Street legal drag racing is perhaps one of the most defining genres of racing in the modern era of the sport, but through the years, it has truly transcended its unambiguous beginnings, blurring the lines between what is and isn’t a street car. Today, modern marvels of engineering — albeit marvels that never rolled off any assembly line — rule the roost at the upper echelons of the street car performance hierarchy, born out of necessity to achieve the kind of numbers considered formidable but attainable by a road-worthy machine. For every fan that loves them, there’s another that loathes them, longing for the steel-bodied steeds of yesteryear. And nearly half a world away, on the underside of the planet, one racer is doing his part to give that to the old school faithful.
48-year old New Zealand native Karl Chamberlin, a gearhead that simply can’t get drag racing out of his system, was a record-setter in his native land before street car record-setting was cool, doing so during the very infancy of the movement here in the United States at the time of the now-legendary Fastest Street Car Shootouts. Chamberlin, a machine operator by trade at New Zealand Steel had “gotten serious” in 1994, building a 1970 Holden Torano GTR street machine with a 352-inch small-block Chevy that he buzzed to 9-grand on nitrous. With that car, he clicked off a best of 9.06 at 148 mph, making him, at the time, the quickest man in the entire country with a real, honest-to-goodness street car. His record stood for eight years before it was toppled.
Now, nearly two decades later, he’s determined to reclaim it, and position his name and his ride into the street car conversation internationally.
Chamberlin with his Christmas present, received from Steve Morris Engines, in late 2015.
“This time around I’ve gone all-out to regain the record, which currently sits at 7.7-seconds, but also to set it where others will struggle to go,” Chamberlin says. “My aim is 6.0s to 6.40s at somewhere around 230 mph and to be the fastest street legal, all steel-bodied door car in Australasia (the region comprising Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and neighboring islands in the Pacific Ocean) and hopefully in the top five worldwide.”
Chamberlin is assembling a 2002 Holden Monaro (the Australian version of what we know as the early 2000s Pontiac GTO) featuring a full chromoly chassis, with a 670 cubic inch big-block assembled by Steve Morris Engines in Michigan between the fenders. The powerplant, a 5-inch bore space Chevrolet with Brodix heads, is paired with a set of 98 mm turbochargers, and on Morris’ dyno, produced 2,992 horsepower and 2,377 lb-ft of torque on Exxon 93 octane fuel and an astounding 4,002 horses and 2,977 lb-ft on C16. That, of course, is plenty of juice to get the job done, and Chamberlin has insured there aren’t any weak links in the package, backing it all up with a Lenco CS2 3-speed transmission and Bruno’s converter drive, a modular 9.5-inch rear end setup from Mark Williams, Weld Racing Delta-1 double beadlock wheels, and a host of other top-flight pieces.
“When I initially spoke to Alex at Steve Morris Engines, he asked me how much power I wanted. I asked how much can they make me, and he replied 4,000 if you want it, to which I replied, ‘okay.’ So, Steve worked out a price and emailed me and the rest is history,” Chamberlin explains.
“I didn’t want an alcohol motor because to me that’s not a street engine. I have very strong views on what a “street car” is, and in this country, the entire car has to be engineered and inspected before it’s allowed on the road. So this car still retains it’s factory glass, electric windows, electric door mirrors, door rubbers, and so on. It will also have a stereo, carpet, cup holders, and even the back-up camera. Twin 5-inch exhaust exiting the rear of the car is a legal requirement, also.”
The project has been a long time coming for Chamberlin, who had the idea a decade ago but only recently has been in a position to carry it out. Chamberlin’s friend and chassis builder/fabricator, Ajay Chapman, is responsible for all the work you see on the car, doing so right in Chamberlin’s garage.
“I bought the body shell as a write-off in 2006 and had it repaired by a friend of mine. It sat until 2014 when I finally had enough funds to start buying the parts I wanted. I wasn’t going to compromise on this build so I knew I needed a load of money, Karl tells.
The car will be, citing the high cost of carbon fiber in New Zealand, entirely original steel from nose to tail.
To combat the challenges of road duty, Chapman will be setting the car up with dual 20 gallon fuel cells, with the fuel extracted by a single cable-driven fuel pump. As well, the car will be outfitted with dual radiators, a remote Meziere electric water pump, two large transmission coolers, and an ice-to-air intercooler inside the car. Once on the road, the Delta-1 wheels wrapped in 34.5×17 slicks will be removed and replaced with a set of Mickey Thompson Sportsman 33×20 radials on 20×17 wheels, and the 17-inch skinnies up front traded out for 245/35/18 road tires on an 18×8 rim.
The track and street rubber side-by-side.
Chamberlin and Chapman hope to have the car complete by early to mid-summer in time for the new racing season, with intentions of running the car on 98 octane pump gas in New Zealand to get the combination sorted out before switching over to the C16 and trekking to Australia to let it all hang out.
Keep an eye out here for more on Chamberlin’s Holden as progress continues, because we’re certain there’s going to be a lot to talk about a few months down the road with a build this over-the-top.
Photos courtesy Karl Chamberlin and Earl Edwards/Popeyes Pics