FOR once, the weather gods smiled on Melbourne and turned on a perfect weekend for this year’s Meguiar’s MotorEx. With close to 300 vehicles on display in the pavilions, the clear skies and sunny outlook dragged another 400 or so out of hiding to line the boulevard and main arena as part of the Rare Spares Real Street display. Officially there were 708 entrants; that’s a hell of a lot of cool things to look at, and only two days to do it!
When it was announced that Out There Productions – the owners of Summernats – were taking over MotorEx, people wondered out loud on social media: would it turn into a burnout show? Well, no, not exactly, although there were a few tyres killed during the drift displays, and there were plenty of high-revving engines punching out big numbers on the VCM Performance hub dyno.
Read next: MotorEx 2017 - the winners
There were burnout cars in attendance, but they were on their best behaviour as they idled their way up to the Real Street stage, a drive-on affair where they could stop and have a chat with host Gary Reid of ShowTime FMX. When he wasn’t playing MC, Gary was providing commentary for his own show, standing on the landing ramp as team riders flew over him – usually upside down – as they effortlessly completed backflips on their motocross machines.
Music was also a big part of the event, with DJs and live rockabilly music on offer as you wandered between the various pavilions. If celebrity spotting was your thing, then MotorEx had plenty on offer, the biggest drawcard being Chip Foose. He was a guest of 3M and had a constant queue of people lining up for autographs and photos at the 3M trade stand. It wasn’t all handshakes and selfies for Chip, though, he also got a ride in Beau Yates’s drift car, picked his Top 5 cars from Real Street – more handshakes and selfies – and, in a rather hilarious moment, he was thrown into a “draw off” with local footballing legend Barry Hall. As it turned out, Chip had little to worry about, as it seems Barry hasn’t got any better at drawing cars since he left primary school.
The highlight for many, but especially for Grahame Barker, was when Chip did a colour drawing of SPCLFX, the FX ute that was crowned Grand Master amongst a high-quality field. Watching Chip work was mesmerising. With a crowd around him and cameras following every stroke of the pen, it only took 15 minutes or so to create the artwork.
Watch the video: SPCLFX custom FX ute revealed at MotorEx '16
With the displays spread over four pavilions, the event had a similar feel to the Grand National Roadster Show in the US, where each building is themed. The Exhibition Pavilion housed the Muscle Car Marvel, Street Elite Showcase and the House of Kolor Inauguration, so it was a good mix of show cars, custom motorbikes and tough streeters. Outside and over to the right was the Expo Hall, where you could check out the Street Machine Hall of Fame, a collection of former cover cars and SMOTY winners, as well as cars owned by local celebs such as Andrew Daddo, John Hall, Sam Newman and several other AFL players.
Read next: Our ten favourite rides from MotorEx 2017
In the Boulevard Pavilion was the Meguiar’s Superstars; 24 elite show cars vying for top honours after qualifying at various car shows around the country. The quality was world class and the variety was abundant, with everything from traditional and ultra-modern hot rods to ground-pounding muscle cars, pro tourers, retro-tech street machines, and even a chopped XP Falcon.
Power heads could be found salivating in the Herrod Performance Garage, where most of the heavy hitters were on show, as well as the businesses that supply all the go-fast gear. There were more turbos and blowers in this pavilion than you could shake a bump-stick at, but the highlights would have to be Shannon Heraud’s Mexico Escort sporting a blown 253 and lime green paint, and Nathan Borg’s VL LE Calais, an understated machine that should be capable of seven-second timeslips.
Another new and exciting addition to this year’s show was the SEMA display, which hosted a group of US trade exhibitors. It’s the first time they have ever exhibited at a non-trade event, and, apart from being blown away by the size and scope of the show, they got a first-hand look at the Aussie market and how they can build relationships with Aussie businesses. For me, one of the most exciting displays, and a potential game-changer in the modified car scene in Australia, was Tony Morphett’s FJ ute. While it wasn’t the first time we’d seen the twin-turbo BMW V12-powered machine, what was new was how he was going about designing the interior. In a display adjacent to the car were Peter Watson, an automotive clay sculptor and designer, and Kevin Warwick from Scan X-Press, specialists in 3D scanning and rapid prototyping.
MotorEx was a visual and aural experience this year, and the influence of Andy Lopez and his team from Out There Productions was quite obvious. It was more like a festival than a static car show, with live audio-visual beamed to the big screens so you could see and hear what was going on in other parts of the show.
A new experience for me was being handed the microphone to take part in the unveils as well as conduct a few panel-style interviews on the Shannon’s stage with some dead-set legends. A few of them, like Gary Myers, Peter Fitzpatrick and Nathan Booth, have become firm friends over my many years of attending Summernats and other events. It was also a buzz to chat to car-mad AFL players Barry Hall, Jason ‘Trigger’ Traianidis and Anthony Rocca. But the highlight would have to be sharing the stage with racing legend Allan Moffat, approaching 80 yet still sharp as a tack.
