A recent addition to the local drag racing line-up is Ryan Sheldon’s second-generation Camaro — and it is far from subtle. It’s been named ‘The Joker’, and the reasoning behind that is obvious upon catching sight of the car — there is a clear influence taken from Batman’s most well-known nemesis, as popularized by the late Heath Ledger. 

And, just as Batman and the Joker’s history goes way back before the Heath Ledger days, so too does Ryan’s relationship with this particular Joker. Around 20-odd years ago, Ryan purchased a 1977 Camaro, which he had tube-framed by Chris Tynan. As the story usually goes, the car was sold, although it was never sufficiently completed to see the track.

Then it popped up on Trade Me many moons later, and Ryan displayed little hesitation in snapping it up. Being no stranger to putting in a helping hand at the drag strip, Ryan decided it was high time that he got himself into the hot seat — although the Camaro did require a fair bit of attention to get it anywhere near ready. 

The rebuild was helped thanks to fellow drag racer Doron Andersen Vazey — who races a ’68 Plymouth Barracuda — Paul Lambarth, and Ryan’s dad, Des, who tackled the required fibreglass repairs. Trevor Kitney, the master fabricator at GSS, sorted out various fabrication requirements, and the final — and very attention-grabbing — graphics scheme is the handiwork of renowned artist Kurt Goodin. 

It’s a theme that has carried over to the crew’s uniforms, and saw them take away the ‘Best Presented’ trophy at the January 2016 NZDRA Summer Nationals at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park (formerly Taupo Motorsport Park). 

Of course, it’s a lot more than just suave looks. Thanks to an injected 598ci big block Chev, backed by a BTE Powerglide transmission and sturdy nine-inch diff, Ryan’s already run a PB of 8.005 at 166.70mph at the January 2016 Rock FM Nitro Shootout. His fastest trap speed to date is 173.52mph, and he reckons the car’s got a 7.7-second quarter-mile in it — we’ll just have to wait and see.