Everybody has their own reasons for building and racing cars — the best part is none of them are ever wrong. The vehicle you choose as your starting point can be anything, and for TJ Hodge that meant building something other than a Mustang. Hodge’s 1964 AMC Rambler has come a long way since he first purchased it, and this car makes plenty of steam thanks to its LS-based engine and big CRT turbocharger.
There’s something about the sensation of acceleration you get when you’re behind the wheel of any vehicle that just enhances the experience. For those that garner joy from that feeling, it leads to a quest for ways to grow the acceleration experience in size and length, and that’s precisely what led Hodge to drag racing.
“Growing up, I was into all forms of motorsports, going fast, and blowing stuff up. It didn’t matter if I was racing dirt bikes, four wheelers, or blasting around in a go-kart in my parent’s backyard, I’ve always been fascinated by things that go fast. I love cars because they give you a sense of freedom to go where you want when you want. I really enjoy the ability to customize them the way you want and the people you get to meet along the way,” Hodge says.
Hodge’s father was a gearhead and a racer himself. When TJ was growing up, his dad would talk about all the cool cars he owned when he was younger, and about the times he took them to the drag strip. Naturally, Hodge was curious, and when his father took him to the drag strip for the first time it changed his life.
“What got me into racing was my dad taking me to Brainerd for an NHRA event, I was instantly hooked. The competition and the preparation leading up to going racing are parts of the sport that I really enjoy too. I also like all the cool and interesting people you meet that are a part of the racing world,” Hodge states.
The 1964 AMC Rambler that Hodge campaigns has gone through some significant changes since he purchased it a little over a year ago. Hodge delivered the AMC to his good friend Vince Valareno, who fabricated a 25.5 roll cage, redid the ladder bars, and added a set of Penske shocks.
Since Hodge races the AMC with the clocks off, he doesn’t like to provide all the details of his engine build. Lough Racing Engines built the LS mill that is based around a Dart LS block, Dart CCW crank, Diamond pistons, and Manley connecting rods. Devon Long built the Powerglide transmission that lives behind the engine, and Hodge uses torque converters from PTC and Cameron’s Converters depending on the type of racing he’s doing. The Rambler’s engine is controlled by a FuelTech ECU and accessories.
Hodge plans on traveling to numerous all steel/all glass no-time events this year, and he’s got a few local no-prep races on his schedule, too. All of this wouldn’t be possible without the help and support of several important people.
“First and foremost, I need to thank God for blessing me to be able to do what I love to do. None of this would be possible without my wife Dana and two kids, Taylor and Tanner, for their support. Mike Lough for building me a bad little bullet that takes a beating. Chris Watkins with CRT for building me a badass turbo. Devon Long with Dale’s A-1 Transmission that builds my transmissions. A huge thank you to my friend Shawn Tauber that is at every race with me, even when it’s a last-minute deal to load up and go racing. He’s a big part of the program we have, even if we have to stop at every damn ice cream shop so he can get an ice cream cone,” Hodge says.
TJ Hodge’s 1964 AMC Rambler may get mistaken for an old Chevy Nova a lot, but one thing it’s never mistaken for is being slow. Hodge has put a lot of effort into building this car into a fast and clean ride.