Part drag car, part show car, Heat Treatments Racing’s new Pontiac GTO is without doubt the best-prepared car to ever hit a New Zealand drag strip.
Nope, this isn’t the story about a lonely old carpenter who carves himself a race car out of pinus radiata that wouIdn’t go until a fairy granted a wish, and which turned into a rotten little sod whose nose kept growing every time it told a whopper about how quick it could go. Nope, this here story might be told in a Mickey Mouse fashion, but there are very few magic kingdoms, fairies or singing crickets in this yarn. It’s more a tale of drag racing dedication, careful planning and an investment in drag racing that beggars belief almost as much as that story of the little wooden boy.
The Heat Treatments team is serious about the sport, that’s for sure. This stunning, Jerry Bickel-constructed Pontiac GTO is Kevin McGregor’s third straight-line time machine, and each one has been a technological leap forward from its predecessor. The 2000 Camaro previously run by the team was an incredibly trick piece of kit, originally constructed for Super Stock competition. But it never ran in the class, as some racers feared it would dominate and threw up as many objections to the car as they could come up with. Not wishing to make waves, the team directed its efforts elsewhere. Ironically, Super Stock died through lack of participation.
Oddly enough, Pinocchio here has stirred up a bit of conflict over in the wide-open world of Kiwi Top Doorslammer, but more on that a bit later.
When Kevin decided to step up to New Zealand’s ultimate doorslammer class, he knew a car specifically built for the rigours of 2000-plus horsepower was the only way to go. He also knew he wanted a Bickel-built car, and that the GTO was the body shape he wanted. “Just had to have one,” Kevin explains. “They have the look, and Bickel cars are designed well and they work. I just picked what items we wanted from the option list and it was ready nine months from when we first ordered it, then it’s on a boat; took six weeks shipping from the US.”
The Pontiac body shell is in fact a left-hook Monaro tarted up for the American market, although if you parked Holden’s sporty two-door coupe next to this rocket you’d be hard pressed to find a single panel that looked the same as the production version. This is not so much Pontiac’s doing, as Bickel’s US chassis builders, who are masters at tweaking body shells in such a way that they look exactly like they are supposed to, still fit a factory template, yet are far sleeker than any production line automobile, no matter how much money the factory spent on wind tunnel testing.
There is another major difference between the trans-Pacific GM siblings: front sheet metal. While most would agree the GTO front clip is far more aggressive-looking than the Holden version, it’s the length of the thing, specifically in front of the wheels, that has wound up a couple of racers.
The reason is the way a drag race is timed. Every ET clock in drag racing is started by the race car’s front wheels, but tube frame cars running big speeds use a combination of rear slick growth and aerodynamic down force to use the front spoiler to trigger the finish line light. No, it’s not cheating, they all do it, but obviously the longer the nose, well, it’s like shortening the race track. Sanctioning bodies realised this a decade or two ago and instituted a maximum of 45 inches, or 1143mm, which is the standard measurement for a 1999 TransAm. Since then, every Pro Stock or Pro Mod built in the US has been built to that dimension, and NZDRA, which previously had no limit at all, decided to follow the accepted standard. At 200mph this advantage measures in thousandths of a second, but that’s necessary in the cutthroat world of US drag racing. And it’s a very good example of just how trick this thing is.
The chassis is just your run of the mill JBRC chromoly metal masterpiece, clothed in a candy-painted carbon fibre shell. There’s not much more to say, just cast your eye over it and try not to drool. Bickel used a lot of Mark Williams driveline components through the car, check out the tech sheet and see how everything in the diff is top-of-the-line ultimate strength, lightest possible weight stuff. In short these are the best components money can buy.
The MW-equipped third member is attached to the car using a JBRC four-link and anti-twist torsion bar, while computer-controlled shocks control rebound and help keep the big fat Goodyears planted onto the track.
The transmission used is different from every other car in Doorslammer racing in New Zealand, while the air-shifted three-speed CS-2 Lenco is not that big a deal. In front of it is not the usual triple-plate clutch requiring constant between-rounds adjustment but a torque converter. “Our Bruno’s Racing Transmission is a great bit of gear,” Kevin claims. “They’re capable of harnessing upwards of 3000hp, and it allows our team to consistently manipulate less than ideal race tracks with zero between-round maintenance. These units have an air transbrake that never slips, which I control off a button on the steering wheel.” Currently using a converter stall speed of around 7000rpm, this is one area the team feels it needs to experiment with more.
Patriarch Keith McGregor obviously really enjoys the technological part of the sport and learning how to apply it. He’s always been into making motors create power, and had a hand in almost every aspect of the car. “Everything we fitted or built on the car, Keith and I talked about it in detail, made a few design drawings, picked the best and then did it; most things were done only once,” Kevin says. “I spent a week and a half on the black alloy water system. Keith machined a lot of parts from hose fittings to spacers and brackets as we wanted the custom look on this car. We remade the engine plate, redesigned the top of the radiator, welded the O2 bosses into the headers and welded the header flanges on to the pipes. We also fitted the complete Racepak data logger/computer and dash to the car.
“When the car arrived we stripped it and checked everything for safety and peace of mind. You wouldn’t want the guy who built the diff to have had a bad day the day he put your diff together, and find out in a race.”
