MICK Brasher’s ULEGAL Corolla might be familiar to us, but to the punters gathered at Minnesota’s Brainerd International Raceway for Powercruise USA, it was like something from another planet.
“For atmosphere, there’s nothing better,” said Mick of the Powercruise USA experience as he swapped out a set of destroyed hoops before hitting the track again. “This is the best!”
The Powercruise events have long been fixtures on Aussie revheads’ calendars, but for the past nine years promoter Gup has also run an annual Powercruise in the USA. This year a hand-picked crew of some of our biggest and baddest skid scientists converged in Minnesota to inject Aussie expertise into proceedings.
Four of our toughest burnout cars – KRANKY, ULEGAL, LYNCHY and UCSMOKE – were hauled across the pond with drivers in tow. Rodney Waters, Mick Brasher and Andrew Lynch hit American soil about a week before the show to roadtrip across from Los Angeles, stop in Las Vegas, and end up at BIR. Unfortunately Steve Loader couldn’t make it over, but his mental HT Prem still wowed the crowds at the track.
Powercruise USA is like a cousin to the Aussie event – same blood, but a little different. While back home we know how to rip smoky 11s and rock up to the track in droves of staunch streeters, the Yanks tend to front more under-bonnet power, modern muscle makes, and favour roll-racing and drifting over laying skids and smashing tyres.
That didn’t stop them appreciating a good burnout, though, and there wouldn’t be a better crew than our homegrown smoke masters to show ’em that. Almost given free reign of the place, the Aussies had no dramas lighting it up on the track during cruise sessions, or just mucking about in between events by treating the punters to tyre-blazing exhibitions.
A sketchy forecast of 100km/h winds and hail barely put a dampener on the event in the end; the ground was quick to dry between rain bouts so that over 650 entrants could carry on all weekend. A USA-led burnout competition on the Saturday arvo turned out a huge crowd as drivers had a crack at applying what they’d learnt from our boys. A few of the entrants had never done a proper skid before, but the crowd showed huge support for the brave competitors, more than a handful of whom managed to pop a set for the first time.
Judged by the cheers from the crowd, Kyle Nelson took home the gong after putting up a skid in his blown LSA-powered Chevy S10 that had even the Aussies impressed. He’d been a fan of the sport for a long time, and joked that his mates got sick of him talking about it when they were all into drag racing.
Chatting to both entrants and punters, it was clear they’re keen to see the popularity of burnouts grow Stateside, hopefully leading to the off-street sport being promoted and an event circuit developing that attracts some tough Yankee cars.
In Brainerd it’s below freezing for almost half the year and usually covered in white stuff, so an event like Powercruise USA means a lot to local enthusiasts. “We only get about three months of good driving weather,” said local bloke Jay Audette. “When we get a chance to come out and tear it up, it’s always balls to the wall!”
The chance to cut loose at a track rather than hitting the streets and always looking in your mirror for the brass has put Powercruise USA right up there with Hot Rod Drag Week when it comes to cult following. “We have all winter to build our cars, but we’re always thrashing in the lead-up to this,” driver Jonathan Snyder explained. “They have to be done for Powercruise; it’s not even an option!” This mentality has seen the event grow steadily each year without control being lost or any overt hooliganism displayed.
Cruising the camping area, the infield was teeming with enough pit bikes to feel like a street in Vietnam. Everyone was crowded around a barbie, music on, beer in hand – a full-on festival vibe, with the soundtrack being hundreds of tough machines fanging around the 3.1-mile race track.
The famous American hospitality was in full swing all weekend, and being able to mill around some of the toughest burnout cars from across the pond meant the locals came out in droves to chat to the Aussie crew. They’d never seen these kinds of cars before and were immediately taken aback by our trademark burnout build styles: huge blower hats, giant tubs, and of course, the steering wheel on the wrong side. “Us Aussies feel like rock stars out here,” said Andy McConnell of Fireball Kustom Fabrication. “We’d almost have a line of people wanting to chat to us!”
While we can report that the Yanks know how to live it up for a Powercruise weekend, the Aussie injection certainly dumped more fuel on that fire, and we hope to see more blowers, horsepower and tyre debris in years to come. If there’s one way to get a taste of the growing American enthusiasm for what we know best at home – burnouts, powerskids and tough streeters – then Powercruise USA is probably it.
