John Yediniak, owner of Crystal Tool in Rockville, CT to manufacture some of the speed equipment products that I experimented with.

In late 1973, I came up with my own rocker stud support design that allowed valve adjustments without the use of U-bolts, etc. I received a Patent (US Patent # 3,870,024) for my design on January 21, 1974. The Stud Support was our first marketed product under the Ridgeway Racing Associates name. (See Chevy Action Magazine, May 1974). We sold several thousand of these Stud Supports for Chevy, Ford, and Pontiac etc. The Rocker Stud Support along with several other pieces of racing speed equipment are still being manufactured and sold by Ridgeway Racing Associates.

Anyone wanting more information can contact me @ rridgeway8014@charter.net

fifTsix
03-24-2010, 01:11 PM
Sounds like youre really into yourself

wbrw32
03-24-2010, 05:06 PM
Yeah,Dont break your arm pattin your self on the back

colesy
03-24-2010, 06:54 PM
Thanks for posting your bio Ralph. There are a great many of us here who appreciate your accomplishments and inovations in the sport of Drag Racing. We started a Modified Production thread here on the HAMB a while back. Check it out if you get a chance......
http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=348502&highlight=modified+production
Also, you might enjoy many of the stories and memories over at the Junior Stock thread as well.
http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=201085&highlight=modified+production
Your name has come-up many times on both of these threads. I have an article on your 69 Camaro that I'll post on the Modified Production thread in the next while. Again, thanks for posting here, and we sure do appreciate all the memories you've provided over the years.

31Atudor
03-24-2010, 07:08 PM
Welcome to the HAMB Ralph. As you can already tell, not everyone's friendly here. I understood your Bio right off and appreciated your accomplishments. Doorslammers were tough to win in and you sure won more than your share.

Ralph

ridin dirty
03-24-2010, 07:15 PM
Ralph, I understand. You have given to the sport more than others and we thank you for it. Welcome to the Hamb

hotrod mike
03-24-2010, 07:17 PM
Oh yeah, I remember the name Ralph Ridgeway. Thanks for posting your bio. Your Ridgerunner manifolds were the hot lick back then. I wasn't aware of the rocker stud support. You were an innovator and had a good career too. Glad to have you on the HAMB. Mike

bundyracingdaman
03-24-2010, 07:41 PM
Mr. Ridgeway, please allow me to "PAT YOU ON THE BACK" I remember your racing accomplishments and your innovative intake manifold design! there was a time when I scoured all the swapmeets I could trying to locate a Ridgeway Runner intake for my at the time 55 bel-air. The only one that I ever found (one with the single carb plate) I could not afford! (I dont think the guy really wanted to sell it!) Are you still manufacturing them?

P426
03-24-2010, 07:55 PM
Ralph,

Hello and welcome to this forum! Yes, I remember reading about you and your 55 Chevy and later Camaros in the publications of the day which I still have.

"Yeah,Dont break your arm pattin your self on the back"

"Sounds like youre really into yourself"

Hey, why don't you show the man some respect?? He was NOT bragging one bit just giving us his bio and background which is quite extensive, and to inform those who weren't old enough, didn't follow drag racing or didn't hear of him if they did (hard to believe that) just who he is.

I ask you: where would drag racing engines be today without a tunnel ram manifold?? I'll tell ya: down lots of horsepower!

Sure, someone sooner or later would've probably come up with the idea but they didn't--MR. RIDGEWAY DID! Did that sink in? Bill Jenkins didn't come up with the idea nor did the Sox & Martin team nor Dyno Don Nicholson, Dick Landy nor any other top dogs of the day--just Mr. Ridgeway!

Having said that, I'd love to see some photos and stories from you on this Modified Production thread:

http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=348502

Best regards,

Pete

jimdillon
03-24-2010, 08:37 PM
Ralph, welcome to the HAMB and don't let the naysayers influence your posting on drag racing during the 60s. Guys into drag racing on this forum appreciate your accomplishments. The records speak for themselves. One of the best drag races I remember from those days was Indy 1967 and I remember your 55. I followed the gassers, modified sports and modified production mainly as well as most early Corvettes. Hopefully you will post something on your 58 Vette. It was a couple of years before my time but would love to hear about it sometime. Hopefully we will see you post on the Modified Production thread-Jim

Angliaguy
03-24-2010, 08:57 PM
As point of interest a while back I ran into Carl Debien and his wife at Their Debs Dyno
Shop on West Atlantic Ave in Delray Beach Fl. As A former Crane Cams employee we had
some nice chats about your accomplishments. He said that he hadn't spoken to you for a while at that time. I would think that it was before your induction. I hope he was there to share to share it with you. Bill

65deluxe
03-24-2010, 09:03 PM
Wow, talk about misunderstanding the point of a post. Its a shame it was interpided as it was.
Ralph your contribution to the sport can not be over estimated. In recent conversation with a certain Grumpy one, the significants of your manifold did come up.

biscaynes
03-24-2010, 09:18 PM
thanks for the bio ralph.
always liked your '55 and your 'enginenewity' ;)

disregard the idiots, your career record speaks for itself! :cool:

olddrags
03-24-2010, 09:24 PM
Welcome to the HAMB and thanks for the great intro! We are very fortunite and honored to have members like yourself !
Bobby D.

k9racer
03-24-2010, 11:30 PM
Welcome.. One of the best intros on the board....

farmer12
03-25-2010, 01:28 AM
Welcome from the Netherlands!

claymore
03-25-2010, 01:49 AM
Wow I remember watching you at Connecticut and Lebanon Valley when I was just a young kid and you were "THE MAN" to us younger fans. Screw the big mouths that don't know your history the rest of us sure are glad you decided to let us in on your story from the source. Welcome to the hamb.

colesy
03-25-2010, 04:11 AM
OK, the articles on Ralph are now posted over at the Modified Production thread. Click here for more..........
http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=348502&page=22&highlight=ridgeway

LOST ANGEL
03-25-2010, 04:20 AM
Always great to get first hand information, straight from the source! Thanks for the bio, and please stick around.-MIKE

TMcCrea
03-25-2010, 07:50 AM
Ralph,

Good to see you here and thanks for the bio.

