The Anatomy Of A Burnout Car

In every form of motorsport there is a formula that, by either rule or technical evolution, becomes a representative standard of what is required to be competitive. Although the Summernats’ Burnout Masters competition isn’t your typical motorsport event, the event’s demanding nature has nonetheless pushed competitors to optimise their car’s ability to shred tyres.

For this spotlight I want to dissect a ‘typical’ burnout car that you might find at Summernats, and give a bit of an explanation about the ‘why’ behind some of the more common modifications.


This piece was actually spurred on by a detailed comment left by a reader on my Summernats event coverage article explaining these high-powered curiosities to some of our inquisitive non-Australian readers (hat-tip to Ewokalypse). I searched through my bank of photos from the event to find a vehicle that best represented the formula of the Aussie burnout car and couldn’t go past this second-generation Holden Commodore known as ‘From Hell’. I guess that’s a good place to start, because every burnout car needs a cool name, as after debut some become almost mini-celebrities, even amassing sizeable followings of their own on social media.


The next most important part of a burnout build is of course the engine that makes all those smoke clouds possible. There’s some criteria for a strong engine: it needs to make a lot of torque for obvious reasons, but also needs to maintain responsiveness so that the driver can control the car’s movement around the pad while keeping it off of the wall via modulation of the throttle – something a laggy turbo setup would make difficult. Hence, a large capacity blown V8 is the rule, and anything else, the exception. The heat generated from two minutes of rev limiter-bashing on top of the already hot Australian summer poses an obvious reliability hurdle, and many teams have turned to methanol to make bucketloads of power (once airflow has been maximised) while simultaneously keeping engine temperatures down.


Moving around to the rear of the car, you can see what is probably the most defining aspect of a burnout car – the rear axle setup. The hovercraft-like appearance created by the empty guards looks all kinds of weird, but again is the result of evolution in burnout competition. For competition, cars are fitted with relatively narrow (7- or 8-inch) rear wheels for several reasons: firstly to keep the cost of the doomed rims and tyres at a reasonable level; and secondly to enable the high rear-wheel speeds that a heavy rim and wide, grippy tyre would work against. Many of the cars serve a dual purpose as show cars or cruisers, which in Australia means they will typically be fitted with deeply-dished large diameter (20-inch+) wheels. Fitting these necessitates the rear end to be tubbed, which gives the added benefit of protecting the guards from damage when the tyres eventually explode and/or catch fire. As Ewokalypse mentioned, the short and beefy diffs combined with the thick steel of the rear tubs generally keeps any damage from the burnout to a cosmetic level. Here, you can see that From Hell’s rear bumper has been treated to a light toasting in an earlier skid.


As far as suspension goes, these cars borrow much of their tech from the drag racing world, so a ladder bar is the preferred method of containing any wheel hop and keeps the rear end predictable by limiting the rear axle’s range of motion and thus manageable. The ladder bar will typically be used in conjunction with coil-overs, and rear brakes are removed from the hubs, as they’re basically dead weight.


So with around 1000 reliable horses and a bulletproof rear end, you have a car that’s capable of shredding tyres. However, the job is far from done – this is Summernats and you’ll want to ensure your car stands out from the crowd. While some owners opt for a more subtle exterior finish, a custom paint job like this candy orange will always go down a treat. You’ll fare even better with an air-brushed mural in the mix too. While I know this styling rightly offends the aesthetic sensibilities of most of our readers, it’s worth noting that being as outrageous as possible is the name of the game at Summernats.


The last piece of the puzzle, the interior, is relatively unimportant in the scheme of things, but the obvious racing inclusions such as upgraded gauges, seats and a fire-extinguisher are wise if not completely necessary. Transmissions are also borrowed from the drag racing world, and as in this VC Commodore are typically 2- or 3-speed manually-shifted autos. Rollcages are generally deemed unnecessary considering that these cars rarely exceed 40km/h and more than likely would impede a speedy exit in the case of a fire. The only thing left? To strap on a helmet, grab a mate and shred some tyres!

Blake Jones
Instagram: blaketjones



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Why is speed hunters featuring this bogan trash?


@Zoku dave Because Speedhunters has never been elitist. This is a form of motorsport, from yet another corner of the globe. If you want to surround yourself with the same same, there are plenty of websites that cater to that. If you want something new and refreshing every day that challenges your perception of what it means to be a motoring enthusiast, then this is the place.


@RyanRyan  Good call man :) Ozzie burnouts always looked like a good laugh from the very little I've seen of them, not normal US stuff or like a little car park burnout over here in the UK, so it's cool to see a car up close and personal... ish :)


@Zoku dave why are you spreading negativity? Dont like it? dont click on it


Burnout car? Is that really a category? Wow.