1. The on-track sessions were a perfect chance for entrants to give both cornering and roll-racing a go. Plenty of modern muscle and imports offered a good indication of the local car scene, but there were always a few toughies cruising and bruising in between
2. Derek Karcher is a friend of the Powercruise family by way of his father Butch, and got a seat for a skid with Rodney Waters in KRANKY. “I was expecting it to be violent, but it slides so smooth and feels like a rollercoaster!” he grinned. “One of the neatest things I’ll ever do”
3. Jay Audette’s ’67 Galaxie 500 is a tough street bruiser packing a 472ci mill bolted to a four-speed. The bench seats and no power steering are unusual factory options with that engine combo, but Jay reckoned it was a typical Minnesota farmboy choice – you can smack gears while still having your partner cuddle up to you on the bench. Next to it you’ll spot his lovely wife Mary driving that super-sanitary ’67 Mercury Cougar!
4. Dripping in chrome, rolling on big rubber and nearly kissing the ground, Tony Netzel’s ’61 Belvedere snapped necks all weekend. The Air Ride-equipped Plymouth was pulled out of a junkyard in ’94 and given a mix of pro street and traditional custom styling. It packs a 496ci Chevy huffing through two 64mm turbos. Tony won the burnout comp at Powercruise USA last year in another car, and he also runs a great event called Cruise For Cancer to help families in hardship. Check out the ‘Cruise For Cancer MN’ Facebook page for more info
5. David Sash builds all kinds of awesome things like blown Nash Metropolitans and Chevpowered golf buggies, but his personal ’34 Ford coupe is outstandingly tough. The injected 620ci BBC is hooked up to a Powerglide ’box and Ford 9in, with a best of 8.30@161mph to its name. David’s eight-year-old son Blaine is his crew chief
6. Thankfully not a car you see often, Brendan Canny’s 1988 Ford Thunderbird was both as cool and as ugly as anything. Couched in its luxurious velvety interior, Brendan enjoyed cruising with his mates all weekend. “She ain’t pretty, but she runs!” he laughed. “All this era of Fords are like Lego; the engine is a 302 from a Fox-body Mustang, there’s Cobra brakes – it’s a mix of all kinds of stuff”
7. With his missus Ann Marie alongside him, Kyle Nelson won the USA-led burnout comp with a masterful skid in his ’97 S10 pick-up. He caught the burnout bug a long time before the sport really became noticed Stateside, and it paid off when he got to show the Powercruise crowd a killer steer in the blown LSA-powered tyre-slayer he built fresh for this year’s event
8. “I met Gup the first year, and we’ve been friends since,” Butch Karcher said. “I’ve never met an Aussie I didn’t like!” His insane Ford tudor is an all-steel body chopped and stretched 4in apiece over a homebuilt drag chassis and rollcage certified to run 8.50s. The mean mill up front is a 548ci big-block Chev with an 8/71 blower and Brodix heads, good for about 900hp. It’s backed by a Lenco four-speed that unfortunately gave way in third gear on Butch’s first lap around the track
9. Jake Hoppe put his ’62 Falcon through an impressive skid in the burnout comp. The 250ci inline-six came out of a ’69 Mustang, and is kitted out with a 40thou-over bore, cam, MSD ignition and 2bbl carb. Jake admitted it was his first crack at a proper burnout: “I had absolutely no idea what it was going to do. I just loaded it up, turned full-lock and went for it!”
10. Alongside his mates Topher and José, Justin (right) has caught the vintage moped bug. The guys were having a blast putting around on Puch, Jawa and Pinto cycles, all refurbished for a bit of two-stroke fun. “We call these our little rescues,” said Justin. “I pulled this one out from under a pine tree where it had sat for 10 years. All my friends talk about all year is Powercruise, so we had to put it in our calendar. It’s awesome!”
11. Sunday’s eighth-mile drag racing shootout was street-style, with no tree or timing lights. After felling Lambos, Teslas and some stonking old-school muscle, Douglas Brown’s nitrous-fed ’68 Camaro (right) ended up battling Jonathan Snyder’s turbo four-pot ’08 Golf in the final. Douglas took the win by about a car length
12. Sierra Holt donned a veil all weekend in celebration of her imminent wedding to Kevin Berglund. “We’re always out here racing motorbikes, so we thought: ‘Why not?’ We’ve both got our parties going on here and it’s awesome,” Sierra said. “I had a lap in my Dodge Charger before, but am getting a ride in a Corvette soon!”
13. “I’ve gone through 16 sets of tyres since we got to America,” Lynchy proudly stated. “No need to carry any home!”
14. Ryan Ross has been at every Powercruise USA with his gold 1981 Corvette. The 350-cuber has enough poke for a bit of fun both on the track and daily driving. “Every year the event’s been bigger, and it’s fun to see the growing variety of cars out having a fun weekend,” Ryan said
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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