THERE are few sweeter prizes in Australian street machining than Summernats Grand Champion, and Todd Sorensen was suitably stoked to receive the big prize this year with his 1967 Chevrolet Impala.
“Holding that sword – it’s all worth it,” said Todd, the boss of Ipswich-based Rocksolid Autobody, just after he hoisted the sword. “It magically makes all the frustration and pain of the build disappear!”
Todd’s Impala is not only a stunner, but it’s also a book to the faces of the anonymous online critics who doubt the streetability of Australia’s elite-level builds.
Gradually pieced together over a decade of Todd’s spare time, the big smooth Chev is a streetfighter’s fist in a velvet glove. Those long, smooth rear quarters and front fenders (hey! It’s American!) are edged with razor-sharp creases, bridged by superlative gaps and highlighted at each end with crisply tucked, body-coloured one-piece bumpers and matte-black light surrounds. But under that reverse-cowl bonnet (did you notice? The stance and proportion of the PPG Cool Vanilla-painted body tends to play it down) is the fist: a carb-fed, 750hp, 528ci big-block Chev fronting a TH400 auto and a Chev 12-bolt diff with 4.3:1 cogs. The connection to country is via 20×8.5 and 20×10 Intro Saltsters with 295 and 245 rubber respectively.
The car debuted at Summernats last year, but Todd was smart enough to admit that it wasn’t ready for confident driving, and instead held back until this year to have a good go at the gong. “The first time it was driven was to get it out of the hall last year,” Todd recalled. “But since then it’s done a few hundred kays, and although that might not be enough to get a real feel for the car, it was enough for us to know it wasn’t going to let us down.”
Todd was the victor over a classy field of 16 other Top 60 cars straight from the Elite Hall, including last year’s winner, Rick Werner and his ’32 Ford pick-up. In front of an admittedly smoke-thinned burnout grandstand crowd, all had a burn on the bitumen in a side-by-side heads-up go-to-whoa and a motorkhana-type slalom. Todd edged out the two other hot contenders, Dom Luci’s freshly built burgundy VK Commodore and the Chev-powered Torana of Rohan Hawley.