Frank Oliveri and Ronnie Palumbo both do very well representing the Bowtie brand within Australian drag racing Sportsman circles. The cousins field two nearly identical-looking and impressive-performing early-era Holden LC Torana cars. The official model designation for these Holden vehicles is Torana GTR XU-1; Holden is Australia’s equivalent to the Chevrolet brand under General Motors. This particular vintage model traces its origin back to the early 1970s when they were a special release from GM/Holden with the intent to contest within the Australian Touring Car Racing Series (using a 186ci six-cylinder engine). The race team’s Toranas are now very different animals compared to the original. Both Frank and Ronnie campaign them in Australia’s Top Sportsman class (8.99 e.t. or quicker) within the 400 Thunder Drag Racing Series and ANDRA circuits. Both race cars feature chassis work by Graig Burns (SCF Race Cars) and engine programs by Sam Fenech from Westend Performance, who is a reputed Pro Slammer (Pro Mod) class racer in Australia. Frank’s car runs a 585ci big-block Chevy while Ronnie’s uses a 440ci small-block Chevy. Frank’s car has run a best time of 8.273 at 164 mph, while Ronnie’s machine has a best time to date of 8.725 at 158 mph.
Sponsorship comes primarily from Oliveri’s own BuySellCarParts.com.au with associate help from Hi-Tec Oil, VP Racing Fuels, Fairfield Mobile Auto Electrical, Campisi Continental Butchery, Volare Woodfire Pizza, Motorsport Database, and Southern Cross Transit. The multicar race team, which also includes a pair of Chevy-powered rear engine dragsters, also does its part to help spread awareness against cancer. Ronnie’s father, Frank Palumbo, who was instrumental in helping to found the race team was recently diagnosed with cancer (everyone at Chevy High Performance wishes him the best in battling that disease).
Pro Radial Powerhouse
As it is in North America, small-tire/fast door-slammer racing has become a popular attraction in Australia, and Craig Hewitt’s supercharged Hewitt Racing Holden Monaro is one of the best. Hewitt, who is based out of Sydney, New South Wales, has been competing with this race car for three seasons, which features a 521ci engine (rated at 2,800 hp) built and prepared by Sam Fenech (Westend Performance). That purpose-built mill includes Australian designed and manufactured Noonan Heads and a 14-71 Hi Helix Kobelco roots blower. The engine program is overseen and tuned by Kon Michaloudakis (WAS Wollongong Automotive Services). Craig’s car is a converted factory production all-steel-bodied car (no carbon fiber). Hewitt Racing is one of the most dominant on the continent in their category—winning three Pro Street Blown Tire titles within the Outlaw Australian Pro Street Association. Sponsorship comes from Might Mite, 333’s Condiments, Pro Fab, CBH Steel Moulds, ProTrans, Sefton Smash Repairs, Westend Performance, and WAS. Craig’s crew includes his wife, Kim; kids Maddison, Chloe, and Bailey; and close friends Steve Francis, David and Adam Lennox, John Holroyd-Doveton, and Shane Canarvo.
World Fast Fifty-Seven!
CHP’s recent trip “down under” also included an opportunity to witness Australia’s thriving Aeroflow Performance Products Outlaw Nitro Funny Car Series—a momentum-filled, impressive independent circuit of touring nitro-burning nostalgia Funny Cars founded by Australian drag racing legend Graeme Cowin. During the event at Willowbank Raceway (Ipswich, Queensland), we witnessed some drag racing history when driver Rick Gauci drove his totally amazing Nitro Express ’57 Chevy-bodied car to a string of world record times, including the quickest e.t. ever seen: a 5.374 at 271.19 mph while winning the event. This is just one of the numerous cars within the series owned by Graeme and his wife, Wendy, that Graeme personally tunes. While there are some significant differences within the rules for Outlaw Nitro versus NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Nostalgia Funny Car, there is no denying that the performance witnessed was impressive any way you measure it.
Photography by Bruce Biegler