Deb O’Connell’s AU Falcon racer

Deb O'Connell grew up in a drag racing family and has been competing for many years. She's currently aiming for the nine-second zone in her turbo Barra-powered AU Falcon racer, dubbed SONIC

Photographers: Troy Barker

Deb O’Connell didn’t choose the drag-racing life – it chose her. Both her grandfather and father were at the forefront of straight-line racing in South Australia, and several family members continue to race today.

Yet while Deb’s fate was sealed early on, her dedicated 2002 AU Falcon racer, SONIC, is a fairly recent acquisition.

First published in the April 2023 issue of Street Machine

Racing appears to be a bit of a family affair, Deb?

My brother Peter and cousin Kieley both drag race – it’s great family fun in the pits.

My dad Laurie O’Connell and my grandpa Ron O’Connell were both part of Brooksfield Dragway; Dad was the chief timekeeper and later raced his Mk1 Cortina, TOP CAT, through to the early 80s.

I always loved going fast, including competitive go-karting as a teenager.

Then in 1998, I had my first taste of drag racing piloting Dad’s 351ci Clevo-powered ZH Fairlane – it was heaps of fun!

How did your SONIC AU come into your life?

I raced my hubby Mick’s gorgeous ’69 Mustang at the track a few times, but the stock 302ci Windsor wasn’t as fast as I wanted, plus the racing was putting stress on the car. That’s when we bought SONIC.

I wanted a solid body to turn into a cool drag car, and it had to be a Ford – I’m a Ford enthusiast through and through. In 2019, we found this AU in Port Pirie for $1000.

At first we kept it stock, including the factory six- cylinder, and my first race eighth-mile was a 10.4@71mph.

Next, we added a Toyota SC12 supercharger, which got me down to a 9.5-second eighth.

What’s the driveline these days?

After it blew a head gasket, we swapped to a built Barra with a Yourmiles GTX3584RS turbo; it puts out 414kW [555hp] at the rears on E85.

The transmission is a worked BTR with full-manual shift and a 3000rpm stall, while the diff remains AU with a mini-spool and 4.1s.

What’s your PB in SONIC?

A 6.46@110mph on the eighth and a 10.29@131mph quarter-mile. Next, we want to improve the 60-foot times without resorting to a transbrake, so maybe we’ll add a little NOS and a Haltech system to allow for tuning at the track.

With The Bend strip opening very soon, I’ll have a lot more racing opportunities close to home!

Safe to say you’re having fun, then.

I absolutely love racing SONIC – he’s such a blast. Twice I’ve been runner-up in Street Challenge at Whyalla, plus I made the Ford Nationals semi-finals before the event was rained out. One day, I hope to win a club round, and my big dream is a Christmas tree.

For now, I’m focused on having fun, going fast, being consistent on the lights and hopefully getting into the nines very soon. Then I might move into Super Sedan.

Anyone to thank?

My hubby Mick is my number one supporter and my crew chief. Also thanks to Mum and Dad; All Gen Solutions; Sleeka Spares; Bridgestone Golden Grove; Transteer; Altorque Converters; Read’s Mechanical; Gawler Mechanical; and No Prep Performance.

Girls — wanna be famous? Send pics, car details and contact details to: Iron Maiden, Street Machine, Unit 9/3-5 Gilda Court, Mulgrave, Vic 3170. Or email: [email protected].