With lots of new ideas introduced this year in Melbourne, the show was a resounding success, with almost 30,000 people coming through the gates. The plan is for the show to head back to Sydney again next year, but Andy still needs to meet with venue personnel to ensure they can bring the same dynamic action to Sydney. If they knock back too many of the live elements, we may well see MotorEx in Melbourne again next year. Let’s hope that’s not the case, but either way, you can bet we’ll be there to check it out.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM MOTOREX 2018:
Steve Bezzina’s XW has just copped a re-power in the form of a Proline Engines 481X, plus some major suspension and chassis upgrades. And yep, it is still running on leaf springs and 275 radials! From left, we have Frank Marchese, hassis man Joe Gauchi, FuelTech’s Nathaniel Arden, and Steve.
‘Big Bad’ Barry Hall brought along his family and five cars to put on display in the SM Hall of Fame. He was a car nut well before he became an AFL star and has some serious metal in the shed, including ‘BRUTE’, his 632ci WB ute that has run 8.0@170mph and will soon dip into the sevens.
Watch the video: Barry Hall talks about his passion for cars
Nathan Lambert brought along his brother Joel’s Monaro for the Hall of Fame. The boys are now working on a sedan so they can go racing. “It will be pretty flash, but not quite as flash as the Monaro,” said Nathan.
Leigh Haintz’s HG Monaro was a SMOTY contender in 2016 and still looks immaculate.
Read more: Leigh's blown 19670 HG Monaro
Gary Myers is the only bloke to have won SMOTY three times – and in three different cars. His latest effort was last year with AGROXA.
Brendan Cherry is a Drag Challenge regular and took on the event last year in his HK Monaro – essentially an elite show car with twin-turbo big-block power! This year, BC is swapping the engine into something smaller and lighter. Watch this space!
Read more: Brendan's twin-turbo HK Monaro
Danny Busbridge’s 2WIZZAS LJ Torana can stand tall as both a show car and stupid-fast radial racer. With a PB of 7.28@192mph and getting quicker, Sydneysiders can check it out at Grudge Kings on 14 July.
Shannon ‘Pyro’ Jennings was in the throes of giving his HQ a birthday when we put the call out for MotorEx. He made it just in time, with the car rocking a new paintjob in DNA Green Goblin, a subtle reverse-cowl and new rims.
Read more: Shannon's big-block HQ Monaro GTS
Danny Papa’s XC Fairmont is a true early-90s time capsule (originally featured in SM September ‘97) and had many Melbourne locals of a certain age overjoyed to see it in the public eye again.
Read more: Danny's survivor XC Falcon coupe
John Zeigler’s HJ ute has an even greater pedigree. John bought the car new in 1975 and turned it into one of the most radical cars of its era. It featured in Mad Max and featured in SM, July/ August 1986. Now, it has been reborn, with John’s son (also called John) entrusting Delux Kustoms to perform a resto that was highly sympathetic to the original build.
Watch the video: John Zeigler's HJ ute reborn
Peter Fitzpatrick’s Trilogy FC Holden is one of the mostawarded cars in our sport, with six Street Machine Summernats Grand Champion awards, three ’Nats People’s Choice gongs, a Top-Judged, Meguiar’s Superstars Street Machine of the Decade, and Valvoline SMOTY in 2011.
Read more: Peter's Trilogy FC Holden
Nathan Walters scored his Meguiar’s Superstars invite at the Queensland Hot Rod Show and all the hard work paid off when he earned a spot in the Super Six. The stunning cobalt blue hatch packs a 700+ horsepower, 406ci SBC to make sure there’s plenty of go with the show.
After wowing crowds at MotorEx last year, winning Top Judged Elite at Summernats, and then making the Super Six at MotorEx this year, the Barker family’s stunning FX ute was a very worthy winner of the Grand Master award. Even though it was 20 years in the build, Grahame and his son Colin managed to keep the car current and contemporary by keeping abreast of modern trends and styles. The titanium silver paint – a tweaked Lexus colour – and taupe interior will never date, and now that it’s won just about every trophy it can, they can finally get out and cruise the old girl – after all, it was only ever meant to be a neat driver. While the trophies and medals are nice, the honour of having Chip Foose draw the car will most likely be their most treasured memento of the whole experience.
David Monaghan’s ’32 Ford three-window is the latest in a long line of cool hot rods and street machines to come out of Fast Lane Speed Shop, and they have (once again) absolutely nailed it. The dirty yellow paint, blacked-out driveline and heavy chop give the coupe a menacing presence. With a 409 topped by six carbs, she’s one fine machine.
Steve Hopes brought his ’68 Camaro down from Queensland and took home silver for both Engine Bay and Impact & Display in the Superstars judging. The Camaro is plenty tough, packing a 1500hp twin-turbo NRE small-block.
Watch the video: Steve's 1500hp pro touring Camaro
The XP Falcon sedan of David Sholz was one of those double-take cars. It’s hard to tell from the angle of this photo, but the car has had a roof chop unlike any I’ve seen before. It’s also got a 351 Windsor, Rod-Tech IFS, and super-smooth bodywork covered in tangerine candy.
