NO ONE likes to see a street machine leaving an event on crutches, so when we saw Ben Smith’s cool old XW Falcon ute being winched onto a tilt-tray in the paddock at Swan Hill’s drag strip, we wandered over to offer commiserations.
“We were just about to turn things up to see what it could do!” Ben said as he attempted his best ‘shit happens’ smile for our camera. “Maybe it had a nine in it!”
Luckily the damage wasn’t too bad: the glorious gold Falcon was being piggy-backed into town because of a damaged bellhousing, apparently a result of a torque converter bolt coming loose. The car is a fresh build, completed just in time to be trailered down from Queensland for Ben’s first-ever Street Machine Drag Challenge, so he was smart to be cautious. Better that than risking his turbo Barra-transplanted, C4 auto-equipped classic that he’s owned for eight years.
“We’re really happy with how it’s gone so far,” said Ben of the ute, built with assistance from (and tuned by) Terry and the crew at Toowoomba’s respected Paramount Performance. Ben supplied the ex-BA Typhoon twin-cam six-pot (bought from a write-off with just 30,000km on it) and Paramount assembled everything into the car using a one-size-larger turbo on a 6Boost manifold, a Tunnel Vision intake and an in-house-fabricated water-to-air intercooler and exhaust. It was wired with a Holley management system. The auto is a three-speed C4 – although now the plan is to replace it with a Powerglide – and the rear end is the legendary nine-inch on CalTracs.
With 7200rpm and 16psi boost on E85 fuel, the Falcon is good for 511hp at the rear wheels. It’s all mod-plated and legally registered in Queensland, too, and Ben explained that the ute has power steering and will have air conditioning – it wasn’t hooked up in time for Drag Challenge.
Luckily for Ben, he’d trailered the ute down from his hometown of Springsure, near Emerald in Central Queensland, so even though it was hurt, he didn’t have to stress about how to get it fixed for the trek home!
Until the rattly converter bolt, Ben had been thoroughly enjoying his first Drag Challenge. At Calder Park on Day One, he’d run a 10.6, chasing that with an 11.07 at Heathcote, a 7.0 at Mildura’s eighth-mile and a 10.4 early in the day at Swan Hill. Running quite consistently with 16psi all week, Ben was just about to try for a nine with some extra boost when the loose bolt ended his adventure.
“This was a practice trip,” he said as he left the track – no doubt to go and relax with a well-earned cold beer or three at a pub in Swan Hill.
“We’ll be back next year for sure!”