SHAKE RATTLE & ROLL

TR ANSPLANTI NG R AC E G ENTLEM EN’S OLD-SCHOOL BEACH RACING CONCEPT FROM THE USA TO AUSTRALIA, THE INAUG URAL TR AP CR OWDY H EAD, N SW WAS A HU G E HIT TRANSPLANTING THE RACE OF GENTLEMEN’S SCH OO L TH E INAUGURAL RATTLE TRAP AT CROWDY HEAD, NSW H IT

STORY GEOFF SEDDON PHOTOS BEN HOSKING

THE NSW mid-north coast is nature’s and majestic Andrew McClelland mentioned to me Race Of events bring to regional communities, but also that it is very much appreciated by local businesses and volunteer organisations. Get them on side and anything can happen. wonderland; endless unspoilt beaches fringed by fertile farming country andmajestic national parks. The weather is mild and the locals are friendly. But one Saturday in early May, it got even better, when Rattle Trap arrived in all its noisy, colourful glory and put on a show that will forever be remembered by everyone who was there.

When the Drag-Ens Hot Rod Club president AndrewMcClellandmentioned tome a few years ago that he was planning a beach-racing event closely modelled on The RaceOf Gentlemen (TROG) in the US, I told him he had two chances – Buckley’s and none. The fun nazis would never allow it. But Crown Lands and all the councils up that way set aside beaches for recreational four-wheel driving, he said.

Why wouldn’t they let hot rods have a go?

Andrew is a ‘can-do’ guy, and Drag-Ens has form.

As organisers of the long-running Valla Rod Run near Nambucca Heads, the members know not only the value that such ev t b i t i l iti And so it did at Crowdy Head, 300km north of Sydney and 180km south of Valla. Located well off the Pacific Motorway, the beach boasted a broad foreshore, good vehicle access and impressive spectator facilities in the form of a licensed surf club, plenty of parking and a nearby caravan park.

Drags-Ens constructed a demountable starting tower and track markers, just like TROG’s, and had all their helper bees kitted out in embroidered white overalls. They also encouraged entrants and the media to dress in period attire, all of which added to the spectacle.

Entries were by invitation and limited to 60 cars and bikes, after the club had called for expressions of interest earlier in the year. The day was never going to be about serious racing, although grudge matches were encouraged. A handful of OHV cars snuck through under the 1941 cut-off, but the rest were sidevalves, with four-bangers dominant. This not only provided the right vibe but also kept speeds low, in the main. The rules for the bikes were more relaxed, but most were pre-1960 and all were in the spirit of the event.

The sprints got underway in perfect sunshine about 9.30am, just as a pod of friendly dolphins cruised in

ONE THING THAT STRUCK ME WAS THE NUMBER OF YOUNGER COMPETITORS, ESPECIALLY AMONGST THE FOUR-BANGER CREW

THE DAY WAS NEVER GOING TO BE ABOUT SERIOUS RACING, ALTHOUGH GRUDGE MATCHES WERE ENCOURAGED

close to check out the action. It was that kind of competitors, especially amongst the four-banger crew. I love how in our broad modified car community each generation brings a new take to an age-old hobby while still paying respect to those who came before them. Nowhere is this purer than with four-banger rattle traps, which take us back to the very source of hot rodding: souping up simple engines using simple technology and taking weight out of cars to make them look cooler and go better.

The movement is fuelled by events like The Boogaloo Invitational and Webby’s Mud Run, which give these old girls a chance to strut their stuff in front of appreciative crowds while their owners go nuts at snail-like speeds. There are just about enough of these events on the calendar to justify building a car solely for that purpose, should you be able to find one. I asked Joel Bliss from Canberra where he found his. He found a firewall, he said, then he went searching for all the day. The last time I was in Crowdy Head it was teeming rain and blowing a gale, so well done Drag-Ens for organising the weather too. Entrants assembled in front of the surf club and then lined up two abreast to take the flag from enthusiastic starter girls and roar off down the track, with nothing more at stake than pride and having a good time.

One thing that struck me was the number of younger rest, and what he couldn’t find, he made himself.

Drag-Ens reserved the main surf club car park for hot rods and customs, but there was plenty of other parking nearby for curious locals and outof- towners. An estimated 2000 people turned up to watch over the day, fed and watered by local volunteer groups.

The event ran flawlessly until 2.30 in the afternoon, when the incoming tide brought proceedings to their scheduled close and eventually returned the beach to its natural state. We adjourned to our camp at the Big 4 Holiday Park in neighbouring Harrington, just a few kilometres away, along with most of the competitors and many hundreds of spectators.

The hot rod community is a friendly one, and they know how to party without spoiling the nest for next time. The arvo finish meant a welcome early start on the Esky and a chance to chinwag and check out cars up close. The local Marine Rescue crew put on a great feed and we partied late with a couple of live bands. So not just a great day out but a great night as well.

Even if it only ever happened once, Rattle Trap is already an iconic event. Sheesh, just look at the pictures! Any hot rodder who wasn’t there wishes they were. Andrew and his team are keen to go again next year, but caution they still have to jump through all those same hoops. It’ll happen, sure as eggs; Drag-Ens has form. See you there. s