A little over a year ago, Grant Eldridge came to the Peace Arch News with a problem.
The longtime drag-racer had a car – a classic 1967 Chevrolet Camaro – that could, Eldridge predicted, challenge for a national record in its class.
Trouble was, the car was in pieces. It had been taken apart in order to be painted, and Eldridge did not have the room to put it back together again, after his previous workspace, a friend’s garage, became unavailable.
He put out a plea to the community, in the hope that someone would have extra space they’d let him use. And while he got a few offers, they were outdoor spaces, which were difficult to make use of in poor weather.
As such, he decided instead to keep his in-progress Camaro stored in a trailer, dragging it out every evening or weekend morning to work on it, before packing it up again at night.
It was a tedious process that often tested his patience, but his persistence paid off last week when the re-assembled Camaro finally hit the track and Mission Raceway.
“Luckily, we got to spend the last three weeks at a friend’s garage – he’d gone to Mexico,” Eldridge explained. “But it was a long haul.”
In Eldridge’s first race last Friday – the quarter-mile in the stock eliminator division – the car clocked a record time of 10.9 seconds.
A day later, he broke his own mark by crossing the line in 10.87 seconds, hitting a top speed of 120.32 mph.
“We were really, really impressed, blown away,” he said. “It’s a new car, hadn’t been (worked in) yet, and that was its very first run down the track – we hadn’t even had it out for a testing session before the Friday qualifier.
“Without testing it, I had no idea what it would do – maybe the tires would spin off the start, maybe something else would go wrong… We did built it to set records like this, but everybody does that – not everybody succeeds.”
The entire process, from first stripping the car all the way to re-assembly, took nearly two years, and Eldridge was quick to heap praise on both his wife, Cheryl, who was constantly out in the driveway with him as he worked on the car, and his friend Ron Walsh, a Port Kells machinist who did a lot of work on the Camaro’s engine.
With his focus now returning to the track rather than the garage, Eldridge, a South Surrey realtor when he’s not behind the wheel of a race car, is aiming to race his new car at the NHRA Canadian National Open, slated for Mission July 22-24.
“I’m certain we can run even faster,” Eldridge said. “Last weekend, we ran very rich – there was lots of black smoke. But I think we’ve got that adjusted, which should allow the car to go even quicker.”
But new record or not, Eldridge – and Cheryl, too, no doubt – is mostly happy to have the process finished.
“Thank God it’s over,” he laughed. “I was just saying to my wife that has been the first week in months where we don’t have to go out and work on the car.”