STEPHEN Molson was one of five West Aussies to make the trek to Adelaide for last year’s Street Machine Drag Challenge, and three to finish in the Top 10 overall – although he only just snuck in thanks to a few people falling by the wayside. “We did the Steven Bradbury, that’s what we did,” he laughs.
That’s probably making light of his HZ ute’s performance, as it’s no slouch, having run a best of 8.83 back at the Perth Motorplex, but some of the potentially quicker cars on Drag Challenge were struggling to run a good number on some of the tracks.
Steve was happy to bank any run under 9.50 and then hit the road early, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing, with Drag Challenge really living up to its name. “We got to Swan Hill on the first night and cracked a fuel tank,” Steve recalls. “Luckily, Josh Lopreiato’s team had brought along their own welder and their own boilermaker with them and we ended up TIG-welding in the car park of the hotel at midnight, with a firehose filling up the fuel cell. But that was the only mechanical problem we had.
“We took a little bit of boost out of it, but on the first day of racing in Adelaide it was ridiculously hot; then, by the time we got back to Adelaide on the last day it was 11 degrees and they couldn’t get any temperature in the track,” he continues. “Because we had everything wound right down, it was hitting a limit in the ECU at three-quarter track and I didn’t know what it was. We were running 10.50s and maybe a 10.1. couldn’t get hold of Justin, my tuner from BYE Performance, so in the end I took all the limits off for one last run. Because the day was a lot cooler with much higher air density, it was making a lot more boost and the car just wanted to go.”
There were other issues on the five-day trek, but mostly related to driving the car in pissing rain down winding country roads, which while picturesque were at times a little nervewracking. “There were some pretty epic country roads, single lanes with no marking, massive potholes,” Steve says. “All the logging trucks down into Portland were pretty insane with torrential rain and on front-runners. It was pretty crazy.”
While Steve has turned out a pretty stout and reliable machine – by virtue of finishing Drag Challenge – initial plans for the ute were miles away from how it turned out. Purchased as a work ute, it already had a 350 Chev in it, but after building a turbo LS for a mate, Steve’s plans changed: “We did an LS1 with a turbo kit in a VZ ute, and it was a lot more fun than I anticipated. I’d had blown cars before and quite a few serious set-ups, but never had anything turboed. We decided it was a good thing to do.”
WE FOLLOWED the build of the Muscle Garage ‘Barrahore’ VS Commodore ute in Street Machine, and the car performed well at Drag Challenge last year, with a PB of email@example.com at the hands of Jason Waye.
Jason’s mate and DC co-driver Craig ‘Trop’ Tropeano enjoyed the car so much that he bought it, but recently popped the unopened Barra thanks to some faulty knock sensor wiring. With Drag Challenge 2018 rapidly approaching, the boys bought an FG turbo engine and have stripped and rebuilt it, with new rings and bearings, head studs, an Atomic timing chain upgrade and oil pump, and Pro Cams valves springs, but it still retains the standard rotating assembly.
This year they’ll swap seats and Jason will be co-driver, but he has something of his own in the works for Drag Challenge 2019.
STEVE Hutchins from Bendigo will be a first-time entrant at DC ’18 in his HZ Kinger. He has cooked up a cool 355-cube Holden combo, with a Torque-Power intake, 102mm throttlebody, a Vortech V-2 Ti blower and ’cooler.
Control is via a Haltech Elite 2500 with dual knock sensors and flex-fuel sensor. “It is getting tuned for both E85 and 98,” says Steve. “It should be fun; the last time I raced it was with just a mild 308 and standard diff, and it went 13.2@98mph.”
Type: 6.0L LY6
Inlet: Holley high-rise and 105mm throttlebody
Turbo: BorgWarner 83mm
Wastegate: Precision 46mm
Blow-off valve: Turbosmart Race Port
Valves: Ferrea stainless Cam: Roller
Crank: Scat forged
Conrods: Eagle forged
ECU: Link Thunder
’Box: Turbo 400
Converter: 4000rpm stall
Diff: 9in, Moser 31-spline, Strange 3.25 centre
Front end: Stock
Rear end: Gazzard Bros mono split-leaf, CalTracs
Shocks: Custom Engineering 90/10 (f), Afco double adjustable (r)
Brakes: Wilwood (f), VN Commodore (r)
Rims: Weld Magnum V-Series; 15x4 (f), 15x10 (r)
Rubber: M/T Sportsman S/R 26x6.00R15LT (f), M/T Radial Pro 275/60R15
Of course, what was initially intended to be a fairly basic set-up soon grew into something much bigger. “It was a bog-stock LS1 with a Bullseye on it, but the Bullseye was pretty much maxed out on the LS1. That was no fun, so we went with a bigger engine, then went bigger turbo, then that turbo was too small, so we went bigger turbo again! Now that turbo’s too small again, so where do you stop? The car’s only teched for an 8.0 and it should do a mid-eight quite happily now with the power it’s got.”
While the racing is a big part of the fun during Drag Challenge, being able to cruise around with a bunch of other high-horsepower cars and not get the book thrown at you was even more fun for Steve. “I could not get my head around the difference in attitude towards modified cars over east,” he says. “We’d come into a country town at school pick-up time; there’s kids everywhere, mums everywhere – we do the right thing and idle through – and there’s a cop on the other side of the road waving at us. If that was WA they’d be putting spike strips across the road and tasering you as you got out of the car!
“The hardest thing was, at the end of each day you’re happy because you’ve made it, but then you’ve got the dread of having to drive another 600km the next day and race and hope it you again. don’t But break I’d do it, it then again jump in a in heartbeat!” the car and s do it again. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat!”