Summernats will be back, but this week’s cruises are all about the car lovers’ community

Genevieve Jacobs 8 January 2021 100
Michael Davis

Michael Davis with his impeccable lime green Kingswood ute. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

There were souped-up orange Toranas and sleek Commodores, a mint green Dodge Polara and a Valiant that was pulled from under a tree at Jindabyne, complete with a patina of lichen, a bullet hole in the grille and a horn that sounded like a cow in distress.

For the second day in a row, Canberra’s car lovers gathered in the absence of Summernats but in the company of friends. They’ve held two informal “Claytons cruises” organised by the community with the cooperation of ACT authorities, and another is scheduled for tomorrow.

And the message from Summernats CEO Andy Lopez was clear: despite contention and dissension, pandemic and bushfires, he confirmed to the crowd that the event will be back in the ACT next year.

Each driver registered via a QR code on entry. Participants identified their vehicles with yellow stickers and headlights were mandatory.

Summernats informal car rally

Summernats informal car rally, 2021. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

As organiser Andrew Dale* outlined how the cruise would proceed from the back of a ute, he was also clear about the “no dickheads” policy.

“The reason for the sticker and the lights is that we’re different. If some idiot comes up behind you and does a burnout the cops know they’re not one of us and we’re not going to get hassled,” Andrew told the crowd.

“We want to do this right. There’s no chirpys, there’s no skids, there’s no speeding and we cruise in the left lane.

“Let’s make a bit of noise, tap it up and give it some revs but no speeding, no need to overtake. Hang where you are, just enjoy it and wave at the people down Northbourne Avenue.”

Don Jackson and his 1928 Model A Ford

Don Jackson and his 1928 Model A Ford. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The cars cruised to the Watson roundabout and turned back down Northbourne, either branching off to Capital Hill or on to Parliament House to the applause of fans.

Don Jackson was there with the fire engine red 1928 A Model Ford he started building in 1991 and finished in 2006.

“It was a long project”, he acknowledges a little ruefully. The car is now as immaculate inside as it is on the outside.

Frank and his son Will had their unmissable orange Torana with a 383 Chevy engine, nitrous and two-speed power glide. The boys rebuilt the car together and were delighted to be cruising again.

“We love being able to have a bit of fun and be sensible. My young fella wouldn’t stay at home if I told him to,” Frank said.

Frank and Will

Frank and Will with their orange Torana. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Michael’s lime green Kingswood ute was also a childhood dream. Born into the Holden tribe, he and his 80-year-old father worked together on the vehicle. The Jamaican lime is an original Holden colour from the Sandman series, but the vehicle does more than look good.

“We’ve re-done the whole drive train so it’s now got a 355 stroked V8 with 550 brake horsepower. She goes real hard,” he said.

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Sally, Maggie and Jane didn’t have their own vehicle at the cruise – they’re working on an EH Holden they hope to have ready for next year. But Sally and her partner have shared their passion for cars with their teenage daughters. Both girls say being around car nuts is an invaluable source of knowledge.

“Summernats was not traditionally a place where families could come along but that’s changed in the last few years,” Sally said. “We now feel very safe and welcome, and it’s great that the girls can be a part of it and appreciate the cars.”

Maggie, Jane and Sally

Maggie, Jane and Sally enjoyed the informal car rally. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

And then there was Dave Britten from Cobargo. He and his wife Mel were on their way to Summernats last year when the fires hit. The Brittens, who worked hard with their community in the aftermath of the devastating blaze that destroyed much of their town, lost an HQ van, an HJ Premier, two HZ utes, a Torana and more.

Mark Saunders, who is Vice President of the Council of ACT Motor Clubs, wasn’t at today’s cruise but says the car-loving fraternity are like family to each other with strong social networks.

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Of criticisms about Summernats, Mark says that there will always be hangers-on whom he believes are mostly responsible for some of the more problematic behaviour.

“I don’t see anyone in the clubs being the instigators of those issues,” he says.

“I think a lot of the changes made around alcohol have helped. The current management has restructured it as more of a cultural festival around cars, and they’ve changed the entertainment so people don’t get bored at night.”