In 1966 I was being trained at Ft. Devens, MA and overheard a guy say that he was going to CT Dragway one weekend. I asked if I could go along an had a real treat in seeing Bruce Larson's '66 Chevelle match race Bill Flynn's Baracuda.

I can still remember seeing your '55 and, at 20 years old, being amazed at your ingenuity in using the FI intake with carbs. So who did it first, you or Carroll Caudle?

Here is a photo I took of the Camaro at Indy in 1969.

http://tmccrea.smugmug.com/photos/819159823_QUxYb-M.jpg (http://tmccrea.smugmug.com/Sports/Vintage-Drag-Racing/11261778_XR39G#819159823_QUxYb-A-LB)

Gary Glover
03-25-2010, 01:52 PM
Thanks for the bio Ralph. Try to ignore the dick heads on here. It is not easy.:eek:

60s Racer
03-25-2010, 07:54 PM
Ralph Ridgeway truly one of the best this sport has ever produced.

Those of us who remember his cars remember the attention to detail was unsurpassed.

Thanks for joining us here.

56sedandelivery
03-25-2010, 08:14 PM
The first two responses to Ralphs' bio should be deleted; moderators? Reread how Ralph began his bio, and then make an apology. I remember looking at his 55 in magazines when I was in Jr. and Sr. high school; this kid could only dream back then. If it were'nt for guys like Ralph Ridgeway, drag racing would'nt have progressed the way it has. Thanks for the bio, and stick around. Butch/56sedandelivery.

mrgasser396
03-26-2010, 11:34 PM
Welcome Ralph thanks for posting and ignore the no nothing butt wipes

sqweaka
03-27-2010, 02:26 AM
hi, and welcome form the UK!

ace5043
03-27-2010, 07:59 PM
Welcome Ralph and thank you for taking the time to answer my recent questions sent to your personal email about your tunnel ram. I look forward to getting it on my engine.
Fiftsix and Wbrw32..maybe when you grow up you too will have accomplished something that contributes to this hobby/sport that is noteworthy.

Dave2spd
04-15-2010, 02:51 PM
Ralph saw the CD you sent Carl & Joan of your induction to the New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame. Enjoyed it much, congrats!!

FlashGumby
04-16-2010, 08:04 AM
Thanks for pointing me to the thread, Dave.... You're right about that hood. (VERY cool!)

Welcome to the H.A.M.B., Ralph. Thanks for the intro.

wbrw32
04-16-2010, 11:23 AM
Mr Ace5043...For your information...I am probably old enough to be your grandfather,,,,And the point I was making is that there are many other more famous guys here on this board That do not
exude about their accomplishments... And I wish you all the best in makeing your mark in this industry as I have.

PegLegStrick
04-16-2010, 01:43 PM
Welcome to the H.A.M.B. from Funston Georgia
Great intro!

DualQuad55
07-11-2010, 03:38 PM
I am a little surprised that some consider his accomplishments minor. Usually this place gets all excited when someone can shed a bit of history (even if it is local) for us to read and learn about.
Sure there are some more well known people on this site, and some that have accomplished more than Ralph has, but to say that he has brought little to this hobby/sport seems bullheaded.
A year or so ago there was a thread going with people asking for as much information as they could get on Ralph and his intakes. Now he wants to share his story and we don't want it?

The stories of the big names are great and fairly easily found and often retold. The stories of other people who helped the sport along often get overshadowed-which is a shame.

firstnomad
07-11-2010, 06:44 PM
you just can't please all of the people all of the time............Welcome to the H.A.M.B. !!!
from Arkansas City, KS.

firstnomad

vroomsta
08-19-2011, 01:11 AM
Ralph: Nice bio. Whan I was younger we ran a d/mp 55 sedan delivery with a 301 with your manifold. Ran it for about four years 1968 - 1972 at norwood, new england, lebanon, conn, oxford, englishtown, york, saint air and more. We ran close too or under nat record against alot big names, but never ran against you. What good times that was. Still have a sb & bb for shelf ornaments. I'll attach some pics when I figure out how. thanks for the memories.

wheelguy
12-29-2011, 07:22 PM
My 2c worth...I've got a POLISHED RIDGE RUNNER on the shelf for about twenty years now, had it on an Anglia I sold and kept the intake...I don't know if it will out perform an Edelbrock but for sheer looks (not to mention really different looks)when you raise the hood and see the flat sides & ends on the Ridge Runner it is by far the one to have!!! Only reason it's not on my Willys is that I've got GM fastburn heads and nothing lines up and I'm hesitant to switch the heads to change the intake.

F&J
12-29-2011, 07:36 PM
I missed this till just now.....

Nice intro with great history. Thanks for posting.

John Copeland
01-08-2012, 10:18 PM
I have a few pictures of the 55 that I took the summer of, probably 67 or 68 @ Napierville Dragway in Canada. I was in the AF stationed at Plattsburgh and ran an orange & black 55 Nomad, E/MP when I could afford it. Your car was awesome, without question! Your 55 and the Golden Gasser (Ford) I'll never forget.....................