EIGHT-SECOND 13B STARLET
There is a lot to be said about those among us who create with their own hands, quietly going about their business, relying on very few others and not blowing their own trumpet — instead, letting their handcrafted machines do the talking. While some old-time naysayers will harp on about this type of craftsman being a dying breed in the modern world, we’re here — or, more important, Jeremy Hewson’s 13B Starlet is here — to show you that all hope is not yet lost.
We’ve followed this build since it first hit the strip in 2014, and followed Jeremy’s development from a mid-10-second runner to winning the nationals in 2015, winning the Super Sedan title the following year, and now having the fastest pump-gas (98-octane) 13B in the world.
You could say that Jeremy was born into drag racing, having been dragged to the strip from six months old to watch top door slammers with uncapped, meth-burning, blown motors. With an upbringing as proper as that and methanol in the blood, it was almost inevitable that he’d eventually find his way onto the other side of the Armco and into the driver’s seat.
“I had a VK Commodore that I’d put a later model V6 in, and my boss conned me into racing for his team at a team event at Taupo. I ran something slow like a 16.6, but I was bitten, and, the very next day, I ordered a nitrous kit. The next meeting, I ran a 14.5. After that, I built a 13B turbo Hilux. But, just as I got it running, I thought, this is never going to be a drag car, so started looking around for the smallest and lightest car that I could use as a base and saw the Puerto Ricans doing crazy things with the Starlets,” recalls Jeremy.
The hunt led Jeremy to Morrinsville and this very car, albeit in complete factory and untouched condition. He drove it home to Putaruru, and, the very next day, the grinder was sunk deep into the factory floorpan. Armed with a rule book and plenty of Puerto Rican Starlet imagery, Jeremy got to work on what is his first-ever drag car build.
“It started off as a simple budget build, just mini tubs and roll cage to maybe run nines in Sport Mod. Then, one day, I was standing there with a beer looking at it almost finished, and felt that far too many compromises had to be made in meeting the class rules: it sat too high, and I just didn’t feel it was safe enough.”
A full tube chassis has been built in stages: first, a three-quarter chassis; then a front clip was added; and, over the winter months, the rear end was completely reworked to allow for bigger tubs and taller tyres Running a Link G4+ Fury, boost is controlled in three stages: one to get the 13B up on the trans, the second for first, and the third for top gear
Once again, the grinder was brought out and all of Jeremy’s hard work removed with a few precise cuts. Armed with a cheap bender, notcher, and welder — all bought specifically for the build — Jeremy set about building a three-quarter chassis right there in his garage, shifting his focus from Sport Mod to Super Sedan. Utilizing the S4-based 13B turbo package from the abandoned Hilux build, a four-linked nine-inch diff, and C4 auto, the Starlet would be hitting Meremere and dipping as low as the eight-second bracket before the next big change-up would occur.
Running a BorgWarner SX300, 98 octane, water-methanol, and tuned by Green Brothers Racing, the 13B was proving to be a formidable and consistent competitor in Super Sedan, taking the season championship in 2015, but the 13B was pushing some serious grunt, so much so that it was starting to twist the front chassis rails on the hard launches. The idea was to add a mid plate at the firewall to tie the motor to the chassis. Jeremy soon decided that, while he was at it, he may as well chop the entire front off and tube that too, turning it into a full tube-frame chassis. Not only would this stiffen everything up, but the car would also lose some weight in the process, and it would allow the turbo to be mounted much closer to the block to help spool on the transbrake — something that’s important in bracket racing such as Super Sedan. Another big change at this point was the switch from C4 to Powerglide, as teh C4 just couldn’t handle the revs and would require a rebuild every two race meets.
Another season would roll over with consistent high-eightsecond passes, but a mistake that Jeremy made when ordering a set of tyres for the very last meeting of the year would act as the catalyst to the biggest off-season rework to date.
“I ordered some new tyres from Oz. When they turned up, I realized that I’d messed up and accidentally ordered the M/T 31x10.5W tyre instead of the 29.5x10.5 that I usually run. The 10.5W tyre is a much bigger tyre, designed to bend the Outlaw 10.5 class rules in the States. I didn’t have enough time to order new tyres, so thought that I’d try to shoehorn them under the car and see how they went,” he says.
Built by Green brothers racing, the 13B is based on an S4 block and features a mild port job. A BorgWarner SXE372 turbo does the heavy lifting, and propels the Starlet deep into the eights
The new tyre made the car an animal off the line, but there was only one problem: they didn’t fit the tubs. The call was made to cut the car up once again and rework the rear end to allow for the bigger meat. Like all the previous reworks, the project was once again carried out in the workshop at home, and to a level that is very impressive to say the least. The upgrades didn’t stop there; a new turbo has made its way onto the same 13B that the car has always run — a BorgWarner SXE372, which Jeremy tells us is a good compromise between size and losing spool on the line.
“The bigger you go turbo-wise, the harder it is to spool and the less consistent it is,” he explains.
However, the swap has made a huge difference, with the little motor now making power all the way to 10,000rpm.
It’s now a matter of changing the diff ratios until the car is using all the power, as it is currently a good 2000rpm short at the traps. Finding all-out pace isn’t all that Jeremy is after, though; he’s also looking for consistency and a second championship: “I’m currently leading the points and looking to take another title. I won it back in 2015 and don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.”
If the early season events are anything to go by, the car is going to be hard to beat, especially once that all-new rear end is dialled in. It’s only a couple meetings old, remember.
While Jeremy tells us that he’s pretty happy with the current pace, he has said that before — and he knows as well as anyone reading this that it won’t be long before the car goes back under the knife for his next round of upgrades; it’s just part of the game.
INTERIOR SEATS: Kirkey Alloy STEERING WHEEL: Threestep and line-lock buttons INSTRUMENTATION: Auto Meter water-temp gauge, Auto Meter transmission temp gauge, Auto Meter oil-pressure gauge DRIVER PROFILE DRIVER/OWNER: Jeremy Hewson AGE: 34 LOCATION: Putaruru OCCUPATION: Panel beater BUILD TIME: Three years LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: Eight yearsTHANKS: Big thanks to Putaruru Panel and Paint, Green Brothers Racing, Brinsden Automatics