SHANE Dale may be a Drag Challenge newbie for 2017, but he’s done his share of straight-line racing. Funnily enough, as he prepped his ’77 HZ Sandman pano for its virgin eighth-mile pass, a cheeky bystander blurted: “You do realise that the point of drag racing is to have a light, wind-resistant car, don’t you?” Undeterred, a few hours later Shane was on the winner’s podium thanks to the 502ci powerhouse nestled up front and some not-too-shabby reaction times.
“It was a three-track competition and I came second overall in Super Street, having only competed at two of the three tracks; I couldn’t believe it,” Shane recalls.
The pano, which was featured in Street Machine back in April 2007, had thoroughly humble beginnings.
“I bought it in ’97 for $4200,” Shane says. “It was Valencia orange with Sandman stripes and a dented lower tailgate. It was running the original 253ci driveline. Later I realised it was a genuine, original Sandman. It was my daily driver and surf-bus for about eight years.”
The car copped a light makeover, including a 308ci engine and BorgWarner rear upgrades, which lasted a few years until the four-speed gearbox blew, initiating a full rebuild. Behind the big-block was bolted a trusty Stage 2 T400, 3000rpm Dominator stally and a nine-inch with Truetrac, 3.55s and 31-spline Moser axles. Braking potential was increased with VT discs up front and WB Stato discs at the rear.
Shane completed the whole body-off-chassis paint, panel, interior and driveline upgrades himself. Many late nights were put in prior to the pano’s debut at Summernats 20, where it scored a Top 60 spot. A raft of trophy-hauling events and drag racing followed. That was until about five years ago, when the van was parked up, only to be unwrapped again a few months ago.
“With Drag Challenge coming to SA, it seemed silly not to compete,” Shane reckons. “We love the concept and knew we’d have to be part of it.”
In prepping for the event Shane has had to abandon the car’s show roots to address the practicalities of driving his beast around the 1500km-plus course.
“There’s a few niggling things that I’m finally going to get right, and the heads are now being flowed thanks to Darren at Bullet Cylinder Heads,” he says.
To help on the long highway stints, he’s opting for taller tyres on his Pontiac Rallye II rims to lower the revs. As for the race rubber: “I’ve recently invested in a set of 15-inch Convo rears – yes, I did find a pair without selling a kidney – and I’ll tuck as much rubber as I can fit under my untubbed guards,” he says. “I plan to get a couple of quarter-mile runs at AIR soon, as I’ve only clocked eighth-mile times with a PB of 7.8s. After that we might even buzz across to Mildura in it to see how the trip goes. Of course, at 8.2 litres, she’ll be pretty thirsty!”