The Phantom Performance Nostalgia Drags were proof that good things get better with age
Fram Autolite Dragway hasn’t had the best of luck with the weather this year, despite record-breaking droughts elsewhere. The members of Bay Rodders, which hosted this Nostalgia Drag meet, were understandably nervous when rain was forecast for race day. As good luck would have it, the day dawned with spotlessly blue skies, and by 11am it was hotter than hell with the lid on. Thankfully it eventually clouded over, making life more comfortable for everyone. A decent number of spectators saw some spectacular action in qualifying, the crowd favourite being Ricky Eastham’s Dangermouse Ford Prefect, which would stand up and look around on every launch. Then there’s Geoff Hunt’s radical ’38 Chev sedan, capable of producing huge smog banks that blocked out the sun. And everyone stood up for Dave Gauld’s Fiat, which continually looked as if it was about to fall over at every stab of the loud pedal.
For nostalgia Doorslammer fans the Classic Gas class was awesome; I’d love to see this concept catch on. Darrell Clark was racing dad’s old Chevy-pushed VW Beetle to mid-11s; the infamous pie van was a bit off the pace but it was great to see the crowd favourite back on the strip. And then there’s young Tony Massey pushing Alan Lim’s mighty Escort deep into the nines ” it’s like 1979 all over again. ¨Everywhere you looked there were old cars or new old cars worthy of attention. Shady Lane’s ’27 T Altered, Dean Cadman’s flat black Willys, the Beach Hop Pontiac and John Gifford’s ’63 Galaxie were all cool or fast old cars that stood out. And hey, GT Norris and the Henry J actually found their way to the finish for the first time in a long time ” great to see.
For spectators, the major attractions of the race were the Nitro Flashback Vega funny car and the appearance of three Australian nostalgic race cars, imported by Bay Rodders for a trans-Tasman match race. This included Wade Wagstaff (does this bloke have the best porn star name or what? He also employed the services of two fluffers; they flap the yellow coupe’s doors while backing up from the burnout). Wade’s injected big block Ford-powered Willys coupe was up against Scotty Landsborough’s big block Chev-pushed Dodge. Juice Walton was in an injected small block Chev-powered dragster up against Paul (Pins) Satler’s Vindicator, and previous Kiwi tourist Marcus Page in a small block Chrysler-pushed purple T-Bucket was paired up with Tony Johnson’s Hell ’56 Chev. In the first round Walton’s rail refused to fire, so Pins singled to an easy 8.30. In the next pairing Scotty’s Dodge coupe broke, but only after Wagstaff had red lit away a good 9.1. After a tyre-melting burnout, the Hell Pizza Chevy then won a close race over Page’s nitrous-snorting bucket, leaving the score three-nil to the Kiwis. Next round had Jason Taylor substituting for Scotty’s broken Dodge in the family Super Stock ’57 Chev, but Wagstaff’s wild Willys took the win, then Marcus Page followed suit and took his T through the lights before the Hell Pizza Chevy, 8.63 to 8.76. Satler took a wild ride against Juice Walton. Despite a huge wheelstand and a fair bit of sideways action at half track the Vindicator took the win, with a 7.86 over Walton’s 8.66. For the final round Wagstaff ran a single pass and clicked off another 9.1, earning two round wins for the Aussies. Johnson finished off his pair of slicks with one last humongous burnout, followed by a win by default when Page red lit. Pins then finished his three-round winning streak by running another 7.90 against the visitor’s outclassed purple rail.
It takes a special kind of guy to race a vintage four-banger, and Jim Murdoch showed just how special when we got an eyeful of his back-up babe. She was hot ” I loved the way those orthopaedic shoes made her butt move as she hobbled along on her Zimmer frame. Obviously she distracted opponent Greg Stokes in the final, although both blokes had terrible reaction times, no doubt due to hysterical laughter. Greg’s pick-up slowed dramatically, Jim taking the win light with a 22.79 second pass at an eyeball-rolling 51.2mph (82.3kph).
