Gallery: Motor Madness hits Townsville!

The big guns rumble into Townsville for the inaugural Motor Madness, a COVID-free safe haven for car brethren from across Queensland

Photographers: Ash Wilson

Car shows seem few and far between these days, as bastard Coronavirus continues to do a number on our more heavily populated centres. Pleasingly though, the inaugural Motor Madness at Townsville Showgrounds went off without a hitch, held across the last weekend of July. With tough burnout, drag and street cars cutting sick, it proved to be a much-needed breather from the COVID nightmare that’s been cock-blocking events all over the country.

Motor Madness saw 220 entrants and 3500 punters rock up for a show ’n’ shine, go-to-whoa and city street cruise, with $3000 in cash and prizes up for grabs.

Since Townsville Dragway was forced to shut up shop in 2012 – no thanks to housing developers muscling in – the car-lovin’ locals have been unduly deprived of their release. If you do want to run down the strip now, the nearest option is Springmount Raceway, some 450km away – a real blow for the people of Townsville.

Thankfully, local legend Rodney Meier decided he’d had enough; it was time to give the people of Townsville a proper car event! “We literally put a post up on Facebook nine weeks before the event, seeing if Townsville wanted or needed it. They absolutely did!” Rodney said. “So I whacked the whole thing together in nine weeks, on a pretty tight budget, and hoped for the best!”

Rodney’s experience running Cruise for Charity and other car events, plus his massive network of devoted car people, meant he was the perfect fella to pull Motor Madness together. “We don’t have this sort of stuff up here, yet we have all these tough cars that travel to Summernats and Red CentreNATS, so we just needed to do it for the locals,” he said. “It was about getting the cars out that have been in the sheds for years, having a bit of fun at the go-to-whoa, then in the arvo it pretty much just turned into a burnout fest! It’s been six years since we had anything like it, so the response was better than I ever could have expected!”

Rodney’s rapid turnaround of Motor Madness seemed to work in his favour, with word of the event seemingly not reaching Uncle COVID, allowing Brisbane’s best a chance to shoot up to the ’Ville just in time. A snap lockdown struck Brisbane on the Saturday; had it been a day earlier, a lot of people would have been stuck down in Brissy.

“Seeing people travel from all over was unreal, especially given all the lockdowns and people sitting on their hands not being able to use their cars,” Rodney said. “I couldn’t tell you the last time Townsville had a drag car run down the main strip; the smiles on the locals’ faces really said it all!”

Will we see another Motor Madness? Rodney’s already working to lock in the same date, so it’s looking like that one’s settled. “Absolutely,” he said. “People are already asking me, so next year we’ll go twice as big.”

Let’s hope next year Rodney isn’t too busy to drag his tubbed LSA VH Commo out of the shed for a run or three!

1. What started as a granny-spec six-cylinder LH Torana has turned into an 8sec street-driven beast at the hands of Mick Emmett. The Torana now gets the job done with a twin-turbo 427ci Dart block LS built by Townsville Mechanical Services, with a Paul Rogers Powerglide and Pro9 9in diff sorting out the rest.

“It’s a street car we can take to the track, but it probably sees the street more here in Townsville,” Mick said. “It gets driven, or should I say thrashed, locally!” The tough Torana has run a best of 8.90@151mph, and Mick said the goal is to reliably run into the eights every pass. “I’m not here to break any records, but the car is solid and we have fun!”

2. Local inspiration Luke Rosadi brought his big-horsepower LEGLESS VE Maloo out for a strap, driving it with hand controls and proving anything is possible for paraplegics.

The LS3 has been replaced by a twin-turbo 427ci Dart block LS, making 1200hp at the wheels on ‘low boost’ and running an impressive 8.8@157mph on the strip. “It should go 1600hp and get into the sevens once we get some boost into it,” Luke said.

Even more impressive is the high-tech hand control set-up Luke has put together alongside Haltech, focused around safety as well as useability.

“Haltech came onboard and helped me set it all up with a new Nexus ECU,” he said. “I’ve got everything set up for the hand controls, but the motor is kept safe too. It even pulls the parachute for me, plus heaps of other stuff.”

Luke’s ultimate goal is to run a 7.9sec pass, which would make him the quickest paraplegic in the world.

3. John Wreghitt’s PROPA LH Torana is a menacing car, finished in a deep, dark metallic green with one of the nicest bays you’ll find. The car took out Top Interior at Motor Madness, but it’s no newbie to the show circuit, having run up to Red CentreNATS and MotorEx since getting on the road. “We finished the build and registered the car in 2015, but it took us about seven years,” John said.

PROPA features an X-Treme Motorsport-built 5.7 LS1 with 2300 Harrop supercharger perched up top, good for 580hp. A McDonald Bros Racing fully adjustable four-link sorts the rear end out, and an 9in Altra 9 diff sends grunt to a pair of beefy 12in Mickey Thompsons.

