THERE should be no surprise that lighter cars go faster than heavier cars; that’s the reason people have been putting big engines in little cars since the dawn of the automobile. How much of a difference does it make, though?
We set out to answer that question, and have a little fun, at Calder Park recently with an AWD Ford Territory for this episode of Carnage. It was an eye-opening experience in more ways than one.
The car itself was a basic Barra-powered SX Territory with seven seats and the $4000 AWD option. It had 309,000km on the clock and stank like someone had used it to carry wet dogs for a year. We paid way too much for it at auction, and with its eye-watering stench and puke-green paint, we quickly nicknamed the tired SUV the Toxic Avenger.
After repairing a dodgy ball-joint and wheel bearing, we drove the Territory down to All Race Fabrications, where the boys welded in a simple four-point chrome-moly rollcage for safety and fitted a Kirkey racing seat and Simpson harness. We also had Zane at Maxx Performance get into the ECU and disable some of the electronic wizardry so nothing would screw us up at the track.
With the help of Peter Pisalidis at Calder Park, we organised some track time before a Friday-night street meet to do the deed, and headed out to the track with a crew of people.
From the start, the plan was to unbolt or cut pieces off the car every pass until we were left with basically a floorpan with a seat. But first we had to see what it would run dead stock.
The first three passes of 16.89, 16.64 & 16.66 helped establish a baseline, and then we started removing bits. At first it was just the loose parts left inside when we fitted the ’cage, but then it was the seats, then the doors and roof, followed by the bonnet, guards and bumpers. Even the windscreen got the chop, which might have been a tactical error, as the wind-buffeting was ferocious. That got us down to 14.98sec with the Toxic Avenger still coming in at a hefty 1475.5kg (down from 2130kg), proving that the old adage of one-tenth for every 100lb is still valid.
Then we added nitrous! Initially we tried 75hp jets to see how that would go, and we immediately dropped 0.81sec. Feeling optimistic, we threw in a set of 125hp jets and headed back to the startline. We suspected that the original 14-year-old fuel pump was a bit sad, and that was confirmed when the nitrous leaned out and backfired, spraying burning fuel over the engine bay and prompting me to exit the vehicle at a rapid rate.
Despite the heavily singed bay, the Toxic Territory still runs, and we’ve got plans to go even further.
Thanks to Valvoline, All Race Fabrications, Calder Park Drag Racing, Maxx Performance and Vic Speed Pro for their support.