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The power: a lesson in Aussie-style engine bays

18 January 2017

Those Aussies are good at some things, and car building happens to be one. And not just the build in earnest, but the finishing touches, too — the most telling of which is the engine bay. 
Engine bay presentation is completely next level over here, and Street Machine Summernats is the place to see it all, from shaved and smoothed cruisers through to methanol-drinking monsters with blowers bigger than Ben Hur and injection systems more intensive than the boys from Trainspotting.  

Paul Cook’s ‘BLWNVC’ Holden VC Commodore is one of the toughest cars on the scene, but this is the real star of the show. A PowerHouse Engines 532ci big block Chev, topped with an enormous 16-71 blower and carbon-fibre injector hat, good for a four-digit power figure. All of that ceases to matter when Paul fires it into life, though — if there was an award for best-sounding engine, we’d have put money on BLWNVC taking the cake. 

And this Torana is a pretty cool thing. When you see a Torana sedan on Weld Racing wheels, you’re going to take it seriously, but a Magnuson-supercharged LS is unlikely to be the first guess for the power plant under the bonnet. 

Grant Findlay and Sarina Mitchell brought their Mustang along, but as tidy as it looks from the outside, it’s what’s between the strut towers that really draws your attention. A Paxton supercharger draws cold air from a shaker scoop on a twin-chamber plenum, before the pressurized charge re-enters the second plenum chamber through the black-silicone hosing, for a healthy serving of boost. The best part is how much effort has been made to make the forced induction look like a factory option — true class. 

Just as cool is the clean engine bay and twin-carb 186 within this HG wagon. Even if you’re not making a metric shit-ton of power doesn’t mean you can’t take pride in your ride, and detail everything accordingly. 

You can’t go past a Hemi, and Darrin Stokes’ ’71 Cuda has one hell of an elephant within the engine bay. That’s 472 cubes topped by an 8-71 and Enderle injection, but as much power, torque, and noise this thing makes, nothing beats its sheer visual presence.

Adam Rogash’s ‘NOSHOW’ Commodore is one tough machine, made all the more cool by the fact that it is street legal, and more importantly, street driven. A 440ci LS is a good start, especially when it’s built by the team at PowerHouse Engines, but add a pair of low-mount Turbonetics turbos — positioned to keep as much heat out of the engine bay as possible — and you’ve got a weapon capable of reliable seven-second passes.

Enderle Big & Ugly injector hats are pretty much a native species in Australia; they can’t get enough of them! Because they’ve become rather common, it’s quite cool to see them somewhere unexpected, such as towering above the nose of a Holden EH. Then again, with a 14-71 blower and 540ci big block sharing frontal real estate, ‘AGRO64’ is worlds away from your grandpa’s old shopping trolley. 

Would you believe that this engine bay was first revealed — as it is now — back at Street Machine Summernats 10, a full two decades ago? Rhonda Zelukovic’s 1960 Studebaker redefined the game, and heralded in a new age of wildly customized show vehicles, culminating in cars like ‘FATRX3’ and the ‘XBOSS’ Falcon that move the benchmark ever higher. This is the car that started it all. 

Speaking of ‘XBOSS’, it would be wrong not to have it in here. This is the best photo I could take of the engine bay, as it was set back out of reach of the sweaty masses, and usually with a three-deep crowd around it. That’s a supercharged Ford Modular V8, but the mechanical details are almost insignificant in light of the unbelievable perfection of finish that spans from the most insignificant of components through to the entire power plant itself. 

Outside the show hall, it looks like Holden power is making a comeback, with die-hard supporters holding fast against the LS invasion. The LS might be the best option on paper, but good luck getting one to look or sound as good as one of these puppies.

You don’t need more proof of the LS takeover, do you? Oh well, you can have some anyway. Ford fans, avert your eyes … 

But, when it comes down to it, Summernats is all about horsepower. It doesn’t matter what your preferred way of making it is, but the more the better. Some go big, and some go really big. Chris Genter’s PowerHouse Engines–built 515ci big block is one thing, but that carbon-fibre injector hat takes things to a whole new level. If there’s one engine that visually sums up everything Summernats is about, this is it.