Dave Best’s wheelstanding Model A Gasser

We caught up with Dave Best and his killer Model A gasser last year at Sydney Dragway for the first World Fuel Altered Challenge

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

REMEMBER when international travel was a thing? Around 12 months back, some of the wildest gasser and fuel altered machines from across the country and around the world descended on Sydney Dragway for the first World Fuel Altered Challenge. One of those dedicated travellers was Dave Best, who shipped himself and his killer wheelstanding Model A gasser all the way from New Zealand to take part.

This article was first published in the December 2020 issue of Street Machine

What first got you interested in gassers?

I’ve been into them since the early 70s. I saw the TV movie Hot Rod and got hooked on high-riding Willys coupes, and I now have a steel one I’m building, which will replace the Model A soon.

How did you come to own the Model A?

I bought the body back around 1986 out of Fresno in California. It had been used as a pick-up, with a tray out the back. The body was in good shape except for the modified trunk area. The doors were a bit rusty, so my good mate Squeak Bell swapped his good ones for mine, as he was sectioning his car anyway. To save on the freight costs, we cut it into panels and made a flat pack, and taped it to the hood of a ’65 Mustang in a container before shipping it over to New Zealand.

What sort of set-up is in it?

It’s running a ’58 Chrysler 392 with Hilborn injection, a roller cam and all that stuff, with a Vertex magneto. It also has a homemade scattershield and flywheel, and a Jerico four-speed with a spooled nine-inch diff. The front end uses a ’38 Ford front axle and split radius rods, while the rear has a Model A spring and ladder bars.

Tell us about travelling from NZ to race at the World Fuel Altered Challenge.

When we were approached to front a team to travel to Aussie, we didn’t think twice about it; an event like the Fuel Altered Challenge was one we just couldn’t miss. A huge amount of supporters from NZ turned up for the event as well, which was cool. We containered the Model A with two other gassers from NZ for the trip over. We’ve had plenty of experience loading containers with vehicles, so getting the three cars and parts into a 40-footer was a breeze, with a few inches to spare. The only issue we had was assuring the authorities around asbestos; things like clutch material, brakes, head gaskets and so on were a bit of a drama. Morice McMillin from Cowin Racing was a huge help in assisting us with the logistics of it all.

How would you compare the Aussie gasser scene with that of New Zealand?

It’s strong in Aussie, and it’s growing. It’s also getting stronger with each season in NZ; we’re getting a large group of followers who are seeing it as a fun class with a strong social outlook. I have been a long-time member of Whakatane Rod & Custom Club, which is dedicated to good old-fashioned hot rods and focused on having fun on the social stage, so I’ve been around this stuff for a long time.

How long have you been racing?

I reckon 40-plus years. I ran the Model A in 1988 or 1989. It’s also been street-driven off and on over that time, and it’s had many engine combos. The car has even had auto ’boxes on two occasions, behind a 302 Ford and then a Hemi, but it was too boring without a clutch pedal!