4. Close your eyes and picture a mint VL with just the right amount of bling. It probably looks something like Anthony Vanderdrift’s show-quality VL Calais. The sun really brought the gorgeous purple paint to life at Motor Madness. “The paint chose me,” Anthony laughed. “How good is it?”

Anthony retained the RB30 bottom end in the VL but runs a ported RB25 head with 272 cams and a Garrett GEN II GT3582R turbo, good for 470hp at the wheels on a modest 13psi. “I built it as a show car for the young fella, so I could hand it down to him when the time comes,” he said.

Unfortunately, the lack of car events lately has meant Anthony has had the VL tucked away in the shed, but good thing he came, because he placed in the Top 10 Street category.

5. The gorgeous WRINKLES FX ute is a mish-mash of trusty old Holden parts, built up by Paul Khan and his sons as a burnout car that could also hit the strip. A bit tougher than your typical FX, it now rocks a 454ci big-block Chev hooked up to a Powerglide and 9in.

“We’ve been sorting out this overheating issue we’ve always had, and it wasn’t until yesterday we finally found the problem and fixed it,” Paul said. Turns out a dirty fuel filter wasn’t letting enough juice into the old girl. “It’s finally running right and it doesn’t get hot!”

6. The Hemi gods were appeased with Kevin Couper’s VG Valiant coupe landing in the Top 5 Judged. It’s a mint street and show car with one of the nicest underbodies out. “We spent heaps of time under the car; it’s even got a three-layer pearl paintjob underneath,” Kevin said.

The clean VG rocks an 850hp, 426ci Hemi that Kevin brought over from the States, hooked up to a 727 ’box and 9in, and then there’s a full tube front end and four-link rear. “We basically set out to build a street and show car, fully registered and fully engineered,” Kevin said.

7. Shane Reid bought both these mint Torries as turnkey restorations from the same builder – because one just wasn’t enough!

The green LX is an SL/R replica with a trusty LS3 and Turbo 400 combination, offering reliability for whatever Shane feels like doing on the day. “I’ve owned the green LX for four years and had it down the track in that time, putting down 11.0s,” he said.

The yellow LH is a more recent acquisition with a 420ci LS and 4L80E trans, and while it’s yet to see the track, Shane reckoned it’s the quicker of the two. “The RACE plates are there because I’ve always been into racing, from cars to speedway bikes and even ski boats over the years,” Shane said. “I actually have one more set of RACE plates, so I’m going to need something to put them on!”

8. Townsville local Ryan ‘Bubba’ Lofts took out the People’s Choice go-to-whoa award in his LS-powered ’02 Calais, cutting sick every chance he got. There’s always one!

9. Matthew Foster’s black ’56 Chev 3100 had people rubbernecking wherever he went, taking out the Top Drag Car trophy at the event. A 540-cube V8 with 8/71 blower motivates this tough truck.

“I brought the car over from Perth a couple of months ago all built and ready to go,” Matthew said. “I’ve had it at the drags, but we struggled for traction, so better tyres and we’ll give it another run.” When asked about power figures, Matthew laughed: “Not sure yet, but it makes plenty!”

10. Richard Hardes’s Poison Ivy Torana was hard to miss, running up the go-to-whoa all weekend and subsequently snagging a spot in the Top 10 Street category. The heavy lifting is handled by a John Barbagallo-built 355 stroker good for a stout 500hp, with a manualised Turbo 350 behind it and discs all ’round to pull the Torry up when driven hard.

“I’ve wanted a Torana since I was a young fella, so I thought I’d finally do it. Originally this build was for my son, but we got carried away, so it’s mine now,” Richard laughed. “Ultimately it’s built as a street car that we can run down the strip every now and then.”

11. The ‘Sabretooth’ HJ Sandman drew a crowd of nostalgic pano tragics across the weekend, a work of art that Roy Rehbein built himself in the back shed. “I bought it in 2007 and it was just an ordinary Sandman, but being a panel beater, I just started fixing it up. Of course it ended up snowballing into a six-year back shed build,” Roy said.

The original 253 was yanked out and replaced with a blown 355 stroker, with an Enderle Bug Catcher and even a homemade injector block Roy knocked together in the shed. The motor is good for 470hp at the wheels, running through a manualised Turbo 400 and Holden Salisbury 3.08 LSD geared for cruising the highway.

“I had panel vans when I was a young fella in the 80s, and I had this one particular V8 HJ that I ended destroying. Well, it took me quite a few years to find another one,” Roy laughed.

12. Judith Menso (SM, Sep ’21) bought her LX Torana for five grand in ’92 and it’s only got better with age, taking out the Show ’n’ Shine Elite trophy at Motor Madness.

