Thursday, October 4, 2007
By BY DREW EARY – Bulletin Sports Writer
Tommy Hurley grew up watching his father and uncle compete in the
International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Pro Stock ranks.
As a boy, Hurley watched as Thomas Hurley, his father, and Robert Hurley,
his uncle, campaigned a Pro Stock Oldsmobile Cutlass at drag strips across
Virginia and North Carolina.
Hurley’s father turned wrenches on the car while his uncle drove, and the two had great success. Their car was named the World’s Fastest Top Sportsman in 1984.
As he watched, Hurley always wanted a chance to race a car of his own.
“I always said one day the big dogs would get out of the way and the little dog would move in,” he said.
And now, the little dog has his turn.
With the help of his father, Hurley campaigns a stock-bodied, tube chassis 1965 Chevrolet Malibu SS at local drag strips, including the Motor Mile Drag Strip in Radford, Elk Creek Dragway in Grayson County, and other drag strips in North Carolina.
And according to Hurley, who lives in Ridgeway, working on the car is one of his favorite pastimes.
“I’ll get off from work, grab a bite to eat, and come straight over here to work on the car,” he said. “We do all the work. We do the transmission, the gears, tune it up. We don’t send anything away to be worked on.”
Hurley said his father’s experience with the Oldsmobile helps with maintenance and race tuning.
“Yeah, I hope it helps a whole lot,” Thomas Hurley said. “We’ve been doing it for years and years.”
When the car was built, Hurley said that to save money, he and his father did most of the assembly and finishing work. The only thing they had someone else do was install the tube chassis and roll cage in the car and build the engine.
“I wanted him to start out right,” Thomas Hurley said. “He didn’t start off in any slow car, he started out in a fast one — this one.”
The Hurleys’ Malibu is far from stock, sporting all the right pieces to make the car a fast, safe first race car. The car sports a complete tube chassis, which replaced the original chassis, or substructure, for reduced weight and added structural integrity and rigidity during races.
The car also has a full, National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) legal funny car roll cage for safety and tubular suspension pieces. Funny cars are a type of drag car known for their safe roll cages.
Hurley said the car’s chassis was built by Pat Bennett at his shop in Amherst.
The Malibu is powered by a 565-cubic-inch Chevrolet V8, which was built by Buck Racing Engines in King, N.C.
The engine is almost twice as large as the average V8, allowing the engine to generate far more horsepower than the average engine.
And Hurley said the car is indeed fast, as the 2,640-pound car runs an eighth-mile drag strip in 4.97 seconds.
Many drag racers are shocked that a car of that weight can turn such a fast elapsed time (ET) on an eighth mile, he said.
“Everybody swears that the car is on nitrous” oxide, he said, referring to a chemical that can increase horsepower. “But we’re all engine. Charlie (Buck, the engine builder) puts ’em together right. There’s something done to this one, and he ain’t gonna say what it is. He just told us it would run, and it does.”
Part of the reason the car is so quick is because his uncle, who drove the Olds, helped him learn to drive the car, Hurley said.
“He used to come to all the races,” he said. “He told me what to do and what not to do.”
But Hurley said that what draws the most comments from people is not the car’s power or quick ETs, but the car itself.
“Everyone says it’s something different,” he said. “You just don’t see cars like it. I saw another tube chassis classic car like it, but it had square tubing, which isn’t as good as the round tube (which makes the car more rigid) that’s in ours.”
Hurley’s father also said that the car is distinguishable from others because it is an older bodied race car.
“When you go to the track, everybody has Cameros and Novas,” Thomas Hurley said. “Nobody brings old nostalgia pieces like this to the track anymore.”
When asked if there were any plans to use the car’s NHRA legal status in actual NHRA racing, the Hurleys said they could, but for now they would stick to smaller racing.
Next year, the Hurleys hope to race the car in the Big Dogs class at Piedmont Dragway in Greensboro and the Mean 16 at Motor Mile.
“We just want to race the car at local tracks,” Hurley said. “Nothing too big.”
Hurley’s father, however, said that it always is good to have a car that could race in faster classes.
“It would take a bigger engine,” he said. “We might do it one of these days.”