After picking up a swag of awards at Summernats, including People’s Choice and a Superstars invite, David Xuereb was over the moon to be picked in the Super Six.
Read more: David's TUF73C Ford Cortina
The last time I spoke to Peter Olver was at MotorEx in Sydney almost 15 years ago, when he was showing his LETHAL ’33 Ford coupe. Seems Peter has since gotten into later-model stuff, tidying up a ’55 Chev and taking ownership of Ricky Absolom’s killer LS1-powered EH, which made it into the Super Six.
Mat Egan has given his ’54 Ford Customline a bit of a freshen-up, so it was chosen as one of the unveil cars at MotorEx. Originally purchased as a plain white car – a blank canvas if you will – Mat went to town on it over the course of a couple of weekends, applying a combination of flames, panels and pinstriping to create an eyecatching custom. The Cusso is no show pony, though, having carried him over thousands of miles in the US and now doing the same on Aussie roads.
Read more: Mat's chopped '54 Customline
We first saw Tony Morphett’s super-wide FJ Holden ute in bare metal at MotorEx 2016 and it is on track to be completed in time for next year’s event. The car has been modified every which way, from its substantially pumped body to its irregular heart – it’s now powered by a BMW V12 assisted by mirrorimage NRE turbos.
Gary Coates built his phantom ’34 Ford C400 in the shed at home, including that killer paintjob and Bobby Alloway-style flames. Ford lovers rejoice, as there’s a tough 302 Windsor hiding under that Harrop TVS1900 blower with custom-made twin throttlebodies. While it sticks to a traditional build theme, it’s been modernised just a touch, with contemporary trim patterns and slightly largerdiameter Billet Specialties wheels.
Chris Pearson’s candy apple VY Clubby runs a BBC with a crankdriven Vortech blower that should make 2000rwhp. The radiator? It’s under the boot floor. The ’cooler is mounted between the rear seats with the plumbing hidden beneath the console
Watch the video: Chris's 2000hp VY Clubby at MotorEx
Among the unveils was the ’38 Fordson van from Johnny Z’s. Dubbed Speedbox due to its boxed shape, the speed part comes from the 8/71-blown 383ci Chev. There’s a tubular IFS up front, four-link out back and a Turbo 700 in the middle. With over 200 body mods, the boys also brought a stocker along for comparison.
The 427ci BBC in David Jones’s ’68 Camaro was featured in our July Mill of the Month, but we reckon the car itself is a masterclass in building a neat and functional pro tourer, and the judges agreed, awarding it a bunch of Street Elite trophies.
Mat Salvador’s jaw-dropping XM Falcon picked up a bronze medal for Best Engineered on debut in Street Elite – and then drove home!
Mark Harris won the coveted 2018 Laurie Starling Award with his blown 502ci Chev-powered 1940 Chev pick-up.
Barry Hall and Chip Foose had a “draw off”, although it’s pretty obvious they’ve swapped drawings in this shot. The real winner was Emanuel Axiaq, who scored two signed pictures of his VF Valiant coupe from Chip.
Street Machine Summernats 28 Grand Champ Nathan Borg has a new ride – a HDT LE powered by a monster twin-turbo LS from MPW Performance.
Watch the video: Nathan's HDT LE at MotorEx
One of the great new features at this year’s show was the 200hp Mainline hub dyno, presented by VCM and operated by the MPW team., The Hot Wheels Mustang pictured made 800rwhp or so, while the top figure for the weekend was recorded by Craig Munro’s GOHARD to the tune of 1416rwph.
Watch the video: MPW workshop tour
Damien ‘Chubby’ Lowe’s beloved VB Commodore blew its cover at MotorEx after an eight-year hiatus from the show scene. The front end is a brand-new Lowe Fabrications product – a double tubular A-arm arrangement with big brakes and an internal sway-bar, and the rear end is just as special – an ultra-trick Kugel Komponents IRS system with inboard brakes and coil-over shocks. And yep, Chubby is sticking with plastic power.
Read more: Chubby's VB Commodore in the build
Getting Chip and Barry Hall to bring their favourite Street Elite cars up on stage was a highlight of the show – that’s Chip with Dean Capuano, his young fella Lucas, and their TUFFOX XW.
Wanna buy a Street Machine cover car? The Rod Shop happens to have two for sale! Their LC Torana and XP Falcon are both blown and injected, tyre-shredding monsters, so give them a call and get skidding!
Check out Shannon Heraud’s rad little Mk1 Escort – Shannon has dared to be different and pulled it off with aplomb. We’re quite sure it’s the only blown and injected 253-powered Mk1 Esky in existence.
Watch the video: Shannon's blown 253-powered Escort at MotorEx
How fortunate we were to have the opportunity to eyeball Ron Barclay’s HQ ute after all these years. One of the most pivotal Aussie street machines of all time, the Quey has passed through several sets of hands over the years and is somewhat battle-scarred as a result, but otherwise it hasn’t changed a bit and we’re so pleased that it’s back in the custody of its rightful owner.