DANIEL Szabolics has taken to drag racing like a ravenous redneck to a rack of ribs. There’s just no stopping this guy. Aside from his twin-turbo big block-powered HQ Monaro (SM, Dec ’19), which holds the Drag Challenge records for both quickest ET and fastest speed (7.35sec and 197mph, respectively), Dan has had some impressive cars in his shed since his first trip down the strip just a few years ago.
First published in the November 2021 issue of Street Machine
The latest is a state-of-the-art, 564ci Pro Line-powered, Jerry Bickel-built 2018 Camaro ZL1 Pro Mod that’s aimed at radial racing Down Under.
Dan is a man of few words and not one to brag or talk himself up, but he’s clearly excited about this new deal. “We’re going to rattle the cage in radial racing for a bit,” he laughs.
By “we”, Dan means himself, his dad Wally and engine guru Frank Marchese from Dandy Engines. The boys threw their collective hat into the radial ring last year with a ProCharged, Hemi-headed Pro Line-powered Firebird. That car ran a best of 3.88 to the eighth-mile at just its second meeting, before running 3.90 (despite downforce issues) at its next outing at a Kenda 660 round at Willowbank. The team were confident it could break into the 3.7s; unfortunately, COVID then put the kibosh on good, clean fun.
“The Pontiac was always going to be a stepping stone, but we never intended to move on from that car after just a few meetings,” Dan admits. “But you know how these things happen: this new car came up for sale, it was too good a deal to pass up, and we had someone who wanted to buy the Pontiac.”
Purchased out of the USA, the new Camaro had already proven quick in the hands of current NHRA Pro Mod champ Jose Gonzalez.
“Jose was running this deal in NHRA trim, which means 3200lb and a smaller engine, and he set an NHRA Pro Mod record of 5.621 on the quarter-mile,” says Dan. “So we know the car can run numbers.”
Before the Camaro left the States, it was sent to RK Racecraft to undergo a big-tyre-to-radial conversion and have the firewall modified for its new 564ci Pro Line mill. “We bought the car turn-key,” Dan says. “Then the guys at Pro Line on-sold the NHRA motor for us, so we brought it into Australia as a roller. Frank then built the new engine at Dandy and fitted the front-drive F4 ProCharger.” A new Mark Micke TH400 with lock-up converter completed most of the big-ticket items.
“The car came in with a mix of FuelTech computer and Racepak logger, so sparky Simon Borella pulled the Racepak and fitted a full FuelTech system,” Dan explains. “Local fabricator Matt Snell modified the zoomies to suit the new heads. After we got it all figured out, we stripped the car and Brendan at Rise Up Restorations in Corowa repainted it.”
American Daniel Pharris has the current world eighth-mile radial record of 3.49@212mph in an older Camaro with a lesser motor, so the boys are confident about their new car’s prospects among a throng of ever-quicker Aussie radial cars.
“There are super-quick cars here in Australia, like Wade Wagstaff’s ’57 Chev that has been as quick as 3.75@199mph, and there are a bunch of new cars about to join in the fun,” Frank Marchese says. “We are fortunate that we have much of the team that has helped Pharris get his car to number one involved in tuning and setting our car up.”
“Frank does a lot for us,” Dan adds. “He makes shit happen; we couldn’t do it without his help. I’d be happy to let him steer the car, but he’s too busy to race anyways.”
The next-level quality of the build raises the level of expectation around the team’s small-tyre tilt, but neither Frank nor Daniel wants to come out and say what many are thinking: the car has the potential to go 3.6s at its first meet on a good track.
Of course, prep is crucial. The plan is to work on the front half of the track until they see the kind of numbers that indicate it’s time to let rip.
Dan, Wally and Frank have surrounded themselves with a great team of people, and would particularly like to thank George Josevski from Lotus Caravans, Speed Pro, and the Dandy Engines team. Stay tuned for more on this incredible car.