Andrew Gale and Dave Britten

Organiser Andrew Dale with Cobargo car enthusiast Dave Britten. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Andrew Dale is himself the owner of an EH panel van, known to Mrs Dale as ‘Cider’ because it’s spent so much time on the side of the road. He thanked both Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman from ACT Policing and Transport and City Services for their support.

“The respect from them allows us to give respect back,” he said.

“We love these old classics. The longer we’re in the car, the more fun we’re having. It’s a cliche, but people will tell you that the best thing they’ve ever bought is their car because of the people they meet.”

*edited to correct misspelling

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100 Responses to Summernats will be back, but this week’s cruises are all about the car lovers’ community
Robert Honeybone Snr Robert Honeybone Snr 4:48 pm 10 Jan 21

Remember these cars have being brought back to life with a lot of patience by the owners and their love for their cars

Kevin Hall Kevin Hall 11:36 am 10 Jan 21

Andrew, you are an asset to this town and I fully respect your efforts as many people do. Please don't stress over the very limited few that complain or let the side down.

By next year I hope to make more of a presence in the car scene and will be looking for your guidance. 2021 the year of the Parisienne.

Tristan Wellens Tristan Wellens 8:04 pm 09 Jan 21

Yeah I heard the police talking about how they were attacked in Lonsdale last night🤣 brilliant bunch of petrol heads 👏🏻

Nancy Wing Nancy Wing 2:56 pm 09 Jan 21

Good canberra

Ian Fitzgerald Ian Fitzgerald 2:30 pm 09 Jan 21

I don't go to Summernats but do appreciate how much effort these folks devote to their passion. Am happy it was (and hope it will still be) a yearly event that brought/brings in heaps of tourism. Was also annoyed that the GMC400 was cancelled (again, not that I was a race fan). All I can say is : *Be* the diverse, accepting and tolerant community we claim to be. It's just a couple of days for goodness sake.

Marcus Cataldo Marcus Cataldo 9:37 am 09 Jan 21

Some disgusting behaviour Matt Frawley Michael Cataldo

    Matt Frawley Matt Frawley 12:18 pm 09 Jan 21

    Marcus Cataldo have these hooligans even thought about the Lonsdale street residents?

    Marcus Cataldo Marcus Cataldo 12:27 pm 09 Jan 21

    Matt Frawley please don’t be disrespectful to them, they were just trying to put on a show for the people

Wayne McDonald Wayne McDonald 9:15 am 09 Jan 21

George McDonald summernats b bk

Jason Gross Jason Gross 8:23 am 09 Jan 21

Awesome story guys well done too all

Fabio Fabbo Fabio Fabbo 7:35 am 09 Jan 21

Imogen Wall Paul Rice Peter Markowiak

That's why the Phoenix, recycled car-parts sculpture, kept rising

Gerry Hubbard Gerry Hubbard 6:57 am 09 Jan 21

Great story. Saying exactly how it is

Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell 6:31 am 09 Jan 21

People say to me where do you live and my comment is Canberra but after reading some of the comments I will have to tell people now it Sooksville. We once had a lot of cool events to go to like the birdman rally, car rally, concerts and many more things now gone these things where all good cheap family fun things be careful what you wish for because all these events bring money into town one way or another.

Tanzil Hossain Tanzil Hossain 11:23 pm 08 Jan 21

Would be good to see some ACT Policing in Braddon. Saw none in 2hrs yesterday it was packed. :(

    Daniel Trevarthen Daniel Trevarthen 11:38 pm 08 Jan 21

    Tanzil Hossain you want to see some ACT Policing in Braddon, because Braddon was busy? Surely being busy is a good thing...

    Andrew Dale Andrew Dale 12:03 am 09 Jan 21

    Daniel Trevarthen it wasnt just busy, it was off its head

Michelle Preston Michelle Preston 10:54 pm 08 Jan 21

Police have blocked off the Lonsdale st area tonight.

Andrew Dale Andrew Dale 9:24 pm 08 Jan 21

To anyone who is directing their thoughts about the true classic car enthusiasts at us, get off your perch. Your welcome to call the AFP traffic Boss, Marcus Brooman and ask him about us You would be the same people that because you see 1 Indian driving badly would say they all do. Or 1 dishonest politician and they all are. Or I dirty cop and they all are. Think about it, if your thought process allows you to go that deep.

