A tunnel ram is a 'high riser' intake manifold for mounting 'dual quads' - two x four-barrel carburetors. Still confused? Put simply - it's a piece of equipment to give your V8 a serious horsepower boost at high revs. A favourite with hot rodders, drag racers and custom car freaks of yore - tunnel rams began to appear wherever horsepower had currency. Like figureheads on viking longships, tunnel rams began to rise out of engine bays to warn anyone within eyesight - this machine means business. Tunnel rams are as much about appearance as power; a reminder of a time when cars were at the epicenter of American culture.
Growing up in 1970s Australia I was no more car mad than other kids, that is until my father started receiving weekly mail orders of New Yorker magazine. When bored, I’d flick through the pages to check out the car advertisements. Every issue was packed with luxury car ads - Cadillac, Lincoln, Chrysler, Mercury and Buick. The cars were enormous - land yachts with huge prominent grilles dripping with chrome, and interiors so warm and inviting you could live in them.
The cars were posed either in studios with lighting to accentuate exclusivity and luxury, or else in outdoor environments that suggested money, taste and the good life. Beautiful people, sporty people, successful people invariably surrounded, sat in, or draped themselves across the desirable, glamorous machines. It all looked so inviting, I wanted to transport my childhood self into these enticing worlds.
We just didn’t see cars like that on the streets of 1970s Australia - not that our cars were small by any means. But they didn’t come close for ostentatious luxury and outrageous size - the Americans were still the kings of road presence. The journey was the destination, and I liked their way of thinking
Though the ads were never intended for scruffy kids a million miles away - Madison Avenue advertising agencies won me over. Yet, no sooner had my fascination developed than I began to realise I was witnessing the death throes of the Detroit dream machines.
From ‘77 the American cars in the ads became smaller, squarer - began to look European. More and more ads for Euro cars began to appear - Audi, Volvo, BMW and Mercedes. Before my eyes I was seeing the decline of American design influence, of the romance of motoring that had held sway for so long. Replaced by safety consciousness, fuel economy, and practicality. Yawn.
I lost interest in the New Yorker (cartoons & movie reviews excepted) - I had no desire to ogle dull ads for the same cars from BMW/Mercedes/Audi/Volvo that I could see on any city street in Australia. Style was out, mileage was in, and I was left with only one place to go - the past.
I didn’t lose interest in American cars - the fire had been lit. It’s just that I had to look backwards - to the 1950s, 60s & early 70s. Chrome, glamour, pillarless styling, coke bottle hips, muscle and fury, GT stripes, hood scoops, power, romance...back to a time when cruising was king and the American car was at the epicenter of American culture.
I knew I wasn’t alone - a love of the road and car culture was there for all to hear in the music of the Beachboys, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, The Eagles and others. I bought the music, the books and magazines, watched the road movies - I was hooked.
Via the local products sold through America’s big three - General Motors Holden, Chrysler and Ford - we were lucky in Australia to share in the glory years with our very own homegrown muscle and luxury machines that oozed road presence. But in Oz too - we stopped looking to the US, and toward Europe.
]My parents didn’t drive so I had no opportunity to work on cars as a kid but that only fueled my obsession. I sketched, dreamed, ogled, read about - cars cars cars. Later, when old enough to drive - I jumped in the deep end. Before my twentieth birthday I owned three - at the same time. A ‘72 Falcon V8 coupe a-la Mad Max’s Interceptor, a worked Monaro GTS 350 4-speed missile that screamed like a banshee when revved, and a ‘67 Pontiac Parisienne that turned heads wherever it went. Later there was a ‘65 Mustang and a succession of Aussie Valiants.
What to do with all the knowledge, the images and stories, the love of classic car culture?
Sure there are others out there doing their thing. TV shows, youtube channels, magazines and more - all revelling in classic & retro car culture. But I felt there was something missing; too many people in their own little encampments - Ford people, Mopar people, Holden people, Chev people. Too much obsession with detail, with values and authenticity. What about those of us who love it all - the whole damned crazy thing?
I decided to create a site that would attempt to capture the fun, the excitement, the beauty - of classic and retro car culture of the 20th century. A place to browse the finest advertising images, of the best looking cars ever made. Tunnel Ram is about enjoying the best of it all, about having fun. An attempt to preserve something of the sheer love of movement, power, of the road... of freedom - that was at the heart of the high water mark of car culture.
If I’ve succeeded in getting just some of that across - it’s been worth it.
Visit, share, enjoy - Tunnel Ram
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