SAE Blog Text

Meet the Author: Dr. Dave Rockwell 

Posted: September 6, 2023

They say that the journey’s the destination.  

For Dr. Dave Rockwell, truer words have never been spoken.   

In his newly-updated book, We Were The Ramchargers, Dave tells the story of the legendary Chrysler racing team that propelled a love of muscle cars and high-performance vehicles across the 60s and 70s.  

Dave grew up in Dearborn Michigan, where his father worked as an automotive engineer for General Motors, Ford, and later Chrysler. There in his youth, he first encountered the Ramchargers. 

“The Chrysler Dodge brothers were very independent, and they were big on buccaneering, personal creativity, and giving personal responsibility to associates, as opposed to Ford and GM which were much more ‘top down’. This attitude provided space, and a kind of philosophical background, for something like the Ramchargers to occur,” Dave said. 

By his mid adolescence, Dave wanted nothing more than to somehow become involved with the Ramchargers. “Finding a way for a high school kid to get involved with this group of high caliber graduate engineers was no small problem.” 

“Whenever they were racing near me, I would show up and do anything I could. If somebody dropped a wrench, wanted a coke or whatever, I was there. It took a while but I gradually began to learn more about what was involved and they began to trust me. The next year, I started asking if I could accompany them on a couple of their road trips. They agreed, and that was like a dream come true for a kid like me.”  

The next several years, of Dave’s life would involve juggling high school, college, shop work, and races while the Ramchargers continued to grow in both popularity and cultural impact. 

“The entire Chrysler performance program, their muscle car program, all stem from Ramcharger activities,” Dave said. 

In 1997, the team was inducted into the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame. (in addition to 5 others) Having established a reputation for excellence in motorsports for both the team and for Chrysler, the Ramchargers became automotive legends. However, after a confusing Hall of Fame induction speech, provided by a supposed authority, Ramcharger member Dan Mancini, mused, ‘You know somebody ought to write a book about all this before it’s completely lost’ On the way home, my wife said, ‘You can write well. Why don't you try doing it?’ And so, I did,” Dave said. “I was not interested in writing another dry history book. The whole experience with the Ramchargers had been so dramatic, exciting, and important. I wanted to write a book that people would want to read—and finish.” 

He studied a variety of storytelling methods to best tell the Ramchargers story. The documentary work of Ken Burns initially stood out but screenplay writing proved most helpful. “I was really surprised how well screenplay writing worked for what we were hoping to capture.” 

“Every chapter is written like a scene, and the book shows the story in its entirety. This creates conflict, and becomes a very real experience. That’s been most people's common reaction to our book—the realness and ‘I just couldn’t put it down;” factor, Dave said. Former Hot Rod Magazine editor and technical reviewer, John Dianna began reading his copy of We Were The Ramchargers one afternoon, and couldn’t stop until he finished the following morning.  Not surprisingly, The book became an SAE best seller 

“Mission accomplished trying to get it out of the boring history book category,” Dave grins. 

It’s easy to see why this book has had such impact; Dave emphasized, no part of the book contains exaggeration. The passion, hardship, and enthusiasm and success displayed in each page serves as a treasured recollection of history. 

The Ramchargers created a legacy that continues to influence motorsports and performance advancements to this very day. We Were The Ramchargers documents this legacy with real accounts from team members, over 200 new photos, detailed captions, documents and beautiful art work, all wrapped in a highly collectable, full color hard cover Second Edition. 

Dave concludes. ”Looking back, on my experience with the Ramchargers,  it was love that brought me to it,  carried me through and eventually creating the book itself.  Love was the key.”   

And we think you will feel the same about the new edition of We Were The Ramchargers with a forward from Ralph Gilles, Chief Design Officer at Stellantis, available now.