PETROL­HEAD FATHER’S DAY DRAGS

THE JEWEL IN NEW ZEALAND'S STREET CARD RAC­ING CAL­EN­DAR RE­TURNS AFTER A ONE-YEAR HIA­TUS, AND DID IT EVER DE­LIVER!

NZV8 - - CONTENTS - WORDS: CON­NAL GRACE PHO­TOS: LANCE FAR­ROW

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, and it sure was good to be at the Petrol­head Father’s Day Drags this year! After last year’s event was re­lent­lessly rained out, the Amer­i­can Mus­cle Car Club de­cided that this year would be dif­fer­ent — the event would go ahead, come hell or high wa­ter; if that meant rain date after rain date, so be it. After a shaky start, with the orig­i­nal date canned by rain, the rain date of 16 Septem­ber was good to go, and did it ever go! For most, the an­nual event rep­re­sents the be­gin­ning of the drag rac­ing cal­en­dar after a long off sea­son, and the ex­cite­ment in the Mere­mere air was as good as tan­gi­ble. That ex­cite­ment was clearly ev­i­dent be­fore you even set foot in the gates, man­i­fested by pretty much all the spec­ta­tor car parks be­ing full. The huge num­bers also drew into light the ded­i­ca­tion of the Amer­i­can Mus­cle Car Club mem­bers, who worked tire­lessly as vol­un­teers, all day, to en­sure that the whole thing went as well as it could. With the Mere­mere Drag­way team get­ting the track and premises ready for a hard day’s rac­ing, the fa­mil­iar sounds and smells of the drag strip couldn’t in­vade the air quickly enough — es­pe­cially given the na­ture of Father’s Day Drags.

A V8-pow­ered street car shoot-out, the sound­track is al­ways beau­ti­ful, and the pit area is al­ways worth a look. As it’s a fun day out, the rac­ers are al­most all re­laxed and happy to talk shit about their cars — you won’t find any of the stress and pres­sure of a com­pe­ti­tion meet­ing, at which points are up for grabs and big-dol­lar parts are be­ing put on the line. Even so, the day is never with­out its up­sets, and we feel for the poor bloke who stacked his part­ner’s Dodge Chal­lenger SRT De­mon into the wall — oops! That was about the only real downer, though, as ev­ery­thing else ran like a Swiss-as­sem­bled time­piece and to the re­li­able for­mula that the day al­ways fol­lows. Not only that, but the sheer num­ber of quick cars — all street le­gal, to one de­gree or an­other — pow­er­ing down the strip was re­ally quite spec­tac­u­lar, and we were par­tic­u­larly im­pressed by the two blown FG Fal­cons run­ning 10.70s at 130mph time and again. Qual­i­fy­ing rounds be­gan at 10am, and would de­ter­mine the eight quick­est Amer­i­can and

Aus­tralian ve­hi­cles of the day, for the highly an­tic­i­pated Mer­lin Top 8 Shootout in the early af­ter­noon. Be­fore we got there, though, the BurgerFuel Burnout Com­pe­ti­tion had a bit of an an­nounce­ment to make. Well, by an­nounce­ment, we mean spec­ta­cle. The Mere­mere burnout pad is not known for its for­giv­ing na­ture, and, with the line-up of se­ri­ously tough skid-rigs there to put in work, one hell of a show was on the cards. After Joel Ar­cus melted the tyres the way that only 1000hp of blown LS power can — cov­er­ing the drag strip in rub­ber de­bris — the crowds were sure they had their win­ner … un­til Rob To­heriri stepped up and ham­mered the ‘AGROXY’ Fal­con to a text­book per­for­mance, good enough to di­vert the tro­phy and $1K cash prize his way. A bit of a track sweep and plenty of VHT later, the PA sys­tem an­nounced that it was time to get back to the main draw­card. Ba­si­cally, the Top 8 Shootout is a heads-up sideshow, pit­ting the eight quick­est qual­i­fied Amer­i­can cars against each other, and the same for the eight quick­est Aussie cars, to find the top dog.

