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Dadfest: scenes from Father’s Day Drags 2016

5 September 2016

The first Sunday of September is remembered as Father’s Day for most Kiwis, but it’s something a little more for those who prefer their petrol burned, tyres fried, and rev limiters bashed — the annual Petrolhead Father’s Day Drags, held at Meremere Dragway.

Essentially, entry is open to street-legal V8-powered American or Australian muscle cars manufactured after 1948, ensuring the event’s always going to play host to the kinds of cars beloved by Father’s Day Drags regulars.

You already know Reece Fish is one of the biggest names in the local drag racing scene, and here’s one of the reasons why. On his first run of the day, he powered his twin-turbo ’56 Chev to an amazing 7.58 at 177mph — a new PB, and a very impressive way to make a statement.

Not quite in seven-second territory, but very impressive just the same, was Gavin Anderson’s ’78 Chev Camaro. With matt-black paint and an understated visual appearance, Gavin’s debut event in the car saw him whittle his PB down to a 10.09-second pass — even more impressive when you realize the Camaro has a completely stock chassis, right down to the factory 10-bolt diff, axles, and leaf springs!

That said, when it comes to tough Camaros, Dan Southall’s ‘PRO406’ beast has the final word. With a fresh Procharged 406ci small block built by fellow eight-second Camaro owner Ben Morris, Dan rocketed to a new PB of 8.91 seconds at 151mph. That would definitely have made the long haul up from Christchurch worthwhile!

And when it comes to tough Camaros at Father’s Day Drags, you can’t look past Craig Wall’s ‘AWESUM’ blown Camaro, or Jack Ata’s ‘Grumpy Rat’. Both of these cars are pretty much staple features at Meremere, and both look incredibly tough for cars allowed to share the roads with Toyota Priuses.

Southall may have travelled the farthest to get here, but we’ve got to give credit to Aaron Jackson for making the big trek up from the river city to run his tough Torana at Meremere. The nitrous-assisted 496ci big block has powered him to a PB of 9.42 seconds, and Aaron put down some solid runs on the day, making it through to the final round of the Merlin Top 8 Australian Shootout against Matt Kriletich’s tough XA Falcon, only for it to be cut short by rain.

Joel Arcus is another racer who deserves a mention, bringing his ’72 Holden HQ ute up all the way from Wellington. With an individual-throttle-bodied LS1 under the bonnet, it’s not just a reliable work ute and supermarket wagon, but a pretty quick racer, too — consistent 11-second passes in something this usable and reliable is pretty much perfect, as far as we’re concerned.

It’s a far cry from the turbocharged rotary-powered rail he’s known for tinkering on, but Charlie Bates’ ’62 Ford Sunliner sure is one beautiful car. The skies may have looked ominous, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying a bit of topless fun while he could.

Just as cool a cruiser is Jay Maka’s smooth ’65 Impala. The big old tank may look like a sedate family-hauler, but when Jay fires her up and stomps the gas, that all changes. The Impala runs consistent 11-second passes, and creates one hell of a smoke show to go with it.

This ’64 Mercury Comet looked the part in a totally different way, with what appeared to be real-deal vintage race livery — very cool!

Mathew Patmore’s beautiful XY ute isn’t all looks — after running a string of 12-second passes at last year’s event, he busted out several 10s, with a quickest ET of 10.27 seconds at 126mph.

Dean Mitchell’s owned this awesome Holden ute for a number of years now, but teething issues have always managed to pop up and spoil his fun. But it all looks to be resolved, with an understandably stoked Dean managing to run consistent mid-11s, with help from his good mate Trevor Smith.

John Vollebregt’s another one hitting the strip with a tough Holden. His turbocharged LS1-powered Commodore is good for 770hp at the wheels, and John used as much of that power as he could, running a PB of 10.80 seconds with a six-speed manual transmission.

For some reason, we get the impression that those ‘160hp’ fender badges aren’t quite telling the truth. With a 572ci Hemi (temporarily) under the bonnet of her ’69 Valiant VF sedan, Kathryn McDonald managed to cut her PB down to a solid 10.28 at 136mph, and we’re expecting to see nines in the not-too-distant future.

Unfortunately, the day’s racing was cut short around 3pm, with the clouds finally making way for unrelenting drizzle, and putting an end to any thoughts of clearing weather. Although it was a shame for the Merlin Top 8 Shootout to get cut short so close to crunch time, and a bummer for all the racers who would have liked to get a few more blasts down the track, we can’t lie — it was a bloody awesome event, as always, and one that’s already got us keen for next year’s!

Keep an eye out for an event report in the next issue of NZV8 (Issue No. 138). If you can’t see yourself in the gallery below, you may be in the magazine.