This article was originally published in the Street Machine Hot Rod No.19 magazine
WHILE this looks all the world like the kind of slingshot dragster that populated Aussie drag strips in the late 1960s, it is in fact the brand-new creation of Joe Kurtovic. And while the wraps only came off at the Sydney Hot Rod and Custom Expo last May, the car has been on the drawing board for 25 years. That’s how long ago Joe first sketched his dream Holden-powered dragster in high school art class.
“The teacher said, ‘What are you doing?’ and I explained that I was drawing the car that I was going to build one day to run a decent number in a six-cylinder Holden,” he laughs.
By then, he’d been introduced to the world of drag racing through crewing on a six-cylinder dragster with Colin Taylor at Sydney’s old Eastern Creek Dragway. Years later, adult Joe started his dream drag build by buying the 202ci/3.3/litre Holden red six from long-time racer Norm McCormack in Sydney.
“Norm was stepping-up to V8 power and Supercharged Outlaws,” explains Joe. “That was the thing that made me think I should get his old engine and do something.”
As Joe explains it, the restrictions in the six-cylinder BB/modified dragster are pretty loose. “You can do just about anything to the head, chassis, gearbox, diff. Blower, turbo and nitrous,” he says. “It’s not the same as circuit racing.”
There’s no requirement to use a production block either, but it’s cool that Joe has retained this solid chunk of Australiana. “There’s been talk of billet blocks being made,” he concedes. “but nothing has eventuated yet.”
The head, however, is machined from alloy billet. A one-off, strip-only deal, it doesn’t have any coolant passages and has the valves relocated for better breathing. The block is also dry, having had its coolant passages filled with grout.
Until recently the engine had a Holden crank. “I lashed out and bought a billet crank,” says Joe. “It’s the standard size – no stroker – with standard bearing journals. I didn’t want to go changing the combo.” The new, stronger crank offers an extra reserve of reliability. In other words, it should help keep the donk from junking itself.
The other tough bits are forged JE blower pistons (40-thou oversize) and Spool H-beam rods. The cam is a blower-grind SureCam with custom-made pushrods tilting off-the-rack Yella Terra rocker gear (with rocker stud girdles) under the no-nonsense oversize sheet-metal rocker cover. Dave Handley assisted with the engine assembly.
To control oil surge and keep the bearings fed, the bespoke Australia Specialty Racecraft sump is full of baffles and gates, and works with an external Moroso oil pump that replaces the Holden original. “The sump is a work of art,” reckons Joe, “and we wanted to take the drive load off the cam, so we did it this way.”
The machining and hardware on the front end is impressive with every piece designed to do its job without fuss. The billet timing cover helps support the blower drive hub and hosts the drive to the oil pump. The mechanical fuel pump gets it mojo from there, too.
Another racer, Jeff of Jeff Ramsay Engineering, assisted with the design and construction of the clean, hassle-free drive design. That blower, it’s a nice big 6/71 unit; the kind you usually see in the valley of a V8. It’s on a sheet-metal manifold and under an Enderle Bug Catcher injection system (with a retro three ribs on top), which is fed from the Enderle mechanical fuel pump. It feeds in 22psi, and at a reasonable 6500rpm the big red pumps out 565hp. There’s more potential in it though – the bottom end will easily cope with another 1000 revs.
The ignition is a modified MSD system intended for a Chev six with an MSD Power Grid programmable ignition system. Al’s Race Glides built the Powerglide-based two-speeder. It’s a toughie with a billet input shaft and a JW case. Surprisingly it has a Trimatic bellhousing grafted on, because the ribs make it stiffer.
The diff is an SRC Race Cars-built, internally braced, alloy Strange nine-inch – very narrow compared to a street car – with 40-spline full-floating axles between the 15x12 American Racing wheels.
There’s plenty of meaty tech, then, but it’s the way it’s carried and presented that’s the absolute highlight. The chassis build began with the purchase of two books – one from ANDRA and another about SFI-spec front engine dragsters. Joe looked at a few cars he liked and sketched things down on paper before getting started with a house-grade I-beam jig. He worked with good mate Michael Palazzo to prepare and tack-weld all the chrome-moly elements of the chassis before delivering it to SRC Race Cars to finish-weld. As a nice touch, he laid all the uprights at a 22-degree angle, “So the car looks like it’s going fast just standing still!”
Joe aimed for the chute-back style, reminiscent of some of the most beautiful dragsters from the 60s where the chute is within the back of the body rather than simply installed on the cage. He imported a body section from the US and with the help of Chris Palazzo (Michael’s brother) and Richard Botica, the body panel parts were chopped and modified, then fleshed out with alloy to make them fit around the chassis.
For the paint job, Joe wanted a retro 60s/70s feel – and you’d have to agree the team has nailed it. Kyle Smith (of Smith Concepts) was the man behind the gun for the intricate process.
This pretty little dragster is yet to run – it was debuted only recently at the 2018 Hot Rod & Custom Auto Expo in Sydney – but the ambition is for high sevens at 170mph. A happy ending for a car dreamed up in a 14-year-old boy’s imagination.
Paint: Candy apple red metalflake
Brand: Holden 202ci
Blower: GM 6/7
Induction: Enderle mechanical injection
Head: Machined billet with relocated valves
Conrods: Spool H-beam
Pistons: JE forged
Crank: Billet, standard stroke
Oil pump: Moroso external
Exhaust: Cacklin’ pipes!
Ignition: MSD distributor and crank-triggered Power Grid
Gearbox: Al’s Race Glides Powerglide with JW case
Convertor: 3500 Dominator
Diff: Strange internally braced nine-inch, 40-spline axles, 4.11 gears
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: Mark Williams torsion bar front. Solid rear
Brakes: Strange Engineering 4-spot rear discs and ’chute
Master cylinder: Wilwood
WHEELS & TYRES
Rims: Spindle-mount wires 17x2 (f), Weld Racing Torq-Thrust Pro 15x12 (r)
Rubber: M/T ET Front 22.0/2.50-17 (f),M/T ET Drag 33x10.51-15W
My family: Ves, Marco and Alexis; Smith Custom Paints; Dave Handley, Pete at MotorHolics; JB at SRC; Richard Botica; Kira Jurado; Jeff Ramsey; Centerfold Metal Fab; Lowe Powdercoats; VP Race Fuels; Michael and Chris Palazzo; Glenn (surfer); Shagz; Matty and all the members from the Outkasts Club who have helped along the way