Gallery: First-ever Dubbo MotorFest goes off!

Almost 10,000 people enjoyed a big car-based weekend in the NSW city

Photographers: Nathan Ross

The inaugural Dubbo MotorFest cemented itself as a must-see show from the get-go, with over 1000 cars and bikes from the regional NSW city and beyond turning out for a day in the sun.

Organisers Matt Rendell, Nick Pahlow and Max Robertson started planning MotorFest in mid-2022 alongside an all-volunteer crew. “It blew our minds,” Matt says of the turnout. “I think we broke a few state records; we definitely broke the Dubbo record!”

Matt says the idea for a larger show stemmed from the success of the Dubbo Motorcyclist And Drivers (aka MAD) Club’s cars-and-coffee meets. “We have around 150 cars at our MAD Club’s annual event, and each month with our Dubbo Classic Cars & Coffee we have 150 to 200 cars and bikes, and around 1700 people come every month, making it Dubbo’s biggest monthly event. Being such a well-positioned city, we really felt we needed to ramp it up and produce a state-level quality show.”

Over 6000 visitors came through the Dubbo Showground gates on the first Saturday of September. Alongside the huge line-up of cars and bikes, attractions included motorbike stunt shows, a retro BMX display, trade stands, a swap meet area, live music, helicopter rides and more.

Both the number and standard of cars in attendance was seriously impressive, especially for a brand-new show, and spoke to the Dubbo residents’ enthusiasm for quality rides.

An invite-only concours show hosted 55 hand-picked rides, including SM cover heroes like Charlie Harley’s incredible ’57 Chevy (SM, Apr ’20), which took home the Grand Champion award. 

Bill Sharkey – who’s a bit of a local street machining legend – got in touch with Charlie Harley, and he committed about six months ago,” Matt explains. “Charlie really was the tipping point, and then we got lots more concours cars – Meguiar’s [MotorEx] and Summernats-winning cars. We got about 15 more top-end show cars, and that really strengthened the event. 

“With 12 judges floating between the concours, show ’n’ shine and the motorbike arena, the feedback was that there were at least another 30 concours-level cars out on the oval in the show ’n’ shine space!”

Matt and the crew also made a point of supporting Dubbo’s local industry, reserving half of the concours area for locally based or built cars and bikes. “The trade expo was intentionally focused on showcasing 12 of the car- and bike-building businesses that are based right here in Dubbo and the local region,” Matt says.

Counting the MAD Club’s usual Sunday cars-and-coffee meet, around 9500 people soaked up the weekend. Matt and his team announced MotorFest a year out from its debut and promoted the show heavily on social media, and the response so far has been good. “Pretty much every comment has been really positive, particularly for being a first-time event,” Matt says. “It’s been really encouraging!

“We’ve booked the same Dubbo Showground site for 2024, so we’re definitely back for another year,” he continues. “We’re very confident it will become one of the west’s most significant annual events.

“There’s been north of $25,000 raised for charities, so that was a strong motivation, and I really think we smashed it. We’re going to do a big debrief in two weeks’ time, then it’s back into planning. We’re pretty keen!”

Pete Muhm ran 11s in this 440-powered ’65 Dodge Coronet at Hot Rod Drag Week 2008, when the whole drag-and-drive genre was still in its infancy. He bought the car in the States and liked it so much that it followed him home to Dubbo!

Charlie Harley’s showstopping ’57 pro tourer (SM, Apr ’20) packs big-block grunt, corner-happy underpinnings and a raft of Summernats trophies. Charlie came all the way from Brissy for the first MotorFest.

We spotted Dubbo local Chris Blyton’s slammed HK back at Summernats 28, and it’s not lost an ounce of attitude. There’s an LS and full-custom chassis under the ratty bodywork, plus a diff and steering pilfered from a VR Commodore. 

Body mods abound on Dave Keen’s chopped, two-door-converted FJ (SM, Nov ’13), paired to a heavily polished twin-carb LS1 up front. Rod Hadfield told Dave it was the best-looking FJ he’d ever seen upon its MotorEx 2012 debut. High praise indeed!

Greg and Jo Carlton’s flamed humpies must be one of the coolest one-pairings around! The chopped, street-driven panel van was built around a decade ago and runs a blown Commodore V6, while the off-chops ute (SM, Feb ’02) is a dedicated drag racer with Chev power.     

Jason Kennedy’s ’50 Ford single-spinner wears a full candy and flame job from Smith’s Concepts, which earned it Top Special Effects Paint back at Summernats 23. 

There’s still time to suss out John Zelukovic’s two Studebaker Hawks in the September issue of SM!