A cruise that's less of an event and more a bunch of mates getting together

Photographers: Troy Barker

Two thousand cars, 80 text messages and one man called Jaf. Australia’s least-organised cruise is on!

THE day after Christmas in the centre of a suburban Adelaide car park, Andrew ‘Jaf’ Staples holds court amongst the sweet aroma of avgas. He’s here for Jaf’s Last Cruise (of the Year), and as he leans against the green metalflake flame job adorning his white Hudson sedan, he waxes philosophical about the cruise that bears his name. “It’s less of an event and more a bunch of mates getting together,” he says. “Well, thousands of mates getting together! We do liaise with the cops, but this thing almost can’t be stopped.” Tugging his lengthy goatee, he concludes: “So it’s better I do it. Otherwise a different mob might try and it all ends up on Today Tonight!”

Jaf’s Last Cruise (of the Year) had innocuous beginnings in the early 2000s. Back then Jaf was a young buck leaning on his car outside Hungry Jack’s on Anzac Highway, watching the hot cars cruise back and forth. “My mate Mick Bridges with the blue Centura told me we need to do our own cruise. And that I needed to organise it!” Jaf remembers.

Jaf's last cruise“So the next year I did. I sent 80 texts to some mates the day after Christmas. Three hundred cars showed up to the Kurralta Park Kmart – and were told in no uncertain terms never to come back!” he chuckles.

Since that first event, Jaf’s cruise has been called a couple of different names, including the Bored After Christmas Cruise, and most recently the Last Cruise (of the Year).” Jaf had to add the brackets, as “I had to keep telling people it was the last possible cruise of the year, not the last cruise forever!

“I did it on Boxing Day a few times,” he continues, “then I didn’t, and people got upset, so now it’s just easier if we do it that day. There’s no shopping and I can guarantee I’ve got a day off.”

Jaf's last cruiseSince the advent of social media, the event has exploded. As we chat, nearly 2000 cars are spilling out of Tea Tree Plaza’s car park into Adelaide’s north-east suburbs. With the temperature on the asphalt bordering on cruel and the line at Macca’s out the door, snapper Troy and I depart ahead of the cruise, only to find that plenty of others have the same idea. Barrelling along the Port River Expressway, we’re surrounded by the sweet sounds of the street, the noise of my stock Buick four-banger overcome by smooth, whistling turbo sixes, stonking angry big-blocks and farty Mazda rotaries. It’s easy to forget amongst the muscle and magic that this isn’t some finely honed invitational; the people just run what they brung and hope they brung something cool!

Turning onto Lady Gowrie Drive, North Haven’s esplanade, we find plenty of cruisers have peeled off the strip to park by the seaside, open a brew and watch the world go by. We do the same to watch classic Aussie, Yank, British, Japanese and even Italian steel (with holes) mix it up with the body kits and blow-off valves. The parade is as impressive and varied as it is disorganised; some cruise through, others do a lap and cruise through again. Save for a few run sheets, an email to the police and a discussion with the two shopping centres, Jaf does precious little else in the way of organisation, and is keen to keep it that way.

Jaf's last cruiseFrom the shade of a towering Norfolk Island pine, we spy his flamed and familiar Hudson. Mid-pack on his own cruise! We have to laugh – classic Jaf! Waving him down for another chat, he explains his event preparation. “After each run, the police ask me if we had any trouble,” he explains. “We tell them where it bottlenecked and they suggest an alternative route or police the area.

“As for event insurance, I’ve been a member of SMASA [Street Machine Association of South Australia] for about 18 years and they now officially list it in their calendar. Although I may have forgotten to put them down as a sponsor on the cruise sheet!” he admits before exploding in raucous laughter.

Jaf's last cruiseThat SMASA are willing to get on board is testament to their community-minded spirit; membership has grown five-fold in the past year off the back of SA’s new club rego rules, an initiative headed by SMASA’s Glenn Stankevicius, so it’s great they can give back for an event like Jaf’s cruise.

As the fiery sun sets over the ocean, we crank up the Buick and fat-arm towards the final rendezvous point at Marion Shopping Centre, a cooling breeze playing at our sweaty armpits. Catching up with Jaf for a final debrief, he slides up to partner Meegan for a photo. “This is the first time in years we’ve done the whole route,” he says. “It was mental to go through Outer Harbour and see how many cars were parked up under the pine trees there. I’ve not heard any reports of any dickhead behaviour or major dramas. A couple of blokes along the esplanade copped defects, but let’s face it, their cars were defectable!”

As Meegs hides her durry behind her back while Troy snaps a volley of pics, we all agree the event is a success. “At least we made it this year,” Jaf laughs. “A couple of years back the Huddy went home on a flatbed!”

Jason Harvey1. “We’ve been trying to do Jaf’s for years but we were living in Darwin; we’d either go home before the cruise or have car problems or whatever,” says Jason Harvey, while casually leaning on his old man’s 1969 Impala convertible. The big boat did smell a bit coolant, but maybe it was just residue. “Last time we got it out, the top hose went, so hopefully nothing like that happens this time!”

