Cottonvale Digout 2021

Pete's Hot Rod & Resto shop's sixth Cottonvale Digout offered a weekend of dirt drags, cruising and frivolity with mates old and new

Photographers: Matt Williams

THERE’S a lot to be said for making your own fun. Pete Neale of Pete’s Hot Rod & Resto Shop knows a thing or two about that. He and his team – wife Katrina and stepsons and business partners Shaun (Young Guns, SM, Aug ’15) and Luke Matthews – have been engaging with their local community of Cottonvale, on the Queensland/NSW border, both through their business and the grassroots car events they put on.

First published in the November 2021 issue of Street Machine

Over the past 14 years, the crew have organised the annual Moonshine Run in February, and off the back of that grew the more boutique Cottonvale Digout, offering dirt drags, cruising and camaraderie. “The Digout started six years ago as a thanks to those who help out on the Moonshine Run,” Pete explains.

The team have been dodging some coronavirus-shaped bullets of late, with each of their slated events going off without a hitch this year. “We’ve worked around COVID, as the dates just fell right,” Pete says. “Plus, in Queensland there’s not been as heavy restrictions, though this year the NSW people couldn’t make it.”

Both the Digout and the Moonshine Run are held on the family property, out the back of the rod shop. There’s a fully functioning dirt drag strip running about an eighth-mile, and beside that is a nice grassy oval to roll out your swag, tent or whatever accommodation you wish to drag along. Grub is covered too, with the family putting on burgers, roasts and bacon-and-egg brekkies as part of the $75 entry fee.

This year’s event brought out plenty of sweet rides and dirt-track shenanigans galore, but for Pete, the Digout is about so much more. “Eighty per cent is about the people and 20 per cent is the cars,” he says. “It was really good this year, with a good crowd. A lot didn’t know each other, but by Saturday night everyone was chatting – it was magic.”

Out on the track, it’s a ‘run what you brung’ kinda deal. “People may not have a classic car or hot rod – or maybe they do but it’s off the road – so they can take their Commodore, Falcon or whatever,” Pete says.

To partake in the drags, entrants require a driver’s licence, a RACERS licence (which you can buy at the event for 30 bucks) and long sleeves. “There’s not a lot of speed involved because there’s no traction – you’d get to 50km/h, if that!” Pete says.

Everyone is encouraged to get amongst it and have some fun with as many passengers as their ride’s pews will embrace. “If we see someone just standing there, we offer them a ride in a car,” Pete says. “We like to promote the car culture and have a good time.”

To keep things tidy, the drags run from 9am until midday Saturday. Then there’s a 40-kay cruise to grab a pub lunch before heading back for an arvo of bench racing and liquid refreshments. “There’s no politics, no prizes – everyone has fun and a yak,” Pete says. “It’s a family-friendly atmosphere we’ve created.”

Pete and team have developed a great formula with the Digout thanks to their can-do attitude. It’s heartening to see grassroots events like this encouraging more folk to get involved in our scene.


PETE’S Hot Rod & Resto Shop was established in 1986, and has been at its current location in Cottonvale for around 18 years.

Pete moved from NZ to Brissy in the early 80s and promptly enrolled in panel courses to complement his mechanical trade. Shaun and Luke now hold the same tickets as their stepdad, with the formidable team offering a range of services from in-house fibreglass hot rod bodies through to steel panel fabrication, chassiswork and general panelwork, along with engine building, manual gearboxes and diff shortening.

Between work and running events, time is made to welcome countless visitors to the shop. “This was a 2019 Street Machine Drag Challenge Weekend checkpoint,” Pete says. “We get car clubs and all sorts of people come through for a tour and to take pictures – you have to welcome people.”

Check ’em out on the Pete’s Hot Rod & Resto Shop Facebook page.


Shaun Matthews has been a busy lad since he was our Young Gun in the August 2015 mag. He’s now vice-president of Stanthorpe’s Carnell Raceway, where he regularly races, and his ’74 HQ Tonner has copped an upgrade, with the stocker 308ci, Supra ’box and 10-bolt combo swapped out for a stout 355-cuber with all the fruit, backed by a TKO600 and built 9in

“It’s a fibreglass 1928 Model A roadster body, built in the shop,” said Pete of the shop’s striking rooftop art. “We used some functional and non-functional parts – a flathead Ford engine with alloy heads, three-speed gearbox and a Halibrand quick-change rear end”

Pete gets down the track in his beautiful ’55 Ford Fairlane. Under the hood is a purring twin-carbed Y-block with a mild cam. “Other than that, it’s pretty stock-standard,” he said of the Ford, which he imported off an American mate a good decade ago

The Digout is a close-knit family affair, with Pete’s wife, stepsons and their partners running things. From left to right: Brianna, Shaun, Pete, Katrina, Luke and Hollie

Jordan Copley’s HZ ute looks old-school but is hiding a few modern upgrades, including a turbo LS donk. The mill is backed by a Powerglide and 9in and is good for 630hp at the rears

Janet and Ian Rigg are locals and good mates of the Neale/Matthews tribe. The couple had fun in the dirt thanks to their genuine LJ GTR XU-1 Torry, which runs a triple SU-carbied 186ci and four-speed. Ian is president of Carnell Raceway, while Janet is secretary

Phill ‘Kustom’ Burchell’s chopped 1952 Chevy coupe-utility was an eye-catcher in aircraft livery. The well-modified, Aussie-delivered ute packs a stout 383ci Chevy donk, TH350 and 9in. This was Phill’s first Digout, but it won’t be his last: “I had a blast!” he enthused. “We’ll definitely be back next year!”

“It runs a 170ci Pursuit motor, ’59 Ford Econoline three-speed gearbox and an old Borgy in the back,” said Brian Handke of his HAMBster drag car, built for the pre-1962 Nostalgia class. “All up, it owes me about $7000. It’s good for mid-13sec, though I’ve still gotta work out how to drive it!”

Phil K’s lockdown creation is this Holden V6-powered Ford Courier ute. “I tried to make it a cross between a Mad Max and a Back to the Future-style car,” Phil said. “I wasn’t following any rules of conventional hot rod building; I wanted to do something different”