Interview: Veteran hot rodder and racer Alan Fountain

From street to strip to salt, Al Fountain’s been there, done that

Photographers: Peter Bateman

For a guy who keeps off the radar, Alan Fountain doesn’t do things by halves. While we dream of having one car featured in a magazine, Al’s had six. When it came time to go drag racing, he joined the Wild Bunch. Then someone suggested he try the salt; he built a 380km/h belly tank. Amazingly, he did it all from a modest shed in a suburban backyard.

First published in the August 2014 issue of Street Machine

How’d all this start?

Buying Hot Rod magazine at school.

When was this?

Early 60s. I left school in 1963.

Was your family into cars?

More into boats. I bought a ski boat before I had a car. We’d ski at Cattai; Jim Read and the Demons used to ski out there too. Stan Sainty had Fallacy. The Vikings used to come out; a couple had hot rods, but most were into drag racing – Castlereagh was just kicking off – so I built a drag car with a mate, a T-bucket we called Canned Heat.

It had a 394 Olds with triples, and ran 11 seconds. I drove it once. It blew the plug out of the torque converter and covered me in oil. The car’s in Newcastle now, exactly as it was. I said to the owner: “What do you think?” He said he wouldn’t put his arse in it! I wouldn’t either; it was pretty crude.

What next?

I had an XY GT, which I sold when I got married. We moved to the Central Coast in 1973 and started a family. Then I saw a ’32 Ford four-door sedan with a small-block Chev for sale. We sold our street car and the ’32 was our only car for a while; Ellen used to take the kids to school in it.

I later bought a ’32 C-cab truck from Max Houston. I put the engine out of Ellen’s XR Falcon in it and drove that while I chopped the sedan.

Were chopped cars common then?

Not really. I chopped it four inches on a new chassis with a small-block Ford and top loader. I sold the truck in 1979 to finish it, and had it looking pretty neat. A mate had a louvre press; we must have put a thousand louvres in it, including the firewall and belly-pan. We drove it everywhere, we were all that keen. One time we drove to Adelaide and came back via Victoria. I sold it at the Nats in Mildura in ’83. It’s still around.

I used the money to buy a Boss 302 Mustang with factory Drag Pack. It was a good car, only 13 years old.

We’re detecting a theme.

I was all Ford at one stage. When I sold the Boss, the young bloke was pissed off; Craig was just getting into cars. I sold it to Dick Johnson. He flew his mechanic George Shepheard down to look at it. He took it for a run and drove it back to Queensland.

I built another hot rod, a ’27 roadster called Hot Cargo, to my own design. I got a body from Alan Crouch at Narrabeen. I built the chassis and made my own coil-over suspension for the front and back. A guy had a blown and injected small-block out of a speedboat. He said I’d never get it to work in a car, which was like waving a red flag to a bull! I kept the blower, put a 1050 Dominator on it, changed the pistons. We drove it all over the country.

It was a wild-looking car!

They thought it was too radical for street rod rego, but I’d read the rule book. They had to pass it.

Did you race or show it?

No, but it was on the cover of Street Rodding.

Was that your first time in a magazine?

The sedan was in Street Rodding twice (before and after the chop) and the truck was on the cover of Custom Rodder.

And then you went drag racing.

My sister had just died and the old man said: “If you’re gonna do it, do it.” Life’s too short, you know.

I’d been to a Wild Bunch meeting and thought that would be good to get into, so I sold the ’27. Wayne Daley had an XF Falcon ute that had been built as a full-tube gasser. The owner was selling it to cover his bill. Tony Webster had a 392 Hemi. I went to the States in 1989 to buy a Lenco and other things we needed, and to see Stan Tindal who was racing drag boats over there.

It must have been a steep learning curve.

We had a few failures; we hadn’t run alcohol before. And old Hemis, every time you lent on them, they broke. We destroyed one of Tony’s, so I bought five 392s – all ex-everybody else’s stuff – and I split the blocks of all of them. I was back in the States the next year, and Stan had just won the world title. He had a spare Keith Black 482, which he brought back to Australia. I didn’t have the money but he let me pay it off.

How’d it go?

First run at Eastern Creek, I nailed it and I was looking at the sky! It had that much horsepower after the 392. We put lead weights in the front and it ran like a bracket racer for years.


We got the 392 down to 8.2 seconds. The 482 ran 7.20@191mph.

That’s moving!

