Throw the word nostalgia among a group of drag racers and you’re certain to get a mixed response. Depending on your year of birth and juvenile experiences, nostalgia could mean anything from a grey motor-powered dragster with a water pipe chassis, to a HK Holden running tubs and a tunnel ram, to an eighties nitro funny car with a body totally indistinguishable, but a grille badge still able to summon loyalty to the marque. Whatever your angle, we all agree that old school is cool and that there should be more of it.
We were proud to team up again with Willowbank Raceway for the Cruzin Magazine Nostalgia Drags and Hot Rod Reunion on Saturday, February 27. It had been over 10 years since the first Cruzin Nostalgia Drags (July 2004) at Queensland’s premier quarter mile facility, back then spawning a new generation of hot rodders and racers scrambling to be a part of the action. Things have settled in more recent years, but a core group of racers can still be found at nostalgia events and we’d like to see things fire up again, starting now.
The heat is always a factor at Willowbank’s February meeting and as expected, the forecasts of 36 degrees were lived up to. The anticipated high temperatures were the main reason behind the 3pm kick off, enabling racers and fans to enjoy the cool of the evening after sweating it out for just a few hours in the afternoon. Racers just want to race however and qualifying lanes jam packed for the entire afternoon with most of the 120 entrants getting in three test passes.
Shannons stepped in again to support the car show, rows of rods and classics lining the pit area is a real bonus, not to mention a buzz for the owners. Always a treat is the cruise during the break where those in the show are invited to move out and cruise the track under lights. Heading down through the qualifying lanes, cars are directed down past the grand stands, then return up the track towards the tower. The reason for the reverse pattern is to avoid the drag demons taking over when people cross the start line and stare down that long, black strip!
Racing was underway a bit after 7pm and went reasonably smoothly, although numerous short delays and cleanups pushed the final rounds out to almost 11 o’clock that evening. Most of the brackets are run Chicago Shootout style, where racers get three rounds of racing, instead of simply getting eliminated once they lose. Willowbank came up with an impressive set of trophies for winners and runners up, it was nice to hear many of the drivers acknowledge our involvement and the Willowbank crew at presentations.
While the meeting was far from its potential in regards to race entrants and spectators, the vibe was still good thanks to a full house of trade stands and a good showing of actual nostalgic cars. While chatting to racers in the pits, many were already looking ahead to the August meeting, either upgrading their cars for the meet, or knowing of someone new that was coming out to race. Now that’s something to look forward to! Lock it in for Sunday, August 14 and watch this space.
by Gavin Kelso, Photos – Dale Haberfield
Racing at the Cruzin Magazine Nostalgia Drags since its inception is Garry Cameron’s ‘Early Times’ 1958 Prefect delivery, although Andrew King was at the helm for this meeting. “He can’t drive two cars at once,” says Andrew, “he asked if I was interested in driving it and I said, why not! We freshened her up and put a new coat of paint on it.” Andrew built a new 289 for the pommy panelvan and ran all day long with a string of 11.5 to 11.7 quarter mile passes, running consistent enough to make the Vintage Gas final and win the bracket!
Darren Bazarnik’s short wheel base altered certainly captures the spirit of the infamous fuel altereds of yesteryear. It lacks nothing in performance either, a 6.89 @ 205mph in the cool of the evening his fastest pass for the day.
Noel Inman charged up from Melbourne, raced his Centre Door T, took the win in Hot Rod class, then blasted back down to Melbourne to be at work on Monday morning. Now that’s hard core!
Fred Westhoff has come a long way in nostalgia, progressing from a crossflow Falcon-equipped digger to this six second supercharged hemi dragster. A crafty young guy, he built the chassis in his own jig and pieced together the blown motor with hand-me-down components from Gary Phillips (T/A Funny Car) and Justin Walsh (AA/Altered). “It’s been a good thing, every time we run it we learn more, we listen to what the car is telling us,” said Fred. The car has run as quick as 6.66 @ 214mph in good conditions but the hot day had Fred struggling to go quicker than seven seconds.
Making the trek all the way from Roma for the meet, Randall Mohr’s FJ funny car is a sentimental favourite. Randall has the ex-Wild Bill Smith FJ funny running in the mid 7s and managed three almost identical passes; 7.66/174mph, 7.66/173mph and 7.69/174mph, but sadly failed to return after the first round of racing.
Perhaps better known as owner/operator of his reincarnated FJ Holden nostalgia racer ‘Captain Nitrous’, Bob Hamilton wheeled out this restored ‘57 DeSoto hardtop for a change. The big finned classic packs a 392 Chrysler hemi under the hood and ran low 14s at just under 100mph. Not bad for 1957.
We like Neal Mcleod’s T Altered, the fastest qualifier in the Mid Elimator bracket. Running amongst a collection of altereds and front engine dragsters, Neil battled through to win the bracket, finishing the night with an impressive 8.53 on a 8.50 dial in, with a snappy 0.003 reaction time!
Les Rodgie peeled the body off his ‘Teacher’s Pet’ funny car and replaced it with this 1970 Dodge Challenger and loads of character. Les and crew were frustrated with the string of seven second passes (ranging from 7.02-7.11) throughout the afternoon and evening, but their consistency did net them the winner’s trophy for the Top Eliminator bracket. “I said to the boys, hey, this is a blown funny car, it’s got to run 200mph and 6 seconds! The old chassis and the old body did, we’re just having a few issues with the engine,” said Les after presentations.
Graham Slapp has raced everything from nitro Harleys to wheelstanders to twin engined dragsters. Whatever he’s behind the wheel of, you can guarantee it’ll be unique! He continues the tradition with his latest dragster, this 200 inch injected hemi car running 100% nitro. “It’s all been built here,” says Graham, “we’re still sorting it out, I only ran it once last year. Stupidly I put a lot more power in it and the last few runs, I felt like I wasn’t in control of the car, so we’re going to back the engine down, take some timing out.”
62 year old John Kreis fields his ‘Clockwork Orange’ 1971 Kawasaki 750 street bike which he has owned since new and which is fairly rare thanks to it being a three cylinder, two stroke combination. “The Nostalgia events seem to be quite popular with the spectators, unfortunately I don’t get to see too much while I am racing myself but I think they enjoy the variety that these events provide – there are plenty of different cars and bikes and more to see which they wouldn’t see very often,” he commented during an interview at a previous nostalgia meet. John’s quickest run of the day was during qualifying, 11.66 @ 114.4mph.