SA Dragster slingshots home

30 May 2018

• Classic front-engined slingshot dragster returns to SA

• Original owner/builder plans to refurbish and race in Nostalgic Drags

A locally-built ‘Slingshot Dragster’ that competed successfully at Adelaide International Raceway in the 1970s and early ‘80s, is now back with its former South Australian owner after 36 years following an unplanned ‘reunion’ at a Shannons Classic Vehicle Auction held in Sydney at the weekend.

This classic front-engined slingshot dragster was reunited with its original South Australian owner at Shannons recent Sydney Late Autumn Auction on May 27.

Remarkably for a hard-driven dragster, the ‘Taipan’ that then-Whyalla-based Ivan Young owned 45 years ago, survived numerous races and owners in largely unaltered form, despite moving to the Northern Territory and New South Wales in the hands of subsequent owners.

Fast-forward to earlier this year and Young, who has since retired from the mining industry and now lives in retirement in the Barossa Valley, decided for nostalgic reasons to post a picture of his old front-engined dragster on his Facebook page.

Originally built by local drag racing enthusiast Wayne Spencer in Whyalla in 1971 the dragster with its Holden engine was one of the last of the traditional front-engined dragsters of its era before American Don Garlits revolutionised the world of drag racing with his rear-engined “Swamp Rat 14”.

The dragster ‘Taipan’ was one of the last of the front-engined dragsters to race competitively when it was built in South Australia around Holden mechanicals in the mid-1970s.

“It got such a response from people who remembered the vehicle and that era that I started wondering where it was,” he said. Then, by sheer chance, he saw a later post by Shannons about a month ago, flagging that the dragster was being offered for auction in Sydney on May 27 from a large private collection and seeking further details on its history.

“It brought back so many good memories that I decided to buy it back,” said Young. “It was a very well-engineered vehicle at the time. I think it ran a best ET (Elapsed Time) of 10.8 seconds for the standing quarter mile at AIR before I sold it in 1982 and I thought it would be fun to do it all over again!”

Come last Sunday’s (May 27) auction and Young was the successful bidder, paying $11,000 for the vehicle he sold for $1,800 in 1982. “That’s about right, when you factor in wage growth and CPI over the years,” he said.

In its hey-day, Ivan Young’s Holden 186-engined dragster Taipan could lay down an impressive 10.8 second quarter mile time.

Now, back in his hands in the Barossa, Ivan Young’s first task is to build another trailer for the dragster, as the one he originally constructed got mislaid over the years. 

Then he plans to give the dragster a full strip-down and rebuild.

Despite the passage of the years, numerous owners and several Sates, the classic SA-built dragster’Taipan’ still wears its original largely unblemished paintwork.

“It’s pretty much as I sold it, which is remarkable for a competition vehicle after so long!” he said. “The frame is all dusty and a bit scratched, but the body still has its 1975 paint job and the same Holden 186 ‘Red Motor’ I installed after I bought it is still there and running.”

Given the passage of the years and improvements with his likely competitors in the growing Nostalgic Drag Racing fraternity, Young plans to give it a little extra performance as part of its rebuild.

“Just preserving it will be reward enough, but I’m also really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel” he said. “It was a fact and exciting vehicle to drive then and I’m sure it still will be now!”