Nick Bentley's VW Kombi2. The paintjob on Nick Bentley’s Kombi is credited to Mother Nature, by way of a decades-long abandonment on a Queensland property, where it was used as a wood shed. “I’ve had it about five years and bought it in this condition, albeit with all the usual Kombi rot!” Nick laughs. “I had to replace 6in of metal all ’round!”

VW Kombi engineDespite the farm-spec patina, Nick’s slammed blue van is packing a few tricks. A big 2.3L with twin 40mm Webers ensure it’s no slouch, while steering and stopping are handled by a trick rack-and-pinion kit and Opel Ascona disc brakes respectively.

Ford ZA Fairlane3. Paul Dackiw’s ZA Fairlane 500 is a ridgy-didge survivor car: “It’s all original with the venetians on the back and the sun visor up front,” he explains while reclining with a coldie in the Ford’s vast boot. “All I’ve done is put a twin system on it. Other than that, I’m going to keep it original.”

Paul’s not kidding; the 289-powered Fairlane even retains the crook foot pump for the water squirters! “I’ve had 37 cars now, but this one I’ll keep. It’s the first one my kids have grown up in and love, so it’s staying!”

Andrew Zachoryi4. “I brought the boy along as a designated driver,” says Andrew Zachoryj, raising his eyebrows and tapping his tinnie, “because I want to drink the bourbons.” Not that son Trent is complaining; he’s got a big crew of Ford mates around him and gets to steer the old man’s XE Falcon.

Ford falcon engine bayAndrew gestures across the engine bay, proudly boasting: “It’s been in the family since new and in my possession for 25 years. It’s got a Landau 351-cube V8, five-speed manual, ZL Fairlane dash, LTD seats and runs straight gas. I can cruise it all day on 25 bucks!”

Peter Sicari5. Peter Sicari is a Jaf’s Cruise veteran, having attended every post-Christmas cruise in a menagerie of different metal. “Oh yeah, I’ve done it in a ’28 Ford roadster and a Cougar,” he says. And proving he’s not a one-eyed Blue Oval man, “when I first did one, I still had my Pontiac GTO.”

Peter’s 302-powered 1973 Mustang convertible is his most recent purchase. “I got it about nine months ago; all I’ve done is fit a set of Dragway Indys on it and that’s it.” With that, he fires up the big pony and drops the roof: “Catch you at Marion!”

HSV Maloo6. “I’ve finally got something cool to bring,” states Scott Barnden from his vantage point overlooking the Tea Tree Plaza car park. “I had a VX wagon, but it was a P-plate car, you know?” Scott’s upgrade to a VF Maloo has got him beaming in the hot arvo sun. Pulling out the keys, he points them at the shimmering throng of cars below. “I had to go auto so I could get the remote start,” he explains, pressing the go-button and firing up the mighty LS3. Elsewhere in the world, a Prius cries.

Hamish Vecchio7. Hamish Vecchio’s dad has been bringing him to Jaf’s Cruise ever since he was a kid, but things haven’t gone to plan now he has his own wheels. Hamish gestures to the canary on the windscreen of his Corolla: “I was cutting through the back way but it was wrong place, wrong time. I got done for being too low and having no battery clamp.”

Realistic about the situation, he continues: “What you can do? I’ll need to cut the rust out, re-plate it, put it all back to stock and get it through Regency. Then I’ll save up and do all the mods properly. That way if I get done again, it’s an easy swap on the parts; wash, rinse and repeat!”

And parting out the now-defected KE30 is not an option. “I tried to sell it not that long ago but I just couldn’t do it, even when people offered me stupid money. I know it’s just a Corolla, but it’s my Corolla and I built it from stock to how it is.”

Mark Hunt's Ford XW Falcon panel van8. Our own Scotty Taylor helped spanner on Mark Hunt’s XW Falcon pano at the ANDRA Nationals held at Calder a couple of years back. “It’s run a 10.08 at AIR and a 10.27 at Calder, but it’s still fine for the street,” Mark says. “I used to rego it for the three months over summer, but now it’s on club rego.”

As for the actual build, Mark says: “I bought it painted, but that was basically about it. The rest I did myself.” Up front, Mark’s van runs a stout 408ci Clevo with a transbraked C4 trans and 5800rpm stall converter.

Mark Hunt's XW panel vanSitting full-retro on 15in Halibrand alloys, the van doesn’t hide any cutting-edge tech; the 31-spline rear end is hung from leaf springs with a set of CalTracs to prevent tramp, while the interior still sports the bench seat and column shifter!

Jim Jennings9. Jim Jennings did Jaf’s Cruise large, bringing along two of his hot rods. “My son Paul drove the red 1930 Ford, which runs a set of Stromberg 94s. He has his young neighbour Keon along for the ride,” Jim begins, before the nine-year-old lad interrupts. “Hey look, a Lotus!” Keon yells, pointing towards the road. Jim just smiles and shakes his head, continuing: “I’m in the ’28 with my wife, Wendy; she enjoys a bit of comfort!”

Jim Jennings's hot rodThe ’28 sports a pair of 450 Holleys on a cool crossover manifold, and both cars run Chev crate motors. “Yeah, because I want to get from A to B,” booms Jim, followed by more laughs.

