THE success of the Sunset Strip Nostalgia events stems from two key ingredients: the intimate country setting in Mildura in north-west Victoria, and the community spirit of Australian grassroots drag racing. Further adding to the ambiance are the dedicated drag cars in 60s-70s livery – heavy metalflake, enamelled signwriting and bold, eracolourings. It’s a scene that really gets you in the mood spectacular eighth-mile battles.
For the Sunraysia Drag Racing Association’s third Nostalgia meet, the pre-’78 entries were capped at 120 (up from 105 last year) and were filled some seven weeks prior. “This year was a lot bigger to organise,” said a tired yet proud Kingsley Kuchel, SDRA president. “But as with any of our events, all of the volunteers worked their backsides off to run the meeting like a well-oiled machine. The weather definitely helped too.” Crisp, cool nights and clear, sunny days kept the eighth-mile strip at a good temp for a field full of amazing machinery, from full-blown drag cars to bench-seat sleepers. There were classes to tantalise everyone’s automotive tastebuds: Aussie Muscle, American Muscle, Hot Rod, Vintage Gas, and the really fast ’n’ quick rides in Top Gas, Middle Eliminator and Top Eliminator.
01: Steve Mclay’s 1963 Ford Zephyr is a cool street car, running a 351W built back in 1983! The C10 ’box was recently rebuilt with the help of Funny Car legend Jim Walton. The car has run a best of 13.4sec over the quarter-mile
02: Tony Carusi painted his XW wagon back in 2006 after being gifted it by his brother. He then tubbed and ’caged it before bolting in a 393ci 4V Clevo, C10 trans, 5600 stall and 9in. “It’s run a 10.5@128mph at Heathcote, while my best time here is 6.60@103mph”
03: Brothers Jason and Damien Winnen were back at it with their stick-shift, 502ci-powered Chev Impala. This year dad Shane also raced his late-70s-built ’34 Ford coupe, and the Funday allowed a first-ever showdown, resulting in a close finish. Shane should take any win he can, as soon the boys will be adding a ProCharger!
04: “It’s a family heirloom; it was Dad’s first car and he gave it to me as my first car,” said Tony Antonio of his stunning ’62 S-Series Valiant. A few years ago, Tony swapped out the slant-six to slide in a 490hp Bergamin Brothers-built 318ci between the towers. Running 7.0sec, he came runner-up in the American Muscle class
05: Ron Smith’s Anglia is a weapon, running a hottie 250ci crossflow six and four-speed combo. “We had a ball at Mildura,” he said. “We did wheels-up launches all day, but we bent the front spring on the fourth pass. It ran a PB of 8.8sec; I was buzzing for days!”
01: Brenton Lee recently purchased KILAXW (SM, Mar ’16) and is now getting the seat time required to run the low numbers that the 2500hp twin-turboed ride is capable of. “I tuned it down, yet it’s running faster times. It wasn’t shifting right but should be good for low-seven quarters,” he said, after running a 5.5@136mph eighth
02: The Australian Nostalgia Racers are pivotal in the Nostalgia scene, with 16 of their members’ rides racing at this event. Trying to gather all of the racers and family members for this shot took a heap of coordinating by snapper Tappy
03: “It’s more of a streeter,” said Laurie Arruzzolo of his super-sano HK Monaro. “I just brought it here to have fun, see what it can do and spend time with my son Andrew.” The 580rwhp HK is no slouch either, running a 6.79sec PB from the 434ci Dart-blocked Chev with TH400, 4500 stally and 9in
04: Kingsley Kuchel championed his stunning 60s-inspired FED Sweet Sensation to a Middle Eliminator win, with a best of 5.85@115mph. “Taking my first-ever win at my home track with the whole family watching was the icing on the cake,” he said. “And I did it at a Nostalgia meet, which is where my heart is”
As usual, Vintage Gas put on the best display, brimming with an assortment of eye candy that performed as good as they looked. Steve Costa’s 540-cube ’57 Chevy gasser, Blaster, garnered the most cheers after reeling off humungous front lifts pass after pass. Fellow Nostalgia racer Damien Kemp left his Funderbolt Fairlane at home, instead playing with his new toy, a 70s-built, yet freshly reborn Fiat Topolino labelled Desperado. Set to play in Middle Eliminator, the 327ci-powered short-wheelbase racer had a couple of initial hiccups as Damien grasped the feel of the Fiat, but soon he had it well and truly down pat, running clean, straight passes not far off his intended times.
Kingsley himself was also cutting eighths in his 383ci Sweet Sensation dragster while juggling the coordination of the entire meet. “It’s definitely hard work,” he admitted after his emotional Middle Eliminator win. “My wife Lauren is the crew chief and is just as involved in the event organisation as I am. So we worked until we heard the class before us called, then got ready to do our run. It was difficult to keep my head in the game, but we were able to get it all done and race well.” Show-level, high-horsepower cars were also out on the track, most notable being Brenton Lee’s angry twin-turboed KILAXW XW ute (SM, Mar ’16) competing in Top Gas, and Mike Evans’s tarmac-hugging, steel-bodied ’70 AAR Barracuda in Top Eliminator. Mike’s ’Cuda is immaculately finished and good for over 2000hp while belting out low-four-second eighths. It’s spectacular to watch.