Ridiculous and awesome. I love the variety speedhunters!


@open your eyes cynical as usual i see


not my style, unnecessary, bad for the environment.... glorious, insane and something that i need to have one day.... seems like a bloody good time!


no action shots?! -_-


@open your eyes I'm suprised too, but apparently it is a thing. Consider my horizons widened!


I know we can all just search for "Aussie burnout car" on youtube but it still would have been nice to include a vid of a proper bogan-ed burnout.


@open your eyes Not sure where you're from but Australian (and NZ) burnouts aren't your typical stand-still-and peg-the-throttle US burnout. They generally involve swinging the car around in quick, wide arcs while producing as much smoke as possible, almost like drifting in a confined space. They're quite a sight to behold, although I can only watch a couple at a time before moving on.
I attended one at the local drag strip once where the drag cars decided to have a go. Watching an old XC Falcon coupe pouring smoke from a set of full drag slicks was impressive, although he couldn't swing the tail around quite as much due to having 15in wide rears.


@open your eyes As said, it depends where you're from. Sitting still in one spot for 5 mins is considered a burnout in most countries, but Aus/NZ have a completely different way and have turned it into an automotive art form(both the skid and the cars) which requires skill and big lots of money for when you melt your car!


@open your eyes LOL all you trying to make burnouts better than what they are. "IN AUS/NZ"......whatever mate. 
In NZ any clapped out matte black RB will suffice, In Aus it seems necessary to aesthetically destroy a car by fitting 20x7 chromies and a horrendous fluorescent airbrushed paint scheme and a "bone" ruffled
 leather interior.

In short, in NZ any bag of crap will do, In Aus spend 50k+ ruining the exterior a car then fit a monster of an engine is the norm.


I'll tell you now. You might not be a big aussie car enthusiast. But if you sit behind the front fence of the burnout pad you'll be loving every second of it. Until you get chocked up with methanol and tyre smoke haha


ae70 I'll leave NZ out of it next time then....can't be trying to talk up "bags of crap" to the rest of the world. Speaking of aesthetically destroying a car though, all that takes is some chrome trailer wheels, eagers, graffiti, mirror tint, cut springs and race pro seats and you've achieved gold medal status.


I love how Aussies call their rednecks, bogans. Their's weird pointless stuff like this in all corners of the earth. It fits right in there with tractor pulling, lawn mower racing, destruction derbies, mud bogs, figure 8 racing - it's all in good fun. Bunch of friends wrenching on a contraption to see if they can get it to blow up...and then put it all back together again.


These cars and most Aussie show cars are just like the Stance/VIP cars in that they are there to impress but with massive horsepower.


@open your eyes it is taken quite seriously too. At severalllarger events, they will hold burnout comps where a cash prize of $10,000aud isnt uncommon I may be wrong, but i seem to remember the burnout masters at summernats being worth $50 or $100k. This is why at summernats you will see peoplw prepared to almost melt their car down for a win.


SoninkeMalikDjata plenty of shots of the cars in action here:


@RyanRyan I was going to write a response, but you said it all!


@Zoku dave same reason they post story's of whatever trash you are into, because everyone has their own taste and the world does not revolve around you.


A question out of curiousity : How do they determine the winners of the burnout competitions in Australia? Does spinning around, as opposed to standing still, also contributes to someone's victory?


gagahsasono its almost like drifting. Amount of smoke, angles pulled and car control (or circle skill), crowd reaction, entry speed (most burnout comps have an entry strip, some cars enter the pad pretty quick and throw the car into addonut at speed) and popping the tyres is a requirement. If you want an idea of some really novelty cars, youtube for a car called 'toastr'
You will find shorter cars will use their short wheelbase to do higher speed spins. And quick transitions.


I really enjoyed this, Blake. Never really appreciated the subtle things that need to be done to make a car competitive. Videos are hilarious too.


N8B Powercruise offered $50k or $100k for one of their skid comps too(split between all places). Last even took a decent prize, but it was a reasonable amount to buy into the comp as well.


Paddy McGrath If people don't find that even just slightly entertaining(whether you smile or cringe), then you're a bit of a numpty.


gagahsasono As @N8B said, it's a combination of factors that are scored by a team of judges. A combination of  objective (amount of smoke, speed) and subjective (showmanship, etc.) factors.


Paddy McGrath Videos are great, but you've not experienced a proper burnout until you're choking on the rubber smoke!


Blake Jones Paddy McGrath ....and have the flying rubber pieces stuck to your face!


Blake, great reading mate, but there was a bit of an anomaly in the story. Purpose built burnout cars are almost never cruisers, as ladder bars, no rear brakes and blowers protruding through the bonnet are always illegal across most of the country (as, in most cases, are any mods done to chassis like full tubs, cages etc etc).

