GREETINGS from LA! Ben and I decided it was about time we went across to America to see first-hand what’s happening on the drag scene. We plan to take in a PDRA race, the SEMA show and maybe the NHRA round at Las Vegas – if I can afford the entry fee after a few days in Vegas!
In all the years I’ve been involved in drag racing, I’ve never been to SEMA or the PRI show. I’m pretty excited, having heard so much about it from other racers.
We’re also keen to pick up some parts for the cars we are building back in Australia.
We’re getting our customising and restoration business up and running, building some street rods – not top-end, more rat rods and tough cruisers.
One of the first places we went when we arrived in America was the Long Beach High Performance Swap Meet near Los Angeles; there was something like 750 vendors on site; it takes a whole day to walk around! For my latest project I’m building a replica movie car out of the 70s (I’ll talk about that in a future column) and was looking for specific stuff, but with 750 sites you don’t really get time to look at each one in detail, and there are around 10,000 people all trying to chase a bargain too.
Still, we walked past every site and had a great day. You could buy turn-key race cars, blowers, engines, wheels, tyres, manifolds – you name it, it was on sale. It was on for young and old, and it was great fun to barter over the price. They tell you what their price is, you make an offer, walk away, come back, walk away, come back and haggle some more, then buy unless someone beats you to it.
My bargain buy of the day was a box of 1950 Buick grille teeth. You don’t find them very often, and they were in really good condition.
There are a lot of really ratty ones out there that have been dragged along the ground and are worn out and rusted. I said to Ben: “Wow, I’ve got to buy them!” There are nine teeth in the grille and I think they can sell for upwards of US$250 per tooth. They are very rare. The last set I bought, I paid US$1400.
So I said to this guy: “What do you want for them?” He said: “$350.” I offered $275 for the whole set and he accepted! He was happy, and I was over the moon! So we left our bargain with him and spent the rest of the day just wandering around looking at what was on sale.
Later, when I went back to collect the teeth the guy said: “Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you but I’ve got some front parking lights that go with them.” I was blown away; you just can’t get these lights anywhere no matter how much money you’ve got, and they were mint.
I also found some rare wheels I’d been chasing for my movie car build. To be loyal to the build the wheels had to be manufactured prior to 1970. I said to the guy selling them: “This one wheel is definitely pre-1970 but I’m not sure about the other one.” He smiled and told me not to worry, as he’d had it since 1965.
And, after some research back at the hotel, turns out he was right.
I also want to let you know about a recent purchase Benny’s made. It’s a state-of-the-art Toyota Solara-bodied car from the workshop of Vanishing Point Race Cars in Maryland, and Ben plans to run it in Factory Xtreme. It will replace the car he crashed at Willowbank a
couple of seasons ago, so let’s hope he has a better run with this car. When we return home we’ll start piecing it together and get it ready to race.
Ben’s tossing up whether to put in his fourcylinder engine or go straight to a six-cylinder.
The four-pot was in the car he tipped over.
It’s a great machine, well-built, and has done a 6.50 pass. Ben reckons there’s still a lot of potential in it to go quicker, but I think he sees going down the six-cylinder track might be the best option in the long term.
If he decides on a six, there are another couple of options in the Toyota range, or he could go with a Nissan V6 like what Scott Porter runs. Ben’s lucky in that he has a clean slate to decide which way to go. Many of the Factory Xtreme guys have built up a lot of their gear over the years – similar to our position in Doorslammer – which means you tend to have a set direction due to how much money you’ve spent getting to where you are.
There’s been some great news recently with Willowbank Raceway announcing that Larry Larson will be coming to Australia to race at the Outlaw Armageddon meetings in December and January. Larry is a worldclass racer who has won Hot Rod Drag Week five times, and he plans to bring both his S10 pick-up and his iconic Chevy Nova to Australia.
But as amazing as Larry is – he’s run five seconds in his S10! – there are some really quick Australian cars that will give him a run for his money, you can bet on that.
It will be very interesting to see if Larry can deliver on Australian soil. In general terms America has better traction simply due to the number of cars down the track, but here in Australia we have much better air.
The combinations they run in the US won’t actually transfer to Australian conditions.
Most Australian tracks are around sea level, whereas in America the tracks are all at different altitudes.
But Larry is a bona fide champion, and should be able to adjust to the Australian track and air conditions. So if you want to see some of the best street cars in the country, pencil in the Outlaw Armageddon meeting. s