In high school I was a bit of a petrol head. Funny – cause I didn’t have a car. Nevertheless I could quote Mad Max verbatim, devoured every issue of Street Machine and got my driver’s license as soon as I turned 17.
I found this short story in a pile of old school stuff . I wrote it for English class in Year 12 – I remember being quite proud of it at the tender age of 17 and my teacher even suggested sending it to Playboy or some other magazine that published short stories. I never did, but now I have the opportunity to post it online so here it is in all of its (embarrassing) glory.
I was tempted to edit it, but instead left it exactly as it was. The story never had a title as far as I can remember, the idea was around drag racing and two drivers in a grudge match – so here is “The Race”…
The two cars started simultaneously and their owners drove them up to the chalk line stretching across the road that had been drawn a few minutes before. It was to be another Holden/Ford grudge race and a crowd of about a dozen people had come to watch, to see who would be the fastest down the standing 1/4 mile, and to see which marque would reign supreme. As at most illegal street races the stakes would be $500.
Steve pushed the Toploader gearbox of his XC Falcon Cobra in first gear and, depressing the clutch, revved the 351 cubic inch motor under the bonnet to 3000 RPM. He glanced sidewards to see his opponent Ian slide the 2 speed Powerglide transmission into drive. The HK Holden Monaro’s 327 cubic inch motor had been replaced by a Chevy 350 cubic inch motor, bringing its performance up to about the same level as the Cobra’s. He then looked down his bonnet to see his mate Mick and one of Ian’s mates waiting a 1/4 of a mile down the road with stopwatches to record their times.
An onlooker had volunteered to be the starter and now stood between the two cars on the chalk line. He made sure the timers were in position and then raised his arm above his head, glanced at both drivers then dropped his arm.
With a shrieking of tires and a cloud of white smoke the two cars roared off down the road. Steve launched the car perfectly, keeping the wheelspin to a minimum. He waited until the tachometer needle reached the redline before upshifting a gear. The bonnet dipped then rose like a rearing horse, a mustang, Steve thought as he imagined himself buying the Ford Mustang at the used car lot along the main street of town. He was brought back out of his daydream by the noise of the motor revving 800 RPM over the redline and then noticed the finish was now close. He upshifted again then glanced in his driving mirror to see the Monaro about 10 metres behind him. $500 for a morning’s work, he thought to himself as he passed the two timers. He took his right foot off the accelerator pedal and pressed it down on the brake pedal as hard as he could, the power assisted disc brakes bringing the Cobra to a screeching halt. After reversing up to the timers he got out and walked over to Mick who was now leaning against a farmer’s letterbox.
“Steve! You got 14.79 seconds. Ian only got 14.91. You beat your last time by 0.2 of a second.” Mike said enthusiastically. “Yeah,” Steve replied, “I got a good start today. A couple more weeks and we’ll be able to get a fuel injection system installed. Then we’ll be really haulin!”
Mick put his stopwatch in the glovebox of the Cobra then followed Steve who was heading towards the Monaro. Most of the dozen or so people who had been watching were standing around the Monaro as Ian was a fairly popular bloke.
“I believe you owe me $500, mate.” Steve said as he approached Ian.
“Crap! You were running on nitrous. They saw you turn it on just before the start.” Ian exclaimed, pointing to several of the onlookers.
“I didn’t use nitrous. The tank’s empty ‘cause I can’t afford to have it refilled.” Steve argued. Nitrous Oxide was a gas, which when injected into a car’s motor improved its performance by around 50 percent. The trouble is it can only be used for a short period of time.
“The reason the tank’s empty is you had it on during that run.” Ian said, not knowing if Steve really had used nitrous but desperately not wanting to have to pay him the $500. It wasn’t the actual amount, he could easily afford that, it was the humiliation of being beaten after being the best for so long. “Don’t give me that shit. I won so you had better pay up.” Steve was now starting to get angry.
“Tell you what. We’ll have a rematch, same time, on Saturday. And I’ll check your tanks before we start.” Ian bargained.
“Double or nothing.” Mitch put his two cents worth in, not expecting him to agree.
“Its a deal. Also who ever doesn’t show pays the other $1500 “ Ian said.
Steve and Mick walked back over to the Cobra and got in. As Steve started the car up Mick opened the glovebox and started to look around in it. He soon pulled out a copy of Midnight Oil’s latest tape and placed it in the tape deck mounted on the centre console. The stereo speakers began blaring out the band’s new hit single.
“I don’t like the way he agreed on double so fast,” Steve said as they drove back towards Mitch”s parents farm, “I think the bastard’s up to something. We’d both better keep our eyes open.”
After dropping Mick off Steve drove home and parked his Cobra behind the machinery shed and walked towards the house. On the way he saw his dad with his head under the bonnet of their 1959 Ford Customline. Steve and his dad lived by themselves since his Mum had died 6 years before. His dad looked up from his car towards Steve.
“Did you beat him son?” he asked.
“Yeah but the bastard reckons I had the nitrous on and wouldn’t pay up. He wants a rematch on Saturday. It’ll be double the amount we raced for today.” Steve answered.
“You should have punched his stupid looking head in!” his father said jokingly then looked back down at the motor, trying to find where the oil was leaking from now.
