The annual four-day festival of tyre smoke, mullets and noisy engines that don’t fit under the bonnet properly is returning to Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) for its 35th iteration.
Co-owner Andy Lopez said Summernats 35 will be the “biggest ever”, starting on Thursday, 5 January 2023, with a cruise up and down Northbourne Avenue.
“We have 2700 cars booked in – we actually had to put up the ‘sold out’ sign for car entries for the first time,” he said.
“It’s a great indication of the strength of the event and the love for it.”
Tens of thousands of visitors from interstate and overseas are expected to descend on Canberra over the four days to watch all things fast and furious – not to mention the music line-up – bringing millions of tourism dollars and “life and colour of a different kind”.
“One thing about Summernats is it shows off Canberra in a completely different light,” Andy said.
“For that one weekend of the year, it becomes Australia’s capital of cool.”
Summernats was founded in 1988 by the late Chic Henry, who died in April 2022. Andy and his wife took it over in 2010. They began moving it away from its chequered past of strip shows and wet T-shirt contests and towards a more family-friendly event designed to showcase the effort and money Australia’s petrolheads pour into their cars. Think burnout competitions, noisy cruises and static car shows.
“All the guys and girls put so much work and passion into their cars,” Andy said.
“This is also our first Summernats without the founder and creator of the show, so we’ll be remembering and celebrating him throughout the show with little touches.”
For the second time, Braddon will also host hundreds of the entrant vehicles for the free Fringe Festival car show, harking back to when the inner-city suburb was largely populated by car dealerships, mechanic’s workshops and the odd car meet.
The City Renewal Authority (CRA) said this followed “positive feedback from the community, business and residents”.
“This event will bring economic benefit to Braddon and the surrounding area once again, attracting people into the precinct to eat, drink and shop in what is traditionally a quiet time of the year for the city,” CRA CEO Malcolm Snow said.
In 2022, the Fringe Festival triggered an 87 per cent increase in non-resident visitation to Braddon.
ACT Minister for Business and Better Regulation Tara Cheyne said the ACT Government welcomed the economic return for local businesses and attractions.
“We know that before the pandemic, Summernats welcomed more than 40,000 visitors from interstate and internationally and delivered an economic return of $30 million over the four days,” she said.
“Even with the challenging conditions in January 2022, we still welcomed 25,000 interstate visitors and $20 million return, which is a fantastic achievement.”
Max Edwards can’t remember a year when he and his family didn’t attend Summernats.
“I’ve grown up around Summernats and been there every year I’ve been alive, as far as I’m aware,” he said.
The 24-year-old won the first Young Street Machine of the Year award at the last Summernats with his heavily modified 2005 Toyota Crown Majesta.
“The interest in cars really picked up as soon as I got my licence when I realised I didn’t want to drive around in a normal car,” he said.
With YouTube videos and handy friends by his side, he painstakingly changed “pretty much every panel” on the white luxury sedan over 18 months to make it wider, faster, louder and lower. Much lower.
“I spent an hour this morning trying to get it over a speed hump,” he said.
Glenn Munday and his 1972 Holden HQ SS have attended Summernats since its inception. The Aussie classic still has the original entry sticker on the windscreen and badge in the engine bay to prove it. It was also the first car to let its tyres rip at the burnout pad.
“I’ve had this car since I was 18 and completely rebuilt it from the ground up in 1983.”
Glenn said he’s drawn by the atmosphere and the people.
“Every year, you meet more people, so as well as being a great big party, you get to catch up with people from all over Australia.”
Summernats 35 will be held at EPIC from Thursday, 5 January, to Sunday, 8 January. A variety of day or all-weekend passes are available online. Lonsdale Street will be closed between 4 pm and 11 pm on Friday, 6 January, and Saturday, 7 January, for the Fringe Festival.