Rolling into Chopped 2022 on the opening Friday was like coming home for Christmas for me. All my favourite sights, sounds, smells and people greeted me after a COVID-inflicted two-year layoff.
As we pulled in to find a car park in Carisbrook Raceway, we could see burnout smoke rising from the startline of the asphalt drags, as well as the line of gassers, hot rods and choppers waiting for their chance to fly down a usually public road with impunity.
Heading through the campsite towards the bar, we were greeted by a cornucopia of iconic rides parked amongst the barbecues and tents. These included Andy Colalillo’s ’34 roadster, Michael Ahrens’s Pontiac-powered ’31 tudor, Aaron Bray’s two-door FB and Sean Hammond’s chopped and channelled A coupe.
Sydney nostalgia racer Joe Kurtovic had the premium power park, with his nitro-burning, 392 Hemi-powered front-engined dragster located just outside the main stage, pointing straight at the moshpit.
Stopping and chatting with old mates made for slow going, so after grabbing a cocktail from the bar, we jumped on Wolfman’s notorious Bedford truck for a lap of the grounds. Wolfman is a Chopped fixture whose job it is to patrol the venue in his Beddy with a seemingly endless parade of garage rock and punk bands playing on the tray.
During daylight hours, the campground/pit area was alive with cruising. Uncorked headers and unmuffled shovelheads abounded, with plenty of blower whine and the occasional vintage two-stroke in the mix.
After a pause for lunch, the asphalt drags were replaced with the dirt variety, although the competition sometimes looked more drifty than draggy. The fact that 2019 Drag Challenge winner Harry Haig – a man who likes to get sideways at any opportunity – was running the startline may have had something to do with that. He even took his Toyota Coaster motorhome down the track to show the youngsters how things should be done.
By 5pm, the drags were done and a strict sitewide engine shutdown rule was enforced to ensure things stayed safe as darkness fell.
All except one engine, that is.
With the sun fully down and the bar area packed, Joe Kurtovic and his Outkasts CC clubmates pushed their dragster through the crowd and prepared for a nitro cackle show right in front of the main stage. The crowd appeared to be equally divided between old hands who knew what was coming and curious onlookers standing a little too close who were about to get one hell of a surprise.
The 392 Hemi that powers the FED is the real deal, dripping in cool parts like the magnesium Bowers 8/71 supercharger and the Joe Mondello heads. It fired up without fuss and lit up the darkness with flames and glowing zoomies. Tears welled up in the eyes of the uninitiated, but you can bet that more than a few of those will be first up against the fence next time a Top Fuel meet rolls into town.
Tamworth-born cowpunk Andy Golledge had a real task ahead of him following up that act, but he gave it a red-hot go. In fact, the music line-up in general for Chopped ’22 was a cracker, headlined by the internationally renowned Amyl & The Sniffers and stuffed full of other noisy Aussie sensations such as COFFIN and Grindhouse.
After the bands finished at 11pm, DJs kept the crowd pumping until 1am, at which time the official event schedule advised punters to head to bed.
That was good advice given that Chopped has traditionally been held in October or November, but for 2022 it was early December, so things were altogether warmer than usual. This was clearly evident on Saturday morning, when a small army of heavily sunburned and painfully hungover poppets emerged to seek relief from the oppressive heat of their tents.
Such relief could be found in the air-conditioned surrounds of the traders’ hall, where cool clobber was up for grabs alongside live tattooing all weekend. Next door was the Chopp’A’rammA indoor motorcycle display, with a cracking collection of kick-start scooters slowly leaking oil into hastily placed oil trays.
Day two was pretty much a carbon copy of day one, except for the addition of a toga party to the evening festivities – and even more cars and bikes circulating the drag strips and cruise routes. And while the number of entrants was down on the heady days of 2015, there was still plenty to look at, with rad rides coming from WA, Queensland, SA, Broken Hill and Tasmania to join in.
