PLAYING WITH FIRE

RADIAL RACER MATT GRUBISA STEPS THINGS UP WITH A NEW USA-BUILT, PRO LINE 481X-POWERED FIREBIRD

MARK ARBLASTER

BANG for buck, nothing for sale locally can compare to a USA-built car. Around US$100,000 will buy you a car that would cost $250,000 to Australia, and it will generally come with a tune-up and a bunch of track time that has it running in the sweet spot before you even jam your arse in the saddle. In real terms, to buy a twin-turbo Outlaw Radial car that can run into the 3.80s over the eighth, with a quality chassis and a decent engine like a 481X, would cost US$330,000 (around AU$445,000) from start to finish. Yep, it’s a ton of coin, but what you get will be the ride of your life in a car that is built to absolute perfection.

It’s something that Sydney radial racer Matt Grubisa has discovered for himself. For a few years he campaigned a twin-turbo Gen II Camaro, which he then traded in on a 1966 Nova with a PSI-blown Hemi. That deal was short-lived as he just didn’t have the people around him to make it fly. So the Nova went up for sale and he went to the States in search of a car that would take him to the front of the Outlaw Radial field.

“I was talking with Eric Dillard from Pro Line in the US, who told me the only quality car for sale was the 2004 Pontiac Firebird of Chris Daniel, so we organised to take a look,” Matt says.

He went to the US to check out the car and was impressed, but didn’t decide to buy it until he got back to Australia. “I wasn’t really in love with the body shape, but I needed to be at the front of the pack back home,” Matt says. “I needed a car that I don’t have to upgrade in a year, and this thing ticked all the boxes.”

The car has a long and distinguished history, and went to the finals at Lights Out in 2007 against Stevie Fast. Its best is 3.82@209mph with 60lb of boost on a 315 radial.

“I flew back a month later to head to Darlington, South Carolina to test the Pontiac with a bunch of other Pro Line cars,” Matt explains. “Sure enough the weather came in, so we went south to Orlando, where the track wasn’t good but we agreed I needed to do some laps and some time in the car.

“We did a few days’ testing and my first run was a 4.20@189mph, getting out of it after 3.8 seconds. We tried to play with it but the track wasn’t up to it, and I ran a best of 4.20@191mph.”

The Racecraft Inc chassis has been fitted with a Pro Line/Alan Johnson full-billet stage III 481X that runs twin 102 Precision turbos, a Pro-Mag and a FuelTech ECU.

THE RACECRAFT CHASSIS HAS BEEN FITTED WITH A PRO LINE/ALAN JOHNSON FULL-BILLET STAGE III 481X THAT RUNS TWIN 102 PRECISION TURBOS, A PRO-MAG AND A FUELTECH ECU

Transmission is a two-speed TH400 built by Mark Micke at M&M Transmission, with a ProTorque converter. Under the rear end there’s a modular Mark Williams alloy housing and Santhuff shocks. The attention to detail is simply stunning.

Despite the extravagance of the build, it is actually an LDR (Limited Drag Radial) car that still retains the stock front chassis rails, and the build is based on an Outlaw 10.5 car.

The 572-cube 481X motor is known for its reliability, and between rounds it really only needs valve springs and plugs checked, as well as the data downloaded. There is a bit of a maintenance program needed on the fuel side though, as it runs on methanol. The engine should be able to make 40 passes before it comes apart for rods, rings and bearings.

Fortunately Matt bought the car with a ton of spares, ranging from cylinder heads to rockers, pistons and rods. In race weight in comes in at 3030lb with driver.

Kon from Wollongong Automotive Services will handle the tuning and suspension, while Westend Performance will look after the engine.

“Right now I have a 4.20 tune in the car, which equates to 45-47lb of boost,” Matt says. “Crank it to 55lb and it will run into the high 3.90s over the eighth; with boost in the 60s it will go into the 3.80s. Over in the States a lot of guys are up into the 70lb zone, but we are a long way from that.”

ARBY CHAT

VIP VK

SPOTTED recently at Sydney Dragway was the immaculate VK Commodore of Nick Zamagias from VIP Automotive Repairs in Sydney. The VK is fitted with a 416-cube LS motor that runs a Pro Systems carby instead of EFI. On its last outing it ran a 9.2@145mph and has since had the motor yanked for more work by Nick.

The cam was ditched for a solid-roller with .700 lift and 260° duration, and Nick ported the Mast LS3 heads before the motor went back to the dyno and cranked out 800hp at 7100rpm and 590ft-lb torque, a gain of 80hp over the previous combination.

The car responded with a massive wheelstand at Sydney, but unfortunately the boys were unable to get it down the track. They have high hopes of running into the 8.80s with a bit more chassis tuning.

PWR UP

QUENTIN Feast’s GMPWR Torana clocked a mighty 7.52@184.6mph at Grudge Kings.

The three-time Street Machine Drag Challenge winner tagged the wall on the Friday after the parachute pulled the car left over the finish line at over 200mph. Despite a torn ’chute and some make-up missing off the car, on the next round GMPWR picked up 6mph overall with another 2psi of boost.

The GM LQ9 block runs a Callies crank, Compstar rods and twin 68mm Garrett turbos that run about $1300 apiece, so this thing is anything but an extravagant combination.

“We will sneak some more boost into the engine and hopefully run it with 30lb the next time we can find a good track,” Quentin said. “I’m hoping this will get us into the 7.40s or better.”

BULK CUBES

WOLLONGONG racer Simon Kryger has had more cars roll through his garage door than a car dealer, and his latest ride is yet another Torana. This LH has been testing at Sydney Dragway fitted with a monstrous 864ci billet motor that was once in the nitrous Camaro co-owned by Simon and Queenslander Johnny Wilson.

The Westend Performance-built mill makes 1700hp naturally aspirated and has the option of running up to an additional 1000hp of giggle gas through the multi-stage nitrous systems.

The motor has already been into the six-second zone, and Kryger would be looking for at least similar results on radials once it’s sorted.

RIGHT NOW I HAVE A 4.20 TUNE IN THE CAR, WHICH EQUATES TO 45-47LB OF BOOST. CRANK IT TO 55LB AND IT WILL RUN INTO THE HIGH 3.90S OVER THE EIGHTH

CALENDAR

After debuting the car at the recent Grudge Kings event at Sydney Dragway, Matt is looking forward to campaigning the Firebird next year. “It was really a rush to get the car to Grudge Kings, and we probably should not have gone,” he admits. “But I’m planning on putting in a full season next year, and budget-wise you need to be prepared to spend about $20K to do the rounds. At this stage we have enough spare to be able to fix most things at the track, and I probably need to get a spare trans to cover all the bases.”

However, Matt knows how competitive the radial scene is right now. “I’d like to think I can campaign this car for the next five years, but there are some big radial hitters out there at the moment,” he says. “At the upcoming Kenda round, if the track is good we could see Jeremy Callaghan in the Camaro, Jarrod Wood in the Mustang, Jet Martin and Kit Hunter in the Commodores, Craig Burns in the new Brad-powered Mustang and Shaun Hale from Queensland all run into the high three-second zone over the eighth. Even the boys who bought my old Nova can run with the best of us. So in other words, there are some seriously fast cars limits getting of around motors, at tyres the moment, and chassis.” all running s at the limits of motors, tyres and chassis.”