Zap’s Rat III

THE REVIVAL by Kim Soia – Perth Street Car Magazine Vol 4 No1 1996 (used with permission and copyright applies)


The events that followed were a testament to how well liked and popular John Zappia is. Although the Statesman body was ruined, the chassis was only bent in the front half and all the remaining mechanical components survived the crash. When Rick Matson from Legend Boat Builders assisted with funds to fix the chassis, others began to offer their help in a complete rebuild. Pacific Performance in Queensland helped John obtain a 1995 Pontiac Firebird Funny Car body from Jeff Burnett. This was the only option at the time as another Statesman body would take at least 12 months to hand make; which would have been unfair to the sponsors. The Pontiac is currently the fastest and sleekest body shape in modern drag racing which made it even harder to pass up. Murray Anderson Race Cars then replaced the front half of the chassis and bolted up the new body. The new roller was sent by train back to Perth and two weeks later Zap’s crew had finished Zap’s Rat III.


Only six weeks after the demise of Zap’s Rat II, Zap’s Rat III appeared at Ravenswood for its licensing runs. The car put down an easy 6.60 at 218.5mph and went home in one piece! At the 1996 Nationals, Zappia qualified 7th with a 6.16 at 227mph in his new class – Top Alcohol. This class is for supercharged Funny Cars and dragsters (rails) which run on methanol fuel only – no nitro is permitted. Top Alcohol is a very tough class of racing and unfortunately, John was defeated by Stan Tindall’s rail, 5.98 to 6.19. Tindall was later beaten in the final by Gary Phillips who put down a blasting 5.87.

Top Alcohol is a whole new learning curve, so John and his crew were happy with their first Nationals meeting in the new class. Zap realises that 5.80 second passes around 240mph are what is required to win in Top Alcohol and he is confident of achieving these levels given more time and testing. After being so dominant in Top Doorslammer for so many years, John has the desire and skill to succedd at this top level.

Many people think that Zappia’s racing is fully funded by his sponsors but he assures us that this is not true. He operates his team on a very tight budget and makes many of the cars components himself. John has a volunteer crew who give their all at drag racing venues around the country. The cost of racing has risen considerably since his move to Top Alcohol due to the prominence of the screw-type superchargers. These PSI and Whipple blowers have permitted incredible performance gains in recent times but come at a great cost – between $15,000 & $20,000 each.

So there you have it, a complete history of one of W.A.’s most famous and fearless drag racers. From humble beginnings in a 194 Torana, to the domination of A/gas, through the halcyon days of Top Doorslammer to the present challenge in Top Alcohol, John Zappia has achieved a cult status and plans to continue breaking the records that few even pursue. John plans to be the first alcohol driver to run a 5 second pass at Ravenswood and to aquire one of the two remaining positions in Goodyear 5 Second Club.

We have no doubt that with his remarkable record and huge crowd pleasing burnouts that Zappia will achieve these goals. Best of luck to John, his crew and sponsors.

Many thanks to Perth Street Car Magazine for permission to reproduce this 1996 article.