SCORCHED EARTH

STREET MACHINE SUMMERNATS 31 WAS NO PLACE FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED INTERCOOLER

STORY MATT REEKIE PHOTOS CHRIS THOROGOOD, SIMON DAVIDSON, MICHELLE POROBIC, ALASTAIR BROOK, BLAKE WILLIAMSON, TIM MCCORMACK & PETER BATEMAN

ACCORDING to meteorology nerds, Australia was the hottest place on Earth during Street Machine Summernats weekend. Temp gauges rose throughout the four days, peaking on Sunday with the hottest day so far this summer, when it seemed like you could melt a set of tyres without even turning them.

The searing heat and oppressive humidity made it tough for both (hu) man and machine, but rather than let it spoil the fun, entrants and attendees fought fire with fire and emerged triumphant.

The Street Machine team had an especially fun time, because Scotty brought our Carnage star cars along. The twin-turbo MX5.7 was sporting a killer new wrap and a cute pair of turbo beanies, while the Turbo Taxi was rocking a whole new front end after its recent meeting with a tree. Which was more fun to cruise ’round Summernats? Flip a coin.

Farmtruck & AZN from Discovery’s Street Outlaws kicked things off with a bang by ramming their freshly built Chevy C10 pick-up into the burnout pad wall during Thursday’s Last Chance Wildcard Shootout. And they weren’t the only culprits, either. Plenty more experienced drivers would smack the wall before the weekend was out, or catch fire, or throw rods, or, worse still, have to put it in reverse.

The Great Meguiar’s Uncover ripped the sheets off nine fresh builds on Friday, and the Top 60 made the Elite Hall sparkle through until Sunday, with Grahame Barker’s titanium FX ute hauling home the Top Judged Elite trophy.

The focus on the battle for the all-coveted Grand Champion sword was sharpened even further. The quality 19-car field included returnees Kylie Perry in the Tailspin FB and reigning champ Mark ‘Happy’ Williams in his none-more-black HQ one-tonner, plus former Grand Champ John Saad in his latest rig, FATXY. Also in the race were previous People’s Choice recipients Grant Connor and his Bad Apple XR and Simon Mokdassi and his ProCharged XYKING.

GRAND CHAMP

GRAND Champion is Summernats’s highest achievement, given to the street machiner with the highest score of excellence in car crafting (from the Elite-class judging scores), popularity with the spectators (as determined by People’s Choice votes) and on-road, street-driven performance in the Go-to-Whoa and Slalom driving events.

This year, 18 elite street machines were in the running for the Grand Champion trophy sword, with the cars and their drivers a mix of new and past contestants. Last year’s winner, Mark ‘Happy’ Williams, was back to defend his title in his blacker-than-black supercharged 406ci Chev-powered HQ one-tonner, and other obvious favourites were Kylie and Adam Perry in their Tailspin FB Holden – they suffered ECU/tuning problems last year – and John Saad, back for a crack at Grand Champion in his new XY Falcon after winning Summernats 29 Grand Champ in a Mazda RX-3.

To keep the field keen, no one knows the rankings, so it’s up to each driver to do his or her best for Sunday’s Grand Champion driving events of Go-to-Whoa (an acceleration and braking test) and Slalom (a test for steering and handling). The field of 18 was whittled to a magnificent seven and then three finalists: Last year’s winner Mark Williams in his HQ tonner, Rick Werner in his angry little blown Chev 383-powered ’32 Ford rod, and Grant Connor in his XR Fairmont sedan.

It was Grant who won. Debuted at Summernats a couple of years ago (and featured in Street Machine in July 2016) Grant’s Fairmont has had a recent freshen-up – finished just days before Summernats – including an Arrow-blocked 434- cube Pavtek-built Cleveland V8, a tougher C4 auto, a cool highlight on those enormous 20- and 22-inch Simmons wheels and fresh custom-mix House of Kolor paint.

“We did a year of driving it before we took it off the road for the rebuild,” Grant explained. “So I knew how it would drive.” A minor issue with the gear selection on Sunday morning dampened his confidence a little, but it was soon fixed, allowing the Fairmont to perform to its full potential.

Grant’s experience at Summernats 29 was also an asset: “I was more familiar with the need to drive the car,” he explained. “There’s no coasting through the chequered flag!”

Amen to that!

TOP OVERALL STREET

FOR street-class cars, the award for the best all-round construction excellence, street performance and driving skill is Top Street Overall. It’s like Grand Champion for street cars, and this year’s winner was Sebastian Desisto with his punchy Datsun 1200 ute. Built to a retrotech theme, with an ex-Nissan Silvia CA18 turbo injected four-cylinder driveline and Toyota Starletbased custom dash, the little Datto was first seen more than a dozen years ago at Summernats 18, where it earned Top Judged Street.

Since then, Sebastian (who originally built the car) has bought it and made it his own, scooping up a handful of trophies over the past four years.

