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John Zappia is a drag racing legend in Australia.

John Zappia grew up in Fremantle – Western Australia, and earned a reputation as a serious rev head on the street. John left South Fremantle High School early, securing an apprenticeship with ALCOA as a Mechanical Fitter, and became a fully qualified tradesman at nineteen years of age. John tells with a smile, of his passion for going fast and having heaps of grunt under the bonnet. His first hot car being an XU-1 Torana – serious streetcar material back in the 70′s. “We used to do laps of Fremantle on a Friday or Saturday night, just waiting for a drag” John remembers.

The XU-1 was not fast enough, so John purchased a 4 door HQ Holden sedan and fitted a 383 Chev and installed WB front and back ends on the car. A 454 Chev soon replaced the 383, and had so much grunt John reckons it would smoke in any gear (regardless of how many people were in the car), just by dumping the boot. “When the rear barrels of the Dominator carb cut in – it was insane on the street!”.

John  started a family, and eventually opened his own small business spray painting vehicles. The venture into business and spray painting was not to John’s liking, so he closed up and returned to ALCOA as a Maintenance Fitter tradesman, and has been there for 15 years.

To better understand the character of John Zappia, the following extracts from an interview in National Drag Racer No 23 give insights:

It was a bleary eyed John Zappia who was not prepared for a 9 am start to an interview which was to last nearly three hours. “I don’t really function too well this early in the morning:, he conceded. A breakfast of hot coffee and the passage of time saw “Zap” come up to warp speed. The man is a total contrast to the balsy driver who was quite at home getting the best out of his former mount. This man’s wild driving antics are the direct opposite to his quiet, amenable manner. He is articulate yet intense and thinks long and hard before answering my questions.

The man is a paradox. When ever he gets into the car he drives it like there is no tomorrow. His high speed runs through the water, his long smokey burnouts nearly to the finishing line were always matched by the high speed backups to ensure the show would go on. The whole ritual was then finished by Zap wringing the car’s neck ever so completely.

In stark contrast to his flamboyant driving style is his quiet and unassuming personality. The time I spent with John saw him remember virtually every run, every meeting and the problems that he encountered on these passes.


His incredible memory is only matched by the respect he has for the people who have helped him on the way.




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