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1957 Chevy Bel Air Burnout Machine - Smokin' Special

Aussie Burnout Specialist Matt Abood Built This '57 Just For Burning Rubber

Steve Fynmore Aug 1, 2003
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Like most teenage street-machiners, Matt Abood probably did his first burnout in the parking lot after school one day-but these days he's far too professional to discuss it.

For guys like Matt and the dozen or so other Aussies who regularly compete for $10,000 purses on the Aussie burnout circuit, spinning the tires and creating smoke has become a serious business.

In the past eight years, the 30-something mechanic and his turquoise '57 Chevy have won just about every burnout title in the country.

Burnouts moved from the shadowy back streets to center stage when car show organizers realized that tens of thousands of people would pay money to breathe smoke and watch guys like Matt throw their cars around donut pads on Sunday afternoons.

There are no chains, wrist ropes or tie-downs in Aussie burnout competition. Competitors launch from a wet start pad and inch their way along a 100-yard strip with engines screaming and tires billowing smoke before throwing their cars around the donut pad at the end of the strip.

The show continues until tires explode or the engine spits its big ends onto the greasy black top. Three judges score each performance based on smoke, driving antics and crowd reaction.

Matt began burnout competition in the days when first prize was a pair of tires and a hug from the sponsor's promo girl. He was driving a Chevy-powered Holden, but soon realized he would need a more distinctive purpose-built car to succeed in burnout competition.

Matt found his new machine in a hay shed near his home town of Nowra on the New South Wales coast. The Aussie built '57 four-door had rust in all the usual places, but Matt knew it would make a strong standout burnout car-even if its first appearance on burnout tracks did offend the shoe box old school.

Making smoke was the main thing on Matt's mind when he chose a torquey 454 with a 10L sump, a small cam and a Holley 850 double pumper to burn the tires off the back of the Chevy.

Anybody who has ever watched the succession of bursting radiators at a summer burnout competition will understand that cooling a slow-moving, high-revving big-block is hot work.

Matt had spent some time working on bulldozers on the hot North Coast, and reasoned that heat transfer was the secret to cooling the Rat motor. He fitted a D7 Caterpillar dozer radiator in the nose of his Chevy. The dozer cooler works so well that the temperature gauge drops when the fat block's thermostat opens at 180 degrees.

During a burnout the big-block spins the rear wheels at speeds equivalent to 160 mph. It drives through a manually shifted Turbo 400 and a standard highway-ratio 28-spline 9-inch rearend.

The lines to the rear disc brakes are clamped off allowing the rear wheels to spin freely while the fronts hold the car to a walking pace. Twin 3-inch exhausts directed at the rear wheels pump tire smoke out from the back of the car.

Matt says his engine and drive train are essentially stock but he points out that every part has been carefully and accurately assembled.

Matt wasn't certain how his untested drive train would stand up to burnout competition, so when he built the car, he countersunk the fire wall a few inches to allow easier removal of the gearbox. But he needn't have bothered. After eight years and 48 four-minute competition burnouts, Matt has never had to touch the drive train and the heads have never been off the engine. His maintenance schedule is simple. The engine gets 10 fresh liters of oil after every performance and the car gets two new tires before.

And while times and cars have changed since a more youthful Matt first pushed the pedal to the metal in his high school parking lot, one suspects the same boyhood motivation remains.

Matt's burnout tips
*Remember you're out there to put on a good show for the crowd.
*Always use new, fresh tires because old tires throw their tread without creating smoke.
*Make instant smoke off the line.
*Keep the revs constant and don't go too fast-a faster moving car makes less smoke.
*Do donuts to the left and the right, to make sure the tires wear evenly and explode at about the same time.



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