Cobwebs all gone

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DANIEL.BIRCHFIELD
@oamarumail.co.nz

For the first time in about a decade, Danny Breen decided to give his dragster a run in Oamaru — and he could not be happier about it. He took part in the recent drag racing meet at Oamaru Airport in his machine, which might have been around for 40-plus years but is still capable of hitting a top speed of more than 200kmh over a quarter-mile stretch.
Mr Breen’s dragster features a fibre-glass Model-T Ford body, which he believes is the first of its kind to be built in the South Island, in the early 1970s.
He bought the vehicle for the princely sum of $500 in the mid-1970s from a Twizel man and since then has spent only about $1000 on it.
‘‘It didn’t have an engine in it and it was minus a front wheel,’’ Mr Breen said.
Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem, as he had a 272 cubic inch Ford custom-lined 1956 model engine ready to go.
The dragster has no radiator, but coolant is pumped through to combat that, and it has to be push-started to the start line and then towed back at the completion of each run.
It has two forward gears and no reverse, and back wheel-only brakes. As you would expect, it also has a parachute — handy when slowing down from speeds of more than 210kmh.
Mr Breen said he clocked a time of about 15sec at the Oamaru Airport meet, though in the past he has been as low as 12.3sec.
‘‘I like to better my time if I can. I usually find once I get about three runs in, the third seems
to be the fastest of the times.’’
A lifelong fan of motor sport, Mr Breen was introduced to drag racing by his wife’s cousin and has not looked back. However, he does not get out these days as much as he used to.
‘‘I’ve been doing it on and off — I got very carried away when I first got into it.
‘‘I used to do many standing quarter miles around the area. The North Otago car club used to hold one two times a year and we used to compete in those, and in Christchurch. You’ve got to have a crew. You can’t manage it on your own. There is usually three or four people at a time, including myself.’’
He said changes to rules and regulations meant he was not able to race his vehicle without some minor modifications. However, he was pleased he was given the chance to do so at the airport meet, racing in the altered class.
‘‘It was good. I hadn’t been out there for eight or 10 years. It was nice to blow out the cobwebs.’’
Despite the fact he has been doing it for decades, he still enjoys getting behind the wheel and does not take it as seriously as others, who can sink a lot of time and money into the sport.
‘‘I haven’t had to spend a lot of money on it and I’ve got a lot of fun out of it.’’