There’ll be a clash of cultures this weekend in Queanbeyan – with Gucci and Ferrari on one street, and Akubra and Toyota on the next – as two very different car shows roll into town.
This year, the annual celebration of Italian automotive pizzazz known as Auto Italia coincides with the biennial showcase of all the latest and greatest in outdoor gear known as the Queanbeyan 4WD, Camping and Outdoor Expo.
Auto Italia promises to bring hundreds of bello cars, motorbikes and scooters from across Australia to the Queanbeyan Town Park from 10 am on Sunday, 3 April.
Meanwhile, the Queanbeyan 4WD, Camping and Outdoor Expo is open from 9 am to 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday at the Queanbeyan Showground.
Both are described as significant events on the local car enthusiast’s calendar, allowing members of the public to get up close and personal with the stuff of dreams, whether it be loud and fast or loud and dusty.
Auto Italia has been described as the biggest show of its type in the Southern Hemisphere, while over the years, the 4WD, Camping and Outdoor Expo has consistently attracted between 10,000 and 15,000 people each time.
Now under the new management of Altitude Events, managing director Susie Biffin says this year’s expo will have plenty to draw the crowds, not least of all, the ‘Travelling Fish Tank’.
Owned by Michael Cooke, this consists of a massive see-through trailer holding 14,000 to 15,000 litres of water. Once parked, he releases barramundi into the water, climbs into a little boat and casts away, demonstrating proper fishing technique.
Susie also expects the motocross stage to draw crowds as rally-spec motorbikes perform live stunts along an 80-metre long track.
“They’ve got jumping pillows, they’ll be doing backflips, and all sorts of things I would hate my son to do, but I think it will be a bit of a showstopper for people.”
The Southern Tablelands 4WD Club used to run the show but took a back seat after a finale in 2020, and Altitude Events took over. They’ll still have a role to play, however, overseeing talks and demonstrations about how to get you and your life-size Tonka truck out of sticky situations.
“A lot of people will be able to get a lot of good information out of them,” Susie says.
“We’re trying to incorporate some new entertainment, a heap of new food options, and hopefully get some new exhibitors on board.”
Several exhibitors mark the occasion in their calendar and expressly come to the ACT and Queanbeyan from across the country to sell their purpose-built wares.
“We have quite a wide range of people interested in this industry,” Susie says.
“There are a lot of families who want to get out and go on holidays and explore. I think the COVID-19 lockdowns have really encouraged people to get out.”
She says there will be plenty of caravans on display, quaint knick-knacks and heavy-duty 4WD gear, not to mention jumping castles for the kids.
“It really caters to everyone.”
Susie says this first event for Altitude is a bit of a “trial and error”, but it may return every year if all goes well.
“However, I do think that by being biennial, it creates more excitement and hype,” she admits.
She says that even with the rise of EVs and the cost of fossil fuels, interest in making mud pies outback with a hulking great 4WD will never completely lose its appeal.
“There are always going to be the diehards,” she says.
“Enjoying cars and electric motors is one thing, but a lot of people do this to be with family and friends and create memories. It’s in your blood. While they can do it, they’re going to do it.”
Auto Italia will be at Queanbeyan Town Park from 10 am on Sunday, 3 April. Entry is by gold-coin donation. Street parking is available.
Tickets are required for the Queanbeyan 4WD, Camping and Outdoor Expo. These can be bought online or at the gates ($15 for adults, $5 for kids). Free parking is available onsite at the Queanbeyan Showground.