My pick for Racer of the Week is Ryan Sheldon, from Auckland, New Zealand. Ryan's '58 Plymouth Fury is a marvelous machine,
themed after the Joker from the Batman series. Ryan sent me a great information packet, including the article that was done on
this awesome car in NZV8 magazine, and I'll quote the article for Ryan's feature:
If you replaced the word 'criminal' with 'drag racer' in the statement "This city deserves a better class of criminal, and I'm going to
give it to them", you'd pretty much sum up Ryan Sheldon's goal. It wasn't Ryan who said this imposing quote, however, but Batman's
nemesis, the Joker.
Ryan's not twisted like the Joker...well, not as twisted, perhaps, but is all for having a laugh and making drag racing fun again.
Besides kicking some supercharged arse with a naturally aspirated engine combination, bringing back the glory days of great
showmanship and sportsmanship is what it's all about for the Auckalnd-based furnace operator. He's been winding up the
competition in Top Street and generally having a laugh doing it for the past few seasons behind the wheel of the Joker Camaro.
The '58 Plymouth Fury is that same car. Well, kinda. This is Joker 2.0 - a rebodied version of that same chassis that's powered him
to national championships and race wins at both ends of the country and a personal best of 7.89 seconds at 174.55 mph.
While Ryan's been on the strip with the car for just two years, his story with it goes back a whole lot further - right back, in fact, to
those good old days he's now emulating. The goal at the time was to join the hugely popular Wild Bunch ranks with a steel-bodied
second-generation Camaro powered by a blown and injected big block Chevy. For this he and a racing partner purchased a
former Super Stock car to gut it and create a tube chassis for what he affectionately describes as 'the overweight pig'. Not long
into the chassis build for whatever reason, the partnership dissolved and the car disappeared. But that didn't sour his tastes for
racing, though, and Ryan went on to be involved in many other successful racing partnerships and built a bunch of street cars
in the years that followed.
Some 25 years after the Camaro dream began, a very similar Camaro appeared on Trade Me in nothing more than very bare rolling
form. On closer inspection, it was found to be indeed the same chassis that Chris had created, but the steel body had gone,
replaced with a fiberglass version - albeit a less-than-perfect one. Before he knew it, his racing dreams were reignited even if now
he'd decided that natural aspiration was better than supercharging, or so he claims. Six months after purchasing it, and finally with
a shed to work on it, he got stuck into the build. Fellow drag racer Doron Anderson and GSS parts-slinger/fabricator extraordinaire
Trevor Kitney were roped in to help, as was Ryan's dad, Des - a long-time car guy himself - to make it happen. The 598 - cube big-
block Chevy, previously campaigned by Stu Stanners in his seven-second altered was sourced and mated to a BTE Powerglide
transmission, and before long, he was sitting at the staging lights, ready to mash the accelerator pedal.
Ryan explains: "In a season and a half with the Camaro, we won 10 of 15 racers with a couple runners-up, set an NZDRA record,
and won the National Series at our first attempt. Running high-sevens was fun, but the aging body was slowly falling apart."
While he could have got stuck in to the fiberglass body, instead he decided to direct his efforts into another shape that he'd
always loved - a shape you'd not generally find near a drag strip, and certainly not on Ryan's side of the planet. Of course, to
keep the competition guessing, and to have a little fun with everyone, he kept that body shape quiet until this very article came out.
The '58 Plymouth Fury - or more correctly, a fiberglass version of it - was sourced from Suncoast Race Cars in Florida and to date
is one of just a handful ever produced. Plans to get it home were delayed a bit by Hurricane Irma, which struck the area in August
of 2017, so once it arrived, the build needed to happen in a ridiculously brief time frame if Ryan was to make it to the start of the
season, some two weeks after this article was published.
Normally, a chassis would be built to fit a body, but in this instance, that worldly order would be disrupted and both needed a small
amount of tweaking before they'd sit happily together. Dad Des is the one who's still extracting fiberglass splinters from his fingers,
being given the task of widening the body to suit the Camaro's broader frame. Even then, the new body wasn't a simple change, as
it affected many other parts of the build, such as all the internal tin work, and the glazing, which Ryan created replacements for.
Once mounted, the car was sent on a trip under the radar to Wellington where WelTec paint tutor Dean Riches and his students
would lay down the gloss white supplied by the team at Linkup Parts. Under the cover of darkness once again, the car was dropped
off to Kurt Goodin Artworks where he was given three weeks to work his magic on it before it could be sent back to WelTec for a
coat of clear to protect it all. Essentially the mechanicals remain as they were when Ryan terrorized Top Street - the 600-ish cube
big block was good enough to run clockwork seven-second passes with minimal fuss. The new body is a touch lighter than the old,
so, all is going to plan. Those consistent seven-second slips are a touch more impressive, too. That said, having crewed on or
co-owned over a dozen Group 1 cars of there years, Ryan is well aware of the fact that going faster means more maintenance, and
with the current combo, there's a good balance of performance without the need for it to lose its enjoyment. A 7-month build and
he was back out there.
"We have created this car to be fun for everyone - no stress and something people can relate to and identify with, and get back to
what has been lacking in our sport for years - fun for family and friends, and spectators alike." Ryan said "We may not have the
fastest or best-looking car out there, but everyone knows who the Joker is!"
Ryan has a great many mates and family members who he can call on for help. Included are fellow drag racer John Neilan, who's had
a vital role in the motor build. Trevor Kitney and Doron Anderson have both been involved in the fabrication side of things, while
Mike Reid has been crucial on race day, and Mark Thomas is indispensable for helping move the car around while Kurt Goodin was
taking care of the top-secret paint job. Des Sheldon for doing all the crappy, time-consuming jobs, Paul Lambarth for giving up most
of his Sundays to help, Kurt Goodin, for being an ever cleverer bastard, Dean Riches at WelTec, Tim Barwell at the Krysler Shop,
Stephen Virtue at SV Photos for Motorsport, Nigel Dixon, Nakita Hart, Ryan's mum Di, his sister Shanyn, and Drew for doing stuff
that Ryan can't stand and being there to help and support. Mark Thomas, cousin, Kimi, Troy, and everyone else who helps out
on race day. Parts suppliers such as Linkup Paints, the Krysler Shop, and Century Batteries are also key to the car's ongoing success.
Ryan, we wish you good luck, safe racing and the best of times in the future!
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Last edited by WildcatOne
on Tue Feb 12, 2019 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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