THERE should be no surprise that lighter cars go faster than heavier cars; that’s the reason people have been putting big engines in little cars since the dawn of the automobile. How much of a difference does it make, though? We set out to answer that question, and have a little fun, at Calder Park recently with an AWD Ford Territory for an episode of Carnage. It was an eye-opening experience in more ways than one.

The car itself was a basic Barra-powered SX Territory with seven seats and the $4000 AWD option. It had 309,000km on the clock and stank like someone had used it to carry wet dogs for a year. We paid way too much for it at auction, and with its eye-watering stench and puke-green paint, we quickly nicknamed the tired SUV ‘The Toxic Avenger’.

After repairing a dodgy ball-joint and wheel bearing, we drove the Territory down to All Race Fabrications, where the boys welded in a simple four-point chrome-moly rollcage for safety and fitted a Kirkey racing seat and Simpson harness. We also had Zane at Maxx Performance get into the ECU and disable some of the electronic wizardry so nothing would screw us up at the track.

With the help of Peter Pisalidis at Calder Park, we organised some track time before a Fridaynight street meet to do the deed. The plan was to unbolt or cut pieces off the car every pass until we were left with basically a floorpan with a seat. But first we had to see what it would run dead stock.

The first three passes of 16.89, 16.64 and 16.66 helped establish a baseline, and then we started removing bits. At first it was just the loose parts left inside when we fitted the ’cage, but then it was the seats, then the doors and roof, followed by the bonnet, guards and bumpers. Even the windscreen got the chop, which might have been a tactical error, as the wind-buffeting was ferocious. With The Toxic Avenger still coming in at a hefty 1475.5kg (down from 2130kg), we managed 14.98sec, proving that the old adage of one-tenth for every 100lb is still valid.

Then we added nitrous! Initially we tried 75hp jets to see how that would go, and we immediately dropped 0.81sec. Feeling optimistic, we threw in a set of 125hp jets and headed back to the startline. We suspected that the original 14-year-old fuel pump was a bit sad, and that was confirmed when the nitrous leaned out and backfired, spraying burning fuel over the engine bay and prompting me to exit the vehicle at a rapid rate.

Despite the heavily singed bay, the Toxic Territory still runs, and we’ve got plans to go even further. We didn’t take as much weight off as we hoped, and we want to see how hard we can push the AWD Territory driveline. But that’s the future; in the meantime, jump online and check out Carnage Episode 12 on the SM website or YouTube.



THE Hot Rod & Custom Auto Expo is on again at Rosehill Racecourse, 26-27 May. A cool new feature of the event is the Nostalgia Lane hall – a haven for lovers of traditional hot rods, customs, drag cars, lowriders and bombs. Each of the clubs, sponsors and vendors participating in Nostalgia Lane will award their own trophies to their favourite cars. Cool deal! Other features will include the Mooneyes dragster, pinstriping by Hiro ‘Wildman’ Ishii and freestyle motocross demos. And if you can’t enter your car for the whole weekend, get there nice and early and park in the outdoor show ’n’ shine. For more info visit


GRAEME Cowin has been recognised for five decades of dedication to drag racing with a place in the Australian Motorsport Hall Of Fame. Only the third drag racer among the 72 current inductees, Graeme joins Ash Marshall and Jim Read in representing the quarter-mile brigade. “We have some pretty famous names on that list, so to be in that company is certainly amazing; I’m honoured,” said the Sydneysider, a former truck driver who went on to found leading performance-parts brands Rocket Industries and Aeroflow.

Among his achievements as a racer were his pioneering trips to the States to compete in the NHRA in the 1980s; becoming the first driver outside North America to crack the five-second barrier, which he did with a 4.895@473.84km/h at Calder in 1993; and winning the 1995 Australian Top Fuel Championship.


THE June mag will be a cracker! We’ll have all the action from Street Machine Drag Challenge Weekend in Queensland, nostalgia drags from Meremere, NZ (starring a group of Aussie gassers), and the formidable team of Geoff Seddon and Simon Davidson returning to Lake Gairdner for DLRA Speed Week. Plus more feature cars than you can poke a dipstick at, and much more! On sale 17 May.

GAINS STOCK: 2130kg; 16.64sec REMOVE LOOSE ITEMS: 2069.5kg; 16.62sec REMOVE SEATS: 1940kg; 16.33sec REMOVE DOORS & HATCH: 1757.5kg; 15.92sec REMOVE ROOF: 1661kg; 16.20sec REMOVE EXHAUST: 1631kg; 15.70sec REMOVE BONNET/GUARDS: 1547.5kg; 15.29sec REMOVE WINDSCREEN & QUARTERS: 1475.5kg; 14.98sec ADD NITROUS (75HP): 14.17sec TOTAL WEIGHT LOSS: 654.5kg TOTAL ET REDUCTION: 1.66sec N/A; 2.47sec with nitrous