CROWDED HOUSE

THE 51ST EVENT WAS RELIABLE AS CLOCKWORK, THANKS TO A LOT OF HARD WORK BY THE ORGANISERS

STORY SIMON TELFORD PHOTOS CHRIS THOROGOOD

THE VICTORIAN HOT ROD SHOW ROCKS ON FOR THE 51ST TIME

IT COULD be the start of a really neat Australia Day-weekend tradition.

Next year, Oz Day falls on a Thursday, so for a full weekend of cool car stuff, start with the Geelong Australia Day Cruise – the Gateway City is home to some of the neatest and toughest street cars you’ll find anywhere. Then head up to Melbourne on the Friday and pay a visit to the Victorian Hot Rod Show at the picturesque Exhibition Centre.

There are a bunch of killer cars inside and a revolving parade of cool stuff power-parking outside, all weekend. Then, when you’re ready for some action, head out on Saturday and Sunday to Calder Park Raceway to take in the full fury of the ANDRA Nationals. The event has just been revived at its spiritual home (check it out on page 122). Of course, it remains to be seen if the Nationals will be back for another go at Calder next year, but fingers crossed.

There is no such uncertainty when it comes to the Vic Hot Rod Show. This year marked the 51st time the event has been held, reliable as clockwork thanks to a lot of hard work from the event organisers and the efforts of those who bring their cars to show off.

And while it may seem obvious, it’s worth reminding some that the show isn’t just for hot rods, it’s open to anything cool on four or occasionally two wheels – rods, street machines and customs predominantly. Some pedants complain that a hot rod show shouldn’t feature post-’48 cars, but the simple fact is the show has moved with the times. The only difference between the Victorian show and its equivalents in Queensland and Western Australia is that it hasn’t tacked on the ‘street machine’ bit to the end of its name.

At the pointy show-car end, the Victorian show provides an opportunity for locals to check out high-end cars that debuted at either MotorEx or Street Machine Summernats.

It was neat, for example, to see Mal Apps’s FC Holden, which was only just hitting the newsstands on the cover of the February issue of SM. Mal

THE 51ST EVENT WAS RELIABLE AS CLOCKWORK, THANKS TO A LOT OF HARD WORK BY THE ORGANISERS

was inspired to build the FC to such a high standard after seeing Peter Fitzpatrick’s TRILOGY FC at the very same show a few years before. It was nice to see the circle complete. How many other high-end streeter builds would have been inspired by Mal’s car? It really makes you think.

It was also cool to see Queenslander Peter Elliot’s ’34 tudor take out the Australia’s Coolest Ride gong. Dubbed SIMPLICITY, Peter’s plan was to build a pure street rod for his family to enjoy and not go down the high-end show-car route that he took with his Meguiar’s Superstars-winning ’37 Ford roadster. Obviously, he got a little carried away, with Paul Kelly of Smooth Customs working his usual magic on the fibreglass body and Pat from Pat’s Pro Restos going to extreme lengths with the paint. Peter himself built and detailed the car to perfection.

Besides the latest elite show cars, there were surprises everywhere. Some, including Ron Harrop’s FJ Holden and the Crimson Pirate Model A bucket of Joe Pirotta and Charlie Caruana, were icons of the past that have survived to remind us of our heritage.

The bucket was one of the first crazy show rods built in Australia, inspired by the Kookie T from the American Sunset Strip TV show. Innovation was the name of the game for Joe and Charlie, who powered their bucket with a 322ci Buick Nailhead V8, backed by a Packard gearbox. The bodywork features rocketship-inspired rear guards, decked out with ’57 Cadillac tail-lights. Other tricks include a ’56 Ford Customline dash and its own Pirotta mags. The Pirate still looks a million dollars today, and it was a thrill to be able to see it up close.

Harrop’s Howler, on the other hand, spent the last 20-odd years in the care of the late early-Holden collector John Brown. After John passed away, Ron bought the car back and is preparing it to shake the quarter-mile once again. Unlike the Pirate, the Howler won’t be exactly like it once was – the car’s famous push-button Torqueflite will be replaced by a more pragmatic Trimatic – but how good will it be to see one of the most famous of all Australian drag cars take to the track again, still wearing its original warpaint? And maybe, just maybe, we might see that happen at next year’s Nationals, during the long weekend at Calder Park. s

THE CRIMSON PIRATE AND HARROP’S HOWLER ARE ICONS OF THE PAST THAT HAVE SURVIVED TO REMIND US OF OUR HERITAGE