By day three, the heat had taken its toll and all but the hardiest dirt track racers packed up and headed home to recover – and in some cases, detox.
All in all, the 2022 edition of Chopped was a triumphant return for the event, which has been running and evolving – with a couple of hiatuses – since 2008. We’ve got our fingers crossed that we’ll be back in Carisbrook at the tail end of 2023 to do it all again.
1. Queenslander Cal Scott ran amok in his ‘Brutal’ 1965 AP6 Valiant gasser. The old girl sits up on ’37 Plymouth front suspension and runs a stout 477ci Mopar big-block mated to an A833 ’box and Dana 60 rear
2. Jesse Bourke brought this ’63 Dodge Phoenix gasser back for another lash at the Chopped asphalt drags. Sorry Mopar fans, there is a 454 Chev lurking under the Dodge’s 6/71 blower!
3. Luke Lingard’s NASCAR-style ’64 Galaxie is a real weapon, powered by a 460 big-block backed by a Top Loader four-speed
4. Petey Freestone’s crazy Austin A50 gasser is dubbed ‘Bosstin’, powered by a 421ci Pontiac lump
5. Junkers CC cars were well represented, including Mark Taylor’s FX ute. Mark’s granddad left the ute in a paddock after it caught fire while rounding up sheep! Mark dragged it out decades later and treated it to an LS1/TH400/9in swap
6. Michael McFadyen and Chris Sleep have been coming to Chopped for years in their ever-evolving EK Holden wagon. “Every year we added to it,” Michael said. “It’s a shitbox, but it’s fun.” Powered by a 308/Trimatic/Rodeo diff combo, ‘Cheap Trick’ has plenty of cool details, from the Rocket II rims to the radiused rear guards. “We make our shit from scratch,” James added. “We did it old-school and on a budget”
7. You don’t see many Ford four-bangers skidding like this, but Lyndon Grant’s Model A pick-up did it all weekend at Chopped ’22
8. This Hemi-powered ’34 pick-up was originally built by Gav Edmonds and Andy Milne. Dubbed ‘The Hanson Road Hooker’, it completed Drag Challenge 2018 against crazy odds. Now owned by John Maragozidis, the ’34 has a cool bare-metal look and did multiple spectacular laps of both the dirt and asphalt drags
9. Renowned metal man and artist Len Vodic brought his ’28 Ford coupe on ’32 rails all the way from Broken Hill! The coupe is powered by a 259ci Studebaker V8 backed by a Top Loader. Chopped ’22 was its first event after a long build, and Len made the most of it on both dirt and asphalt
10. Jimbo’s LOROLA HR has the holy trinity of early-Holden goodness: mild custom bodywork, righteous stance and a stinking-hot red motor that cops a hiding!
11. Drag Challenge regular Aaron James brought his ’bagged EJ Holden wagon all the way from WA
12. At the last Chopped, Joe Kurtovic entertained the masses with some cacklefest action in his nitro-burning, 392 Hemi-powered ’34 coupe. This time around, he slotted the same driveline into his front-engined dragster
13. Ryan O’Hara’s ’59 Vauxhall Victor gasser, ‘Convict’, runs a Ford crossflow six with a Weiand 177 blower strapped on the side
14. Grantley Strapps has upped the power quotient in his ‘Chantilly Lace’ FJ, swapping his Norman-supercharged grey motor six out for a nasty injected red motor. The car is set up to party, with a Hilux diff, Trimatic and Gazzard Brothers mono-leaf springs out back
15. It is always cool to see the Jim Vincent ’26 Willys bucket being spanked in anger! The car was built in the early 70s and features a 292 Y-block, four-speed, C&D mags, Bob Grimshaw trim and a far-out Rick Pacey paintjob
16. Believe it or not, this beast began life as an ugly-duckling ’49 Vauxhall Velox, but Sam Southwell of Tassie has it looking much more like a ’33/’34 Ford coupe! Under the much-modified body is a home-built chassis, L98 engine, six-speed auto and AU Falcon diff