Built with five-second aspirations and plenty of patience, Parry Hunt’s Camaro is the latest doorslammer to hit the Kiwi scene.
There’s this cheesy ad on the idiot box, in which two old codgers go on about doing not much of anything, and the hook or catchphrase is that good things take time. They do, and no one understands the concept better than drag racers.
Time is the essence of drag racing. Which is probably the most obvious and simplistic statement ever, but also the truest.
Measuring how quickly the vehicle covers the first 60 feet, then the next 600, then everything in between and after that determines how well the chassis, clutch or converter and engine are working together, and if any changes the crew have made were a small step forward or a giant leap backward. Even that mph figure at the bottom of your time slip is a calculation on how little time your drag strip missile or fun-time rollercoaster took to travel the last 66 feet before the finish line.
But the 14 or 11 or even six seconds you spent riding down that ribbon of asphalt are infinitesimally tiny compared to the hours, days, weeks, months and years put into every other moment of your drag racing hobby/obsession.
Everything takes time, whether it be the time put into the building, working on or repairing your wicked ride, or the secondary job you have to help fund it, or even just waiting to obtain the best bits you can, when you can afford them.
Ultimately our sport demands we spend more and more time doing these things so we can spend less and less time in the seat traversing the tarmac. And when we’re old(er) and grey(er) we’ll look back and go, ‘Time well spent’. Or, ‘Bloody hell where’d all those years go’? Or, ‘Nurse, my incontinence nappies need changing’. But even if we can’t remember exactly what it was, we will still know that we did something we were obviously prepared to put a lot of time into.
Long Time Coming
Parry Hunt’s new Top Doorslammer Camaro took a long time coming, but wasn’t too long in the building at all. Confused?
Parry was a Wild Bunch fixture in the early 1990s. His nine-second-capable C/TS Torana was powered by an injected small block Chev, and no match for Chris Tynan’s seven-second shoebox
Chev or Steve Key’s wheel-standing-all-over-the-show Mercedes, or in fact almost any of the other eight-second, supercharged, lane-changing tyre smokers of the day. But never deterred, Parry and the team kept chipping away at the little GMH’s ETs, while dreaming of stepping up and running with the big dogs.
Like many other dream machines, vague thoughts of a moly chassis, slippery late-Corvette shell for aerodynamics and a blown big block never eventuated, but Parry kept involved, his burning desire still smouldering, the planned leap forward merely postponed and not cancelled.
Helping out fellow Wellingtonians like David Green for several years helped add to Parry’s knowledge, and when Dave took a few years off to let his wallet recuperate, Parry found himself helping out Graeme Alexander in his Super Stock-style ’68 Camaro.
To some they may have appeared an odd pairing, but it worked well. Deciding to head straight for the top, Graeme exited the heavy street car-style Camaro and stepped up to Doorslammer in the Pro Stock-style Beretta originally built by Scotty and the Chief.
The car had a lot of motor in it, 632 angry cubes with the addition of nitrous. But such combinations are a little more finicky and difficult to run consistently, and it wasn’t long before the guys decided to run a blown combination.
At this point Parry came up with an engine and trans sourced through David, one of Alan Johnson’s finest Oldsmobile-based alcohol racing engines, fitted with a PSI screw compressor and a three-speed Lenco.
The combination was pants-wettingly exciting, though most doubted the car’s ability to get down the track with the shiny side up. Sadly, Graeme passed away before the team ever got a handle on it.A couple of months later the team brought the car out again, knowing Graeme would have wanted them to. Parry surprised quite a few folk by calmly steering the thing down the centre of the lane and clicking off a couple of high sixes, a huge step up from where he’d left off racing in the Torana.
Plans were made for the coming season, but a Will dispute took the rolling body out of Parry’s hands and a decision was made to build his own car the way he believed it should be built. Money doesn’t grow on trees, of course, at least not legally, so Parry knew it was going to be a wee while ” good things take time, remember.
That couple of years on the sidelines was spent with all the other Kiwi Top Doorslammer racers, who used their summer vacations to help Tim Watkins campaign both his funny cars in Oz.
The offer of a plastic Camaro body shell from Camp Stanley got the project properly focused and under way. It was a cast-off from Camp’s son John’s six-second ‘street car’ programme, and was a pretty swoopy piece aerodynamically. All the serious doorslammer cars have tweaked body shapes, but the air-cheating work that’s gone into this slippery shell is all good for a few precious seconds.
More importantly to Parry, the price was right, and the dump truck orange shell was picked up out of a Maryland field and soon on its way to Wellington.
Air management issues aside, the body on any Top Doorslammer is pretty much there to hold sponsor decals and paint. What really makes these things go down the track is all underneath the skin.Parry designed and built an SFI-spec double-frame rail chassis. It’s like having two chromoly ladders on their side running through the centre of the car Ã la funny cars, but with the driver’s roll cage offset to one side.
Parry describes the interior as sparse, which pretty much covers it. There is only one gauge, for oil pressure, and an all-important shift light. Parry sits in a carbon fibre seat and hangs on tightly to the steering wheel he kept from the Torana.
