WE DON’T SEE ANY YELLOW EARLY MONAROS. MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE THAT CAR CAME TO A FIERY DEMISE IN THE MOVIE’S OPENING SCENES
Grab a map of Oz and Cobar sits on the red dirt of outback NSW, about mid-way between Adelaide and Brisbane. Sydney and Melbourne are a decent day’s drive away, too, so the ROE Festival is a ripper reason for a long-haul cruise.
Street Machine’s Scotty, Paul and the photographers cruised here in the justcompleted Carnage Dodge Phoenix. My mates Brad, Joe, James and Lynton have spent two relaxing days driving up from Adelaide, luxuriating in the V8 rumble of their red SL/R 5000 and blue GT replica, overnighting at the iconic Silverton Hotel west of Broken Hill, right in the middle of Mad Max country! For the people I’m camped beside in the Cobar caravan park, the ROE Festival has made a perfect bookend to their terrific week-long cruise that began with the HK-HT-HG Holden Nationals in SA the previous weekend. I was supposed to be swagging in my shed-find Commodore wagon, but engine problems meant it had to stay home. Still, even in something late-model-white boring, my eight-hour drive under a big sky was good for the soul.
As the sun sets, the Dodge and the Chev – and plenty of others – do a few laps as people arrive. While those two are undoubtedly the heroes, it’s great see the effort that people have put into replicas of other cars from the film, too – The Gazzard boys’ EK Holden; the RAMMER 1950s Chev; even the blue XB Falcon cop car from the movie has a couple of tributes cruising in Cobar.
But although there is a good crew of Holden HK-T-G cruisers in town, we don’t see one yellow early Monaro like the one in the film. Maybe it’s because that car came to a fiery demise in the movie’s opening scenes when its “he’s just a bad loser” driver crashed and burned after being defeated by Fox.
Friday night is drive-in movie night. Guess what we watch? Yep, Running On Empty on a (not so) big screen at the local sports ground. Up the back are dozens of cars, drive-in style, with plenty of space for picnic blankets on the grass down the front.
The Rebel’s Garage site used in the movie is at Canbelego, about 45 kays out of town, so that’s the destination for a cruise on Saturday morning. After pics are taken at the huge ‘Cobar’ sign at the east end of town, our kilometres-long convoy of cars continues on.
The building used as the outback servo in the movie has unfortunately been demolished, but the Cobar Men’s Shed mob have set up a tribute, complete with old-style fuel bowsers, offering a bright and breezy backdrop for some memories from some of the film’s stars, and, later, a stack of pics of people with their cars.
After that, it’s back into town for an all-makes show ’n’ shine just off the main street and more laidback cruising all afternoon.
What a ripper weekend: wide open spaces under a big sky, and three great pubs and a couple of terrific clubs to eat and drink in. Let’s hope co-organisers Ben and John (see breakout, p78) and their loyal Cobar locals can sort out another cruisy weekend in the spirit of the Running On Empty Festival.
BELOW: Anthony Patterson (right) brought his ’57 Chev from the NSW mid-north-coast town of Kempsey. “I’ve been a petrolhead all my life,” he admits. “I saw the movie back when it came out – I think I’d just left high school. Of course, I could never afford a ’57 Chev two-door until later in life, but I bought this about 10 years ago from an American importer.” It runs a 700hp blown 408cuber, ’Glide and 9in. “I’ve had some faster cars – but this is the toughest!” he says with a laugh. He’s chatting to Ted King who helped with the Running On Empty stunts