Zap’s Rat II

NEW SURPRISES – SERIES II by Kim Soia – Perth Street Car Magazine Vol 4 No1 1996 (used with permission and copyright applies)

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As mentioned previously, John began planning the Statesman by September of that year. Series II was going to be an all new car, but a continuation of the famous Zap’s Rat theme. Series II was always going to be a doorslammer, but it had to have a state of the art centre-steer chassis capable of putting down the huge horsepower produced by the TFX engine. It took six months of hard work to hand fabricate the slippery VR Caprice body as extensive modification of the original steel Statesman panels was required. This was a steel bodied, operating doors funny car. The build was made much easier thanks to the assistance of many friends and sponsors. Cockburn Exhausts built the pipes, Diverse Metals tinned out the new body and gave it opening doors, Southside Engine Centre prepared the engine and mechanicals, Amcap BBK supplied the Holden panels, ICI Autocolour supplied the paint for Base Autos to apply and Syndicate Signs covered the graphics and logos.

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The final chapter of the Series II Funny Car is a very sad one which many fans will remember as a tragedy for the car but a lucky escape for John Zappia. The 554 cubic inch, blown TFX alchohol engine Funny Car was not finished until 2.00pm on the afternoon of its first race meeting versus American Jim Shalpi’s 1957 Chev. Zappia’s car was still to be licensed before it could legally race that evening.

In its first ever pass the Series II ran an easy 6.88 at 209mph. Tragically the chutes failed to open and at 7.00pm Zap’s Rat II hit the “safety zone” at the end of the track at over 200mph. The brakes were unable to slow the car before it hit the grass and shot sideways. Series II rolled 3 1/2 times, destroying the beautiful irreplaceable body and bending the state of the art chassis. Thankfully, John Zappia was unhurt, but the car was a mess.

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After the crash, the option of a soft sand safety barrier at the end of the track was discussed but John explained that the Monaro had ventured onto the grass several times in the past and that he was able to steer it out of trouble. So the hard grass had helped him. He also explained that soft sand can cause Funny Cars to end over end at high speed. Even in lower speed incidents it is possible for a $70,000 engine to fill up with sand, so a hard surface is preferred.

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