RED CENTRE NATS
OVER 700 OF THE FAITHFUL FLOCKED TO ALICE SPRINGS FOR A MASSIVE CELEBRATION OF HORSEPOWER AT THE SECOND RED CENTRE NATS
Horsepower acolytes gather in the Alice for the second go-round of RCN mayhem
AFTER cruising my humble EJ Holden to the first Red Centrenats in Alice Springs last year, I thought it would be cool just to fly in from Melbourne, grab a hire car and enjoy the event street machine-free. After all, I’d spent all year telling anyone who’d listen that RCN was a great event and even if you didn’t have a week or two spare to drive there, you could fly in, fly out and have a bunch of fun. Which is true – I had a blast – but man, I missed being able to participate in my own car.
I flew in on the Friday and headed straight out to RCN headquarters at Blatherskite Park, where the entrants were assembling for the Street Parade. Last year, the assembly point was on the north side of town, but with a massive increase in entrants from just under 300 last year to 723 cars and bikes this year, there was no way they were all going to fit in that spot. We parked the car and hit the ground running with some video filming, and the scale of the cruise hit me – this thing is massive and I can’t be part of it! In fact, I didn’t even get to see the cruise proper. By the time I had filmed the entire line-up, the cars that had left first were already back before the last cars could make a start.
From all accounts though, the vibe was sensational the whole way along, with the locals out in force to enjoy the spectacle. And no wonder, with some truly wild machinery taking part, including Fred Watson’s FEAR GTO, George Paradiso’s brutal ’41 Willys and Dave Carter’s outrageous BUILT one-tonner. Not that the crowd turned their noses up at milder cars, giving a warm reception to just about anything on two or four wheels. It was truly something to see, and to prevent post-cruise depression setting in, the RCN crew put on a concert afterwards, starring Oz rock royalty The Angels, fronted by Dave Gleeson of Screaming Jets fame. Mint!
THE LOCALS TURNED OUT IN FORCE TO ENJOY THE TRULY WILD MACHINERY TAKING PART IN THE CRUISE, GIVING A WARM RECEPTION TO JUST ABOUT ANYTHING ON TWO OR FOUR WHEELS
The next two days were a blur of automotive awesomeness. From a spectator point of view, you might head out to Blatherskite Park first and check out who made it into the RCN equivalent of the Summernats Elite Hall, The Shed. And sure enough, there was plenty of super-shiny metal inside, such as Mal Apps’s FC (SM, Feb ’16), along with some others that might not be shiny but are tried-and-tested eyeball magnets nonetheless (including Leon Davies’s infamous Trucky, driven all the way from Geelong).
To be honest, the outdoor show ’n’ shine was just as good, mixing barn-find muscle cars with highly modified streeters, kit cars, bikes and more.
Blatherskite also offered dyno action all weekend, plus grass driving events and a chance for the kids to operate a digger, thanks to the blokes from Charles Darwin University. The tucker on site was a cut above the usual car show fare and the vibe was as chilled-out as you’d like.
However, noisier fun at Alice Springs Inland Dragway was calling, just 9km down the highway from Blatherskite Park, and thanks to the special permits organised by the local authorities, heavily modified cars that would normally be impounded by the SWAT team were welcome to cruise on specific roads in town, including out to the track.
After watching the contenders for Grand Champion do their thing on the grass, we followed them out as they convoyed to the drags. Yep, that’s right, to be eligible for Grand Champion at RCN, you not only have to score well with the judges and the People’s Choice vote, but you have to successfully complete a bunch of driving tests as well.
There were a bunch of neat cars in contention this year, including last year’s winner John Curwen Walker in his
INSIDE THE SHED WERE SHINY CARS LIKE MAL APPS’S FC, AS WELL AS SOME NOT-SO-SHINY RIDES LIKE LEON DAVIES’S INFAMOUS TRUCKY
immortal FX Holden. Joining him in the chase were local spanner man Peter Hondow’s brand new ’33 coupe, Brendan Findlay’s two-door VE, Ian Wicks’s killer Model A tudor and Gregg Foss’s XP sedan. It was neat to see them all on the highway together and even better to watch them have a go at the drags.
Dave Carter’s outrageous one-tonner was the most impressive of the group. Dave usually races a nine-second Torry, and despite getting off the throttle early, still ran an easy mid-12 in the tonner. Brad Thomson’s HX Sandman from Queensland was looking pretty good, with a 434ci Chev and Tremec five-speed driveline combo. That was until it lunched a tailshaft on the startline, resulting in a visit from the tilt tray. After the drags, the Grand Champ contenders headed to Lasseters Casino to take on a tight motorkhana course. Again, no one was racing for sheep stations, just demonstrating that their cars have some go to back up the show. With that done, it was up to the officials to calculate the overall winner, so we headed back to ASID to take in the delights of burnout qualifying (see page 60).
Sunday was all about the finals of the drags and burnouts, though there was still a relaxed atmosphere back at Blatherskite, with plenty of fun (including Adam Rogash’s NOSHOW testing out the limits of the dyno) to be had. The site wasn’t as packed as Saturday though, with many entrants either taking their cars to the drags or just enjoying cruising around Alice Springs itself.
The event concluded with a semi-formal dinner for the entrants at Lasseters, where backs were slapped, drinks were drunk and the winners of the various competitions awarded their trophies. NT legend Marshall Perron scored the Chief Minister’s Choice award with his ’66 Mustang ’vert (and promptly donated his prize money to charity), Top Red Centre Entrant went to prodigious car builder Peter Hondow, People’s Choice was won by Mal Apps’s stunning FC, and Gregg Foss’s unassuming but slick XP Fairmont nailed Grand Champion.
While most people headed home on Monday, the permits for the wilder cars to cruise the streets remained in force for the extra day, giving those who couldn’t let go of the dream another day of paradise – that is, a world where the owner of a safe but massively overpowered street car can enjoy the simple pleasures of a Macca’s run with his or her mates with the full blessing of the law. It was a brief, beautiful window into an alternative Australia, and we’ll be back to gaze through it in 2017.
ABOVE: Fred and Maureen Waite got the biggest ovation during the awards dinner, taking out Top Restored with their 1968 Toyota Corona ute. The pair are in their 80s and brought the beautifully restored family workhorse 4500km from Boddington in West Oz. What an effort!
BELOW: Adam Rogash has revamped his Clubby and brought the beast up to RCN for a bit of fun and to iron the bugs out. Adam ran the quickest pass of the event, with an 8.68@169mph on the newly resurfaced strip. He also took out the dyno with a 763rwhp pull on low boost at just 5835rpm