Mopar tragics head to Willowbank Raceway for a day filled with Hemis and horsepower

Photographers: Steve Kelly, Drag Photos

All facets of the Chrysler faithful unite to sacrifice rubber and celebrate the blessing that is Mopar Sunday

THANKFULLY the Mopar Gods pulled rank and turned on a beautiful Queensland winter’s day for Mopar Sunday 2016 at Willowbank Raceway. After last year’s double rain-out, there was an understandably tentative build-up to this year’s event for organiser Sam Tatton and his crew, but they had the backing of a very close-knit Chrysler community, who turned out in droves to help make it a cracker of a day.

Mopar -sunday -1-2The Mopar Sunday philosophy is simple: All cars must be Mopar-based in body and/or soul. It means you’re always treated to a broad spectrum of the Pentastar product range at the event. This year, vintage, classic and modern Mopars from Aussie and American backgrounds mixed with a sprinkling of Japanese and Euro derivatives, and some chose to repower traditional bodystyles with brand-X powerplants, or upgrade non-Chrysler rides with Mopar hearts. There were street cars, four-wheel drives and dedicated drag cars – even a Chrysler 300 limo – running as quick or as slow as they damn well pleased, with DYO classes the flavour of the day. Backing the racing up, a healthy show ’n’ shine, dyno competition and swap meet stalls meant there was something to appeal to everyone.

Mopar -sunday -78-2The Chrysler Hemi V8 has long been the basis for many high-end professional drag combos, which makes Mopar Sunday the ideal event to enjoy exhibition runs from cars usually reserved for Group 1 meets. Perth’s Anthony Begley was at the helm of the Bailey Brothers’ new Nitro Funny Car, Chemical Warfare. It may resemble a Chevy Monte Carlo, but that red flopper top houses a PSI-blown 498-cube Hemi cranking out close to 10,000hp.

“It’s a brand new car and combo, so we’re trying to get it NHRA-licensed before we send it to the US later this year,” Anthony said. “I shut it down at the 800ft mark and rolled through showing a 4.39 at 1000ft with a full-quarter pass of 5.37@211mph, so we’re heading in the right direction. A full-power pass will easily net us in the fours.” An appreciative crowd cheered Anthony and the team on as they enjoyed a sensory experience that little else can match.

Mopar -sunday -11-2Another fresh build is the ’78 Chrysler-plated Sigma of Brett Roberts. Brett and his crew towed up from Sydney for his first-ever track time at Willowbank and netted a 9.58@142mph with a 125hp shot of gas, and a naturally aspirated 10.00@133mph.

Brett has an Aussie Charger and quite a collection of Yankee Mopar muscle to his credit, but looked at different options when deciding to build a dedicated strip car. “I wanted something compact but it had to have steel bumpers,” he said. “There’s plenty of Centuras doing the rounds, so I went for a Sigma instead.

Mopar -sunday -16-2“The current engine is a fairly simple set-up based around a 318 block and is really no more than a tough street combo. It has a four-inch stroker crank that stretches it to 390 cubes, and uses ported Edelbrock alloy heads topped with an Edelbrock Victor intake and BG Demon 825 carb, with a fairly basic Crower flat-tappet cam. It’s pretty much a test engine to prepare the car for a ProCharged 426 small-block I have ready to go. The chassis set-up works really well, it gets the power down smoothly and runs very consistent at different tracks, so we’ll up the ante with the blown motor after the Heathcote Mopar Nationals later this year.” A 904 Torqueflite and 3.5-geared Dodge 8.75-inch diff round out the all-Chrysler driveline, with Brett’s sights set firmly on running good numbers in the 275 radial class.

Mopar -sunday -24-2Local racer Vince Livaditis had his gorgeous black VG hardtop out for some track time and powered on for an 11.33@117mph best. “I bought it three years ago sight unseen – big mistake – with a Hemi 265 and 904 auto,” he explained. “It was full of rust, so I had the body and paint repaired then figured it was time to step it up performance-wise.”

A Proformance Unlimited 408 stroker small-block crate motor was shipped in from the States and matched to a Brinks Performance 904 Torqueflite, while a Detroit Locker nine-inch running 3.55 gears rounds out the driveline. “I raced go-karts for years so drag racing is still fairly new to me, but I’m more than happy with the coupe and how it drives,” Vince said. “It’s the perfect all-rounder; its consistent at the track but very streetable if I want to take my better half, Vicky, out to a car show or weekend coffee run.”

Mopar -sunday -9-2With the morning qualifiers sorted, eliminations began after a short lunch, with capacity fields in all of the DYO classes. The 15-second-and-over bracket saw Matthew Fry take the win in his VF sedan, running a 17.75@77mph on a 17.7 dial-in, after Barbara Sherrard in her Jeep wagon broke out by a tenth with a 15.39@87mph on a 15.49 dial-in.

