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By Peter Bateman, 13 Feb 2017 Events


Mud, mayhem and marvellous machinery at the third annual Uralla Dust Up

The third annual Uralla Dust Up proved to be filthy fun for the whole family.

This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of Street Machine.

Uralla is on the New England Highway, halfway between Sydney and the Queensland border, a handy spot for travellers needing a stop on the long drive. More importantly, though, it is Hot Rod Central in August, as many rod clubs converge on the town for the annual Dust Up.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-1The Uralla Dust Up began in 2014, the brainwave of then-president of the New England Rods & Customs club, John Baker. JB wanted an event everyone in the club would love and that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to attend or strain club funds to organise.

This year’s Uralla Dust Up (for those looking to save energy on pronunciation, the locals call it ’Ralla) was a laidback affair, with few queues to hinder the action; rarely did you have to wait very long for your turn at spinning around the showground dirt. Speaking of which, the organisers have been told they do less damage to the grounds than the rodeo bull-riders. There is no harm in smoothing that fertile New England dirt, is there?

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-2The diehards camped on-site at the Uralla Showground, right beside the action, but Uralla also provided for those who like their creature comforts, with plenty of motels and hotels available for good tucker and warm beds. On site, the Showground Trust supplied food and refreshments.

Coming from the big smoke to the country is an eye-opener. The bushies are so practical. Up here Suburban Assault Vehicles are actually needed – not like the city slickers who think 4WD is a setting designed to jump the kerb while taking the ankle-biters to preschool.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-3You get the feeling the folks out here can do anything with bits of old discarded machinery. The king of these bush designers in New England has to be Inverell master builder and truck driver, Snapper. Street machiners will remember Snapper’s FX-grilled FJ ute Cranky Frank, which featured in Mad Max: Fury Road. For this year’s Dust Up, Snapper and his stepson Spud arrived with an awesome sloper and a unique motorbike that takes its name from the Moffat-Virtue single-cylinder stationary engine used to make it move.

The sloper is the result of what this mechanical whiz calls “a Snapper moment”. The unidentified original vehicle came from the neighbour’s creek bed. It was dragged home and Snapper originally thought of cutting the doors off and making another ute. “I was going to put a V8 truck engine in there, but, well, I got a little excited,” he explained.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-4He ain’t kidding! The engine is a 350 Chev with two mismatched (“for better balance”) old truck turbos. The bonnet and grille are Vauxhall, while the tyres have a modern touch with their very trendy white Dulux high-gloss painted sidewalls. The interior trim may not be to modern tastes, but the seat cover does have some merit. Snapper considered using a real Shaun the Sheep for his makeshift upholstery, but in a moment of responsible recycling and conservation used an old rug he found at the tip. Fortuitous for Shaun! The car even has a ‘seatbelt’, which may not exactly meet ADRs but does keep Snapper within the cabin when he is on full noise, relocating the dirt.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-5A bunch of old postie bikes provided regular enjoyment on the dirt. Led by the Postie King, Clarky, from down Newcastle way, the riders had a ball. Even the nippers took to the dirt and mud with gusto. Clarky has mastered the Honda CT110 postie bike’s lack of power and almost achieved speedway solo standards. It was a real sight watching a postie bike sliding, in full oversteer, with mud everywhere and the manic Clarky urging it for more speed.

During a quiet period there was a contest between Clarky on the Honda and Greg Love in his Model A barn-find. It was sublime. How could it be that a bog-standard Model A dragged from a shed, with a bullet hole through the windscreen and original tyres, could drift sideways in the mud, while a postie bike slid around it in a frantic overtaking manoeuvre? Mud splashing everywhere, and all this happening at a speed slightly faster than a trot. Now, that’s a giggle.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-6But serious mud-churning required serious mud cars. John Baker had his LS-powered International, Al Fountain brought his Model A with the 493-cube Mopar from his old bellytank. Ben Wells’s 350 small block-engined FJ had a great day, until he boiled the kettle. Fortunately there was no damage and it drove home.

Events like ’Ralla are what make club outings a dream; meeting others with the same interests makes for a better world. The love of interesting machinery extended to all, from Yatesy’s 100 per cent original FJ ute and the mildly hotted-up cars Paul Cundy arrived with, through to the varied Death Dodgers fleet and Snapper’s works of agricultural genius.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-7All that fresh country air must have a healthy effect on these clever bush designers, who create rides that are as cool as they are practical. These beasties don’t sit in the garage, all polished and spruced; they’re created for a bit of bush-bash fun. Mud and dirt? Mate, it washes right off. 

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -1Clubs that joined hosts New England Rods & Customs at the 2016 Dust Up included the Death Dodgers’ Newcastle, Western Sydney and New England branches; the Tamworth Outlaws; Tamworth Road Runners; and the El Diablos

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -2Clues to the identity of the donor old-timer used to make Snapper’s sloper have been well disguised by his talented eye and deft oxy work. Possibly it was a ’37 Vauxhall 25 saloon that he dragged from the neighbour’s creek bed, but it also looks like a ’37 Buick Special – both the Buick and Vauxhall had suicide rear doors. Regardless of its provenance, this has to be one of Snapper’s greatest creations and should be seen by car nuts everywhere. The seatbelt may not be quite to ADR 4/05, but it keeps Snapper near to the tiller when pressing the loud pedal. Donk is a 350 Chev with two truck turbos of unknown parentage

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -3The king of the posties, Clarky had his Honda CT110 screaming like he was riding a speedway solo. The Honda was judged Top Bike at the Dust Up this year

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -4Some of the El Diablos’ cool rides: Ben Love’s 1960 Chev Apache, Chuck Fakes’s impressive Astro Flame and Clarissa Jones’s ’32 roadster

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -5The great-sounding Moffat-Virtue stationary engine in Snapper’s bike was made in Rosebery, Sydney in the 40s. It’s called a V3 21/4hp, and is a throwback to the early 20th century when engines like this were a common sight in the country. The forks’ axles are from a Model T, spokes are old Chevy conrods, the turbo’s from a Holden six, and the chain is from a hay-baler

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -6The Death Dodgers club rules are that mud cars can’t be bought with money; they have to be 100 per cent found

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -7The Death Dodgers’ FB has a 253 ex-race motor. It honks!

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -8This Vauxhall Velox ute runs a 308 over an L300 front end, with a Ford diff for reliability. It screamed, it slid, it spun the rears, but it did not stop

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -9This FJ runs a small-block 350, which became a little hot after boiling the kettle. No damage done; a bucket of water got it revving after the vapour cleared

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -10Stephen Dawson’s ’38 Ford pick-up was another small-block Chev-powered mud-basher

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -11John Baker from Inverell was the first New England Rods & Customs president, and builds some impressive machines (SM, Apr ’15). He has this little outfit for getting around the country – an LS-engined flat-top tilt-tray Chev that he built in his shed. On its back is John’s LS-powered ’38 International, while the camper used to be an EK wagon tail

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -12Another El Diablo, Trent Rubb from Toowoomba in his 400ci ’41 Chev 

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -13David Townsend’s big-block ’33 roadster

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -14Al Fountain knows how to build exciting cars, and his Model A roadster is no exception. When Al sold his bellytank (SM Hot Rod 2009) he kept the 493ci big-block Mopar and put it into the roadster. It runs methanol up front, a Ford Bullnose Top Loader in the middle and 9in diff out back, and pops out 700 neddies at the back wheels. Al’s thinking of becoming a dirt relocation specialist!

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -15The kiddies have to learn some time, and the earlier the better!

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-caption -16Young Riley from Walcha liked Ross Fullerlove’s 1955 Bel Air so much he wanted his dad to take it home