Street Machine - - STAGE WRITE - BOB KOTMEL

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.


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