MANY blokes have the gift of the gab but few make their living from it. Other blokes enjoy perving on cool cars and even fewer make a quid from that. But not our old mate Pinky, aka Gordon Fellows, 56, who combines an enduring passion for most things mechanical with pure old fashioned flair to cement his place as Australia’s leading car show announcer.
This article was first published in the September 2002 issue of Street Machine
You used to race motorbikes, mate.
“Yeah, in 1974 I was a member of the Australian short track team that raced against England at the old Nepean track. I was sponsored by Jack Adams Motorcycles at Liverpool (south-western Sydney) and used to race ultra-lightweight (125cc) and lightweight (250cc) bikes on the dirt.
“But eventually I found myself backing off five feet, six feet before the corners, which is where you win and lose races. So I gave it away and I’ve been on a motorcycle maybe twice since [laughs].”
Do you have a trade?
“No. I suppose all my life has culminated towards what I’m doing now. I started out as a demonstrator with Nock & Kirbys, doing Joe the Gadget Man’s job selling non-stick frypans and vegetable peelers. They were brand new at the time [laughs], which is showing my age.”
Where did you get the name Pinky?
“I created Mr Gasbo, a character who filled up balloons, on The Super Flying Fun Show on Channel Nine from 1975 to 1980. That show was sold so I came up with another character, an eight-foot-tall pink elephant, for a magic show – I still do magic tricks, rope tricks – and then Pinky the Magic Clown.”
Like Crusty on The Simpsons!
“[Laughs] I’ll have you know I used to open for Johnny O’Keefe.”
Read next: Summernats announcer Kerry Digney
“I also did the club circuit as a compere/comedian. I got a hot pink outfit made up, big poofy sleeves, big cuffs. In 1982 I tried to go back to being ‘Gordon Fellows’ but it was too late.”
How did you get into the car announcing thing?
“My wife left me in 1995 and I sort of hit rock bottom for a while. Then one day I picked up a flyer for the 1997 Easter Street Rod Nationals at Hawkesbury, rang the number and spoke to an organiser, who turned out to Gary Hudson whom I’d known (with his wife Lyn) for about 15 years. So I said, mate, any chance of an announcer’s job, I don’t care if it’s just saying, ladies toilets to the left, men’s to the right…
“He knew I was doing it hard. He said, you’re in luck. Milton Adey, who’s one of the announcers at the Summernats, had just had a heart attack the week before. So Gary said, what do you know about hot rods? I said, you know, they’re nice...he gave me a week’s crash course on what was a coupe and what was a roadster and I did it.
“Anyway, Chic Henry was there and asked me to give him a ring. I did Chic’s Sydney show the following September and met guys like Bruce and Ray Morrison from Meguiars and Bob Roman from AutoTek who got behind me with some clothing and product. I then did my first Summernats in January '98.
"That's when the doors really started to open. I did the Victorian Hot Rod titles afte that and it went from there."
And they asked you back!
"Apart from shows that have folded, or shows where they were slow to rebook me and I had already accepted another job, I have a 100 per cent rebooking rate."
You can't complain about that.
"You've got to keep in mind that I had been a regular, a paying customer, at many car shows for a lot of years and I was very disappointed with the quality of announcing."
What about the quality of judging at shows? Do you think you'll do any more burnout judging?
"We caused some flack last time I judged [laughs]. No, I don't like judging..."
I'd hate to do it.
"Horsepower Heroes? I love doing that. There's a number and a clear winner. But burnouts, show 'n' shines, you know you'll disappoint somebody. And the dollars that are up for grabs..."
What are the secrets to being a successful announcer?
"Don't be up yourself. Learn your product: not every last detail but the unusual features that the public will be attracted to. Look after sponsors. They are critical to the overall success of any car show, especially with all the public liability problems these days.
"Be yourself. Treat people as people. Clear enunciation is essential, of course, and if you are excited by something, be excited! Be informative, without being a know-it-all."
And have a love of cars!
"Oh, year. My dad was a magistrate, you know..."
"Yeah. His bedroom was right next door to the garage. I'd open the garage door, push the car out, an FJ Holden it was, roll it down the street, start it up and burn around everywhere. I'd then push it back in the garage. He never ever said a word, I don't think he caught on."
Is it harder for kids to have fun these days?
"Yes. Back then we had Brickies, the Big Chief at Granville, Bass Hill Drive-in, the Big Dipper. Remember all that oil that used to accidentally get spilled on Parramatta Road [laughs]?"
Hardly anyone got killed.
"We were lucky. I put a '57 into a telegraph pole once. The wildest, craziest most dangerous car I had was a Triumph Mayflower with a 253 Holden motor. There was no such thing as engineer's reports or anything, you just went ahead and did it!"
Are the cops too tough on kids these days?
"I totally disagree with the Summernats (Marulan weigh station) thing, where young people did the right thing and put their cars on trailers but still got harassed by the police. And at Shepparton, at the Springnats, all the cars pulled over there...the one common factor I noticed is that they were all young. My car stands out a bit and I've never been harassed."
Tell us about your car.
"It's an XD wagon with an XF body. It has a 351 and does around 80,000 kilometres per year towing our caravan, which doubles as an outside broadcast unit, to various shows. Charlie from CWS Smash did a pink flame job on the car to my design..."
It's the Year of the Flame, I reckon.
"Yeah, and I'm such a quiet introverted sort of person."