Dispatches From The Southern Front
by Graham “Von Zoom” Slapp
During the last years of the previous millennium I succumbed to an urge to build a nostalgia dragster that I wanted to be unique and entirely fabricated by local Aussie talent. The normal cars that people were building in Australia at that time were all so sensible they’d wash their own socks. However, I preferred the approach of our sports pioneers, who believed whatever rules there were for concept and design must absolutely be broken. I was drawn to two of their lunatic concepts – Fuel Altereds and twin engine contraptions that flourished in the 1950’s and 60’s.
I settled on a light and sassy ’38 Fiat Topolino and draped the 175” chassis in a stunning little two piece fiberglass number that would put a horn on a jelly fish. Two blown BBCs provided motivation and noise. The twin iron block mills also cancelled out any advantage of the light weight body with enough inertia to ensure it couldn’t qualify in the top half of a Junior Dragster field over the first half of the track, and would barely avoid the sand trap at the other end. But skinny 12” tires helped it get up on the revs and smoke the joint in on every run. Fans loved the l-o-o-o-n-n-g, gnarly, cock-walking burnouts (after the green light), but curiously, promoters were less than enthused and it was difficult to find a spot in their programs.
RATZILLA – the first iteration of Graham Slapps twin blown BBC Fiat Topolino.
Nostalgia racers in The Great Southern Lands often follow a similar path of do-it-yourself creativity – and mostly do so with considerably more success than I did. Here are two fine examples for us to admire:
Darren Otto races a slingshot dragster that he and his mate built on the floor of their home workshop. With a welder in one hand, spay gun in the other, and an angle grinder between his teeth, Darren and his mate built the dragster about 15 years ago. Rumor has it he had to bypass the trusty tube bender when making up the shoulder hoop and seat for his digger, and resorted to bending pipe around an object more closely resembling his shape - a 44 gallon oil drum. There is not one homogenized item of “Fordist mass production” bolted to Darrens digger, and definitely (!!!!) no electronics.
A typical Darren Otto wheels up launch.
I’ll let Darren pick up the story of how his “Step Back In Time” digger came to be:
We used to go to the drags at Willowbank and take a lot of photos and a measuring tape just to get ideas. After looking in a lot of old car magazines the race car started to take shape. I found a lot of parts cheap like the front end with wheels and torsion bar (tires still held air) and paid a whole $50 for that. The seat was rolled around a drum, and the aluminum was stolen. The rear rims came off my brothers’ panel van, for which I had to pay another $ 50. The sheer cost of this race car was starting to be unbelievable.
Continued on next page...
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