The first runs you get a bit agitated, but everything slows down after you’ve been racing for a while. You could drive it one-handed. The Wild Bunch was really good. We’d travel to Willowbank, Canberra, Calder, Adelaide. Leave in the bus Friday, race Saturday, drive home Sunday and back at work on Monday. The crew were mostly hot rod mates and the crowds were unbelievable. Even if you lost, you still made some money and we’d all sit down at the end and have a drink.

Why did you stop?

Victor [Bray] wanted to go Group One with Doorslammers, which was too expensive [for me]. Then Craig hit the wall at Willowbank at 150mph. I broke it up and sold it in 1996.

Do you miss the racing?

I’m a bad spectator!

Time to build another hot rod.

I started on a ’32 roadster with a 440, which I finished in 1998. People say it looks like a So Cal paint job but it’s based on a 1932 Gee Bee racing plane. It’s not channelled, just low, and it drives easy. Ellen could drive it.


It was on the cover of Street Rodding alongside my Studebaker pick-up. The young bloke I sold it to took it to Summernats and it featured in Street Machine. The roadster was probably my favourite. I owned it 10 years and I don’t know why I got the bee in my bonnet to sell it, but I did.

What year is the Studebaker?

  1. I got it halfway through building the roadster. It cost me two bottles of bourbon; one for my mate who found it and one for his boss to borrow the work truck. I fitted a Cleveland and C4, Jag front and rear, chopped the roof four inches and painted it flat grey with ‘Bomb Disposal Unit’ on the doors. It was my everyday driver and we went to all the swap meets; probably did 250,000 miles in it.

When did you get interested in salt racing?

In 2004. I knew John Lynch and some of the Melbourne guys from racing at Calder. They said: “Why don’t you try the salt?” A mate put me onto a belly tank off a B-52, complete with fuel pumps, which had been found in an antique shop in Sydney. I drew up the chassis and split the tank. Geoff Brown put the main chassis together and we did the rest at home. The engine was the 440 out of Craig’s Challenger, injected with aluminium heads, and made just over 700 horses at the wheels.

What was it like, sitting inside a fuel tank with an engine?

It was claustrophobic when they closed the hatch, especially with 35 litres of methanol behind you. But it was all right once you got going.

How fast did you go?

I ran 210mph in 2008, and 227mph in ’09, which was the fastest speed of the meet. My best was 234.9mph (378km/h) in 2010. It had the potential to go faster. At 235 it was only doing 6000rpm. The motor was built for 7000.

Did you take it to Bonneville?

That was the idea. We tried to get six-month visas so we could race at a lot of places, but they made it too hard. There was also the logistics of moving it around. I sold it, minus the engine.

What did you do with that?

I’m gonna put it in a little Model A roadster I’ve got and drive it around Chopped.

Are you done with salt racing?

I bought a Studebaker Avanti in 2009 with Craig, Ian Wheatley and Al Scott to race in 2010 at Bonneville. It has a Ford NASCAR engine and has run 214mph. Hit 5000rpm and it kicks you up the arse like a sledgehammer! We did 19 runs in three days, and all got our licences to 190mph. We’ve since shipped it home. We had to re-licence and have run 180mph so far.

Any advice to young people coming through?

If you think you can do it, have a go. It’s not rocket science. The early cars are so simple to pull apart. It keeps you busy and you’ll make a lot of mates.

You’ve had an interesting life so far. What’s the secret?

I’ve been pretty lucky. I just really enjoy tinkering and building.


“My son Craig and I were doing a Plymouth Duster. There wasn’t much room to tinker and I thought: ‘I’ve got just enough room to build a bike.’ I got onto an XS650 in bits for $500 and built a bobber. It came out pretty good. I didn’t want to sell it but it went anyway. Now I’m building another one. I found a project on eBay with a new engine, but there was a fair bit wrong with the rest of it. Holes didn’t line up, cocky-shit welds. So I cut it all apart and started again.”


“I was waiting for the rego to come through when Valla came up. So I got a permit to move the roadster to the north coast and drove up there on slicks. I went past this copper near Taree; he sees the wing and the wheelie bars and the parachute. He did a U-turn and I’m thinking: ‘I’m gone here.’ But we must have looked like a lot of paperwork because he just kept going. It didn’t have a windscreen. You’d be eating moths and bugs. One time driving to Narrandera, it was so cold we drove from Yass in our sleeping bags.”