The extensive build was undertaken by Judith’s husband, Rodney, who took on all the fabrication, bodywork and even the stunning Holden Morpheus Purple paint.

“The finished car was unveiled at Rockynats this year, where we got an invite to the MotorEx Meguiar’s Superstars and got into the Top 20,” Judith said. The mint Torry runs a Holden 304m pulled out of a VR Statesman, with ported heads and a Yella Terra 2.4L Whipple supercharger strapped to it. “We kept the blower tucked away under the bonnet so I can still cruise around in it,” Judith said.

13. Townsville local Micaylia Stewart turned heads in her genuine HDT Group A SS VK Commodore, bought from her dad after promising him she’d one day take it off his hands. “We’d go cruising as a family in it, so it’s a dream come true to finally own it,” Micaylia said. “We still work on it together, so I owe a big credit to Dad.”

Micaylia decided to keep the original motor and ’box in the shed to keep the kilometres down, so the car currently runs a built 308, four-speed Top Loader and 9in.“I love my pride and joy so much I named my first son Brock – we’re such big fans!”

14. This 1975 Dodge D5N build is an unusual one, with an HQ ute chassis, BA Falcon interior and a custom one-off tray built by owner Rob Huston. What a mix!

Under the bonnet is a Holden 355 stroker with Holley Sniper EFI and a big ol’ BorgWarner S480 livening things up, running through a Turbo 400 with 3800rpm converter.

“It ran 11.1@119mph at Willowbank recently, so we reckon it has something around the 570hp mark, with 10psi through it,” Rob said. This is the ute’s first local outing since completion, a fitting opportunity given Rob and his family have just moved back to Townsville.

15. Ash Pemberton brought both his methanol-guzzling KE55 Corolla skid rig and his eight-second VL Turbo along for a bit of fun across the weekend.

The P3MBO VL was putting its 850hp to good use in the go-to-whoa, sending it hard and giving the HI ROLLA KE55 a breather between runs. “I caught the bug when I went to Powercruise as a young fella and I just went straight home and built the VL,” Ash said. “The event is so good; it’s good to see someone having a go up here and all the support for Rodney.”

16. Emma Hillman’s VK Commodore was built as a family cruiser, and she’s kept the trusty Holden 202 and Trimatic three-speeder because they get the job done. “It’s got the original 202 motor as you can see, but we’ve worked it with a cam, roller rockers and so on,” Emma said.

“I’ve got three out of my five kids out with me. The three that came are the car nuts! I’ve lived here for 32 years, but I’d say I haven’t been to any big car events like this here since we lost the drag strip.”

17. Kevin Brown’s unassuming VE SS-V tied for first place in the go-to-whoa, running an identical 5.31sec time to Grand Cooper’s R32 GT-R. The street-driven SS-V gets hustlin’ thanks to twin turbos, with Kevin banging gears through the factory T56 manual.

“I absolutely loved it and I’ll be back next year for sure,” Kevin said. “It’s been great seeing all my old school mates and new people that came to the event. I just hope it’s even bigger next year!”

18. The JDM crowd was represented at Motor Madness, with Grant Cooper’s R32 GT-R taking out Best Import and the tied go-to-whoa win with a time of 5.31sec.

The car makes just shy of 700 horses at all four wheels, thanks to a built boost-happy RB26 with dry sump and 4088 single turbo. Grant built the GT-R for hillclimbs, but these days he doesn’t race it much due to the skyrocketing value of the JDM cult car.

He had to drop the dogbox out due to a not-so-happy transfer case, so at Motor Madness it had the standard RB26 trans and less tyre than it’s used to. “I stole the wheels off my missus’s Evo 10 for the day, so it had old 275s rather than the usual 295 semi-slicks,” Grant said. “I’d like to get it back out with the good ’box and better rubber!”

19. Tylyn Barron turned it on all weekend in his ripping two-tone VH S/LE Commodore, earning the Motor Madness 2021 Grand Champion gong for his efforts. Tylyn bought the car bog-standard before treating it to a trick paintjob and a Holden 355 stroker with “all the good stuff”.

“It’s gone 11.0 down the quarter-mile, but it’s really just a tough little streeter good for events like this,” Tylyn said. “It was awesome to bring it out to Townsville and it was good turning some tyres and putting on a show for the people.”

20. Another big-cube contender was local Scott Van Rysbergen’s VE Commodore. Townsville Mechanical Services built Scott a tough 502-cube LS, running through a trusty Turbo 400 and good for 670hp at the hubs. “I went LS to keep the factory feel and look, but went big,” Scott said. “It’s a street-driven car, and to my knowledge there’s only one other 502-cube VE around.” Scott ran a 10.5 first time out, but he’s hoping to unleash the VE on the strip more regularly and chip away at that time.

Photographers: Ash Wilson