Carolyn Hayes’s 275NOS LH Torana

Carolyn Hayes sets out to build an eight-second Drag Challenge car and ends up with a Summernats Top 20 showstopper

Photographers: Ben Hosking

Sydney drag racer Carolyn Hayes was front and centre for our first-ever Street Machine Drag Challenge event in 2014, but subsequently parted ways with her 800hp all-motor LX hatch. Aside from crewing for her other half, Aussie pro street legend Mark Hayes, Carolyn has been on the bleachers ever since, but this nitrous-huffing LH Torana is set to put her back in the driver’s seat.

First published in the March 2023 issue of Street Machine

“Back when I had my old hatch, I was all about driving it to the track, racing it, and driving it home – I’m not a dedicated race car kind of person,” Carolyn says. “I did the first Street Machine Drag Challenge event and came runner-up in the aspirated class, and I drove the car to Melbourne and back to do it. Then Mark and I went to America and followed Hot Rod Drag Week in 2017, which was an awesome experience. Street cars are in my blood.”

When the time came to tee off with another drag-and-drive project, Carolyn tracked down a neat-and-tidy six-cylinder LH sedan on the NSW Central Coast, talked a deal and drove it home, then got busy pulling it down.

“Starting with disassembly, I had a hand in pretty much everything,” says Carolyn. “I got on the grinder and cut the floor out, and I did the chassis connectors. Everything that’s black on the car – like the diff – I painted myself, and Mark and I assembled the engine together at home.”

With Mark’s influence, said engine was always going to be nitrous assisted. “Oh yeah; no question!” Carolyn laughs. “The thing is, for my old hatch to make the numbers it did naturally aspirated, it was quite highly strung. The valvetrain in an 800hp aspirated small-block doesn’t handle street driving well. The combo in the new car is just a hydraulic-roller engine, so it’s low maintenance, but when you turn the bottle on, it’s a beast.”

The 415ci small-block Chev was our Mill of the Month in the Street Machine 2022 Yearbook, so you can read about it in greater detail there, but in short, it runs a Dart block, Callies crank and rods and JE pistons, topped by AFR 210 cylinder heads with Yella Terra Platinum rockers.

The cam is a Comp Cams hydraulic-roller for hassle-free motoring, and the Edelbrock Super Victor manifold supports a 750 Holley Ultra Black carb. Sandwiched between the two is an Induction Solutions billet 4150 plate nitrous kit, and with the switch flicked on that, it’s good for a lofty 900hp.

“With the combo that’s in it now, depending on the weight, Mark is confident that it’ll run into the high eights pretty quickly,” says Carolyn. “The second engine is already sitting there ready for assembly. It’s a little more serious, and we’re looking for low eights or maybe even high sevens out of that. But 8.70s or 8.80s will do for starters.”

An important part of that ET equation is the LH’s weight, so a considerable amount of effort has been invested to minimise that. “The boot and door hinges were all drilled to reduce weight; we pulled more than a kilo out of the car just by doing that,” says Carolyn. “Anything that got added to the car, Mark would find an existing hole to bolt it to rather than adding an unnecessary bracket.

The door locks and boot lock and their mechanisms are removed, and the driver’s door had an intrusion bar, so we took it out. Anywhere we could drill holes without structurally compromising the car, we did. We haven’t weighed it yet, but the aim was to save one pound in 100 places. One hundred pounds is a tenth [of a second] at the track!”

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the car’s stance is righteous. Tubular arms were used up front with adjustable Viking coil-overs, while the rear end runs adjustable trailing arms, adjustable Strange coil-overs and a Gazzard Brothers ARB, providing plenty of scope for suspension tuning to suit the many and varied track conditions typically encountered on Drag Challenge.

The car is mini-tubbed, and you probably wouldn’t pick it, but the rear guards have also been stretched to allow that ground-hugging stance with 275/60R15 drag radials, but they still retain their factory profile.

Mark, along with his good mate (and former SMOTY winner) Rob Godfrey, were responsible for the fab work, and they didn’t stop at the go-fast stuff we just mentioned.

“Mark is the engine bay and engineering judge at Summernats, so the engine bay was front of mind for us,” says Carolyn. “We didn’t set out to build a show car, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look nice. I wanted a slick engine bay that didn’t lose its Torana identity.”

Fabricated inner guards go all the way to the firewall, and the front rails were strengthened and smoothed to remove all the ugly spots. The rear of the headlights and the radiator support were boxed in to neaten the look and keep the wiring hidden, and the radiator mounts were hidden for a cleaner, floating look.

