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Peter Gratz returns with blown Hemi-powered Studebaker Doorslammer

By Mark Alabaster | Pics by Mitch Hemming, 02 Mar 2018 Features

studebaker

After nearly two decades away, Peter Gratz is set to return to the quarter-mile with a blown Hemi-powered Studebaker

IT’S BEEN a long time coming, but Queenslander Peter Gratz has finally thrown his hat back in the drag racing ring after 17 years on the sidelines.

He is set to run an ex-Peter Kapiris Studebaker in Supercharged Outlaws. Peter last campaigned a Dodge Daytona in Top Doorslammer, which ran a best of 6.28@229.24mph at Willowbank in 1999 – a world record speed at the time.

You have to wonder how someone who had been so successful could just disappear from the sport for so many years, but according to Peter it was all about money. “When Valvoline pulled out of drag racing, we lost our main sponsor,” he says. “And we’re not talking big money either; what they kicked in was a pittance compared to what Victor [Bray] would get from Castrol – it was like $30K a year. So, as much as we wanted to continue, the money just wasn’t there to support a winning combination.

studebaker side
“I often thought about making a comeback,” he continues. “When Brett Stevens’s stuff was being sold off I wanted to buy his burnout car and go and race in Supercharged Outlaws, but I guess it never happened. But recently a mate offered me a chrome-moly chassis at a bargain price, and then Paul Shackleton offered me a water-jacketed Hemi that I was going to use. My tuner Gary Phillips said I’d just blow that deal up, so I sold it and started looking around.”

Deciding not to mess about, Peter bought a new Brad Anderson Hemi with the latest BAE 10 billet heads. That meant redoing the pipes and dry sump that he’d had made for the wet Hemi. Peter then added a Lenco trans and changed the rear end to a 40-spline set-up.

Peter’s mate, legendary alcohol racer Gary Phillips, did the fuel system on the motor and the tune-up. Unfortunately the PSI supercharger that Peter had bought for the deal had an issue; luckily the money was refunded and a brand new PSI D-rotor blower was ordered instead. The wait time on a new blower is normally 18 months, but after some begging and pleading on Peter’s part, the new item was produced in just four weeks.

studebaker  rear
“As I’m not going to run the car in Top Doorslammer, I’m not going to zing it as hard, but I am going to run more boost,” Peter explains. “I don’t want to spruik about what we want to run but I want to go faster than before. If we can get a handle on a 6.50 tune and go from there, I reckon the car can run a 6.0 – as long as I have the balls to drive it! The bottom line is we’ve got to get it down the track; a low six or better is where we are at.

“Unless we pull a big sponsor there will be no budget for taking on Top Doorslammer,” Peter concedes. “This kind of racing gets expensive, and we are only interested in running the car at a good track – Willowbank, Calder if it comes around, Adelaide, those kind of places.”
Stay tuned for more on this one!

SMOKIN’ DIESEL

LIKE diesel power? Then look no further than Nuy and Per Suphan, who have been racing a common-rail four-banger diesel in a tube race car in Thailand. They recently knocked out an incredible 7.29 seconds over the quarter with an Isuzu 4JJ1 diesel donk. We’d love to know how much squeeze they are punching through that mill!

studebaker  engine
DRAG WEEK CURIOUS?

EVERY year there is more interest and more cars heading to the USA for Hot Rod Drag Week. If you’re keen to go, whether as a spectator or racer, or just want to keep up with news on the event or share some pictures, check out the newly formed Facebook page Aussie Drag Weekers.

There are a bunch of Aussies on there that have done the event, and you can get some great information on shipping, or the best way to check out the event as a spectator. Rumour has it there are a bunch of heavy hitters leaving from Queensland this year to add to last year’s Aussie contingent. Stay tuned for more on that one.

NOONAN MONSTER

TERRY and Anita Seng have started tuning the new LS-based motor in their VC Commodore to try and crack the five-second barrier.

The engine weighs in at a hefty 460 cubes and uses the Noonan solid block with a 4.2in bore, a Callies billet crank that retains LS journal sizing and GRP rods, for a comp ratio of 10.5:1. The camshaft is a 55mm solid-roller, while the Noonan solid billet heads offer a cantered valve design. The motor is topped with a billet Noonan intake with twin 6.0-litre LS fly-by-wire throttlebodies.

Fuel system is Aeromotive with a belt-driven pump, eight Precision 550lb injectors and a set of 200lb ID injectors. Terry is staying with the Holley ECU, as he’s very familiar with the system. Oiling is courtesy of a four-stage dry sump system with a Barnes dry-sump pump.

The engine has spent a short time on the dyno at Paramount Performance, but it’s been a struggle to hold the torque from a monster like this. The twin Pro Mod 88mm turbos are pumping 32psi at the moment, and the engine has already made 2130hp@7400rpm on just 15 degrees of timing, which is very soft tuning on an alcohol motor.

“It’s time to get it in the car,” Terry reckons. “We can’t accomplish much more on the dyno, so let’s make some passes and sneak up on the tune.”