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Kiwi invasion: the NZ team tackling Tread Cemetery

1 July 2016

Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud — a common reference in the local burnout scene. But, as keen as New Zealand’s skidders might be, we have to pay our dues to the Australians across the ditch. It’s the Aussies who’ve taken the frowned-upon art of skidding — known by the cops as ‘sustained loss of traction’ — and elevated it to a sport and spectacle that’s both revered and reviled on the global stage.

Summernats is now the pinnacle event as far as burnouts in Australia are concerned, with guaranteed limelight and opportunities for those who possess the skills — in both driving and building a burnout vehicle — to claw their way to the top of the rubber-coated pyramid.

Getting to the top of the pyramid isn’t easy. It’s why the country plays host to a number of burnout competitions, some of which are used as qualifying rounds to whittle the field down to the cream of the crop. Tread Cemetery is one such event, but, rather than an all-out free-for-all with every man for himself, it’s based upon a unique teams format. Teams may comprise a maximum of five cars, limited to a total engine displacement of no more than 2000 cubic inches, and with a maximum of four cars with forced induction. There are more rules, but that’s the hard-and-fast gist of it.

Now, New Zealand may not have the international reputation for burnouts and general mayhem that Australia does, or the no-expense-spared engines built solely for skids, but you can bet your bottom dollar that those in the local scene put in just as much effort as the Aussies. So, when local burnout stalwarts Liz and Ryan Gracie were presented with the opportunity to assemble a New Zealand burnout team to compete at Tread Cemetery, troops were rallied and the opportunity was seized wholeheartedly.

So, without further ado, we present the Kiwi team who will be flying the New Zealand flag high on November 13 at Tread Cemetery, in Lardner Park, Victoria, Australia.

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Liz and Ryan Gracie — 1969 Chev Camaro SS

If you’ve been to any automotive event in the North Island where burning rubber has played a part, no matter how small, you’ll probably already be familiar with Liz and Ryan Gracie’s ‘EV1L69’ Camaro. The matt-black ’69 Chev Camaro SS has destroyed a huge number of tyres in its time, and was built as a dedicated skid car to accompany their already-impressive Holden Torana sedan.

The Camaro shreds tyres to the tune of one of the best-sounding V8s out there — it isn’t the loudest, but damn it sounds good! The engine responsible for this symphony is a Nascar-inspired 358ci small block Chev, with Callies crank and rods, Mahle forged blower pistons, and Pro Topline CNC heads with raised intake runners and full Jesel rocker gear. The top end features a TBS raised competition intake manifold with burst panel and pop-off valves, a large-bore 6-71 blower, phenolic blower spacer, and twin 750cfm Barry Grant Mighty Demon carbs.

With a full manual Raceglide transmission and a nine-inch Truetrac diff, the mechanical side of things is near on indestructible, but the Camaro isn’t just some rough-and-ready skid hack. Liz and Ryan have still taken the time to do it right, with subframe connectors and chassis links holding everything together — if you’ve seen either of them do a burnout, the fact that the car is still skidding should be all the proof you need that this car has been built right.

Ricky and Jenn Ireland — 1979 Holden HZ

The toxic green Holden HZ ute known as ‘Percy’ — named after the green machine in Thomas the Tank Engine — hasn’t even been shredding the tarmac for a year, but it’s already earned a reputation as one of New Zealand’s nastiest burnout cars. Built to fulfil the pair’s desire for a tubbed and blown skid car, the build came right down to the wire in the quest to get it ready for burnouts at the 2015 Mothers Chrome Expression Session.

Up front is a shiny lump of big block Chev, displacing 496ci, and topped with a TBS 8-71 supercharger. The main point of difference, though, is explained through the use of a pair of 1050cfm Quick Fuel E85 carburettors — as Ricky and Jenn plan to get the ute street-legal, they didn’t want to run an intercooler, in order to keep the blower height down. The switch to cooler-burning E85 was a no-brainer, as it’s a readily available fuel that also allows greater detonation resistance compared with premium unleaded.

