MILL OF THE MONTH
> GRAEME COWIN, SYDNEY, NSW
EVERYBODY loves a Hemi, and none more so than the people who like to get a quarter-mile down the road quicker than the bloke in the next lane. Graeme Cowin’s been doing it longer than most; the first in Oz to run a nine-second pass in a fuel altered, first to do a five-second pass in a nitro funny car and the first to run a foursecond pass in a Top Fueller. And the Hemi has always been his weapon of choice.
While we all know the Chrysler heritage of the legendary Hemi engines, there isn’t a single part on this Hemi that ever saw duty in a road car. Built by Mike Kuhl Racing Enterprises in Santa Ana, USA – of Kuhl & Olson fame – the engine is based on the early 392 block, but is an all-alloy Donovan version that has been pushed out to 440 cubic inches.
While the engine now sits on Graeme’s office floor as an impressive conversation piece – although I’d hate to hear what the cleaners say about it – it’s no hollowed-out showpiece, having seen active duty in the re-creation of Graeme’s most famous race car, the Psycho fuel altered. Thanks to a healthy diet of nitro, 20 per cent overdrive on the blower and somewhere between 3000-3500hp, the highly entertaining short-wheelbase monster went as quick as 6.84@212mph.
With Shane Olive at the wheel, the car has gone a lot quicker and faster, running in the 6.0s at 240mph – but that wasn’t with this engine. With the ever-increasing stable of racing cars at Rocket Industries, a decision was made to standardise the engines, and as this one was quite different in its specification, it was retired to modelling duties. With around a dozen cars in the shed, it was a pretty smart move.
Anyway, you can see that although it’s an early-style Hemi, it’s quite different to what you would have seen racing in the late 60s and early 70s. Due to the rules in Nostalgia nitro racing, the engines have to be 392-based (not 426) and are limited to a 6/71 blower. There’s an Enderle hat up top with six injectors, while another eight port injectors make sure there’s plenty of the good stuff getting poured in.
The engine is also fitted with a pan rail extension, which increases oil capacity (no dry sump here) and also keeps the oil well away from the Bryant crankshaft. The rest of the reciprocating assembly is made up of Venolia pistons and Brooks rods.
The spacer plate between the heads and old-school M/T rocker covers is there to clear the modern valvetrain components, and the covers have been fitted with grab handles for quick and easy removal. The finishing touch is the Cowin/johns engraving, the Johns part referring to Graeme’s girlfriend at the time, Wendy. Obviously it was a good partnership, because she ended up marrying him!