Tom Osterkamp started out in much the same way as we all did with a father who encouraged the racing life by putting he and his brother into go-carts at a young age. When it came time to get his license his first order of business, of course, was to go to the track. At that time Tom was piloting a ’64 Plymouth Belvedere, 426 Wedge with a four-speed that he had acquired from his cousin. “I don’t remember how I talked my parents into that one,” Tom reminisces.
“I grew up in SoCal so the old Fontana dragstrip was the closest, I went there until it closed, then Irwindale and Orange County became the local tracks”.
As most stories go, life got in the way and Tom had to put his adrenaline rush on hold. “I got married, had kids and the money was just not there for cars anymore. We even traded my wife’s 240Z for a station wagon. Quite a few years later in the latter 1990’s when things started getting back to normal, I bought a ’74 Dodge Dart Super Stock car, which I still have today. We ran Super Street at Palmdale until it closed.” But something was missing…something from his past that Tom had started with.
Fast forward to 2015 and Tom just happened upon a 1964 Plymouth Savoy. “While paging through the National Dragster there it was as the Featured Flyer. Once I saw it I just knew I had to have it. The car had been run in NHRA so it was all set up ready to race,” Tim shares.
While talking with the previous owner about the car he asked Tom if he had ever owned a Hemi. “I said ‘no.’ ” A’ll the previous owner said was, “well they’re a different kind of animal, and boy was he right on that one.”
Tom’s 1964 Plymouth Savoy is a unibody frame so it is strengthened by subframe connectors. The power is in the form of a 426 Hemi with a Mopar Pro Stock crank, CP-Carrillo connecting rods and CP-Carrillo pistons. A set of nostalgic aluminum fuelly heads with Stage V rockers are being controlled by a Bullet Racing Cams roller cam with exhaust fumes being handled by Dawson headers. The transmission is a ProTrans 727 with an ATI converter. The rear suspension uses a set of Cal Tracs from Calvert Racing Suspensions with a Mark Williams Dana 60 rearend that has a set of 4.56 gears inside. Tom’s Savoy rolls on Bogart Racing Wheels Drag-On Star wheels out the back, with Hoosier lightweight radials and Moroso Drag Stars in the front for rubber.
The Plymouth Savoy came standard with a push-button transmission — Tom still uses the push-button transmission for shifting which garners some strange looks and questions at the track, “mostly from younger ones, like where’s your shifter?”
“This car is just a total kick to drive … it’s the most fun of any car I’ve ever owned. It’s always a wheels-up launch and pushing those buttons to shift and there’s the sound of that Hemi. Nostalgia Super Stock is the only class I’ve run so far and probably going to stick with it because there’s a lot of competition and I’ve met some great people. The class usually has quite a few cars and I really enjoy the heads up racing,” Tom says.
Tom has enjoyed the car in much the same way in which he bought it with some minor changes like a small exterior enhancement in the form of pinstriping. Other changes made to the car to help it perform and be more consistent include a line lock, shift-light, an updated ignition system using the MSD Power Grid, and an electric water pump.
“The future could possibly hold a bigger cam to run the A index class. The best I’ve run is a 9.96 at 130 and I’ll need a little more for that index. Until then I’ll have the challenge to slow it down to hit the B index.”
Keeping the car old-school and simple and continue having fun at the races is Tom’s goal for the future.
“Maybe someday I’ll get lucky enough to win a race, but win or not, I always have fun.” Ff course, none of this would be possible without having a loving wife by his side. “I’d like to thank my wife for letting me have all this fun,” he adds.
Engine 426 Hemi
Heads Old-style aluminum fuelly heads with Stage V rockers
Crank Mopar Pro Stock
Rods and pistons Carrillo rods with CP pistons and Total Seal rings 12:1 compression
Cam Bullet Roller
Carbs Holley 770
Ignition MSD power grid and Mopar distributor
Cooling Meziere water pump
Fuel Pump MagnaFuel Quick Star 300