USA BUCKET LIST: FAST TRIALS

FORMER Street Machine art dude Povi Pullinen recently pulled up stumps to seek fame and fortune in the USA. He’s got a long list of events he wants to check out, starting with the LA Roadster Show a few weeks ago. This past weekend, he attended the FAST Trials for vintage four-bangers. Here’s what he found:

THE FAST Trials are held at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is one of California’s oldest continuously operated cattle ranches, and its private airstrip makes it the perfect location for tenth-mile drag time trials.

FAST – which stands for Ford A Speed Technology – is a group of diehard enthusiasts keeping alive the practice of hopping up and racing Ford Model T, A and B engines. You can check out their website here. While four-banger Fords have become quite the cult item amongst traditional hot rodders in the past few years, the FAST crew have known how cool they are for ages, having hosted this event for close to two decades.

FAST Trials 13 NwWhile the crowd is small, the quality of cars and builders is outstanding. Racing is open to pre-1935 Ford cars powered by Model T, A and B engines, with other pre-’35 four-bangers allowed to race for time only. There’s also an informal line-up of pre-1965 cars on the side of the tarmac strip to occasionally distract you from the entrants.

While the original technology might be over 80 years old, these cars are by no means geriatric.

Equipped with rare and high-tech (for their time) speed equipment, some engines are singing to the tune of 160hp – more than four times the original output!

Mated to beautifully prepared traditional hot rods and custom-built racing bodies, a few of these mills have absolutely no problem getting off the line quick-smart with a chirp and a puff of tyre-smoke.

A small event with an incredibly relaxed environment, the FAST Trials is the perfect place to engage in some geek-talk with fellow vintage ’banger enthusiasts and hear some incredible yarns. Everyone is friendly, hospitable and happy to tell you about the history of their cars. Here are a few cool stories from the paddock:

FAST Trials 12 NwMAX McLain is the owner of this early A roadster, powered by a super-rare Jenkins F-head conversion, which retains exhaust valves inside the block so the standard exhaust ports can be used, but uses an overhead set-up for the intake valves to dramatically increase flow.

FAST Trials 9 NwThis head was originally designed and produced in Australia in limited quantities in the 80s by Andy Jenkins, who sold the patterns to Max’s friend in the US, who re-cast an incredibly small number of them. The roadster turned a best of 8.579 @ 68.40mph, which was the fastest speed through the traps on the day.

FAST Trials 5 NwPARKED off to the side in the pre-’65 vehicles area was this ’53 Chevy, a genuine race car from the legendary La Carrera Panamericana now owned by Drew Sidakis. The car won the event in its class four times: ’89-91 and ’94.

FAST Trials 4 NwIt’s even had screen time in the famous 1992 Pink Floyd-soundtracked documentary on the race. A complete Camaro front end has been grafted onto the chassis, and the panels have been massaged to fit the new clip and the hot 292ci straight-six originally pulled out of a derelict school bus.

FAST Trials 2 NwTHIS bright yellow fibreglass-bodied Chambers Special was originally built by Willie Chambers to be raced in the Signal Hill Hillclimb in the early 70s. Well known as the builder of the ‘Wee Wee Eel’ record-holding Bonneville streamliner, Chambers raced this special successfully for a few years, then parked it in a barn. It was only pulled out four years ago by current owner Jonathan Jurgens, of San Luis Obispo shop Hank’s Welding.

FAST Trials 7 NwThis outing was the first time the car has turned a wheel in anger since being revived, and Jonathan spent most of the day working the cobwebs out of the Rajo OHV-powered special. With no starter motor or water pump, the car had to be push-started by his VW Kombi and run intermittently in the hot weather, though at high revs the pure-race engine was singing a sweet tune, much to Jonathan’s delight. He says the car needs a few more adjustments but should be racing-fit for future events.

FAST Trials 3 NwTHE styling cues on this Model A coupe might suggest it is a newer-style build, but it’s actually a survivor hot rod originally built in 1948 by the late Con Harris, a former war-time aero engineer. It has sat in an unfinished state since 1949, and was only completed by Jame Stormes and a crew of mates in July this year in memory of their friend.

FAST Trials 8 NwEvery part on this car is from the original build, and was finished exactly how Con had intended. The car features some interesting modifications, including a cut steering wheel and an alloy dash similar to that of a jet fighter, as well as the large moon tank in front of the shortened A grille. It still runs mechanical brakes underneath the channelled body, with a special mechanism originally fabricated by Con to maintain correct braking geometry.

The FAST Trials was the first time the car has been shown in public since the build was completed, and it ran perfectly all day, turning a respectable 10.52 @ 48.72mph from a mildly hopped-up ’banger.

FAST Trials 1 NwART and Olive Moore have been running their cars at the FAST Trials since 1999. Olive’s T roadster and Art’s speedster-bodied special both run Riley four-port OHV conversions – one of the best-performing set-ups for Model A and B engines ever made.

FAST Trials 6 NwTrading some of the fastest times all day, Olive eventually edged out Art’s 8.33 @ 66.62mph with an 8.22 @ 64.37mph of her own.

FAST Trials 11 NwKEITH Loomis is a legend in Santa Barbara County. He’s raced four-bangers since 1940, giving all the flathead V8 racers headaches for years in oval-track jalopy races. Although he’s older than these vintage engines, he’s not slowing down one bit. He was the fastest at last year’s trial, and took the crown again this year, running an 8.02 @ 67.86mph in his replica Miller-powered special.

FAST Trials 10 NwIF YOU find yourself in the States, and are keen to watch some vintage racing in a relaxed environment, check out the FAST event schedule on www.hotforhotfours.com, for upcoming hillclimbs, dirt-track and drag racing.

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