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She drives 150 tonne trucks at an Ipswich mine and has operated the world's biggest truck, the 350 tonne Caterpillar 797 in Moura. But the 33-year-old Mt Gravatt mining trainer/assessor and heavy vehicle operator is proudest of her 1500 horsepower supercharged 1977 LX Torana hatchback which has just taken out Street Machine magazine's Street Machine of the Year.
It's the first time a woman has won the reader-voted award, but Dow is quick to credit her father, George, for most of the work. "Dad always wanted me to be a mechanic because of his love of engines," she says. "I'm one of three sisters, but I'm the only one who inherited the car thing from dad. He reckons I'm the son he never had. He used to build his engines in cars and boats and when I got old enough to drive he started building engines for me."
As a trainer/assessor Dow doesn't actually fit the mining machines, but she still needs to do inspections and know what components are in the machinery. "Dad's taught me everything I know and when we put the engine in I'm always there to hand him a spanner and do the duties he sets me."
She bought her Torana 12 years ago, paying $10,000 for the rolling shell. "It was an immaculate car with no rust in it," she says. "We looked for close to a year to find it and it was the most superior thing we found. We got it in Brisbane which was lucky because we had been out west and down in NSW looking at cars. I liked the Torana because of the look. I also liked the look of the Ford Capris, but dad said there was no way I was having a Ford because he's a Chevy man."
For a while she drove the car with a 500 horsepower "street engine" which they worked to more than 600hp. "We ran it in cruises on methanol and my crew would have to follow me in a car with a 44 gallon drum of methanol," she says. "I once took it to the Gold Coast and back for a cruise and it used over 200 litres of methanol which is actually cheaper than normal fuel."
But the street engine didn't last long. It was replaced by a small block Chevy 370 (6 litres) which has been supercharged to more than 1500hp. It cost more than $50,000 to buy and develop. "There's too much power to dyno it so I don't know how much power and torque it actually has," she says.
With the new engine on board, and keen to keep his daughter from getting into trouble on public roads, her father steered her towards drag racing as well as motor exhibitions. "I wanted something that size that wasn't too big of a car because weight is an issue with racing," she says.
Dow estimates that the car has cost her almost $200,000 including the spare engine _ an aluminium 350 (5.7-litre) Rodeck. The total bill includes more than $5000 on interior trimming, $15,000 for the rear end and $8000 for the "Passion Purple" paint alone. "It's a $20,000 paintjob because it's transparent and requires several layers with the colour underneath determining how dark it is," she says. "The car took two-and-half years to rebuild and now that it's finished, we're racing it every couple of months," she says.
"I've always been wanted to make it to this level and prove that I can drive it and to prove that we did it as a father-and-daughter team." Dow has won two Pro Street Shootout events at Willowbank Raceway with a top speed of 275km/h and won her class at the Summernats in Canberra earlier this year.
Dow's magazine title win reaped $15,000 in prizemoney which Dow intends to spend on a trip to the US with her father. "It's not going back into the car. Dad and I are going to America to see some machine shops that make engine parts, tour some factories and I'd also love to go to Vegas."