Max Brouggy’s hand-operated Hillman Hunter

We caught up with Max Brouggy and his eleven-second Hillman Hunter at the recent South Coast 660 at Portland

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

It’s not every day you see a hand-operated car flying down a drag strip, so when we noticed a warning sticker on Max Brouggy’s cool little Hillman Hunter at the recent South Coast 660 meeting at Portland, we had to investigate further.

Tell us what we’re looking at here, Max.

This was Chrysler’s small car before the Galant; they were assembled from CKD kits in South Australia. It’s the 60s version of a Hyundai Excel – the sort of car your girlfriend’s mum had! On a performance scale of one to 10, they were a minus three. People say: “What is it?” When I say it’s a Hillman Hunter, they say: “A what?” So that’s where the number plates come from. I have MS, so I drive the car with hand controls. I can operate my right foot to get it flat to the floor, but that’s all I can do. I use the hand controls to drive around the pits and use the brakes. I also had to fit a transbrake to hold it on the line.

First published in the April 2021 issue of Street Machine

What’s the story behind the car?

It was basically built as a dare. It was my wife’s daily driver until it got smashed twice. She said it was bad luck and refused to drive it. Eventually a mate came around and asked: “What are you gonna do with all that shit?” I pointed at a 265 in the corner and said: “I’ll put that in it!” I raced it with the Hemi from 1987, and then put in the small-block in 2001. It’s a small-journal 327 with a Powerglide and nine-inch. Everything on the car I did myself – engine, ’box, diff, paint. The first time I ran an 11, the car owed me less than a grand. Back in the day I had no money, so I learnt how to build stuff!

That’s a fairly quick quarter-mile for the time.

In 1994 when I moved to Melbourne, I won the ANDRA Super Street divisional championships. The best it’s run is an 11.0. It could go faster now, but then I’d need a ’cage and I couldn’t physically get into the car. I’ve done thousands of passes, but now I just race for the fun of it. It also used to be one of the Dandy [Dandenong] street racing cars back in the day.

No doubt you’ve got some good stories from that period.

One night the police came to break us up and everybody scattered. They were pulling us out from amongst the regular traffic, but the Hillman blended right in. They waved me through, and then heard the car as I drove off. They tried to call me back, but I was gone! Another time I brought the car on a trailer. As I was leaving, a cop pulled me over and felt the heat coming from the bonnet. He said: “I’m onto you,” so that was my message to not go back there.

How has Portland been treating you?

First my thermo fan decided to not work, then the water pump, then the alternator, and now the carby’s playing up, so I’ve decided I’m done for the weekend. I would’ve been eliminated first thing tomorrow anyway, so now I’m just watching the racing.