COOKING WITH GAS!

DAMIEN KEMP, STEVE BIGGS AND SHAUN PASK BRING THE FUN BACK TO DRAG RACING WITH VINTAGE GAS

STORY GEOFF SEDDON PHOTOS CHRIS THOROGOOD, DRAGPHOTOS & CACKLING PIPES

DAMIEN Kemp is on a mission to reinvigorate his favourite sport and have a good time while he’s at it. Drag racing is supposed to be fun, he reckons, like it was in the old days, so to go forward, maybe we should all take a big step back.

For some years now, he and his buddy Steve Biggs have travelled throughout regional Victoria and up the east coast of Australia bringing their two-car Ford-vs-Chev Vintage Gas show to the masses. When we spoke, they were just back from a race-fuelled run of five meets over three states in just over a week.

“We do the same trip each year,” Damien says. “We started at Heathcote at the March Rodders Fun Day, then we went up to Sydney and raced at a street meet on the Wednesday night. Then on to Willowbank for a Friday night street meet, a test-and-tune on the Saturday night and the Nostalgias on Sunday.

“At other times, we’ve raced at Portland – they are the best bunch of guys – Ballarat, Bairnsdale in the old days, Warwick, Warrnambool, Mildura, Wilby and Casterton. We’ve developed a following; travelling around has had an effect. Over the past two years, we and Shaun Pask from Queensland have been talking a lot, and we came up with a national set of guidelines for Vintage Gas four or five months ago. They are not a copy of anywhere else but just apply to Australia. The class is all about having a good time and putting on a show; no more, no less.

“We had 14 real Vintage Gas cars at Willowbank, with another eight racing the same weekend in Sydney. All up there are 31 cars finished or being built that we know about. A lot of the guys are really passionate about early-60s gassers; other guys are purely in it for the fun.”

This is reflected in one of the gasser trademarks: the cars’ names emblazoned in period signwriting along both sides, one of the few mandatory requirements of the class. Along with the crazy nose-up stance, it adds another level of entertainment to the mix and makes it easier for the punters to barrack for their favourites. Damien’s Funderbolt is better known than most Top Fuellers, while Steve’s Chev is a Loose Wedothe sametrip says.“atHeathcote

THERE ARE 31 GASSERS FINISHED OR BEING BUILT THAT WE KNOW ABOUT

Simon Bishop imported his ’64 Nova from the States with the Piston Loose warpaint.

He blew the Nova’s 396 big-block prior to the recent Willowbank Nostalgias, and fitted a 350 from the shed for a best of 12.6@107mph

VINTAGE Gas rules were developed that all vehicles would look like the gas cars the 50s, 60s and early 70s. The explicit intention of the class to put on a show for the spectators, and to grow and promote grass roots drag racing.

Body styles are limited to pre-1970 Aussie and US production vehicles, pre-1948 hot rods and other period-correct cars as allowed the committee. Both front doors must open and fibreglass bodies are fine. Roof chops are the only allowed form of streamlining.

Negative rake nose-up) is mandatory – preferably means of a straight-axle front end – as is having the car’s funky name emblazoned down the sides. Also compulsory are open headers and slicks; this is drag racing, after all.

Engine choice is broad, the leveller being a 10sec minimum ET competition. Alloy heads, superchargers, NOS and mechanical injection are allowed, but not EFI. Vehicles must be self-starting and run on alcohol or pump fuels. Manuals, autos and transbrakes are okay, but not multi-stage clutches and electric or air shifters.

Full chassis are allowed, but only in box-section, and everything must comply with all ANDRA regulations. To get a full list of rules, join the Aussie Vintage Gassers Facebook page, where you can also get in touch with regional delegates who can advise on any aspect of your build. Search for ’em on Facebook!