SINCE it began in 1992, Shepparton’s Springnats has evolved from a one-day event into a three-day, action-packed automotive carnival. Despite newer additions to the event like the EJ-EH Nationals, Springnats remains true to the old-school, with burnouts and all the best-loved driving events. Let’s face it, there’d be some peeved punters if they ditched the Go-to-Whoa, the Autokana and the Spear-A-Spud.
This year’s 25th anniversary event was particularly family-friendly. The site, in the refurbished Shepparton Showgrounds, included an awesome sideshow alley with a Ferris wheel and dodgem cars (where burnouts are not encouraged).
Burnouts were most certainly encouraged during Friday’s Expression Session, though. With no pressure of competition, it offered plenty of practice-and-play time for anyone wanting to start off their weekend by smashing a set of tyres.
It was in Saturday’s qualifying burnouts that things got serious. The hot humid weather had cooling systems pushed to their limits and beyond, so there was plenty of carnage. Rick Fuller in the LSONE Commodore was on a mission until a head gasket let go, while Craig Johnson’s DEFCTV panel van threw rods out of its LS1. That became a bit of a theme; John Taverna Jr’s weekend also came to an abrupt end when the new big-block Chev in his Falcon threw a rod.
Jason Schmidt served up a lesson in high-speed car control, throwing his FRASHR VH Commodore within inches of the walls. He went on to earn fifth spot overall for his troubles.
The Castlemaine Rod Shop’s ‘Real Deal’ Torana came out strong, but was soon running a bit rich and began to foul up; then the breathers overflowed onto the pipes, creating a fire.
Sunday’s finals saw ominous dark clouds roll in and soon rain had soaked the pad, causing endless limiter bashing from LS-powered Commodores that were finally able to hold top gear. Once the rain cleared, the next few finals competitors soon had the pad dry, and the party continued.
1. Tim Barby in his MOJO Austin A50 was a man on a mission, tossing the car around with abandon. In Saturday’s qualifying round the poor little Austin snapped a ball joint, but Barby still blew off the tyres and managed to limp off the pad. With the ball joint replaced, he returned on Sunday and once again didn’t hold back, and was rewarded with the Overall Burnout Champion title – his first event win.
2. Tim Brown took out second place in his blown, injected small-block Chev-powered VK.
3. Having put the rods out in previous years, Travis Millar finally beat his Springnats curse; the newly fitted motor in his VN Calais didn’t miss a beat all weekend, giving Millar third place overall.
4. Guy and Gerry Clare made the long haul down from their home base near Kandos in NSW. It was worth it: their TUFF4L EF Fairmont picked up the win in the N/A Six-Cylinder dyno comp, with 235.2hp. It also came up trumps in the N/A Six-Cylinder burnouts. Using constant high revs with a minimum of limiter bashing, Guy threw the car from one end of the pad to the other.
“Despite swapping a gearbox and throwing a rod, it’s been an awesome weekend in Victoria,” Guy said. “We blew a converter seal in qualifying, so spent the night swapping gearboxes. It’s a pain in the arse; you have to remove the intake manifold to get at the torque converter bolts through the starter hole.
“The engine let go as Gerry finished the car’s final skid for the weekend, dropping rods but still managing to rattle and crawl its way off the pad.”
5. Paul Brew from Geelong mounted his FJ45 Land Cruiser cabin onto a Holden HQ one-tonner chassis before stuffing a methanol-slurping LS2 and Powerglide between the rails. The basically standard 6.0-litre has had a cam and valve spring upgrade, along with a tunnel-ram with twin throttlebodies. “I’m just here to have a bit of fun,” Brew said. “I’ve only had it out a few times so I’m still learning how to skid it.”
6. This VK Calais came fifth in the naturally aspirated burnouts, and its owner, 22-year-old Aiden Leist from Benalla, was having a ball. “Springnats was always a favourite event for me, being so close to home and going to it regularly growing up as a kid,” he said. “We entered last year but unfortunately due to some mechanical issues missed the chance to compete, so it was great to get over this year and have a trouble-free weekend.”
Leist bought the VK when he was just 15 and had his first part-time job. With the help of his dad and mates, the build was soon underway in the shed. “The VK underwent a full bare-metal respray and my old boy painted the car for me,” he said. “The initial build took around four years and it had a 355ci Holden stroker that we used to race regularly at Heathcote. Then we decided to start doing some burnout comps, so my mate Jayden Snoodyk at Executed Fabrications redid the rear end, tubbing the car and installing a four-link coil-over nine-inch rear end to fit 12-inch rear wheels.” The Holden 355 has been replaced with a tunnel-rammed LS1 running on E85, built by James MacGregor at All Gen Engines.