WE STARTED the tradition of ambushing the Valvoline Street Machine Of The Year winner with a surprise trophy delivery back when Rob Godfrey’s TOYTON nabbed top honours in 2008. Rob’s workplace was just across town from the Street Machine offices at the time, and with the assistance of Rob’s family and friends we were able to surprise the pants off him. Everyone who had been involved in the build was there and it was really touching to see how everyone reacted to the news that this project, which had been such a big part of all their lives, had received the ultimate recognition from the public.
So we decided that from then on, wherever we could manage it, we’d surprise the future SMOTY winners with a hand-delivered trophy.
Prior to that, the Street Machine editor would phone the winner to let them know the good news, then organise a flash photoshoot to mark the occasion. Of course, if we wanted to go for maximum publicity and drama, we’d gather the 16 finalists together at a function to reveal the winner – live streamed to the world – but there is something really nice about the announcement being a private thing, just with family and friends to share the moment.
And because SMOTY is a reader-voted prize, the winners can never be confident that they’re going to win, so it’s almost always a massive shock. Peter Fitzpatrick was certainly caught unawares when I lobbed with the trophy at his Canberra workplace in 2011, the year his FC Holden – in its twin-turbo Trilogy form – took out the gong. So was Henry Parry in 2014, when his FB Holden ran away with the vote.
We surprised young gun Nathan Booth at home in 2015 – with the family two-car garage where Nathan’s HR was built packed with friends and family – thanks to the expert scheming by his mum and dad. Keeping a secret that big from your nearest and dearest is quite a task, especially when SMOTY is a daily topic of discussion in the house. I reckon the Booths should offer themselves to ASIO, they were that stealthy.
Last year I deputised Boris Viskovic to drop the bomb on Chris Bitmead at work, again with his family and some of the guys involved in building XBOSS on hand to witness the fun. The XBOSS crew are well-versed in both planning and pranks, so keeping Chris in the dark was a great laugh for them.
This year, the case of the Myers family presented its own problems. Gary Myers’s hometown of Narrandera just over the border in NSW is a fair haul from Melbourne, and photographer Chris Thorogood and I were both time-poor. Also, the Myers clan wear their hearts on their sleeves. Such is their passion for and emotional investment in their chosen sport, I knew it was too much to ask either wife Deby or son Jake to take the news and not let it show all over their faces. So Jake’s employer Matt Cznery became my mole in the camp. Through a number of very casual phone calls we were able to establish a window of opportunity.
And sure enough, when we rolled into the Myers driveway, Gary was working on an XA Fairmont sedan, getting it ready for this year’s Bright Rod Run. Deby was in the shed with him, and so apart from their three red cattle dogs and toddler grandson Boss, there was just the husband-and-wife team to hear the news. As we got out of the car, it was instantly obvious that this win was another big surprise – surprise that turned to shock, tears and laughter in quick succession.
Like most of us, the Myers put family first and cars second, and they put a phenomenal amount of time and effort into chasing their dreams. The $20K prize money from Valvoline will go a long way in helping them continue, but the recognition from the car-loving public?
And yes, we get a bit of stick for featuring burnout cars in the mag and we get that it isn’t everyone’s thing. There are so many genres of car that make up modern street machining and burnouts have their place. Not a street car?
Maybe not, but that’s just a symptom of the nanny state we happen to live in. If Gary lived in the US or New Zealand he’d be able to drive AGROXA to the shops with the blessing of the local coppers. For mine, it’s the law that’s wrong, not the car.
SMOTY is a democratic process, and the Falcon came out on top in a big way – with more than twice as many votes as second place-getter Bubba Medlyn and his Drag Challenge-winning VH Commodore. Jason Poustie’s super-tasteful HK ute came in third.
As my predecessor Geoff Seddon was fond of saying: “The readers are always right.” That remains true of SMOTY today. Still, we can always change things up. One thought I’ve had is to alter the competition so that any SM feature car constructed largely in Australia can be eligible to win, rather than the SM team choosing the 16 finalists. Or, we could let you guys choose the top 16 and have a second vote for the overall winner – it would make the award even more democratic and potentially give more folks a shot at the title. Either way, can’t wait to see who you guys choose in 2018 so I can deliver the good news once more. s