Words and photos by Jon Van Daal
These two Chrysler Chargers are probably the two extremes of performance. Tony Luci has the V8 Hemi Charger... except it doesn’t have a V8 Hemi, but a six cylinder Hemi 245 cube engine. Joe Di Graziano, on the other hand, has a blown combination that was obviously a hit with the fans.

Over the years the street machine phenomenon has been just as strong in Australia as it has been in America and while the body styles might be a little different, the passion for the sport is exactly the same.

A short history lesson: I was lucky enough to attend the first Australian Street Machine Nationals in 1975, and while there were only 26 cars, it was hailed a success and certainly sowed the seeds for the future of the event. The event was initially run by the 55-56-57 Chev Club of New South Wales, but the Australian Street Machine Federation ended up steering the Nationals through the eighties.

Australia celebrated its bicentennial in 1988, coinciding with the peak of the street machine scene and with disarray in the four year old Federation. This saw the Federation’s Chic Henry leave to start his own event that year, the Summernats in our nation’s capital, Canberra. Some 2,000 street machines descended on the city and its future was assured: twenty-two years later it is still the number one modified car event down under.

With the rising interest in import cars, many future street machiners were drawn to this aspect of the modified car scene, and thus cracks started to appear in traditional V8 street machines. By the turn of the new century, road registration laws had tightened and fuel had become more expensive and despite appearances at traditional hot rod shows, the street machine scene was becoming a shadow of its former self.

It turns out that the business name “Street Machine Nationals“ had lapsed and one Paul Beck, founder of the Extreme Magazine series registered it and made it his own. Beck had built some wild street machines himself, including an awesome ’53 Studebaker, and had run a series of regional shows on the coast south of Sydney.

“A couple of years ago I was doing some research on doing a show in Sydney and found that the registration for the Street Machine Nationals had lapsed so I went for it,” he said.

For a venue he chose Rosehill Racecourse. This is a horse racing facility with beautifully manicured lawns within spitting distance of the Sydney Olympic site right in the centre of Sydney. With large areas under cover, as well as exhibition halls, it was a perfect place for such an event. There was also a separate car park that was roped off for the driving events with the normal go-whoa and burnout competitions joined with the first Australian running of Autocross.

Due to a clash with another event I had to attend, I only saw the burnout competition, however, from what I could ascertain, the rest of the driving events were well received. In fact, with a good roll up of entries and solid crowds Beck has confirmed that this will now become an annual event. “We are in the process of setting up the Australian Street Car Association to run this event and several others - along the same vein as the Goodguys in the USA – there are exciting times ahead,” he concluded.