This year’s 3rd Top Bodywork, Top Retrotech and a strong performance in the Go-to-Whoa – the fresh forged-internals CA18 made more than 300hp at the treads on its 12psi run-in tune – was enough to score Sebastian Top Street Overall. The ute was also given the recognition of being a Vibrance Supreme finalist.

Good on ya!

TOP JUDGED STREET

SUMMERNATS 31’s Top Judged Street was Peter Sidoti with his black 1965 Ford Mustang. Peter is no stranger to street-class success: he’s brought his Mustang to Summernats for around 17 years, with the car winning Top Judged Street for the first time in 2009 and Top Overall Street in 2010.

The Mustang is powered by a supercharged and Holley-carbed 347ci stroked Windsor V8. To keep the car fresh in the eyes of the judges, for Summernats this year Peter added some matte highlights to his Mustang’s glossy black paint and installed a set of big RRS brakes at both ends.

Peter’s repeated success in the Street class is an inspiration for those of us who want a good-looking street machine that doesn’t need to be pampered too much. “It doesn’t sit at home,” confirms Peter, who cruises the Mustang most weekends. “I spent a lot of money on this, so I want to enjoy it!”

TEMP GAUGES ROSE THROUGHOUT THE FOUR DAYS, AND IT SEEMED LIKE YOU COULD MELT A SET OF TYRES WITHOUT EVEN TURNING THEM

Just like last year, it was a close-fought contest that was decided by Sunday morning’s heads-up Go-to-Whoa and Slalom driving events on the burnout pad, where Grant Connor in the Knight’s Garage-built XR edged out the rest.

A Ford also took out the People’s Choice, the red TC Cortina of David Xuereb a deserved winner there, but Holdens got their licks in too. Craig Morrow’s innovative white and black VH SL/E won Tuff Street, Matt James’s UNWANTED VF ute won Burnout Masters, and Phil Kerjean’s TUFFST VK wagon won the Burnout Championship. The Red team also did exceptionally well in the Dyno Cell, where virtually everyone struggled due to the extreme humidity. The Jake’s Performance-tuned blown big-block Chev-powered Torana of local boy Paul Allen made 1036hp in qualifying, then went on to pump out 1019hp in the Eight-Cylinder Forced Induction final and become the first Roots-blown car to claim the Horsepower Heroes title.

Shannon Longhurst was also a worthy winner of the Summernats Supreme Entrant. It takes a lot to make a black Torry hatch stand out from the rest, and hers does.

Safety was beefed up this year, especially down Tuff Street, where stricter measures and higher barriers had ramifications for the vibe. Hopefully by next year changes will be in place to allow some safe skidding down there and restore that rowdy corridor to its former glory.

“We listen and we hear that people want to have more fun on Tuff Street,” said Summernats organiser Andy Lopez. “We’re actively looking at ways to let people do more on Tuff Street than we are currently allowed to let them do. For us that involves lots of work with police, WorkSafe, insurance companies, the venue and the government; we’ve got to convince all those people that we’re doing it right. But it will be different and it will be better and there’ll be more play on Tuff Street.”

Dates have been announced for next year’s Summernats – 3-6 January, 2019. Y’all be there. s

FARMTRUCK & AZN

FARMTRUCK & AZN from Street Outlaws made a big impression on fans with their goodwill visit to Summernats 30, and were determined to up the ante for this year’s return trip.

Farmtruck bought a rusty Chevy C10 resembling the one he races on TV and had it shipped Down Under, where it was built into a full-blown burnout machine by students, staff and helpers at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT). He then drove the Magnuson-blown LS1- powered pick-up headfirst into the concrete barrier during Thursday’s Last Chance Wildcard Shootout – and not once, but twice!

The CIT team sprang into action, spending most of the night stretching and pounding the truck to get it ready for another go-round, this time with AZN behind the wheel and doing it “American style”, with the bumper against the barrier.

We also let AZN drive the Street Machine Carnage MX5.7 down Tuff Street and he brought it back leaking coolant – these guys show no mercy!

MX5.7

THIS year, the SM crew brought both of our Carnage project cars to the event and had a blast.

Scotty commandeered the MX5.7 and put it through every driving event he could manage. He opted not to fry the 275 radials on the burnout pad, but I think he regretted it – by the time you read this, he’ll have fitted some skid rims and tyres and blown them to smithereens at Tassie Powercruise. Scotty also cruised the wheels off the car and leant it to Farmtruck and AZN of Street Outlaws fame for a lap. While Scotty had beat on the MX-5 without complaint all weekend, Murphy’s Law dictates that if something is going to go wrong, it is when you have the largest audience! And sure enough, the MX-5 decided to shit a thermo fan halfway around the cruise route, and promptly spewed coolant when AZN pulled up. That’s showbiz!

You can check the video at streetmachine.com.au.