For sheer drag racing diversity, it is hard to beat Competition Eliminator – and that goes for anywhere in the world.
A 500ci Pro Stock-powered front engine dragster caught my eye at the Gatornationals earlier this year. It belonged to Stig Olsson who hails from Stromstad, Sweden, a small town on the west coast of the country bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Stromstad might not be recognised as the horsepower capital of Europe, but Olsson attended his first drag race in 1976 and was instantly infected by a love for the sport.
“I bought my first dragster later that year,” he said. Joining forces with his brother, Olsson found $2000 to buy a race-ready rail and the siblings shared the seat. “In true democratic spirit we switched driver every second race, which of course was not particularly successful.”
A third driver did however prove to be a race winner.
“In 1978 we put my wife Bente in the car and she had instant success and won her first race, which was also the first drag racing event ever in Norway.”
Olsson crew chiefed on some other cars and gained experience in Powerglide transmissions, which would later prove valuable to both his racing and his career.
A second family effort saw the team purchase an ex-Top Fuel front engine dragster chassis, where they initially inserted a 331ci Chevy. Seeking more horsepower, Olsson made his first contact with Neil & Parks Racing, a Kansas-based workshop.
“I can say that (contacting them) was one of my smarter moves,” he said. “Frank and Scott Parks have built me some good cars and I can’t thank them enough for all the help and support they have given us through the years – they are a big part of our racing success.”
Olsson went on to order a complete chassis from Neil & Parks in 1989, to go with a Nickens engine.
“With this car we raced at Las Vegas, Phoenix and Pomona before we shipped it to Sweden,” he said. “This trip gave wonderful memories. But in 1992 we decided to quit racing – all of us had kids and our families deserved more of our time.”
Crewing with a Pro Stock team part time allowed Olsson to stay in touch with the sport temporarily, but even then he was missing out on spending time with his family and so he decided to go ‘cold turkey’ for ten years. He event changed his business to something less intensive.
“My brother and I discontinued our speed shop and I started a bicycle shop that became very successful.”
Fast-forward to 2003, and Olsson began to attend races once again, first as a spectator but then getting back to turning the spanners on a team. It wasn’t long before the itch to race had to be scratched.
“In 2006 I decided to go back to racing, and because all of my race cars have been dragsters the choice of car wasn’t difficult. I bought a front engine dragster chassis from Neil & Parks. This was their personal car that Scott (Parks) drove and it became the most tricky sportsman dragster ever in Europe.”
Olsson campaigned his new rail for 11 years, using a bunch of different engines, from an ex-Pro Stock 358ci to the big block 500ci Pro Stock motors. He took our the European Competition Eliminator records in A, B and C/Dragster and earned the European Comp championship.
Before Olsson started his bicycle shop, he had a side hustle building Powerglide transmissions. What started as a few racers coming to ask for help turned into StigO Transmissions, which Olsson figured could make a contribution to his racing budget, even though he planned on retiring.
“Thanks to the Powerglide business I came into contact with Brandon Barrentine at BTE Racing, and a few years ago I him told about my dream to drive in the United States. He stepped up big, he helped me a lot and pushed me when I was in doubt.”
Olsson decided to create his self-titled ‘Living The Dream US Race Tour’, which would start with a brand new car, another Neil & Parks FED.
“The old car was a bull-ride to drive with the aggressive Pro Stock engines I use. I wanted to do some changes on the balance in the car and after a discussion with Neil & Parks they built us this piece of art.”
While the front engine configuration is associated with the drag racing past, Olsson said the chassis is a modern as you can get, with carbon brakes, ceramic bearings, dAMBEST fuel system, MSD Grid ignition and a Racepak data logger.
The dragster uses a 500 cubic inch Gray Motorsport Pro Stock engine, hooked up to a Powerglide two-speed. As a transmission specialist, Olsson was able to give the gearbox ‘all the tricks in the book’. The combination has so far produced a best of 6.47 seconds for the quarter mile at 210mph, recorded earlier this year at the Gatornationals.
“We plan to have the car in the USA for at least a year, and fly over four or five times to race,” Olsson said. “The first trip was no racing success, with some new car blues and some driver error stopping that. We could have made it easier for ourselves, a hot Pro Stock engine in a front engine dragster is no easy task. But why do it the easy way when you can do it the fun way?”