Tammy Ayson in her VH Charger dialled in at 14.12 and won the 13-14.99 class with a near-perfect 14.13@95mph, edging out runner-up Brett Styler and his Hemi-powered sleeper VK ute with a 13.54@99mph on a 13.1 dial-in.

Mopar -sunday -19-2“The blue Charger is actually my husband Mark’s car,” Tammy said. “He’s owned it for 25 years and is currently building a fresh 360 for it, so we’ve fitted the 318 out of my VF sedan project in the meantime. Mark’s raced for years but I was never really interested, so I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about. And yes, I’m hooked! This is only my third time drag racing and the adrenaline rush is pretty addictive; you really need to have your wits about you too. I’m keen to race my own car now and will hopefully have the VF finished for next year’s event.”

Gary Smith was back after a three-year hiatus in his Blueprint-painted VF sedan. Previously powered by a twin-supercharged small-block, Gary has reverted to a single blown stroker 360 that previously saw service in his black Chrysler Neon Super Sedan.

Mopar -sunday -23-2“I couldn’t keep a belt on the twin-blower arrangement. I put up with it for years but decided it was time to simplify the combo,” Gary explained. “The old motor was good for 11.20s on avgas, but the single Paxton and intercooler set-up is tuned for pump fuel, so is a touch slower at 11.70@116mph. It’s far more streetable and really consistent, so it’s worth the drop in ET.” So much so that Gary came up trumps in a hard-fought 11-12.99 bracket win, cutting a .03 light and running an 11.91@107mph on an 11.90 dial-in to narrowly snatch the win from Troy O’Brien, who ran a perfect 11.65@113mph on an 11.65 dial-in in his red Challenger. “It all went our way today, so I couldn’t be happier,” Gary beamed.

The 10.99-and-under bracket came down to a battle of the tunnel-rammed 440s, with Dave Webber in his orange VH Pacer sedan needing nearly all of his tenth-quicker reaction time to edge out Sal Neri’s VH ute with a 10.98@123mph on a 10.89 dial-in, compared to Sal’s tighter 10.98@122mph on a dial-in of 10.95.

Mopar -sunday -15-2The ‘Mopar Madman’ award is always hotly contested, but when the smoke clears there can only be one winner, and this year Rex Scoles was crowned champion, sizzling the tyres of his white 500-cube VF Valiant hardtop.

A break from the drags was easily sorted with a wander through the swap meet or a peek in the dyno cell, while the show ’n’ shine was packed with an awesome array of cars. Hot rods and 50s Yank tanks rubbed shoulders with 70s Aussie and US muscle, dazzling onlookers with their period bright orange or magenta paintwork under sunny skies.

As with every Mopar Sunday, there was one element that united this varied tribe – the love of Chrysler. Whether young or old, novice or pro, Mopar Sunday is the perfect opportunity to get your car out for a drive, run some numbers or simply show it off while checking out what else is on the scene. Next year’s event is on 30 July, and if you worship at the Pentastar altar, you’d be mad to miss it.

Mopar -sunday -10-2I normally race one of my VG hardtops at Mopar Sunday, but decided to give the Disturbia CL panel van a run to mix things up. I said to SM photographer Steve Kelly: “I’ll see if it can do a burnout.” I must say I was pretty amazed by the smoke show and 16.61@83mph best out of its stock 318

Mopar -sunday -21-2Peter Klockner debuted his VC sedan, Metal Mauler. “I built it for Vintage Gas, trying to use as many shed spares as possible,” he said. “It runs a mild 318 with home-ported heads backed by a 904 Torqueflite and 4.11-geared 9in. I blew the auto on the first run so hope to run mid-12s once I get it properly sorted.” And the paint scheme? “Yes, it’s based on the old Sox & Martin team colours from back in the day,” he confirmed

Mopar -sunday -13-2Anthony Begley got the crowd fired up in the Bailey Bros’ ballistic Nitro Funny Car, Chemical Warfare. The PSI-blown 498ci Hemi took the car to a 5.37@211mph at Mopar Sunday, but Anthony and the team have their sights set on fours

Mopar -sunday -6-2Tim Down bought this farm-fresh VC ute four years ago and wasted no time swapping out the original slant-six and three-on-the-tree for a cast-headed 383 big-block, stroked using a 440 crank to make 435 cubes. A 727 transmission is backed by a 4.11-geared 9in, while 15×10 Weld Rodlites fill the mini-tubbed rear. Tim managed an 11.86@114mph at the ute’s debut meeting

Mopar -sunday -26-2Gary Smith enjoyed an 11-12.99 class win in his Blueprint VF sedan, pushing the Paxton-blown stroker 360 to an 11.70@116mph

Mopar -sunday -20-2 “I’ve had heaps of fun and got to do some burnouts, so it’s been a win-win,” Gary said. “Taking out the class against some tough competition is just the icing on the cake”

