IN HIS first ever Drag Challenge event, Toowoomba’s Mitchell Jannusch certainly made his presence known. His beaut, blown LSA-powered XD Falcon panel van was the model of consistency in the super-competitive Carnage Dial Your Own class, running within 0.004sec of his 11.48sec dial-in across the three days of Drag Challenge Weekend to snare the class win.
“I bought it as a roller,” Mitch says of the 1979 pano. “It was already a good car – paint and all that – and it’d had a 460-cube big-block Ford in it. When I was growing up, my uncle had GTR Toranas; that’s how I got into cars. So I’m more of a Holden man, but a mate of mine had this and I used to think: ’That’s one tough van!’ I thought that if it were ever for sale, I’d buy it.”
Four years ago, Mitch was able to do just that, and the plan was to install a big, bad Barra. Work began with the DOHC Ford six plonked in the engine bay, where it then sat for three years.
“But then things changed,” Mitchell says. “Six months ago, I bought an LSA off a mate for the right price.”
GM’s 6.2-litre, all-alloy supercharged V8 – as used by HSV in the VF series – was installed in the classic pano by Cal’s Garage using hardware from The Rod Shop. It was wired using Haltech brains, with Cal’s Garage also responsible for the exhaust, fuel system, intercooler and trans cooler plumbing, intake hardware and fluid reservoirs.
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Behind the LSA is a respected-for-racing three-speed TH400 from Rocket Industries. The diff is a Geelong Differentials-built nine-inch with 3.25 cogs.
So why the blown LSA V8 over the planned turbo Barra inline six? “Things have changed since a few years ago when I was first looking at an engine transplant,” says Mitch. “Barra swaps weren’t a big thing. But they’re quite popular now, so that made me sort of shy away from doing one. Plus, I like V8s!”
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The XD pano (rumoured to be an ex-coroner’s van, so it may have taken plenty of people on their penultimate car ride) had only been on the road for two weeks prior to DCW, so Mitch fronted up to Willowbank on Day One not exactly confident of the car’s ability to handle three days of stinking-hot track work with testing road legs in between. But the van raced and cruised faultlessly, and its remarkable consistency on the strip saw Mitch take out the hotly contested Carnage Dial Your Own class ahead of Drag Challenge veterans such as Alysha Teale and Steve Grima.
Mitch didn’t even realise how well he was doing until the final day. “On the Sunday morning I woke up and one of the boys said: ‘Ah, the pressure’s on you today! You’re number one!’” he says. “That changed things – I thought I might have scraped into the Top 10 and I was going to simply do one pass and then pack up and go home!”
Instead, he made a few more passes to ensure he posted the thousandths-of-a-second result required to win DYO.
Nice one, Mitch!
1979 FORD XD FALCON PANEL VAN
Class: Carnage Dial Your Own
Engine: GM LSA 6.2L
Supercharger: Factory LSA, 6psi
Transmission: GM TH400 three-speed
Diff: 9in, 3.25:1 gears
Previous PB: N/A
Best DCW 2020 pass: 11.48@117mph