CAREENING down the chute, the front wheels sliding over dropped coolant, the dark-as-night Suzuki Mighty Boy looped painfully – seemingly endlessly – into the barriers. What did driver Jessie Barbeler do next? Full send, of course. Despite dinting every panel on the tiny ’Zook, he sped onto the burnout pad as if nothing had happened, lighting up the tyres and the crowd.
This was the 2019 Northern Nats, the event that made the SKEATA Mighty Boy famous. “I pretty much played ten-pin bowling with the barriers,” Jessie recalled, “but they weren’t full of water, so it could have been a lot worse.”
Two years later, he was back at Springmount Raceway for this year’s Northern Nats, up against the big boys in Pro Class in the smallest car there.
Tiny it might be, but this Suzuki’s heart is huge. A BNR Engines-built blown 408 LS3 with dry sump now sits up front, replacing the blown stock LS3 of before. With a GM 6/71 blower, Turbo 400 and nine-inch diff, it’s good for 1150hp on the engine dyno at 7500rpm. “I wanted it to be reliable and to rev,” Jessie explained. “It’ll go to 8500rpm, but I want to be careful.”
Most would reckon 1150hp is plenty powerful enough, especially since his 1984 Mighty Boy originally came from the Suzuki factory housing a three-cylinder good for around 28hp! At Northern Nats, the tiny Kei-class pick-up was a crowd favourite, its rapid loops at tip-in showing an agility you can only find with tiny burnout cars.
Want to know the other good parts of having a Mighty Boy for skids? “There are none!” Jessie said with a grin. “Really there are no benefits of a Mighty Boy; it’s such a handful to drive. I’ve put a Commodore front end in, which sort of helps me steer it a bit better.”
Based in the Queensland coal mining town of Moranbah, about two hours from Mackay, Jessie was given the Mighty Boy with a seized motor and couldn’t think of anything else to do with it but turn it into a burnout hero. Since unintentionally remodelling its panels at his last Northern Nats outing, Jessie repaired the damage and sprayed it green to help it stand out. Inside is a super-clean custom dash and re-covered standard Mighty Boy seats, with all this work performed himself in his shed.
Jessie steered SKEATA to second place at last year’s Tropical Meltdown, and at Northern Nats this year he was utterly fearless – and spectacular. That said, Jessie reckoned he really needed more seat time with the new engine, as it was only the second time he’d skidded with the new donk.
At Northern Nats, each car and driver are judged over three skids – one each day – and in the face of massive competition (the $15,000 first-prize money ensured a high-quality field), Jessie and the Mighty Boy took out a decent sixth place overall.
It may not have snared the ultimate prize this time, but little SKEATA will always be a consummate crowd pleaser.
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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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