The annual Bright’s Iconic Rod Run transforms a Victorian alpine town into a thing of even greater beauty

Photographers: Steve Titcumb, Luke Hunter

For 27 years, the picturesque holiday town of Bright, in the Ovens Valley of northeast Victoria, has surrendered one weekend in November to the revheads.

 Decades on from its inception, Bright’s Iconic Rod Run still has plenty of mojo, with the town welcoming a lot of newcomers and plenty of regulars to this year’s festivities. The roads gleam with custom streeters and chrome bumpers, alongside the traditional hot rods and rat rods, and an abundance of classic Aussie and American muscle cars.

 The traditional centre point of the event is the town’s clock tower, but Bright has had some major streetscape remodelling recently, so the prized parking positions around the tower are even more sought after than usual. The changes don’t affect the cruising though, and the event organisers place hay bales around town to act as prime gawking spots for spectators.

 Come Sunday, the town oval’s packed for the show and shine. As always, when it comes to this part of the Rod Run, the emphasis is on automotive glamour .

 1954 Chevrolet Corvette, Best in Show

This immaculate Corvette is owned by Gayle Whiston from Melton, Victoria. It was a birthday present from her husband Peter, who says, “The car had been owned by the same family in America, from new up until 2003. They had restored it back to original then we imported it. The only non-standard things now are the paint colour and the wheels”. The change of colour came about after Peter was rear-ended in traffic while driving in Melbourne. “I was lucky not to get hit by the boot lid when it got pushed forward,” he says.

 “The back of the car was a mess so we had Graham Bodyworks in Greensborough [Victoria] do the restoration and while it was there we decided to go for something a bit different. Once it was done we changed the wheels as well. People think it’s been hot-rodded because of the triple carbs and all the chrome under the bonnet, but other than the paint and wheels the car is all standard. The motor is the original Blue Flame six cylinder with the two-speed auto. It’s purely a cruiser and we like to get it out to shows.”

 1955 Chevy Nomad

This 350 Chev-powered Nomad has been in Phil Riseley’s hands in Narre Warren for around eight years now and is a regular at Victorian hot-rodding events, including Bright. “It’s a nice cruiser,” Riseley says. “We drive it anywhere and everywhere.”

 1941 Plymouth Deluxe Business Coupe

Once white-walled and sitting in the weeds, this low-riding Plymouth was bought by Don Lomax from Melbourne’s Ferntree Gully just six weeks before the Bright Rod Run.

 “I got it from my best mate Arnie,” Lomax says. “It was painted about 20 years ago and has been in the country for around a decade. It runs a small-block Chev with a TH700 trans, and Chev 10-bolt rear end. The front end is Mustang II with airbag suspension all-round.”

 1957 Chevrolet Belair Coupe

Joanne and Craig Woodhouse, from Caroline Springs in Victoria, are regulars at the Bright Rod Run. The ’57 was Joanne’s 40th birthday pressie and still runs a stock 283 with a four-barrel manifold – but not for much longer, as Craig explains.

 “It will be a stroker motor next year,” he says. “We’ve been to Bright every year for the last 10 years and each year we do a bit more to the car. One year we had it resprayed, another year we did the trim… just slowly doing things in stages.”

 1973 Torana GTR -XU1

Greg Fisher from Beaconsfield, Victoria, owns this tastefully modified XU1. Having just finished the LJ, it was also Fisher’s first visit to the Rod Run, and he had a blast. “I’ve had a great time getting the car out, driving it around and showing it off all weekend. It’s not one for the concourse purists though,” he laughs.

 “I’ve owned the Torana for 10 years now and built the car to suit myself. It’s not all original and wasn’t complete when I got it, so I built it how I wanted to. It took me five years to rebuild. The motor is a worked 192 with 1¾-inch SU carbies and a Saginaw four-speed behind it. The rear end is a nine-inch with 3.55 gears. It’s also got HQ brakes all around.” The paintwork is finished in Spearmint Mica (a Mazda 3 colour) and is neatly offset with a custom-trimmed white interior.

 HQ Panel Van

Danny Sharban from Narre Warren recently finished a 12-month build on his windowless HQ panel van and put it to good use over the weekend, doing the traditional “vanner” thing: sleeping in the back of the van at the Rod Run. Painted in vibrant Barbados Green, the van stands out in a crowd.

 “I built it purely as a cruiser,” says Sharban. “I drive it everywhere.” Even so, it packs a mean punch. Under the reverse-cowled bonnet is a stout 434ci small-block Chev. Based on a dart block and running AFR heads, the combo punches out a healthy 650hp on the dyno before going into the van’s smoothed engine bay. It’s backed by a full manual Powerglide and a nine-inch rear.

 1949 Ford Mercury

Trent Driscoll brought his Ford Mercury to Bright for the first time this year, and flamed and chopped it sure is one sweet-looking custom. The Merc’ is running a mild small-block Chev and a TH700 transmission. Trent puts them to good use, racking up plenty of clicks cruising the streets of Bright all weekend. “There was a great variety at Bright this year, I’ll be back for sure,” he tells us.

1946 Chevrolet Ute

 The inline six -cylinder is long gone and an LS1 is nestled in its place. What was once a rusty old farm ute has now, with some subtle re-styling, been turned into a smooth-looking custom cruiser.

Show N Shine Results
Best Rod – Chris Thomas – Ford Model B Coupe
Best Custom – Luke Walsh – Chev Belair 1956 2 door.
Best Vintage – Malcom Pethybridge – Dodge DA 1929 Tourer
Best Classic – Phillip Riseley – Holden HG Premier
Best Muscle – Mark Butcher – Chevrolet Impala 1965 Hardtop
Best Rat Rod – David Anderson – Bedford Coupe Ute
Best Club Display – Southern Hot Rod Club
Policeman’s Choice – Peter Aitchison – Ford Deluxe 1936 roaster
Presidents Choice – Sam Gent – Ford Victoria & Van
People’s Choice – Chris MacLagan – Dodge Challenger 1970 Coupe
Best in Show – Gayle Whiston Chevrolet Corvette 1954 Convertible