The front apron and bonnet catch were modified, the wiper motor relocated, and the firewall smoothed. Billet Aeroflow bonnet hinges provide some jewellery, and there are front and mid motor plates with poly bushings.

The bonnet also came in for a significant amount of surgery, with the top and bottom skin separated, all holes filled and a perimeter frame fabricated by Mark. From there, body and paint man Owen Hughes of Owen’s Paint & Panel took over, welding the bonnet frame and skin together and fitting the steel reverse-cowl scoop.

Other exterior tweaks include filled scuttle vents, a frenched rear number plate, lowered front indicators, welded drip rails and an awesome custom front spoiler.

Owen then looked after the bodywork and paint, laying down the striking Carolina Blue. The colour choice means that Carolyn’s car fits in neatly among the other epic blue Toranas in the family shed, but it’s also a unique hue that belongs to her car.

If you had the privilege of checking out the Torana in the flesh at Street Machine Summernats 35, you’ll know that the paint and panel – and indeed every other aspect of the car – is exceptionally good. So good, in fact, that following on from the Torana’s starring role in the Great Meguiar’s Uncover, it was awarded a coveted Top 20 plate.

So how does a drag-and-drive build come to be unveiled in the Elite Hall at Summernats and land in the Top 20? “It’s quite funny, that!” Carolyn laughs. “I had a chat with Owen Webb earlier that year about unveiling the car, because I thought we’d been building it for so long that I needed a deadline to aim for. I’m still blown away by the fact that the car made the Top 20.

The quality in the hall was amazing; some of those cars were big-dollar builds, and ours was built in the shed and it mixed it with them. We’d finish one aspect of the car and it would look great, so we had to keep that standard up. But I didn’t expect to do that well!”

From here the plan is to engineer the car, put some kays on it, and then creep up on it at the track. And of course, we can’t wait to welcome Carolyn back into the Drag Challenge fold. It begs the question though: does she have any apprehension about subjecting a Top 20 stunner to the rigours of DC?

“Do I hope that it comes back from DC with very minimal damage? Yes!” she laughs. “I know it’s going to get marks on it, but that’s what I built it for; otherwise, I did it all for nothing. I’ve worded my painter up that he’ll probably see us once a year for touch-ups. But once I start seeing timecards, I reckon I’ll be okay.”


Paint:Carolina Blue
Brand:415ci small-block Chev
Intake:Edelbrock Super Victor
Carby:Holley Ultra Black 750
Nitrous:Induction Solutions billet 4150 plate kit
Heads:AFR 210, Yella Terra Platinum rockers
Camshaft:Comp Cams custom hydraulic-roller
Pistons:JE dome
Oil pump:Melling
Fuel system:Aeromotive A1000
Cooling:Afco dual-pass radiator, Spal thermo fans, one electric and one mechanical water pump
Exhaust:Custom 2in headers, 3.5in dual stainless exhaust system with X-pipe and four mufflers
Ignition:MSD crank trigger, MSD 6AL-2, Power Grid
Gearbox:Protrans Powerglide
Converter:Coan nitrous Drag Week Special
Diff:9in, fabricated housing, 3.7:1 gears, 35-spline axles, Truetrac centre
Front:Viking coil-overs, tubular control arms
Rear:Strange coil-overs, adjustable arms and ride height, Gazzard Brothers 1.5in anti-roll bar
Brakes:Wilwood 12in rotors with Wilwood Forged Superlite calipers (f), Wilwood 11in rotors with Wilwood Dynapro calipers (r)
Master cylinder:Wilwood
Rims (street):Weld S71 17×6 (f), Weld Star 15×10 (r)
Rims (race):Billet Specialties Street Lite; 15×4 (f), 15×10 (r)
Rubber (street):Nankang 205/50R17 (f), Mickey Thompson 275/60R15 (r)
Rubber (race):Moroso front-runners (f), Mickey Thompson Radial Pro 275/60R15 (r)

Owen’s Paint & Panel for a killer paint job and bodywork; Rob Godfrey for bodywork, assembly help and beer drinking skills; James at Grooveryder for the best street ’cage; Scotty at Oxytech for powdercoating; Fred at Protrans for the gearbox; Rob Napier for the fibreglass; Alex and David at Excel Signs; my family and friends for their encouragement and help; my husband Mark, whose attention to detail is second to none. The time, workmanship and love he put into helping me build the car just blows my mind.