Joe’s Diner car meet in Brisbane

The Queensland Police Service and Joe’s Diner in Eagle Farm have teamed up for one of Brisbane’s most popular monthly car meets

Photographers: Ashleigh Wilson

HOT cars and police attention go back nearly a century. From the moment our pioneering hot rodders started trimming the fat from their Models T and A in the 1920s and 30s – and pitching them against each other on the streets – the law has always been close by in myriad well-documented exchanges.

Thankfully, there are some police officers and car enthusiasts looking to coexist in a happy and peaceful environment, where mutual respect and good behaviour from both sides is key.

The location of one such utopia is Joe’s Diner in Brisbane’s Eagle Farm. By day, Joe’s services the needs of a hungry local workforce, plying their trade with a beautiful selection of traditional and more up-scale takeaway or dine-in meals. But come the first Saturday afternoon of each month, Joe’s puts on what is unquestionably Brisbane’s must-attend car meet.

“We started about two-and-a-half years ago with a moderate turnout of around 30 cars,” says Joe’s Diner owner Steve Karagiannis. “That quickly became 80, then 300 cars, and before we knew it we were hosting upwards of 1000 cars each month.

COVID shut it all down for the next 12 months of course, but now we’re back stronger than ever and hosting 1200-1300 cars each month; the place is standing room only. My wife Cherie and I are also car enthusiasts, but want to ensure that our meets are a safe environment for everyone who attends, without any unwanted or negative publicity.”

It’s this proactive attitude that has seen Steve and his team working hand-in-hand with officers of the Queensland Police Service North Brisbane District Road Policing Unit. Acting Sergeant Shannon Kerr heads up the QPS’s involvement with the Joe’s Diner Saturday events, and believes a common-sense approach works best: “The disaster that was the year 2020 hit a lot of people hard – including police in their frontline COVID roles – so it’s imperative for everyone’s well-being that they can get out and enjoy the things they love, and for many of us, that is cars,” he says. “We are very supportive of events of this nature and were pleased to have been approached by, and ultimately work with, Steve and Cherie to ensure that positive car meets and displays of this nature continue.

“We can see and acknowledge the dedication and money the owners invest to build these cars, and are very aware that they want to build and drive safe vehicles,” Acting Sergeant Kerr continues. “The attendees at Joe’s are more – dare I say it – an older crowd of genuine enthusiasts, so there isn’t the concern that they’ll be uncooperative with police or feeling the need to damage property or generally run riot. It’s refreshing from a police perspective to see attendees at this event enjoying themselves and not tolerating the bad driving behaviour that seems to plague other car meets.”

The police presence at the Joe’s Diner meets has been well-received, with attending officers kept busy fielding questions or posing for photos with families and the like, which can only serve to improve the relationship between the two groups.

For the most part, the many car enthusiasts attending have been keeping up their end of the bargain too, but as always, a small minority just can’t help themselves. On the afternoon we attended, a couple of modern Euro rides and a lone turbo Nissan Patrol – not exactly traditional street machine fodder – felt the need to paddle-shift and/or blow-off valve themselves to some sort of ill-perceived glory when they left. These actions were met with eye-rolling by the majority of the remaining crowd, who no doubt don’t want to be left as lambs to the slaughter after the troublemakers get home scot-free.

“The majority of the general motoring public wouldn’t know a Monaro from a Camry,” Acting Sergeant Kerr says. “But what they do recognise is bad behaviour on the streets; the negativity of burnouts and excessive speed are well and truly emblazoned over mainstream media, and if members of the public complain, the Queensland Police Service is duty-bound to act. So the best plan for all parties involved is to exercise responsible behaviour in the eyes of other road users.”

Karyn Voysey is a Joe’s Diner regular and gives the event two thumbs up: “This is by far the best monthly event we have in Brisbane, and we want it to continue,” she enthuses. “The cars, food, music and atmosphere can’t be beat.” Karyn and her beloved HG Kingswood sedan are well known on the SEQ car scene, with her Kinger paying homage to the Sudan Beige HT station wagon her late father owned when she was a kid. “Cars can be truly such a positive connection to many people in your life for the past and present,” she says. “I’ve met so many quality people here over the past couple of years, and it’s great to see the same folks regularly returning and supporting the event.”

