While Richie Crampton had been topping 300 mph as the driver of a Top Fuel Dragster for Morgan Lucas Racing the past three years, he’s now turning his focus to trampling the strip — and the street — in a 1957 Chevy wagon as part of Hot Rod Drag Week.
The event on Sept. 10-15, 2017 puts the spotlight on vehicles driven more than 1,000 miles with scheduled stops at Cordova International Raceway, Gateway Motorsports Park, Byron Dragway in Illinois, and Great Lakes Dragaway in Wisconsin.
As a professional driver with a passion for restoring old cars, the Australian is enthusiastic about his latest endeavor, which began when he purchased the chock-full of character car from its former owner in December and brought it to his workplace, Lucas Oil Fabrication in Indiana, on an open trailer.
“My first race car in Australia was an FC Holden wagon, so between that and this, people are asking what’s with me and station wagons,” said Crampton, with a laugh. “But for Drag Week, you need to have all of your spare parts and tools with you, so a station wagon makes sense.”
Crampton began work on what he referred to as a “sad and dilapidated car” by removing its floor pan and factory frame, and replacing them with a full chrome moly double-framerail chassis certified for a 6.50 elapsed-time, though he said he won’t pursue 6.50 as a first-time participant of Hot Rod Drag Week.
For power, he’s currently considering a turbocharged LS engine package.
“I’m trying to figure out what the ideal combination would be, and I’m probably behind the eight-ball a little bit, but I’m definitely leaning toward an LS and turbo combination,” said Crampton. “It’s probably a lot of car to put an LS engine in, but if I can make good power, it will be a good option and hopefully more reliable than trying to develop a big-block combination in the amount of time I have.”
The car features Strange Engineering struts, coilovers, brakes and rear-end housing, and rolls on 16×33 Hoosier stiff-wall slicks wrapped around Sander Engineering wheels with beadlocks. Crampton recently began tin work and laying out the car’s fuel cell and plumbing, as well as routing all of the wiring.
“I’m trying to figure out where it all goes while also trying to have an optimal amount of room,” said Crampton, who plans to keep the car’s patina appearance, which adds to its charm and appeases the throngs of fans who have been pleading with him to do so.
Rod Centorbi, who was Crampton’s assistant crew chief when he was piloting a Top Fuel Dragster, continues to be his right-hand man, and Crampton is confident the project will wrap by the time the event rolls around in September, even if it is minutes before he’s scheduled to join the other drivers at the first stop at Cordova
“This is the first time Rod and I will have the opportunity to take on something like this,” said Crampton, who’s also preparing to drive for Lamattina Top Fuel Racing’s Fuchs Lubricants dragster at the Nitro Thunder event at Sydney Dragway, May 5-7 in Australia. “It will definitely take me back to grassroots racing, because I learned and cut my teeth in racing in this kind of car, and even though it will be a challenging week, it will be refreshing.”