    Dee Fraser Dee Fraser 9:34 pm 08 Jan 21

    Andrew, wonderful example of community. Thanks Andy, and car friends .

    Bek Clark Bek Clark 1:40 pm 12 Jan 21

    I heard a saying once in Qld a long time ago; what’s the colour of a two cent piece? copper copper. What’s the colour of an old two cent piece? Dirty copper. Sometimes stereotypes are relevant to a particular time and place.

    Having said that, enthusiasts should have a dedicated home for racing and showing, not be forced to moved on a NIMBY whim. As ppl keep pointing out they bring in lots of money - maybe they could use that money to crowdsource their own location?

Jonathan Hemsworth Jonathan Hemsworth 9:00 pm 08 Jan 21

I spent 5 mins writing a hilarious post about Canberra being the whinging city of choice.

To delete it and purely say.






I'll be sure to warm up the two step while cruising around tomorrow while my mate drives his Telsa and then pollutes the atmosphere with telling everyone about "how he has a telsa"


Prof. J Hemsworth.

    Penny Hemsworth Penny Hemsworth 9:12 am 09 Jan 21

    Jonathan Hemsworth summernats is an institution & we need something to give this City life. Its not just a public service city.

Caity Rolfe Caity Rolfe 8:58 pm 08 Jan 21

For those of you complaining about car enthusiasts, remember these people do a lot of good for the community too. These are the same people who raise thousands of dollars numerous times a year for charities, funerals for families who had unexpected deaths or injuries, etc. Car enthusiasts also bring canberra more revenue in one weekend than all the other events put together.

    Peter Thomas Peter Thomas 9:04 pm 08 Jan 21

    Caity ... And your point excuses the sexism and misogyny, how?

    Caity Rolfe Caity Rolfe 9:05 pm 08 Jan 21

    Peter I'm a young female who has been attending car events including summernats since I was 13. Don't you think if the "sexism" was that bad, other females & I wouldn't attend?

    Peter Thomas Peter Thomas 9:07 pm 08 Jan 21

    Caity you might consider counseling

    Caity Rolfe Caity Rolfe 9:12 pm 08 Jan 21

    Judging by the photos taken in the article, the females look happy to me.

    Josh Harrison Josh Harrison 10:12 pm 08 Jan 21

    Peter Thomas so please explain your first hand Experience with "sexism" or are you just a media sheep?

    Daniel Trevarthen Daniel Trevarthen 12:03 am 09 Jan 21

    Caity Rolfe 100%! Well said!

    And I’ll add - car enthusiast come from a diverse range of backgrounds, in terms of socio-economic, gender, ethnicity, political beliefs, religion, yet they come together and get along, managing to be tolerant and inclusive... based on nothing more than a shared passion for cars.

    Yet we are vilified for loving motoring.

    Makes me sad.

Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 8:26 pm 08 Jan 21

Yes there doing burnouts on the round abouts on Isabella dr.

    Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 9:22 pm 08 Jan 21

    Scott Wyatt yes true, but they’re inter state plates.

    Daniel Trevarthen Daniel Trevarthen 11:57 pm 08 Jan 21

    Peter McDonald

    there aren’t any interstate cars here for Summernats... it’s been cancelled!! The hoons you are describing are locals, you can be sure. Probably just as many ‘interstate’ plates as usual.

    Not to mention, it’s school holidays and p-plate kids are bored!

Julie Butler Julie Butler 8:10 pm 08 Jan 21

So did cars come in from Sydney... And if so... How.. Isn't that a hot spot for Canberra

    Ché Baker Ché Baker 12:12 am 09 Jan 21

    saw a lot of nsw number plates on these cars tonight...🧐

    Suzanne Clare Suzanne Clare 4:13 am 09 Jan 21

    Ché Baker Qbn & Jerra are NSW....

Jo Brown Jo Brown 8:01 pm 08 Jan 21

Veronika you been cruising?

Jessica En Bee Jessica En Bee 8:00 pm 08 Jan 21

We have always had weekly Southside cruises along Drakeford Drive in Tuggeranong. Only quiet week used to be Summernats.

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