There was a full eight-car field in the flathead challenge but only six were flathead Fords, the engine that traditionally comes to mind. Tim Webster’s Cadillac-powered Hillbilly dragster was joined by Neil Surtees’s weird and whacked out Model A, which is also Cadillac powered, although Neil’s engine breathes in and out in a somewhat backward fashion. It obviously works well, as Neil disposed of Tim in the first round. Next he defeated Paul Wright in New Zealand’s most famous flathead car, the Sanders Lucas dragster. Jo Neustroski’s ’36 pick-up put away Rob Forsyth’s ’32 three-window in round one, then Spook Howard’s ’36 three-window in round two to meet Surtees’s no-window Model A in the final, the Caddy-powered machine showing a clean pair of cross-plies to the pick-up thanks to a better reaction time. Neil’s cartoon car is no slouch, his times were all in the 15s.
Thirty-seven cars fronted up for pre-’50 hot rod, and by the end of the third round you could tell who all the experienced DYO racers were. Rob Chesham’s Model A, Noel McMillan’s ’37 Chev pick-up and Amber McLeod’s Essex have all been in the winners’ circle before, while Brendan Jones’s clean ’34 Tudor was running right on his dial-in while cutting great lights. Russell Lowe’s ’38 Ford coupe was lucky to get through after sleeping on the tree, but another quick kip in round four saw Noel McMillan knock him out. Jones’s Tudor ran under his dial-in, but not by as much as McLeod’s Essex ran under hers, while Chesham got the bye. The Nostalgia Motors black pick-up truck received a bye into the final, while Chesham red lit his way out of contention.The last round saw Noel’s flat black pick-up take a cruise as Jones over-anticipated the light and pulled a cherry.
Thirty cars were in the first round of pre-’78 street machine, with every shape and style being catered for. Round four started with Charlie White’s El Camino defeating Wayne Salmon’s ’59 Pontiac, while Vicky Waters and Andy Maddox had an all-Chrysler battle, Victoria’s Polara coming out on top, her fantastic reaction time forcing Maddox’s green ute into breaking out. Mrs Waters did an even better job in the final, cutting a perfect light and running just 0.05 off her dial-in. Charlie’s Chevy pick-’em-up truck never had a chance ” great racing. ¨No doubt frustrated by the short season caused by the rainouts, a huge field of competition racers fronted up for the meeting. The quickest of these cars was Rodney Benges in his Woodstock Bourbon front-engine dragster, which ran as fast as a 6.74 at 200mph (321.8kph). The next quickest competitor was Karen Hay in the seven-second ’32 roadster. Of the six pairs in Comp One, the class for cars quicker than 9.0, more than half the wins came courtesy of premature holeshots. In the three pairings following, two were decided by the evil red eye. Round three saw Raymond Smyth break, allowing Tony Christensen to take on Karen Hay in the final. Following the trend of the day Christensen red lit, giving Hay an easy ride.
In contrast, Competition Two saw closer racing, with free rides in the first round and only one red light in round two. By round three Phil Webber cut a terrible light in his gorgeous ’38 Chev coupe. However, crowd-pleasing Ricky Easton cut an even worse one and followed Phil through the lights. Nigel Dickson’s ever consistent 9.9 street car singled to meet Webber in the money run. The orange ’55 Chev ran a 10.0 on its 9.9 dial-in, enough to force Webber into a breakout 9.78 on his 9.8 dial-in.
It was a very big day and probably went on too long, but Bay Rodders is to be congratulated for its efforts. It found a place for everybody to run, whether they met the nostalgia concept or not, and the result was something similar to the drag races Goodguys used to run, something I always think of as newstalgia. A bigger crowd than your average Fram Autolite affair proved that a change in formula can bring people in, and with a few tweaks this event could be huge. Well done to all involved.
Words: Trevor Tynan Photos: Adam Croy