Every year since 1991, tens of hot rods cruise through the streets of Canberra, windows down, drivers’ arms on the sill, and the sound of a burbling V8 and a blues tune wafting through the air.
The 32nd Canberra Rod and Kustom Krooze (CRAKK) finished up on Monday morning (24 January) after what is being described as a “strenuous weekend of fun”.
Coordinator Choco Munday says hot-rodding is a popular hobby in Canberra, something that comes to a head around Australia Day each year when close to 200 hot rods and custom cars from across Australia (and even beyond sometimes) descend on the capital for the four-day event.
For $40, entrants are treated to four days of car-themed activities including hands-on training in car modifications, a session in the skid pan at the Sutton Driver Training Centre, and a night out eating burgers.
An awards ceremony on Monday morning drew the festivities to a close.
Members of the public were also given the chance to get up close to the heavily-modified machines in the Queanbeyan Town Park for an open ‘Show and Shine’ event on Sunday.
“The people love it. A lot of local Queanbeyan residents look forward to it every year,” Choco says.
CRAKK attracts hot-rodding enthusiasts from across Australia but has also been known to get cars from as far away as the US, Sweden and France.
Choco says their crowd is not to be confused with Summernats.
“The ASRA is the national body for hot rods and the average age of the members is 65,” he says.
He says smoke and mullets are not their cup of VB, and they prefer laid-back cruising and the odd spot of drag-racing, all set to the rock and roll of the 1950s.
“We go out to the skid pan at the Sutton Driver Training Centre and see who can go around the fastest, and the guys out there help us out with instruction on driving in the wet. We get a lot of fun out of that.”
Each year, organisers select a charity “that doesn’t get a lot of government funding” and make it the beneficiary of a raffle; 2022 fell to Integra Service Dogs.
“Training one of these dogs normally costs $2000,” Choco says.
“Last year, we raised enough for one dog; this year, we set the target of raising enough for two dogs.”
He says the Canberra Hot Rod Association (CHRA) has lost several members to motor-neuron disease, so that was the subject for the 2020 fundraiser.
Choco says Canberra is home to a number of hot-rodding clubs; not only the CHRA but also the Street Rod Association, the Wizards, and the Phantoms.
Choco himself has loved all things hot rod since childhood.
“Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with making a vintage car go like the clappers. Putting a V8 into a Model-T Ford was my fantasy.”
Choco was in the Navy when he actually did it.
“I’m 67 now and I still haven’t grown up,” he says.
His wife drives a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria that he built for her, while he describes his 1949 Hudson Coupe as “not quite finished yet”.
Choco says the traditional hot-rod consists of a pre-1948 car, normally of American origin, “like you’ll see in American Graffiti“.
From 1948 through to 1966, they morph into Custom Cars, commonly Mercurys, Chevrolets, and Hudsons that are chopped, channelled, covered in flame stickers, and fitted with monster engines.
“Then there’s a new category that we embraced as the Australian Street Rod Association (ASRA) and that’s the pre-1978 cars – the muscle cars, the EH Holdens that have been done up, and things like that.”
There are a number of hoops to jump through before these modified cars make the road-legal cut.
“Basically, as long as you have an engineer with the qualifications who can inspect the car and sign it off as safe and issue an engineer’s report, you can register it,” Choco says.
NSW caters for these cars under the registration concession of ‘Classic’. ACT only has ‘Historic’ for the moment, but is set to receive its own ‘Modified’ plate shortly.
“We can drive it anywhere we like for 60 days a year, provided we make a note of it in a logbook.”
Australia Day falls on a Thursday next year, so CRAKK 2023 will run from 26 to 29 January 2023. Registrations will open on the website from the middle of this year.