We’re all guilty of being into our own little automotive niches, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Sometimes though, you need to take a step back, get out of whatever internet wormhole you’ve fallen down, and appreciate the performance car scene for what it is — one that’s packed with incredible variety.
Just take a look at this pair of blue bad boys — a 1975 Datsun Fairlady Z and 2008 Holden HSV GTS. On paper, they have little in common: normally-aspirated straight six versus supercharged V8, at least 30 years between them, and most definitely different parentage.
But right here on the stunning roads around Albany in Western Australia, a day after the 2019 Racewars weekend, these two cars and their owners, Graeme Bassula and Galen Carson, have much to share.
And luckily for us, they’re more than happy to share their pursuit of Speedhunting with us – even if it hasn’t always been a smooth ride.The Zed
“It’s all my mates’ fault,” grins Graeme as we look over his Fairlady Z (aka 260Z). “Back in 2015, I went on holiday to Japan with seven of them, and thanks to Dino we were able to take a tour around a few workshops. One of them, TA Auto, had a Z that was ripe for restoration, and it was for sale. As soon as my mates saw I was interested, there was no way I was leaving without buying it.”
With a deal done and a plan agreed on, TA Auto went full steam ahead on the rebuild. The body shell was bare-metalled, any rust was cut out and new metal was welded in, which meant at this stage the car was a blank canvas for Graeme to request a few touches. Well, sort of…
“I really wanted A/C as it gets pretty hot out here, but was told no – we would’ve had to have detuned the engine or set the idle to 3,000rpm, neither of which was ideal. I also requested disc brakes be fitted to the rear, but was told they weren’t needed and some performance drums would be fine. Since having the car, I can agree as the balance is spot-on and they work great.”
One thing Graeme and TA Auto did agree on though was the colour, and we have to say it’s a fine choice. “The Z was originally blue, but we talked through some options and agreed on Grand Prix Blue. It’s an earlier shade – 1973 – but still era-correct for the car and I love it.”
It was 2017 before the Z finally landed on Australian turf, but in that time TA Auto hadn’t been slacking. Behind those 15×7-inch RS Watanabes are KYB coilovers, with the front brakes upgraded to MK63 callipers, and finned drums at the rear, as TA Auto specced.
Upgrades needed, it turns out, to help Graeme make full use of the new engine. “It’s an L28 block taken out to 3.0 litres, and built up with a hot cam and triple Mikuni carbs. It’s also got a full custom exhaust system from the manifolds back which sounds great, but then it did cost $3,000…”
Behind the L28 is a Nismo close-ratio gearbox leading to an R200 diff with 4.4:1 gears. “It’s a bit highly-strung with such short gearing, and I guess I might change it at some point, but it does mean the car is great fun to drive on the roads around Perth. You just wouldn’t want to go too far in it,” says Graeme.
Inside, it’s all suitably period, as you’d expect, with the standard interior enhanced with a pair of OMP classic race buckets, harnesses and new carpets, plus a complete set of new, genuine window and door rubbers.
The perfect place to be sat for some Racewars action.
“I entered for the first time this year,” Graeme reveals. “I only did the sprint course, but I got what I wanted out of the event – each run was an improvement and it was very enjoyable to find the confidence in pushing the car. I had a lot of fun and met a lot of great people, so I’d like to do it again.”The Holden
If Graeme’s path to Speedhunting at Racewars was relatively smooth, Galen’s journey was less so.
“I wanted to build something for years,” he reveals. “I already owned a standard V8 Commodore, then when they announced the closure of Holden in Australia back in 2017, I thought it’s now or never, and started looking for an HSV GTS. I found this one in Voodoo Blue, which had already been modified with the Harrop supercharger kit, and it seemed perfect. And it was, for about three months…”
It turns out that in a previous life, corners had been cut to get the modifications through Australia’s notoriously-difficult vehicle registration process, and the fuelling was way too lean. “I was out in it with a mate one afternoon, when there was a huge bang. I got out to take a look and picked a gudgeon pin off the road – number seven rod had come out of the block,” Galen recalls.
Galen and his mate ended up pushing the car 1.7km, but in that time he’d already decided he wasn’t going to give up, and spent the next 12 months working, saving and researching to build up another motor.
“I came across John Lloyd of Street Quick Performance who specialises in supercharged engine builds, and after talking it through with him, decided to go all-out, with the peace of mind that this time it would be done properly.”
Unfortunately, the engine detonation had done so much damage that the only thing that could be salvaged from the original GTS motor was the sump. “John started again with a new LS3 block, adding SRP forged pistons, Callies rods, LS7 lifters and a custom SQP cam, and we installed a new ASE fuel system, too. I wasn’t taking any chances this time and wanted to over-engineer everything,” he grins.
Luckily, after sending the HVT1900 supercharger to Harrop to check it over, they pronounced it fine. But while it was with them, Galen reasoned quite correctly that it would be daft not to take advantage of some improvements, so had Harrop upgrade it to the latest FDFI (front-drive, front-inlet) spec.
With the new engine run and in mapped, it made 599hp at the wheels on 7psi boost pressure using 98RON fuel. “The setup is good for a solid 1,000hp, but this car’s a weekend warrior not a drag weapon, so I’m more than happy with this level of power,” Galen reasons. “Although having said that, I am planning to fit a bigger, twin 3-inch exhaust system and map it for E85 fuel so that I can run more boost for Racewars next year.”
Before that, Galen had a previous deadline to meet, and that was last year’s Racewars. “We finished it jut in time. I had to make a few other changes, installing a Mantic triple-plate clutch and coil-overs. The standard brake set-up was more than up to the job, though.”
“Racewars is such a great event, and of course, as it’s local to me, I wanted to support it,” says Galen. “People will go out of their way to help you, and it makes for a great atmosphere. I did the quarter and eighth-miles on the first day, then managed one flat-out pass on the Sunday — and had a blast.”
So much so that Galen is now planning another project. “I want to build a dedicated race car – something I can really push with confidence, so it will have a full roll cage, and a V8 of course, only this time with a BorgWarner turbo. It’s only a matter of time and cash – I already have the car in the shed.”Rights & Wrongs
So there you have it. Two owners with two very different approaches to going faster, and with Racewars having just been confirmed for 2020, both are planning to be back, stepping up their respective games so that they can push the cars harder — and run quicker, of course.
Both Graeme and Galen share a common goal of living the Speedhunters dream whatever fate throws at them, whether it’s pushy mates or a conrod looking for freedom. There’s no right way, and despite what the internet tells you, no real wrong way either.
Just drive. Break (hopefully not). Enhance. Enjoy.
It’s a lesson for us all.
Photography by Matthew Everingham