Street Machine - - News Front -

THE irony is not lost on us that Norm Hardinge – the man best known for sup­ply­ing ra­di­a­tors through his Aussie Desert Cooler busi­ness – has gone and set a Bon­neville land speed record in a car that doesn’t have a ra­di­a­tor! Yes, we do know they still have oil cool­ers, but it’s still pretty funny.

The car Norm drove into the record books was the Karmann Ghia of Chris Mur­sick, a bloke out of Okanogan, Wash­ing­ton that Norm met at this year’s DLRA Speed Week at Lake Gaird­ner. Chris was part of the team that in­cluded Keith Turk and Hot Rod’s Dave Freiburger, who brought along three Ca­maros to race on the Aussie salt. Norm and Chris hit it off and formed an in­stant friend­ship.

At this point you might as­sume that Norm kept in touch with Chris in the months lead­ing up to Speed Week at Bon­neville. You know – shar­ing in­for­ma­tion, check­ing li­cens­ing re­quire­ments, get­ting all the safety gear or­gan­ised, dis­cussing the in­tri­ca­cies of the ve­hi­cle and how it may dif­fer from the ’34 road­ster that Norm is used to driv­ing. Yeah, nah.

“My­self, Rod Had­field and Dar­ren Mil­burn de­cided we’d all go to Bon­neville,” Norm ex­plained. “When we ar­rived we got our cre­den­tials and went to the pits for a look, got out of the car and I hear: ‘Norm!’ It was Chris, and he says: ‘It’s great to see you. You’re driv­ing my car.’ I said: ‘Okay!’

“The Karmann Ghia that he’d built was a brand­new car. Nor­mally when you lower a VW the rear wheels go stupid, so he chan­nelled it in­stead. It was low-as, and he painted it flat black – which is my favourite colour on a race car.”

The plan was for Chris to set a record in the Gaso­line class, which was pretty soft at just 108mph, then hand the car over to Norm to set the record in the Fuel class. Things were look­ing good when Chris went out and ran 123mph right off the bat. But with land speed rac­ing, break­ing the record is a two-step process. You need to back up that first run the next morn­ing and then the two runs are av­er­aged, and if ev­ery­thing goes to plan, you’ve got your­self in the SCTA record books amongst some of the great­est names in the au­to­mo­tive world. Of course, things don’t al­ways go to plan. “On the back-up run, the mo­tor just shit it­self,” Norm said. He fig­ured his chances of set­ting a record were over. “Chris rang me and said: ‘We’re put­ting an­other mo­tor in and we’re put­ting you in the car.’ I had to leave on Tues­day, but Chris said he had all week to race, so I went out and ran 125mph. I changed from third to fourth at about 6800rpm and it just wouldn’t pull any more, so I left it in third and revved it right out past 7000, and that put me into im­pound.

“We were the first ones to run the next morn­ing and I did ev­ery­thing per­fectly. The guy that built the mo­tor, Juan Cole [from JRC En­ter­prises], is a VW guru in Cal­i­for­nia who builds all these wild mo­tors. This thing would idle and you could take it straight to 7500rpm; it was an amaz­ing lit­tle mo­tor. I was tak­ing it to 7500 in each gear and when I pulled top gear at about the twoand-a-half-mile mark, it stopped pulling. With the av­er­age of the two runs I ended up with a 124mph record, up from 108.

“We went back into im­pound, where they check that you haven’t in­ter­fered with your fuel, and check the cu­bic ca­pac­ity of the mo­tor by pulling out a spark­plug, put­ting a tube in the plug hole and crank­ing the mo­tor over. When they went to put the tube in they said: ‘One of your plug leads is off.’ So we set the record on three cylin­ders!”


Juan Cole from JRC En­ter­prises gave us the lowdown on how you make a VW go heaps fast. As it turns out, it doesn’t take a mil­lion dol­lars or a host of ex­otic parts. “The en­gine Norm ran in is not a high­dol­lar unit,” Juan said. “As far as mak­ing it live at 7500, the best ad­vice I can give is to not run a full-flow oil fil­ter on a VW en­gine. The way the in­dus­try says to hook one up, you de­feat the pur­pose of the pres­sure re­lief valve in the case and add a re­stric­tion to the flow of oil to the main and rod bear­ings. I pre­fer to have un­fil­tered oil in good sup­ply to my bear­ings, rather than re­stricted cleaner oil. VW en­gines didn’t come with oil fil­ters any­way”

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