Jim Jennings hot rodThere’s nothing shiny on the ’28, and that’s just how Jim likes it: “People ask when I’m going to finish it, but it’s finished! It doesn’t even have windows; just a windscreen by regulation. The rest is air conditioning!” It’s clear Jim, Wendy, Paul, Keon and the rest of their crew are having a blast, as Jim confirms: “If I’m with my hot rod, I’m always happy! Why wouldn’t I be?”

Krankenstein gasser10. Gav Edmonds’s ‘Krankenstein’ ’58 Mainline gasser is pretty well known these days following its successful completion of the Street Machine Drag Challenge. “We finished! That felt almost like a win!” Gav smiles. “We just wanted to be in it, and an 11.90 isn’t fast, but it’s a personal best, plus it’s all vintage stuff under the bonnet. Oh, and Kranky is heavy; it’s got sections of the Harbour Bridge under there!”

Drag Challenge is one thing, but Jaf’s Cruise is an entirely different beast. “I’ve had nothing to do with it all day; I’ve got Simon Cole’s Windsor out.”

Krankenstein gasserHe defers to Bron Murphy, who has been cruising Kranky alongside Gav’s wife Natalie Khory. Bron explains: “This is the first time Nat has driven it since Kranky got an upgrade. We had Gav in the Windsor signalling us through the window to tell us when to change gears! By the time we hit Tea Tree Plaza, Nat had the knack of it and when we got to the beach, she was like: ‘Check out that view’ rather than stressing about gears!”

Krankenstein gasserSo how much attention do two chicks cruising a vintage gasser attract? “We had so many positive reactions, it was ridiculous!” Bron affirms. “We felt like rock stars! It doesn’t hurt that Nat is hot as well!”

Ford Cortina11. Matt Filsell has owned this schmick Cortina sedan since he was 12 years old. Dubbed ‘The Gremlin’, it has undergone similar changes, from demure, Mogwai beginnings to the angry hybrid creature you see here. “It’s really just a Cortina shell now,” Matt says. “It’s got an SR20 with T28 turbo, narrowed Commodore BorgWarner with a Strange centre and 28-spline axles.” A mixture of Skyline and VE Commodore brakes halts the boost when required. Jaf’s Cruise is a veterans’ affair for Matt; he’s got dad Rob and father-in-law Stuart with him.

Matt Walker's BMW12. It takes all types to make a Jaf’s Cruise, but while a Eurotrash E30 BMW might not be everyone’s flavour, opinions change when there’s a bent-eight lurking under the bonnet! Matt Walker’s 1990 BMW 318is is packing an M60 4.0L V8 lifted from the bigger, later E34 540i sedan. “The conversion is all engineered; it’s got 190kW at the wheels and only weighs about 1200kg, so it’s a fair rocket,” Matt says.

BMW E30The recent purchase is the realisation of a lifelong dream for the young bloke. “A lot of people go LS motors, but when you open the bonnet and it doesn’t have the BMW badge on it, I didn’t want that.”

Sitting Euro-tuff on a set of unique Hartge alloys, Matt has big plans for the little coupe. “I bought it as a project and it’s at the stage where I can drive it. Hopefully by this time next year it might be supercharged. It’s not fast enough for me! But it’s still a lot of fun!”

Shane Booth13. Shane Booth is well known online in Adelaide’s auto enthusiast circles; if there’s a forum or Facebook page for it, he’s on it. Nice to see him outdoors for once!

Jaf's last cruise14. Local crew Hamish, Kayla, Luke and Tiernen pulled off on Lady Gowrie Drive to check out the procession of sick metal, though it’s only Tiernen who is fully prepped, packing a deck chair for the Jaf-flix and chill

Jaf's last cruise15. Not bringing a cool car is no barrier to enjoying Jaf’s Cruise; Matthew Muller, partner Emma, son William and mate Jay are well set up behind their Kluger mum-wagon. Deck chairs, coldies, summer sun and a shit-ton of cool metal are the perfect recipe for a chilled family outing!

Jaf's last cruise16. Tim Cronk hit Jaf’s with son Lewis, his sweet VN SV5000 looking a treat in SV Racing Green and lowered over 20in Simmons rims. “It’s done 130,000 kays, has books, two sets of keys and all that good stuff,” Tim informs us while we slam a sports drink to counteract the heat. “I even have the original Sansui tape deck in a box!”

Jaf's last cruise17. North Haven’s Lady Gowrie Drive doubles as the esplanade; shady, tree-lined and gutterless, it’s the perfect spot to pull over and watch the cruise go by

Jaf's last cruise18. Post-Christmas, Santa enjoys relaxing at his pad on the esplanade with a Jaf’s Cruise wind-down party. He’s roped in Taylah to help bring the skids! A few drivers gave it the boot, but thankfully nothing outrageous

Jaf's last cruise19. No Jaf’s Cruise would be complete without some oddballs to mix it up. We spy a H1 Hummer, Alfa Romeo Alfasud, original convertible Mini and a Leyland P76 just to mix it up a bit. No Camiras though, dammit!