There were fewer street heavy­weights in at­ten­dance than there have been in pre­vi­ous years, but that isn’t to say that Reece Fish was guar­an­teed a walk in the park to vic­tory — not with Aaron Jenk­ins, Gary Bo­gaart, Tony Gera, and Mike Carl­ton’s Corvette thrown into the mix. Add the likes of Ge­off Dann’s twin-turbo Ca­maro, Mathew Pat­more’s tubbed and blown XY ute, Har­ley Dou­glas’ grumpy big block Ca­maro, Nigel Dixon’s de­cep­tively quick HQ Monaro, and Mark Shot­ter’s tur­bocharged XC Fal­con, and you’ve got your­self a party! We can’t for­get that pair of stonkin’ su­per­charged FG Fal­cons, ei­ther. The seem­ingly ran­dom pair­ings also made things pretty in­ter­est­ing, with more than a few races that could have gone ei­ther way, but that was pretty much how the whole day went — a hand­ful of races in which the out­come was a fore­gone con­clu­sion, short of a red light but al­most all oth­ers be­ing any­one’s guess. It was that un­pre­dictabil­ity that made the shoot-out fun for spec­ta­tors, and no doubt just as en­joy­able from the hot seat — some­thing we can say about the day as a whole. From un­cer­tainty as to whether the drags would even go ahead to what might pos­si­bly have been the best one yet, we can’t re­ally em­pha­size just how much we love this event. Father’s Day Drags, please don’t leave us again.

Left: Mark Shot­ter’s XC Fal­con sedan is so un­der the radar that you could be mis­taken for think­ing it’s a six-cylin­der. It might look like a nice enough cruiser, but what you don’t see is what makes this thing one of a kind. A me­chanic by trade, Mark built the tur­bocharged 351 Wind­sor around a fac­tory roller-cam block, with AFR al­loy heads, fuel in­jec­tion con­trolled by a Link ECU, and a mas­sive Holset HX52 turbo. As it’s been built to be streetable first and fore­most, it’s as quiet as a mouse, giv­ing no in­di­ca­tion of the kind of boosted heat that it’s pack­ing. Mark’s kept it all sim­ple, though, and the tough XC runs an AOD trans­mis­sion and nine-inch on split-mono leaves and CalTracs trac­tion bars. It works re­mark­ably well for an all-steel street car, with 60-foot times in the 1.5-sec­ond zone, and eas­ily runs low-11sec­ond passes. Mark will never put a cage in it, so even though he knows that it’s got a 10-sec­ond quar­ter in it, he’s hap­pier driv­ing one of the most un­der­cover sleep­ers we’ve seen

Sev­eral big-power Ca­maros were lin­ing up for a go, but Geoffrey Dann’s was the tough­est. Geoffrey was also run­ning the Ca­maro in full street trim, hav­ing driven to Mere­mere and driv­ing it back home af­ter­wards — that means street tyres, full ex­haust, and pump gas. He and the boys at C&M Per­for­mance have gone to great lengths to en­sure that the Ca­maro is com­pletely le­gal to the let­ter of the law, which makes its 9.5s at 150mph all the more im­pres­sive — and it’s got a lot more in it, as they’re only scratch­ing the sur­face of what that twin­turbo 540ci big block is ca­pa­ble of

Above and left: Justin and Lisa Weir both made it into the Top 8 USA Shootout, both in su­per­charged late-model mus­cle — Justin in the Chal­lenger SRT8 Hell­cat, and Lisa in the Ca­maro ZL1. There were more late-model cars in the Top 8 than we’ve seen in any other year, and, with the solid ETs these were putting down, it’s pretty clear why

Jay Maka topped the Su­per Sedan class in his 572ci big block Torana in the last Mere­mere Drag­way Com­pe­ti­tion Se­ries but was go­ing to­tally dif­fer­ent here, us­ing the tough lit­tle Aussie to com­pete in the BurgerFuel Burnout Com­pe­ti­tion. That left his Im­pala for drag rac­ing du­ties. While we’ve seen that big Im­pala come close to dip­ping into the 10s, its old 572ci mo­tor be­ing in the Torana meant that it was a lit­tle slower than we re­mem­ber!

In 1965, Bill ‘Mav­er­ick’ Golden cre­ated a leg­end. Mount­ing a 426ci Hemi be­hind the cab, the lit­tle Dodge A100 pickup had no prob­lem lift­ing the front end high in the sky, be­gin­ning the fa­ble of the ‘Lit­tle Red Wagon’ — one of the most fa­mous wheel­standers in drag rac­ing his­tory. This is not that truck, but it’s a hell of a replica, and we thought you’d ap­pre­ci­ate the his­tory les­son We’ll never get sick of Reece Fish’s ‘50SIX’ Chev. The thing is just sur­real to watch as it cat­a­pults it­self down the track, and the man started his day by lay­ing down a crazy 7.82-sec­ond qual­i­fy­ing run

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