The combo has been tuned and dyno’d at C&M Performance to a healthy 738hp at the wheels on 12psi of boost, and survived an entire season on the limiter without complaint. The Ireland family trophy haul is already looking good, and with Ricky mentioning plans for a 540ci big block, it can only get better.

Rob Macraee — 1972 Holden HQ

Matamata seems to be the home of tubbed and blown Holden skid utes. As if the Ireland family weapon wasn’t enough, Rob Macraee has also been busting arse to get his Holden HQ burnout ute complete in time for the upcoming season. The body itself was an ex–drag car roller, minus the tubs, although it has since been mounted to a back-halved chassis with tube front end.

At the time of writing, Rob’s ute hadn’t been completed, but the build is well under way and should be ready to smash some tyres well before Tread Cemetery. The methanol-chugging blown 383ci small block has been fired up, and reliable sources claim it produces an epic blower whine — paired with the full Aussie-style 3.5-inch straight pipes, this machine should sound the business and smoke ’em even better.

Shane ‘Arnie’ Donaldson — 1977 Ford Falcon

Shane Donaldson has been around the New Zealand burnout scene for yonks. If you don’t recognize the name, you’ll probably know the car — ‘L0LIFE’, the iconic roof-chopped 1977 Ford Falcon ute.

Having been around forever, always with small block Chev power, Shane’s recently stepped his game up to the next level, sourcing a dry-sumped and methanol-drinking 410ci small block Chev from a sprint car. With a Kinsler eight-stack mechanical-injection system and a magneto ignition, the new set-up runs no rev counter, and Shane’s mentioned he’s still taking it easy. “It idles around 2000rpm, starts making power around 8000rpm, and will rev right up to 11,000rpm,” he said. “It’ll sit at 9000rpm all day.” The small block produces a peak of around 780hp, which is more than enough power to turn the rears, and it sounds great at it.

Shane recently debuted the new engine combo at the Lack-A-Traction Winter Blow Out, held at Meeanee Speedway in early June, and he’s mentioned he’ll be taking it to the Helensville Burnout Comp on July 9. Other than that, the engine will be getting a strip down and inspection, the TH400 transmission will be off for a freshen up, and Shane and the boys will be busting arse to get the old skid hack looking nice and shiny for its big trans-Tasman adventure.

Ian ‘Sambo’ Smith — 1991 Mazda RX-7 FD3S

Ian ‘Sambo’ Smith’s FD-series Mazda RX-7 needs no introduction. What other skid machine can you think of that is so polarizing — a lot of rotorheads hate it for its blown V8 power plant, a lot of the V8 mob hate it because it’s a Mazda. You just can’t win … or can you?

Hiding below that scoop that towers above the bonnet is a blown small block Chev with all the goods to see it live up to the hiding it gets. Sambo’s no slouch behind the wheel either, having melted his fair share of tyres and gained plenty of fans on this side of the Tasman, so he should certainly put on a good show abroad!

Braden Smith — 2016 Holden Commodore VF

Where there are burnouts to be found, Braden Smith is not usually far away. His blown 468ci-powered Holden HQ skidder earned a reputation as one of New Zealand’s toughest smoke machines, but Braden’s recently been keeping an uncharacteristically low profile as far as skids are concerned. The reason for that is because he’s been busy in the shed building something that’ll, in theory, blow the doors of everyone else in the local field.

Thanks to sponsor Drury Car Parts, Braden’s managed to get hold of a written-off 2016 VF Commodore station wagon, which he’s intent on transforming into the first full ‘Aussie-style’ burnout machine. Thanks to New Zealand’s largest lamp and panel importer, B E Car Parts and Absolute Panel And Paint, it won’t be long before the car is looking better than ever. Think methanol injection, a Big and Ugly scoop, and massive 20×16-inch rear wheels. The original goal was to keep the car quiet and come out with a bang at the Scrap Palace Burnout Comp later this year, however a few rumors got out, making the car semi-public knowledge, and now the new deadline is to get the car completed in time to head to Australia. Sadly, the downside of the shorter turnaround is that the methanol-drinking 570-cube motor won’t be ready in time, and instead, the car will debut with the 6-71 blown 468ci motor from his well-known HQ. Not a bad compromise really!