As for show cars, to be known as an Elite level competitor in this field in Australia means that your car generally isn't a driver at all! There have only been a handful of burnout machines (think Steve loaders cars (Unload, Reload)) that have managed to make it to this platform.

Great to see some more Aussie content grace the hallowed Speed Hunters site though! How about finding a nice Aussie Mopar story? Go on, do us a favour...........


PRO451 you pretty much nailed it. As for a mopar story i can think of one. He could call it i bought a jeep, if he wentaand hit up manny and his 1200hp srt jeep. One of the quickest street cars in the country at the standing 1000m. His times have even beaten the russians at the unlim 500 that run on a better surface.


N8B PRO451 Yep, Manny's SRT would be one for sure! I'd also put John Faraones 72 Valiant Charger up there as well.

572 cubic inches, twin 88's, 7 second QM's and a decent run in Drag Week in the U.S.......... Not as refined as the SRT, but MAN! What a car!!


PRO451 FATRX3 has been driven and has even seen the street a few times I'm pretty sure. Made an appearance at Harry's one night.


Haha crazy humans!  :)


Spaghetti PRO451 Absolutely! FATRX3 is an awesome car and a credit to John! As I said though, "generally isnt a driver at all". What I meant by that was a car that sees regular street duty. In the case of FATRX3 I think you'll find that its on club or historic rego, not full rego. Happy to be proven wrong though!


Also another interesting fact, the blower hats are normally 2-5000hp capable items, the reason being you only have to crack the butterflys just a bit to get the needed air flow, there by reducing the risk of the engine inhaling damaging debris during the burnout.



Am I missing something here? This has been the latest speedhunters articles for 4 days now!
C'Maaan, I need my speedhunters FIX


Achtereekte What browser are you using? I have occasionally had an issue with chrome where even when opening a new window or tab with the Speedhunters site, it will only load a cached copy until I refresh. So try hitting the refresh button.


BirdHasACamera Yess...... so much speedhunting to catch up on...


Burnout contests have been a fixture of the drag scene in America I've attended since the late 90's (east coast) - of course drag racing has too many ebb's and flow's - and to most the sport faded (shame on you) - I always thought about how these simple, yet increasingly boring, burnout contests could really be competitive. because the first time a guy explodes his tires, the crowd is in love with the destruction. If you don't top that - you lose. Around the early 2000's, I'd start to see dedicated burnout cars like this Integra (Whiplash 2).. And then, after discovering how the Aussie's do it - there we are - I've found the next level. Entertaining as all hell too!


PRO451 You're correct - I was more referring to cruising at events (Summernats, Powercruise etc.) but it's worth pointing out that these cars are definitely not road legal!
Here's some MOPAR goodness from last year:


Blake Jones PRO451 Yep, I get you. Summernats and Powercruise et al are where these beasts come out and play.

Thanks for the link too! Im sated now....... Well, until I get home and look in the garage and realise how much work is still left on my Aussie Valiant project! Best not let the missus intercept the credit card bills.......


Cheers Blake *raises a glass*.
Yep, they are a very specialised style of car. It's awesome that a style so ridiculous actually came about through meeting very practical requirements. Although, the slow speeds are a Summernats thing. Lots of concrete, really close and even though the burnout guys are going all out to win the big one, concrete hurts a lot. So here's 5 minutes of tip ins from last years Supernats in Sydney. Some slow, some ... not so slow.


PRO451 There's been quite a few show/elite cars that are built as burnout cars for when the idea of polishing all the time stops sounding like fun. Even Meguiars Uncover cars like Slorach's GOTNUTZ Torana, Kerjean's TUFFST VC Commodore and the ONIT Torana. But the pPersonal favourite has to be that KRANKY was a regular in the Elite hall when this was happening almost every time he hit the pad.


gagahsasono Each event is different, as are the classes (usually based on cylinder count and/or blower count) for the events. Drivers are given a points score based on how well they do. But the main rules tend to be - constant smoke, instant smoke, volume of smoke and driver skill. Add into that crowd reaction, tip-in speed (entry speed), using all the pad, getting close to the walls, popping both tyres, constant revs, high revs - they all add to the judges score. Fires, stoppages, selecting reverse, wall contact, not making the minimum time, limiter bashing - those kinds of things are minus points, or instant losses. 
So to win requires a huge amount of instant smoke, with a fast tip-in, lots of donuts/exhibitions of driver skill, getting close to all the walls of the pad without hitting them. Smooth, constant high revs are a must without touching the limiter or setting the car on fire. Finish by popping both rear tyres after the time limit, salute the crowd, win big dollars. If only it was that easy.

One of my favourites still is:


the car was very good 
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were about are you and i love cars
from Jacob omara