PLAY­ING WITH FIRE

> RA­DIAL RACER MATT GRUBISA STEPS THINGS UP WITH A NEW USA-BUILT, PRO LINE 481X-POW­ERED FIRE­BIRD

Street Machine - - Urban Warfare - MARK ARBLASTER

BANG for buck, noth­ing for sale lo­cally can com­pare to a Usa-built car. Around US$100,000 will buy you a car that would cost $250,000 to build in Aus­tralia, and it will gen­er­ally come with a tune-up and a bunch of track time that has it run­ning in the sweet spot be­fore you even jam your arse in the sad­dle. In real terms, to buy a twin-turbo Out­law Ra­dial car that can run into the 3.80s over the eighth, with a qual­ity chas­sis and a de­cent en­gine like a 481X, would cost US$330,000 (around AU$445,000) from start to fin­ish. Yep, it’s a ton of coin, but what you get will be the ride of your life in a car that is built to ab­so­lute per­fec­tion.

It’s some­thing that Syd­ney ra­dial racer Matt Grubisa has dis­cov­ered for him­self. For a few years he cam­paigned a twin-turbo Gen II Ca­maro, which he then traded in on a 1966 Nova with a Psi-blown Hemi. That deal was short-lived as he just didn’t have the peo­ple around him to make it fly. So the Nova went up for sale and he went to the States in search of a car that would take him to the front of the Out­law Ra­dial field.

“I was talk­ing with Eric Dil­lard from Pro Line in the US, who told me the only qual­ity car for sale was the 2004 Pon­tiac Fire­bird of Chris Daniel, so we or­gan­ised to take a look,” Matt says.

He went to the US to check out the car and was im­pressed, but didn’t de­cide to buy it un­til he got back to Aus­tralia. “I wasn’t re­ally in love with the body shape, but I needed to be at the front of the pack back home,” Matt says. “I needed a car that I don’t have to up­grade in a year, and this thing ticked all the boxes.”

The car has a long and dis­tin­guished his­tory, and went to the fi­nals at Lights Out in 2007 against Ste­vie Fast. Its best is 3.82@209mph with 60lb of boost on a 315 ra­dial.

“I flew back a month later to head to Dar­ling­ton, South Carolina to test the Pon­tiac with a bunch of other Pro Line cars,” Matt ex­plains. “Sure enough the weather came in, so we went south to Orlando, where the track wasn’t good but we agreed I needed to do some laps and some time in the car.

“We did a few days’ test­ing and my first run was a 4.20@189mph, get­ting out of it after 3.8 sec­onds. We tried to play with it but the track wasn’t up to it, and I ran a best of 4.20@191mph.”

The Race­craft Inc chas­sis has been fit­ted with a Pro Line/alan John­son full-bil­let stage III 481X that runs twin 102 Pre­ci­sion tur­bos, a Pro-mag and a Fuel­tech ECU.

Trans­mis­sion is a two-speed TH400 built by Mark Micke at M&M Trans­mis­sion, with a Pro­torque con­verter. Un­der the rear end there’s a mo­du­lar Mark Wil­liams al­loy hous­ing

and San­thuff shocks. The at­ten­tion to de­tail is sim­ply stun­ning.

De­spite the ex­trav­a­gance of the build, it is ac­tu­ally an LDR (Lim­ited Drag Ra­dial) car that still re­tains the stock front chas­sis rails, and the build is based on an Out­law 10.5 car.

The 572-cube 481X mo­tor is known for its re­li­a­bil­ity, and between rounds it re­ally only needs valve springs and plugs checked, as well as the data down­loaded. There is a bit of a main­te­nance pro­gram needed on the fuel side though, as it runs on methanol. The en­gine should be able to make 40 passes be­fore it comes apart for rods, rings and bear­ings.

For­tu­nately Matt bought the car with a ton of spares, rang­ing from cylin­der heads to rock­ers, pis­tons and rods. In race weight in comes in at 3030lb with driver.

Kon from Wol­lon­gong Au­to­mo­tive Ser­vices will han­dle the tun­ing and sus­pen­sion, while Wes­tend Per­for­mance will look after the en­gine.

“Right now I have a 4.20 tune in the car, which equates to 45-47lb of boost,” Matt says. “Crank it to 55lb and it will run into the high 3.90s over the eighth; with boost in the 60s it will go into the 3.80s. Over in the States a lot of guys are up into the 70lb zone, but we are a long way from that.”

After de­but­ing the car at the re­cent Grudge Kings event at Syd­ney Drag­way, Matt is look­ing for­ward to cam­paign­ing the Fire­bird next year. “It was re­ally a rush to get the car to Grudge Kings, and we prob­a­bly should not have gone,” he ad­mits. “But I’m plan­ning on putting in a full sea­son next year, and bud­get-wise you need to be pre­pared to spend about $20K to do the rounds. At this stage we have enough spare to be able to fix most things at the track, and I prob­a­bly need to get a spare trans to cover all the bases.”

How­ever, Matt knows how com­pet­i­tive the ra­dial scene is right now. “I’d like to think I can cam­paign this car for the next five years, but there are some big ra­dial hit­ters out there at the mo­ment,” he says. “At the up­com­ing Kenda round, if the track is good we could see Jeremy Cal­laghan in the Ca­maro, Jar­rod Wood in the Mus­tang, Jet Martin and Kit Hunter in the Com­modores, Craig Burns in the new Brad-pow­ered Mus­tang and Shaun Hale from Queens­land all run into the high three-sec­ond zone over the eighth. Even the boys who bought my old Nova can run with the best of us. So in other words, there are some se­ri­ously fast cars get­ting around at the mo­ment, all run­ning at the lim­its of mo­tors, tyres and chas­sis.”

RIGHT NOW I HAVE A 4.20 TUNE IN THE CAR, WHICH EQUATES TO 45-47LB OF BOOST. CRANK IT TO 55LB AND IT WILL RUN INTO THE HIGH 3.90S OVER THE EIGHTH

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