At the pointy end of the chassis a pair of Strange lightweight struts perform suspension duties, while a Parry-designed and built four-link is charged with making the beast hook. DG Engineering came up with the sheet metal diff housing, while Strange Engineering supplied the 40-spline axles and floater kits as well as the discs and callipers.
A combination of Centreline ConvoPros and Hoosier rubber keep the candy blue Camaro shell off the macadam, as well as taking care of pointing at the skinny end and traction out the back.
A DG driveshaft leads to a three-speed Lenco, transmitting power to that is the same clutch almost every other Kiwi doorslammer racer uses: a triple-disc 10-inch Crower.
Most Australian and Kiwi Top Doorslammer racers use some version of a late-model Hemi to power their time machines, but in the US, you’d be just as likely to find an Alan Johnson engine under the carbon fibre panels. Although currently famous as the crew chief and owner of the Larry Dixon-driven NHRA Top Fuel car, Johnson initially found fame in Top Alcohol, converting Oldsmobile Pro Stock-style heads and almost antique aluminium Chevy-style blocks into an engine that dominated Top Alcohol dragster racing in the States for some years. It was only a matter of time before some enterprising Pro Mod racer threw one into a door car.
Mark Bardsley is the only other Kiwi racer using one, but Parry’s version features the more efficient PSI supercharger, an actual air compressor rather than a Roots-style blower, which is more correctly an air mover.
Although Parry is a little secretive about the internals of his engine, the outside of the motor features all the stuff you’d expect to find on a doorslammer of this calibre: an MSD mag, Procoated 2.5-inch zoomie exhaust, Waterman billet fuel pump and, on top of that monster supercharger, a Jeff Burnett carbon fibre injector hat. It looks like it has so many horses it should smell like a stable.
No one really yet knows what the car is capable of. Parry has built it for Australia. and believes it will be competitive there, and on paper nobody would argue against that ” all the right pieces are in place. If looks count, it’s five seconds and 250 miles an hour right now. But so far, all the car has done is a soft launch on a too-soft clutch setting. The team needs to make runs to learn what the car likes, doesn’t like, and how to make it do what the guys want it to do.
It might take quite a while to sort it out, but Parry realises learning to run the car is a process and patience is a virtue. Hell, everyone knows good things take time.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro RS – Specifications
Engine: 527ci (8.6-litre) Alan Johnson Performance Engineering Oldsmobile, Bryant Billet Crank, Brookes 7.2-inch alloy rods, Venolia pistons, AJPE billet Stage 3 alcohol heads, titanium valves, AJPE sheet metal intake, PSI ‘D’ rotor screw blower, Jeff Burnett injector, Waterman billet fuel pump, MSD 44 mag and ignition controller, 2.5-inch PHE built zoomies
Driveline: Lenco three-speed, 10-inch Crower clutch, DG sheet metal diff, Strange floater kit, Strange 40-spline axles, chromoly DG drive-shaft
Suspension: Strange alloy lightweight struts, PHE four-link, Aldan dual adjustable shocks, Hypercoil springs, PHE rear sway bar
Brakes: Strange Engineering four-pot callipers all round
Wheels/tyres: 15×5.5-and 16×16-inch ConvoPro rims with bead locks, 25×4.5×15 and 34.5x17x16 Hoosier tyres
Exterior: Custom-built ex-Camp Stanley Fibreglass body, 25mm chop, modified by Carbo Glass, Paint supplied by PPG NZ and applied by Dean Riches and Weltec Automotive, panel by Darren Riches and Rex Margetts, PPG Vibrance Collection, Radiance Liquid Crystal range True Blue
Chassis: PHE designed and built chromoly dual rail to 25.E specification
Interior: Carbon bucket seat, oil pressure and shift light only
Performance: Approximately 3000hp
Yet to do a full track pass
Parry Hunt – Owner Profile
Occupation: Engineering manager
Previously owned cars: T/S SB Chev Torana, SB Ford 105E Anglia van
Dream car: This T/D ’69 Camaro
Build time: 18 months, give or take a couple
Length of ownership: As above
Parry Thanks: “I have received a tremendous amount of unexpected help and support from people and companies to build the ’69 Camaro RS. Without them it would never have been ready or built to its finished standard. Special thanks go to folk including the Ingles family, Craig Bennett at Hawera Automotive, Joel Arcus, Hayden Thomas, Paul Jacobs (Jake), Darren Riches, Darren Eastern, Andrew Kililis, V, Rana Davis, the Algar family and Kevin Durr. Companies providing tremendous support are Phil Morris at Morris Metals (04 568 9181), David White at PPG NZ, Paul and Brent at Metco (04 567 3222), Steve, Dustin and Aron at Dzine Signs, Viv and Zac at Carbo Glass, Burt King at Powder Services, Graham and Dave at Union Hardware, Dean Riches at Weltec Automotive, David Green at DG Engineering and Equipment, John Penman at Redline Oils NZ, Tim Kerr at Procoat and WR Twigg.
“Extra-special thanks to my wife and family for their understanding and support.”
Words: Trevor Tynan Photos: Dan Wakelin