Turn­ing back time at one of our favourite retro drag meets

THE suc­cess of the Sun­set Strip Nos­tal­gia events stems from two key in­gre­di­ents: the in­ti­mate coun­try set­ting in Mildura in north-west Vic­to­ria, and the com­mu­nity spirit of Aus­tralian grass­roots drag rac­ing. Fur­ther adding to the am­biance are the ded­i­cated drag cars in 60s-70s liv­ery – heavy metal-flake, enam­elled sign­writ­ing and bold, era-cor­rect colour­ings. It’s a scene that re­ally gets you in the mood for some spec­tac­u­lar eighth-mile bat­tles.

For the Sun­raysia Drag Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion’s third Nos­tal­gia meet, the pre-’78 en­tries were capped at 120 (up from 105 last year) and were filled some seven weeks prior. “This year was a lot big­ger to or­gan­ise,” said a tired yet proud Kings­ley Kuchel, SDRA pres­i­dent. “But as with any of our events, all of the vol­un­teers worked their back­sides off to run the meet­ing like a well-oiled ma­chine. The weather def­i­nitely helped too.”

Crisp, cool nights and clear, sunny days kept the eighth-mile strip at a good temp for a field full of amaz­ing ma­chin­ery, from full-blown drag cars to bench-seat sleep­ers. There were classes to tan­ta­lise ev­ery­one’s au­to­mo­tive taste­buds: Aussie Mus­cle, Amer­i­can Mus­cle, Hot Rod, Vin­tage Gas, and the re­ally fast ’n’ quick rides in Top Gas, Mid­dle Elim­i­na­tor and Top Elim­i­na­tor.

As usual, Vin­tage Gas put on the best dis­play, brim­ming with an as­sort­ment of eye candy that per­formed as good as they looked. Steve Costa’s 540-cube ’57 Chevy gasser, Blaster, gar­nered the most cheers af­ter reel­ing off hu­mungous front lifts pass af­ter pass. Fel­low Nos­tal­gia racer Damien Kemp left his Fun­der-bolt Fair­lane at home, in­stead play­ing with his new toy, a 70s-built, yet freshly re­born Fiat Topolino la­belled Des­per­ado. Set to play in Mid­dle Elim­i­na­tor, the 327ci-pow­ered short-wheel­base racer had a cou­ple of ini­tial hic­cups as Damien grasped the feel of the Fiat, but soon he had it well and truly down pat, run­ning clean, straight passes not far off his in­tended times.

Kings­ley him­self was also cut­ting eighths in his 383ci Sweet

Sen­sa­tion drag­ster while jug­gling the co­or­di­na­tion of the en­tire meet. “It’s def­i­nitely hard work,” he ad­mit­ted af­ter his emo­tional Mid­dle Elim­i­na­tor win. “My wife Lau­ren is the crew chief and is just as in­volved in the event or­gan­i­sa­tion as I am. So we worked un­til we heard the class be­fore us called, then got ready to do our run. It was dif­fi­cult to keep my head in the game, but we were able to get it all done and race well.”

Show-level, high-horse­power cars were also out on the track, most no­table be­ing Bren­ton Lee’s an­gry twin-tur­boed KILAXW XW ute (SM, Mar ’16) com­pet­ing in Top Gas, and Mike Evans’s tar­mac-hug­ging, steel-bod­ied ’70 AAR Bar­racuda in Top Elim­i­na­tor. Mike’s ’Cuda is im­mac­u­lately fin­ished and good for over 2000hp while belt­ing out low-four-sec­ond eighths. It’s spec­tac­u­lar to watch.

The Aussie Mus­cle class had the most en­tries at this year’s event, with a whop­ping 31 com­peti­tors (up from 19 last year) along with a de­cent wait-list. Within it sat a fairly even mix of Holden, Ford and Chrysler mod­els, each do­ing their maker proud. Some were ded­i­cated trail­ered drag cars, while oth­ers were just set up for a bit of fun.

While the fi­nals were planned for Sun­day, the lack of in­ci­dents moved the event ahead of sched­ule and was run and won on Satur­day evening un­der lights.

Over­all, the Nos­tal­gia rac­ing was fun yet com­pet­i­tive across the vast ar­ray of horse­power within each group­ing, and no one was rac­ing for sheep sta­tions ei­ther. The at­mos­phere was laid­back and low-key, where your times­lip does the talk­ing and you shake your op­po­nent’s hand af­ter the race is run.

Dur­ing the Sun­day Fun­day, the full tim­ing sys­tem re­mained, al­low­ing a few heavy-hit­ters to stick around for test­ing. Most


paid to ei­ther be a pas­sen­ger in an en­tered drag car or even to swap driv­ers for a blat. Be­ing an open day, you could pair up against your mates too. The field was smaller, which meant more passes for ev­ery­one. That’s cheap test­ing in any­one’s lan­guage, yet the em­pha­sis was on fun, with an ex­pec­ta­tion that no one would give it too much jandal in the top end.

As I promised at last year’s Nos­tal­gia meet, we did bring up a wor­thy racer this time – my hubby Shane’s 502ci HZ Sand­man panel van. It was also our first time stay­ing at the track, al­low­ing us to en­joy the driver and crew meals pro­vided by the SDRA and hang out in the shed bar to bench-race.

The Nos­tal­gia drags is a spec­ta­tor’s de­light. If you’re into tough sixes, eights, and a mon­ster drag car or two pump­ing out a cou­ple of thou­sand horse­power, then get your­self to the next Sun­set Strip meet and mo­sey close to the ac­tion both on track and in the pits. I’ll see you there.

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