Keith’s the engine builder as well ” there’s some trick gear in this mother of a motivator. Or should that be motorvator?
As with every aspect of the car, this 1300 horsie, normally aspirated monster contains only the best gear and will suffice until the team decides to take the next step up in trouser-soiling power production.
But what form will that take?
The drag racing rumour mill has been working overtime. Every possible combination, from normally aspirated mountain motor to nitrous oxide, blown alcohol and twin turbos have been mentioned, and Kev’s doing nothing to dispel the stories. “That’s in the future; I’ve barely driven the thing. So far things are going well, every run we have we are trying new things and learning about the car. But I’m very happy with it and it’s great to drive. With the help of Castrol EDGE, we have just imported a new twin stacker triple axle trailer from the USA. It had to be custom-built, as in the US they have wider trailers. It’s four tons, 36 feet long [11 metres] and maximum legal height for the New Zealand bridges. We couldn’t travel with our old trailer and setup, it was like a circus when we headed to the track with all the vehicles we had to take. We are looking forward to travelling around the country to race.”
And there will be a lot of fans who will be glad to see the Heat Treatments team do so. This machine is something to behold ” even without a singing, dancing cricket.
2007 Pontiac GTO Pro-mod/Doorslammer – Specifications
Engine: DRCE 07 Pro Stock engine designed by LSM USA, custom block/heads, etc, based on an Olds Merlin block, built by Keith McGregor, Bryant crank, alloy rods, MGP pistons, 15:1 compression, six-bolt main caps, ARP head studs, HRD-Hogan Heads, Pro Stock casting, CNC ported, Jesel roller rockers, Jesel roller followers, triple micro polished valve spring by PSI or LSM, they are 380psi at the installed height (that’s without any rocker weight on them), more than 1000psi at one inch (with the rocker at its lowest position). Large-diameter thin-stemmed titanium valves, keepers, lash caps and retainers, HRD-Hogan fabricated sheet alloy tunnel ram, port matched with the heads, flow tested with Bob Book 1150cfm carburettors, the linkage is fitted with a throttle position sensor and the fuel bowl is fitted with a fuel pressure sensor, this info gets relayed to the Racepak Vnet computer, 10-litre Jaz plastic fuel cell, Magnaflow fuel pump, in-line filter, BG 4 port regulator, MSD Digital 7, MSD high-output coil, MSD 8mm leads, custom-made exhaust, thin wall s/s fender well headers, five-inch collectors which exit the fenders, alloy radiator with built-in water pump, custom-made alloy pipe system. Racepak Vnet 3000 fitted with eight O2 sensors plus fuel, oil, driveshaft, g-force, vacuum and throttle sensors, and for viewing this info live there is a Racepak dash. Info is downloaded to an SD card or cable to a laptop for viewing. “A crew member will push a button on the back corner of the car’s bumper just before staging into the final lights. The driver then switches off this computer from inside the car as it is slowing down. It’s the best way to get a clean data run of what is going on with the car and engine.”
Driveline: CS2 Lenco, fitted with three speeds that are air-shifted via buttons on the shifter post, 7000 rpm stall, BRT Converter Drive, Mark Williams 40-spline axles, gun drilled for weight and strength, MW 9.5-inch alloy head, MW moly third member, four-link design, JBRC HD steel drive shaft and crosses, quick-release u-clamps for changing diff centres
Suspension: JBRC four-link setup and torsion bar, computer-controlled Koni shocks, Koni springs
Brakes: Mark Williams rotors and callipers
Wheels and tyres: 15×4- and 17×16-inch American Racing Superlight rims, Goodyear tyres
Exterior: Full carbon fibre body, panel and paint: JBRC did the paint and air-brushing work. White two-pack pearl, candy red and silver stripes
Chassis: JBRC chassis and carbon fibre work
Interior: Carbon seat, six-point harness, JBRC steering wheel, Lenco air shifter post, Racepak dash, Auto Meter oil and brake pressure gauge, carbon two-piece dash for easy removal to work on the gearbox
Performance: Dyno power — 1300hp (969kW), 0-400m — 7.38 at 187mph
Kevin McGregor – Owner Profile
Occupation: Engineer, fabricator
Previously owned cars: Tunnel rammed VK Commodore, supercharged VS Clubby, ’03 HSV with 325kW, LH Torana with 880hp, Z28 Camaro with 1200hp
Dream car: I feel I have it now
Kevin thanks: “First up, I would thank Keith and Carole McGregor for their support and effort, without them this wouldn’t happen. Keith’s vision for taking this step and importing two of these style cars, my brother Reece for being a mate and helping me on the build, Arnie for being the best crew and back-up guy, plus for the great alloy welding work he has done, Ronny Lim for his alloy welding work on the car towards the final weeks of start up. Lindsay Thomas for his machining and turning skills, Anthony Reeder and Bob Bateman for their help with painting, cleaning and all-round odd jobs they took on, but most of all my wife Jess and son Sam for being there and putting up with me when I was piecing this car together.”
Sponsors: Special sponsorship thanks to Heat Treatments Ltd, Jayne at Castrol Edge Oils, Andre, Bonnie and the lads at STM, HPC and Ronnie from RSL Racing
Words: Trevor Tynan Photos: Adam Croy
This article is from NZV8 issue 48. Click here to check it out.