A COHORT of 20-odd cars and their teams arrived in Swan Hill on the evening of 26 April, rendezvousing at the pub to stock up on chicken parmies and liquid refreshment ahead of an early start the following day at the BOOST Fest drag racing meeting at Swan Hill Dragway.
Being a private meet, cars weren’t competing against each other for top honours or prize money. Instead, drivers were shooting directly for PBs, one at a time. And with a small roster of cars and plenty of daylight, nothing but time lay ahead.
Chris Imlach kicked things off in his street-driven, left-hand-drive Nova, but a persistent boost issue put him out of commission early in the proceedings.
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John Colaidis’s ’65 Mustang reigned as Australia’s quickest LPG car until he recently pulled the Intech six, dropping in a 427-cube small-block Ford hooked up to a pair of turbos. John is aiming to crack seven seconds with this new combo, but despite his best efforts, a slippery Swan Hill strip made it hard for the car to put down all 1500 horses.
Grip proved to be a common problem over the day, especially for cars making big power and aiming for numbers below eight. Radials were struggling to grab, leading to a lot of spun tyres and aborted launches. Two of Australia’s quickest Falcons – the XWs of Steve Bezzina and Frank Marchese – both fell victim to the tricky surface over most of the day.
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Despite this, there were still a few success stories to be found. The track started to come good late in the afternoon, with more cars hooking up for low eight-second passes.
The weekend also saw the debut of a new car, young Corty Haig’s turbo LS-driven 1979 Corolla. The 16-year-old says he and dad Harry built the car out of spare parts, cramming in the 5.3L, 88mm Garrett snail and Powerglide over the past few months. The KE55 was finished on Friday afternoon, and christened in several passes over the next day.
With Harry at the helm, the car’s first-ever run on the strip yielded a 15.5-second ET, which was rapidly pared down to a respectable 12.4. Not many teams can say they cut three seconds off their PB over as many runs, before running the clock down to a 9.247@146mph.
“The car has the longest first gear in Australia,” Harry joked. “I put it in top gear just because I felt sorry for it!”
Corty can’t wait to follow in the footsteps of his dad, heading to the US for the Haigs’ customary attack on Hot Rod Drag Week in September.
Despite a lack of blistering PB runs, most drivers could say they took something from their experience at Swan Hill, whether it was adapting to a less-than-compliant track on the fly or just catching up with mates in a relaxed atmosphere