Street Machine - - Contents -

Squeez­ing 1200 horses be­neath the bon­net of a wild Fal­con ute

HAV­ING owned plenty of strip-only weapons, John Huysmans thought it was about time he built him­self a reg­is­tered one. That’s how this tough-as-nails, Xy-fronted XW ute came about.

“No­body sus­pects it’s pack­ing 1200hp,” says John, from Or­ange, NSW. “I can pull up at the servo and just putt around with­out at­tract­ing too much at­ten­tion.”

The 50-year-old has been play­ing around with race cars since he was 15. “I just love rac­ing; it started with an 11-sec­ond LJ – I was very young and it was way too quick,” John laughs.

A few other cars fol­lowed, be­fore John moved onto a 351 Wind­sor-pow­ered Capri that won a lot of races, run­ning a best of 10.1@134mph. Then John got busy with other stuff, and after not run­ning the car for years, he ended up sell­ing it. But as the Street Ma­chine faith­ful know all too well, once it’s in the blood, Racer’s Dis­ease is all but in­cur­able.

“Five or six years ago I started fol­low­ing Hot Rod Drag Week in the US,” John says. “I thought: ‘Now that’s a chal­lenge.’”

So shortly after adding ‘Com­pete in Drag Week’ to his bucket list, a rea­son­ably clean-look­ing XW ute came along. It was the per­fect ba­sis for a Drag Week chal­lenger – a street car he could race!

Back then only a handful of cars at Drag Week were in the sev­ens; any car run­ning con­sis­tent eights was class-com­pet­i­tive, so that’s what John set his sights on.

A twin-turbo, EFI, 429-cube small-block was deemed to be the combo to run the num­ber. Kim Baker from Baker Pre­ci­sion En­gines looked after the specs and all the ma­chine work, while John screwed the for­mi­da­ble mill to­gether him­self at home in the shed.

On one of his trips to the States (in­clud­ing one with Ross Preen when he went over to cackle his FED, Ban­shee, at the Bak­ers­field 20th An­niver­sary), John and his brother Tony dropped into Tur­bo­net­ics to pick up a pair of 67mm hairdry­ers. They also swung by Ho­gan’s Rac­ing Man­i­folds to col­lect a cus­tom in­take – a high-flow unit that kept ev­ery­thing un­der the bon­net. Mr Ho­gan was feel­ing par­tic­u­larly hos­pitable, giv­ing Tony and John the grand tour of the nor­mally topse­cret premises.

John is very hands-on, pre­fer­ring to tackle as much as pos­si­ble him­self. He’s taught him­self to be a pretty handy fab­ri­ca­tor; he’s even learnt EFI pro­gram­ming. But one area where things didn’t


work out as planned was the turbo man­i­folds. After un­suc­cess­fully at­tempt­ing to weld the steampipe him­self, John en­listed an ex­pert welder to get ’em right.

To fit all the turbo plumb­ing and help the han­dling, the ute was out­fit­ted with RRS struts and the com­pany’s op­tional tower-notch­ing kit. John’s also pretty happy about the im­proved brak­ing from the beefy RRS stop­pers.

John’s brother Tony was a tremen­dous help through­out the build, es­pe­cially on all the hard stuff like the in­ter­cooler plumb­ing. With en­gine and plumb­ing fi­nalised, the ute was stripped and sent to the sand blasters.

“What a mis­take,” John says. “Al­most noth­ing came back. It was all chicken wire and bog. If I’d known how bad it was, I would’ve got an­other shell in­stead of putting so much into this one.”

In the end, John pretty much re­placed the en­tire lower six inches of the ute.

“At least I know it’s right now,” he says. “I also added a bit more chas­sis strength while it was on the ro­tis­serie.”

After spend­ing ev­ery week­end and ev­ery night for 12 months cut­ting out rust, it was over to Stu and the crew at SB Smash for panel ’n’ paint. In just three short weeks they mas­saged John’s re­pairs, knocked the pan­els into shape and laid on the Ver­mil­lion Fire duco.

Un­for­tu­nately, a host of nasty prob­lems plagued the ute’s early track out­ings.

“More stuff went wrong than you can pos­si­bly imag­ine,” John says. “There were oil leaks, it threw belts, popped a head gas­ket, bent then broke a con­rod – so all new rods and pis­tons, plus clean­ing up a bore. Now that’s sorted, it’s run­ning good and prov­ing to be rock-solid re­li­able.”

Along the way the stock leaf springs were ditched in favour of a full Cal­tracs sys­tem that in­cludes trac­tion bars, ad­justable mono-leaf springs and ad­justable shocks. Pick­ing up a full three-tenths with the Cal­tracs set-up put a pretty big smile on John’s face. The ute’s best run so far is a 9.14@147mph.

Dur­ing the build, John’s life changed, in­clud­ing buy­ing a new busi­ness, so his US Drag Week as­pi­ra­tions had to go on hold. On the bright side, Street Ma­chine’s Drag Chal­lenge is alive and well, with John al­ready sign­ing to be on the start­line at Ade­laide In­ter­na­tional Race­way this Novem­ber.

“I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to Drag Chal­lenge,” John en­thuses. “Rather than push it, I just want to run con­sis­tent low nines.”

That doesn’t mean he’s not still look­ing for eights in the long run, though. “It launches hard, 60-foot­ing at 1.35,” John says of the ute. “When Frank March­ese was run­ning high sev­ens [in the

Dandy En­gines XW] he was 60-foot­ing at 1.30. So I’m in the hunt. With the new bar­rel in­ter­cooler sorted, the boost di­alled up, and E85 or race fuel in the tank, it should run some­thing like an 8.8.”

For Drag Chal­lenge though, the num­ber one key to stay­ing re­li­able is keep­ing heat out of the en­gine bay. With this in mind, John is happy to sac­ri­fice ET and keep it on 98 so he can have fun and get to ev­ery track. But if all goes well this year, John’s talk­ing about hav­ing an­other crack in 2018 with the wick turned up. That’ll def­i­nitely be some­thing worth watch­ing.

TYRES For the street, the ute wears old-school 15in Master­craft ra­di­als. At the track, they make way for Moroso front-run­ners and Mickey Thomp­son X275/60R15 ET Ra­di­als STREET ’N’ STRIP John’s goal with the ute was to build a quick street-based car that...

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