Steve walked inside the house and went straight to the fridge and took out a can of coke which he opened then took a large mouthful from. He then went into the living room and started to look through some performance car catalogues noting the prices of the parts in disgust, mainly because he still didn’t have the money. His dad then walked in, his hands covered in oil.
“Like to give me a hand getting the head off the Cusso?” his dad asked.
“Sure.” Steve said, dropping the catalogue on the coffee table.
That night as Steve was washing up for dinner he heard voices coming from outside. They had had problems recently with someone stealing equipment, so Steve grabbed the .22 calibre rifle leaning against a wall on the veranda and went to find out what it was. He hadn’t taken two steps when they sky was lit up by a huge explosion. He knew what it was. His car. He ran behind the shed to see the Cobra had been blow apart. A car was driving away towards the gate of their property, a utility with several people laughing in the back. He raised his rifle and fired a shot at the utility but only succeeded in smashing a tail light. A moment later the car was out of sight. He turned back towards the Cobra, or what was left of it and saw his dad running out of the house towards him.
“Fuckin’ bastards!” he swore as his dad stood beside him.
“Do you know who it was?” his dad asked.
“One of Ian’s mates drove that ute to the drags this morning.” Steve said.
“We’ll go down the station in the morning and if the cops don’t do anything about it then I’ll kill the bastards the next time I see them.” Steve’s dad said.
“No use doing that. The new sergeant’s son owns that ute. He won’t do a thing.” Steve said, “I’ll now have to pay Ian $1500 ’cause I don’t have any wheels to race him. He’d beat the Cusso easily.”
“Come inside with me.” his dad said.
Once inside his father went into his room and came out with an envelope. He handed it to Steve.
“What’s this?” Steve asked. “Open it.” his dad said.
Steve opened the envelope to find it was full of money. He counted it and it added up to seventeen grand.
“Where did you get all this? Steve asked.
“I’ve been saving it to give to you some day. Now seems as good a time as any. I think that’d buy a certain Mustang I know of.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“How about ‘Thanks’?” his dad said, grinning.
“All right. Thanks.” Steve said and started laughing.
The next morning Steve and his dad were at the used car lot by 9 a.m. and had the car at home within an hour. It was a 1970 Ford Mustang and had been imported from America by a Sydney businessman. The original BOSS 302 cubic inch motor had been bored in size to 351 cubic inches and it had a 4 speed Toploader gearbox the same as the Cobra’s. It was painted metallic red with black stripes and the salesman had agreed on $15990. Steve and Mick took it for a drive and it was slightly quicker over the standing 1/4 mile than the Cobra had been.
On Saturday morning Steve and Mick arrived for the drag to see a crowd of about 30 people had come to see this race. He lined his car up next to the Monaro then walked over to the crowd
“Get a new car did we?” Ian asked sarcastically.
Steve went to punch him but Mick stopped him. Everyone laughed.
“I’ve decided to change this slightly. The stakes are now $3000 and its a full race. Up this road, left onto Palmer Road, then left on Armon Drive and then left onto Thunder Road and back down to here. Its about 5 Km on length and in the rough shape of a triangle.” Ian said.
“O.K. then. But Mick holds the money.” Steve said. “Right then.” Ian said.
Steve went back to the Mustang and started it up. He engaged first gear but held the clutch in and then waited. Ian’s mate who had before been timing stood between the two cars today as the starter. He raised his arm, glanced at the drivers then dropped his arm.
Steve took his left foot off the clutch and pressed the accelerator flush against the firewall. It wasn’t a good start and Ian had a slight lead up on him. He upshifted 500 RPM from the redline and was starting to gain on the Monaro. However, Ian was on the left hand side of the road and would be on the inside at the corner. Steve would have to cut him off before the corner. He upshifted again and was now in front of the Monaro. Just as he arrived at the corner he spun the leather steering wheel to the left and cut off Ian, forcing him to brake hard.
He was now on the second leg of the race and in front by about 20 metres. He upshifted again then glanced at the speedometer. It read 102 MPH. He looked down the road over the ‘Shaker’ air intake poking through the bonnet towards the next corner. It was a tight left hand corner. He downshifted the chromed Hurst gearstick once then twice, his feet operating the pedals like a master puppeteer as he took the apex of the second corner.
Steve shifted the gearstick into third then glanced in his driving mirror to see the Monaro gaining fast. He must be running nitrous now, Steve thought. He looked in front of him to see an old couple in an FJ Holden doing about 60 KPH. He swung his car out into the right lane and passed them. He then shifted the gearstick into top gear and reached 130 MPH. The final corner was looming ahead so he downshifted twice and took the corner as well as he had taken the last. However the Monaro was still gaining and proceeded to pass him. Steve thought he was beat. Suddenly the Monaro slowed down and the Mustang shot past it and over the finish line. The Monaro’s nitrous tank had run out. Steve slowed down then pulled on the handbrake to do a tyre screeching 180 deg turn and drove up to where Mick was waiting.
Steve got out of his car and called over to Mick, “Come on, let’s go.”
“You’re not going anywhere.” Ian said from behind him, “I want my money back.”
Steve turned around to face Ian.
“I think I owe you this.”Steve said then punched Ian as hard as he could in the face. Ian fell across the bonnet of his car, unconscious with blood pouring out of his nose and his jaw broken.
“Like I said Mick, let’s go.”