MERRY Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone. Congrats to all the participants at Street Machine Drag Challenge 2019. Nearly a third of the DC entrants were first-timers, and I spoke with father and son Rod and Phil Williams, who had brought their Ls-powered Peugeot all the way from WA to compete. The stock-as-a-rock LS made 300hp on a dyno, and the French sleeper went high 13s at over 100mph. What a great father-and-son project.
One thing that came up in conversation was that their Peugeot has a stock torque converter, so I suggested a 2500-3500rpm stall converter for their sleeper. I remember using a Grant Hobday-built Dominator 3500 stall converter with a high-torque multiplication stator many years ago in front of my Russell Horan-built Trimatic. My old 308-powered, 3250lb ute ran high 12s at 105mph with 2.78:1 gears, using the Holden three-speed like a two-speed with overdrive. The 10-inch converter was built so tight that it used to chirp the tyres going into gear at idle, and was great on the open highway.
The Peugeot was running 2.2-second 60-foot times, but with a good high-stall converter they could expect the 60-foot times to drop down to 1.7 seconds, with ETS down to the low 13s, or even high 12s.
I got terrible driver envy watching the racing at Calder. If I was 20 years younger I would build a lightweight hot rod for Drag Challenge. I remember at the last race at Castlereagh when Fred Cavasinni drove his white ’34 coupe through the gates. The hot rod was built by a highly respected chassis builder and weighed something like 2100lb with a naturally aspirated small-block. Fast Freddy put a blown smallblock into the rod, painted it black and went 7.80s at 180mph over 20 years ago.
Early hot rodders knew one of the keys to speed was to reduce weight, and stripped all unnecessary parts off their cars. Reducing weight was just as important as making power. I know for a fact that last century there was an Andra-legal, NSW street-registered hot rod that weighed 1900–2000lb with an iron bigblock Chev plus driver that went 8.80s naturally aspirated. There is no minimum weight in Drag Challenge, and with today’s tyres and shocks, a street-legal, Andra-approved, lightweight hot rod would be killer.
Power-to-weight applies equally to street machines. I recently wrote about Robert Valastro’s eight-second, naturally aspirated Holden 355 Commodore. A lot of work must’ve been done to shave the car’s weight with driver down to 2650lb. Another car put on a diet was David Sheehy’s Coyote-powered late-model Mustang. The low-10-second, 136mph aspirated 5.0-litre streeter’s weight is unmeasured, but every part that’s not needed has been removed. There’s possibly 500lb of extraneous parts that can be removed from a late-model car.
One of my friends, Mark Clifford, was getting his Mustang ready for Drag Challenge and mentioned ways he could reduce weight at the track easily. His high eight-second Bossmotored fastback has always raced with the mufflers. Mark fitted a quick-change clamp set-up to remove the mufflers, which weigh 88lb. According to the Moroso calculator, 100lb is worth around a tenth and one mph improvement. The Jon Kaase-built Boss motor is with John Barbagallo at the moment, getting a birthday for the 2020 Drag Challenge events.
Another car that brought a grin to my face was Mark Arblaster’s 3700lb POR440 Valiant, which ran low nines at 152mph. The preloved LS motor came from the wreckers with 250,000km on the clock and is force-fed by a single turbo on 27psi of boost. Mark was running in the Tuff Mounts 235 Blown class, which is like racing on razor blades. The blue Val had to be tippy-toed off the line, then fed the fat down the track. Arby’s best 60ft was a 1.43.
Out of the blue I got a phone call from Johnny Habib, who wanted to know the dimensions of a set of 308 tri-ys I wrote about ages ago. The original SM story was about Neil Bovey’s 308 Torana that went 11s with stock-valved, cast-iron heads. After reading the story, Steve Gay had bought a set of heads and duplicated the 308 combo for Johnny’s Torana. That red-headed Holden V8 gave a lot of tough street cars hell, and ran 10.2s after Mark Arblaster motivated him to feed it nitrous. The two-bolt-main 308 must have ingested hundreds of bottles of gas over the years. It was the beginning for a guy who was one of the founders of the Australian Pro Street Association.
Johnny sold the wicked little 308 motor to make way for bigger and better engines, which set him on a path into the sevens. But he told me the original 20-year-old 308 motor inspired by my article had come up for sale, and he’d bought it back. The motor has done thousands of street kays and countless quartermile passes. Amazingly, it’s still running. The bearings and bores are like new, and he’s going to put it back on the street once again. Now that really made me smile.
THE STOCK-AS-A-ROCK LS MADE 300HP ON A DYNO, AND THE FRENCH SLEEPER WENT HIGH 13S AT OVER 100MPH. WHAT A GREAT FATHER-AND-SON PROJECT!