As you might have gathered from my story on the recent Summernats 29 event held in Canberra, Australia, there was no shortage of crazy builds to pore over, admire and sometimes just shake your head at the sheer lunacy.
I did exactly that, and figured there’s no better way to share some of the Summernats madness than with a Spotlight-O-Rama featuring of some of my favourite left-field creations of the many in attendance.
RELOAD VE Commodore
Kicking us off is RELOAD – a VE Commodore built to compete as both a Burnout Masters competition car and an Elite level show car. I’d been meaning to grab some shots all weekend and luckily I found the car loaded up on the flatbed before it departed for its journey back to Melbourne.
It’s pretty rare to see such a new platform turned into a burnout machine; most competitors preferring a classic base car. But that’s half the reason it was such a standout at the event. The owner, Steve Loader, is a Burnout Masters veteran and picked the car up as a write-off with the intention of just doing skids, but once the build was underway he decided to go all-out and complement the ‘go’ with some ‘show. A custom paint job, interior and shaved engine bay see to that.
To be competitive in the burnout world it’s critical to have a rigid rear end, which is why the Commodore’s factory IRS was ditched for an aftermarket ladder bar and coilover setup, which aids traction and prevents wheel hop (a surefire way to mess up a skid). Holden fans might cringe at the presence of a Ford 9-inch diff though!
The wheels are custom KWC007 from Showwheels in a whopping 22×8.5-inch front and 22×12.5-inch rear fitment. Note the lack of rear brakes – a pretty common modification in the burnout world (just dead weight in these specialised cars).
The blower was actually a fresh addition for Summernats 29; when the car debuted last year it bucked the trend for forced induction and instead opted for a naturally aspirated, injected 532ci big block Chevy V8 unit that screamed to over 9,000rpm and produced 850hp with the help of methanol. But I guess, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
An Angry E30
I couldn’t resist a quick spotlight on this E30 coupé, because it represents a perversion of everything I love about the little BMW. Light weight, a sweet chassis and a tuneful BMW inline-six? This is Summernats, throw a V8 in it!
Most impressive is that the stock body and trim all remains in immaculate form, with the exception of the hood of course.
A suite of supporting modifications existing within the confines of the factory metalwork including a full weld-in rollcage and rear tubs to fit the massive drag radials and bead-lock rims.
The BMW retains actual road registration too, which is an exceptional circumstance in the automotive police state of Victoria. Actually driving it on the road would still require some serious courage though.
That’s something Australian and European, so it’s only fair that we take a look at something Japanese next… This low-lying ute was sold in Australia as the Holden Rodeo, but it hails from the Land of the Rising Sun as a re-badged Isuzu.
Originally, I could hardly tell what I was looking at, such is the level of custom work applied to the truck. Wider sheetmetal from the Isuzu MU is used front and rear to provide extra width, and the front end was sourced from a US Frontera (a higher-spec model based on the same platform). Original trim including the door handles and taillights are mixed in with custom parts like the tray protector, and a low-key shaving to keep the bodywork as clean as possible. The overall visual impact is impressive.
Of course, the most eye-catching modification is the ridiculous state of lowness that comes thanks to a body drop to the sill. For the uninitiated, a body drop is a major fabrication job that can be considered the holy-grail of minitrucking and involves separating the car’s floor from the body, and moving it up a few inches which gives the effect of lowering the body.
Oh look, a V8! I kid, this is Summernats, so it was no surprise… The LS1 is the centrepiece of an extremely clean install which positions the engine as high up as possible without impacting the bonnet height, while ensuring the chopped body doesn’t drag the sump too often. The same principle applies to the front tubs fabricated to accommodate the wheels and tyres that tuck up high into the bodywork.
Back in the day I used to loathe minitrucks, but that was before being exposed to examples as well planned and executed as this. I’d love to hear what you guys think – would you like to see a complete feature on one of these cars?
What Is That?!
The final piece in our Summernats Spotlight-O-Rama was chosen purely because it had me scratching my head the longest. To save you the confusion, what you are looking at started its life as a Chrysler Galant sedan.