Mopar -sunday -18-2pgMason Cahill is a third-generation hot rodder and built his ’23 T-bucket with the help of his dad Darren and grandfather Rod. Restricted to a six-cylinder to satisfy his P-plate requirements, 19-year-old Mason decided to go with the quickest six he could find, so naturally he chose 265 Hemi power. The triple-Webered Chrysler donk is backed by a BorgWarner automatic and Jaguar IRS, with Mason well-and-truly breaking out in the first round with an off-the-juice 12.88@94mph on a 13.0 dial-in

Mopar -sunday -22-2Peter Pritchard’s VH Charger had the most amazing paintwork and looked stunning in the winter sun. “I call it lime gold candy, and it was painted by my brother Mark of Spray1 a few years ago.” Peter is looking for mid-11s out of the Kevin Kent-built 416 stroker small-block, but had to settle for a 12.30@110mph on the day after bowing out early with a snapped axle

Mopar -sunday -5-2Long-time Nostalgia racer Peter Duffy is a true gentleman of the sport and made a few passes in his slingshot dragster before tyre shake destroyed the diff gears. “I’ve gone 6.75@205mph, but would love to be running 6.60s at around the 213 mark,” he said. The Top Eliminator FED runs a 14/71 Weiand-blown Brad Anderson 511ci Hemi, backed
by a Dedenbear Powerglide and full-floater rear

Mopar -sunday -14-2A popular Mopar Sunday drawcard is Greg Emberley and his ’66 Coronet, which runs a 500ci big-block sporting Indy heads, a 94mm cast Precision turbo and C&S carb, backed by a Rossler Powerglide and Dana 60 with 3.54 gears. Greg and his crew made some changes on the day to fine-tune the Coronet for the eighth-mile Kenda Radial Series, running a PB 4.73@155mph for the eighth and an early-’chutes 7.45@161mph best for the full quarter

Mopar -sunday -17-2Toowoomba’s Lea McCarroll brought down his beautiful VE VIP, which looked resplendent in VE Commodore Provenance Blue. “I found it in a shed where it had sat for 18 years,” he said. “It was clean, tidy and totally rust-free, which made it a fairly straightforward project.” A 318 small-block features ‘J’-casting heads and a mild cam, and first-time racer Lea managed a 14.023@97mph

Mopar -sunday -2-2Got stance? Few cars have a rake as perfect as that of Paul Davies’s ’76 Chevy Monza, dubbed Asphalt Gigolo. “It’s an original early-80s-build BB-class funny car I bought as a roller from the So-Cal Speed Shop a few years ago,” Paul explained. He fitted his blown alcohol 514ci Hemi and has gone to great lengths to keep the car as period-correct visually as possible. “I ran a shakedown 8.40 pass today, and once it’s properly licensed I am hoping for mid-to-low sevens”

Mopar -sunday -25-2Speedway racer Ben Harris enjoys drag racing too, so bypassed the beach and made a number of passes in his VE VIP surfin’ Safari, squeezing a 17.4 out of the stock-standard 273 V8

Mopar -sunday -3-2Malcolm McIntosh’s VE wagon runs a 408ci small-block combination, topped with RHS cast-iron heads and an M1 intake. A 727 Torqueflite and 3.9-geared 8.75in Dodge diff helped Mal to a PB 11.23@121mph before snapping an axle in the second round. “I spent yesterday madly fitting a new converter, which dropped me three-tenths and improved the top end by an extra 4mph, so I’m heading in the right direction. I don’t care how many .9s are on my timeslip so long as there is a 10 in front of it,” he laughed

Mopar -sunday -8-2David Hillman continues to refine the mechanically injected methanol blown 540ci Hemi in his VG hardtop, but struggled with traction issues on the day. “I will make some more adjustments to the ignition program to help get it off the line,” he said. “Hopefully it can improve on its 9.1@151mph best”

Mopar -sunday -2w 7-2Drag-racing newcomer Tammy Ayson was stoked to win the 13-14.99sec bracket in husband Mark’s VH Charger. “It’s his car with my 318 engine, which is the only reason I’m allowed to drive it!” she laughed

Mopar -sunday -12-2Twenty-year-old P-plater Trent Fabre built this VF sedan back in high school with his dad Lyndley. The Hemi 245 and BorgWarner 51 automatic combo is a stop-gap after the VF lunched its turbocharged 265, but it still managed a 15.9@81mph best. Trent hopes to improve on this dramatically when he makes a return to turbo Hemi power

Mopar -sunday -4-2Vince Livaditis had his black VG hardtop in the low 11s all day, with a best of 11.33@117mph. A 408ci small-block is backed by a 904 trans and 3.55-geared 9in. “I’ll be switching to 3.7 gears soon to make better use of the rev range and hopefully shave a little more off my ETs,” Vince said