The Aussie Muscle class had the most entries at this year’s event, with a whopping 31 competitors (up from 19 last year) along with a decent wait-list. Within it sat a fairly even mix of Holden, Ford and Chrysler models, each doing their maker proud. Some were dedicated trailered drag cars, while others were just set up for a bit of fun.
05: The Pacemakers Drag Team was originally formed in 1965, and in 2011 the creators allowed the team to start back up to encompass several stunning re-creations of eracorrect gassers. The group continues to grow, pumping out beautifully executed, consistent and reliable racers
01: Damien Kemp spent three months on body, paint and refurbishing this 70s-built Fiat Topolino for the rigours of racing. The Nostalgias marked Desperado’s first straight-line pass, topping the weekend with a 5.82@120mph from the Hilborninjected 327ci Chev. “It’s got some left in it,” Damien said. “I hope to get it somewhere in the 5.70s, and a bit better with some nitro”
02: coupe Shane around Winnen 1975, built and his it still steel-bodied wears the five-window same black paint! ’34 Ford Sprintcar, A more recent backed addition by a TH400 is the 410ci and 9in. Chev They from reckon a wingless she’s got 630hp and runs 6.82 eighths
03: Steve Hunt’s XW pano has those sleeper feels, with a sneaky ’cage and untubbed rear. “It’s previously done 6.34, yet I’m doing 6.40 today as I’m currently testing new doubleadjustable shocks,” he said. Under the bonnet is an alloyheaded small-block Clevo tuned for E85. “It does 10-10.2 consistently with a column auto and bench seat”
Justin Russell, Camaro
Kingsley Kuchel, FED
Michael Tuddenham, UC Torana sedan
Mal Phillips, ’69 Chrysler hardtop
MUSCLE pick-up Michael Jennings, ’66 Chevy Nova wagon
Steve Curyer, HJ Holden ute 080 STREET MACHINE
04: The Bergamin Brothers are well known in the SA street and race scene, with Frank’s Dodge Charger featuring in SM, May ’18. Here are three staunch Bergamin-built Chrysler donks in tasty Pentastar wrappings: Bill Hondros’s 360ci-powered VH 770 hardtop, Rob Bergamin’s stroked 440ci VF hardtop, and Tony Antonio’s S-Series
05: Mike and Cindy Evans purpose-built this Supercharged Outlaws ’70 Cuda, and it’s a well-thought-out, tough-asnails piece of art with a genuine AAR steel body. “It was a Super Sedan from years ago and had already been cut, so we used the body after I rolled my Camaro,” Mike said. Running a Kobelco K8 Superman-blown BAE 521ci Hemi, it’s currently tuned down to a guesstimated 2200-2300rwhp. “I ran a 4.33@170mph today, a PB for this body,” Mike said
06: A couple of lucky punters won the raffle to sit inside the replica Gold Digger FED for the cackle fire-up on Saturday night. The band literally stopped playing as everyone left the shed for the spectacle
01: My husband Shane’s 502-cube HZ Sandman last competed at Mildura during the 2017 Drag Challenge, so it was weird to see so many trailered cars this time around. But for us it only amplified the feeling of driving home a pano that’d just PBed with a 7.65@90mph – it was secondto- none!
02: Michael Ahrens was one of the few who didn’t trailer his race car, cruising his Pontiac-powered A tudor all the way from Adelaide before running a respectable 9.49@68mph
While the finals were planned for Sunday, the lack of incidents moved the event ahead of schedule and was run and won on Saturday evening under lights.
Overall, the Nostalgia racing was fun yet competitive across the vast array of horsepower within each grouping, and no one was racing for sheep stations either. The atmosphere was laidback and low-key, where your timeslip does the talking and you shake your opponent’s hand after the race is run.
During the Sunday Funday, the full timing system remained, allowing a few heavy-hitters to stick around for testing. Most paid to either be a passenger in an entered drag car or even to swap drivers for a blat. Being an open day, you could pair up against your mates too. The field was smaller, which meant more passes for everyone. That’s cheap testing in anyone’s language, yet the emphasis was on fun, with an expectation that no one would give it too much jandal in the top end.
As I promised at last year’s Nostalgia meet, we did bring up a worthy racer this time – my hubby Shane’s 502ci HZ Sandman panel van. It was also our first time staying at the track, allowing us to enjoy the driver and crew meals provided by the SDRA and hang out in the shed bar to bench-race.
The Nostalgia drags is a spectator’s delight. If you’re into tough sixes, eights, and a monster drag car or two pumping out a couple of thousand horsepower, then get yourself to the next and Sunset in the Strip pits. meet I’ll see and you mosey there. close s to the action both on track and in the pits. I’ll see you there.