The Beginning of the End

2023-06-04 18:00:00

The Beginning of the End
Having established a very successful working relationship, both in business with their Superformance speed shop, and in racing, the Brisbane-based partnership of Col Dunn and Greg Thomsen were faced with making decisions.

Dunn had rolled their VL Calais to a crushed halt in the Willowbank braking area in February 1989, so what to do about the racing. The new 480 cubic inch supercharged Chev that had been introduced to the Calais five months earlier had made a substantial difference to the car’s performance and it was still in good condition after the big crash, and the guys were still keen to see what it was really capable of, so the search was on for a replacement set of wheels.

The solution was a 1955 Chev, with chopped top for improved profile, which was on the jig at Brisbane’s Race Car Engineering. The car made its debut the following December with an 8.11-second time, the team’s quickest ever pass.

The next meeting it ran a 7.98 for a new personal best, followed by a 7.85 in AA/Gas trim, 0.12 under the national record, and the times kept tumbling. At Eastern Creek’s First Race introduction of drag racing in October 1991 it scored a 7.68 and a year later went as quick as a 7.28 at 193mph, again at Eastern Creek.

Picture: The first 1955 Chev of Col Dunn and Greg Thomsen was noted for its wheelstands, which helped to make it very popular with fans. Here, at Eastern Creek in November 1991, the car enjoyed its biggest win, at the Wild Bunch State of Origin meet.

Those two Eastern Creek events, a year apart, scored two of the only three victories that the ’55 Chev was ever to enjoy (the third came at Willowbank in January 1993, their first home track win in two years), but the team remained committed to racing, competing in both official ANDRA-classified class competition in AA/Gas trim, in the non-championship dial-your-own world of Wild Bunch racing, and then, as it became formalised, the new high profile heads-up Top Doorslammer bracket.

In October 1992 the team ran a 7.29 at 192mph for the quickest ever numbers run by an AA/Gas vehicle in Australia on the way to a runner-up at Willowbank.

The Chev, like its forebears, was noted for its long wheelstands that made it a crowd favourite wherever it ran. The team continued to advance the mechanics of the car. In March 1991 they took the advice of the visiting duo of US racers Camp Stanley and Tommy Howes and switched away from a modified automatic transmission to a Lenco constant mesh manually-shifted gearbox.

Picture: Greg Thomsen enjoys time on the start line with touring car headliner Glenn Seton at the 1993 Winfield Triple Challenge at Eastern Creek. Thomsen saw the team’s invitations to run at the Triple Challenge events’ 30,000-plus crowd as the highlights of his racing career.

In November 1993 they announced the construction of a new 1955 Chev to stay with the increasing pace of racing. The new car, debuted in May 1994, was originally declared to be running a blown Hemi-style race engine, but the dyed-in-the-wool Chevy duo could not bring themselves to make the switch and they opted instead for a bigger 565-cube Chevy.

Picture: Col Dunn eases the last of the Superformance ‘55 Chevs into the start line stage beams against American racer Kirk Kuhns’ Corvette at Willowbank in January 1995. Racing in front of big crowds always gives racers a huge buzz.

The new car didn’t bring them any final round laurels, but it fulfilled the long-held dream of six-second elapsed times and speeds above the magic 200mph barrier, with bests of 6.66 seconds and speeds up to 210.38mph.

However, the costs were rapidly mounting in the new and much faster Top Doorslammer fields. The unforced days of the old Wild Bunch racing, where racers could chose their own performance limitations, were largely gone and in September 1995 the Superformance team was expressing doubts about the viability of it all.

In 1996 they ran just two meetings and finally declared it quits on the brittle cast iron Chevy engines by swapping to an aluminium Rodeck.

Picture: Col Dunn, who did most of the driving for the Superformance team, accepts the trophy for top qualifying at the 1996 Winternationals.

That got just one outing on a race track, in January 1997, and the Superformance guys, who had once declared in a magazine interview that they hoped they “never had to give up drag racing”, did just that.

Today the two are both happily retired, still travelling and hanging out together, enjoying their fishing and a much less hectic life away from drag racing.

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