Grant Connor and his Bad Apple XR Falcon took home the Grand Champion sword at Street Machine Summernats 31

Photographers: Peter Bateman

GRANT CONNOR, driving his sensational XR Falcon, is the Street Machine Summernats 31 Grand Champion. Grant scored Summernats’ highest honour after out-scoring and out-driving no less than 17 other top-shelf contenders – the Summernats Grand Champion’s biggest-ever field.

“This is beyond my wildest expectations,” said the Orange, NSW street machiner just after acing the field. “I’ll be buzzing about this for a while!”

It was Grant’s second attempt at Grand Champion. His Knight’s Garage-built XR Fairmont, named Bad Apple, debuted at Summernats 29 and although it scored highly in judging and People’s Choice then, it wasn’t enough to fight off the overall prowess of John Saad and his Mazda RX-3.

Since then Grant’s stunner Fairmont has been rebuilt and re-powered. The 393-cube Cleveland V8 and C4 auto has made way for a 434-cuber and another, tougher C4. The Knight’s built four-linked nine-inch rear end remained in place, as did the Wilwood brakes. There is also a new copper treatment to the rims and body trim, that really sets off the duco.

But the real upgrade has occurred with Grant’s driving of the car. “Three years ago it was enough to just idle around the driving events,” he explains. “These days, you gotta go hard. Last year’s Grand Champion, Happy [pictured above, left] told me that and gave me a few pointers. He’s a top bloke, he was stoked for me.”

And with 690 horses at the flywheel and those fat Simmons wheels, going hard is not something Grant and his Fairmont has any trouble doing. He had a little scare on Sunday morning with a gearshift linkage problem making reverse gear difficult to find but a few minutes’ work had things sorted, allowing Grant to slice through the go-who and slalom runs easily.

With his Grand Champion award, Grant joins a pretty special group of winners. Legend!