Walking around and examining the car, the widened bodywork was reminiscent of a sports sedan race car, but at the same time the presence of factory trim, glass and so-on indicated otherwise. The bead-lock wheels and chunky slicks only served to deepen my confusion.
Peer into the rear windows and where the Galant’s vinyl rear bench seat once lived now sits a twin-turbocharged V8! No doubt it’s left-field, but this is just the right level of quirky-cool.
Thankfully, I tracked down the owner who gave me a little more context around this fascinating creation. Apparently it was built by an engineering student at Sydney’s University of NSW as a fun toy, designed to be as much like a large go-kart as possible. The current owner purchased it from him and now enjoys the car at events like Summernats as well as the odd hill climb.
With the exception of their engine cylinder configuration, these four cars couldn’t be more different; just one of the reasons that made Summernats 29 such an enjoyable experience.
There are a few more spotlights on their way from Summernats, so keep an eye out!
Hey @Blake Jones if you want to feature a minitrick get onto Michael Ellard and his truck 'SEVERD' it won a handful of awards in the elite hall and got in the top 10. Best truck in oz at the moment
More minitrucks! Or more custom trucks in general, tons of high level builds going on in the truck world, just look at #theflyingbrick that @littleshopmfg is building.
Ok, I'll say it... the Commodore burn damage - is that crispy look the Oz equivalent of a mud-spattered rally weapon or a zip-tied drift casualty? If so, I like it and I'd happily leave it that way. You can't beat battlescars...
if we could get a minitruck feature here daily that'd be great...that rodeo makes me feel like there's hope for the longbed mini in my parking spot now.
THAT Chrysler Galant, hoping for a full feature please!
Gotta love that IMSA/Group 5 widebody style for no reason!
I'm sure the soundtrack will be really menacing. :D
@Anthony959rs yes gotta feature that beast!
Only in Straya! - from a Kiwi. As much as I recognise Aussies as the kings of the burnouts, we need to see more Aussie muscle. It was all good til The R32 was banned from Bathurst and the cars prior to that era are beautiful.
Oh yeah that's the only thing the Aussies are pretty much good at, if you are travelling to Straya to see a rugby masterclass you might as well get on the next flight to NZ baby
well mini tucking never took off here because you aren't allowed to drive on air bags that aren't factory installed. oh the australian government..
@Schwaglet It's bigger than you think.
Hey Blake! Great article, looking forward to some more spotlights, hopefully a few from the top 60?
Also wanted to point out that the green commodore is a "VF" not "VE", pretty much the same thing anyways :).
@Spaghetti written off VF, with VE front subframe I think [gets rid of the VF's electric power steering setup]
I love the ridiculousness of summernats nothing else can compare to it. I love how one part of the show is 1000hp+ cars just made to pop tyres and then you have the other extreme of $200,000+ show cars that will see barely any road or track time
@GregFentonHNHS The overall winning car has seen road time. They're not all hidden.
So weird seeing a car without rear brakes. Thanks for pointing that out as I didn't know they did that.
That bmw is gorgeous. Did you notice the clearance slots in the rear valance for a wheelybar and the parachute mount under the bumper? The aussie galant looks absolutely crazy.
Neat article, Blake. Not to call you out, but those aren't beadlock wheels (on either the BMW and the Galant). They look like Centreline Convo Pro wheels which I think are two-piece, and those are rivets or bolts holding the two pieces together.
A beadlock wheel has the holes in the extreme lip of the wheel, through which bolts would intersect the bead of the tyre, locking the wheel in place (hence beadlock).
@ggcniks I appreciate the heads up, still getting my head around the new (to me) world of drag racing! Thanks!
When I first saw that Galant, I was immediately reminded of a Renault 5 Turbo. Props to the builder for making sometging so odd on paper seem so right in the flesh
@BradDeSantis I think this is where things get a bit funny my being Canadian as I *think* those are from the era we got Eagles, so perhaps it was some dirvitve of that brand. Which was an off shoot of Dodge/Plymouth for no other reason than to be confusing.