The Queensland Police Service and Joe’s Diner collaboration is hopefully a positive step forward for the future of the modified car scene in Brisbane and its surrounds – and with some attendees coming from as far as Bundaberg and Warwick, it’s an approach that has the potential to spread further afield. However, should you find a cruise to Brisbane a bit of a stretch, Cristian Cross and Malaka Media livestream each event via the Joe’s Diner Eagle Farm Facebook page, so you can still get in on the action and enjoy the sights and sounds of plenty of cool cars.

1. Adrian Burgess’s beautiful Holden panel van left the factory as a genuine HZ Sandman, but has seen some serious upgrades in his 17 years of ownership. It now runs a 355 stroker Holden with MoTeC-controlled twin-throttlebody injection, backed by a Turbo 350 and 3.25-geared 9in. A full upgrade to WB Statesman attire is complemented by a set of Weld Draglites and metallic turquoise paint.

2. Andrew ‘Macka’ McDonald’s stroker small-block Chrysler donk was our Mill Of The Month in August 2019. Macka finished the build of his beautiful Valiant hardtop late last year and is hoping to head to the strip soon. The six-pack scoop and a mix of American Racing Torq Thrust rims up front and colour-coded widened steelies at the rear give the VG a decidedly ‘factory muscle’ flavour.

3. Lawrence Beeke’s tidy black EJ wagon rolls on a set of fat 13in Spitfire mags and runs a triple SU-equipped 192 red motor backed by an M21 four-speed: “It’s been in our family since 1972,” Lawrence said. “My father owned it originally before I drove it as a young bloke, then later handed it on to my brother, Michael. When he passed away a couple of years ago, I inherited it and finished the EJ to what it is now.”

4. Pete Bellars grew up on a diet of V8s and turbo rotaries, but has lately turned his hand to the vintage side of life with this 1927 ‘baby’ Austin 7. “I’m not really sure what happened, but I find messing with this sort of stuff is ‘tinkering’ in its purest form,” he said. “It has the potential to be just as deadly to drive as a 1000hp street car too, but for a fraction of the cost!”

5. Dario Pittis has owned his tidy ’71 HQ Prem for 13 years now. The factory Etruscan Gold sedan runs a 355 stroker Holden donk, Turbo 400 and 3.90:1 BorgWarner rear end. An 11.60@116mph best – along with operational factory air and steer – makes this a great street-and-strip combination, nicely finished off with a set of 5.5in and 8.5in Center Lines.

6. Custom pearl orange paint, a parachute and big ’n’ little Welds do well to disguise the fact that Mick O’Dea’s LH SL/R Torana covers dozens of street miles virtually weekly. Its previous 355 Holden stroker saw time in a number of Mick’s cars over the past 12 years, but recently called it quits: “I switched to LS power, which has the usual cam and top-end work, and it has just made it so driveable.”

7. Andrew Dyson brought along his recently acquired 1969 Mazda R100. He comes from quality rotary stock too, as his dad is well-known rotary builder and racer Wayne Dyson. “This one now sports a 12A rotor in place of its original 10A, and is a heap of fun to drive,” Andrew said. “It’s great to have a quality venue where we can enjoy our cars without any hassles, too.”

8. Jarrod Jordan’s HJ wagon looks cool with scalloped paint and a few-inch drop, and has been in his possession for six months. “I love the look of it, but it needs more power – I’ll probably replace the thongslapper 253 with an LS2 but keep the rest as-is. In the meantime, it’s great for coming along to events like this and hanging out with mates. The place is packed and the food is great!”

9. Chris Adnams’s Premier-fronted HK Kingswood sedan is an ex-1980s magazine feature car that was given a new lease on life by Chris and his dad Barry: “It ran a blown small-block Chev with Dragways, flared guards and Monza Red paint back then,” Chris said. “It now runs a Shane Alex-built 414ci small-block Chev backed by a Turbo 400 and 9in.”

10.A major attraction the evening we attended Joe’s Diner was the TeamFMR HSV VF Maloo being raffled by Mark ‘Salty’ Smith of Finance My Ride. Cherie Karagiannis from Joe’s was on hand to choose the winner from the jam-packed barrel, with Adam Geary the lucky man adding this beaut Commodore to his garage.

11. Roger Callan’s Mercury Comet Caliente sedan looks to be a well laid-out patina cruiser, but pop the bonnet and you’re met by an LS3, backed by a 6L80 trans and 9in diff. Other highlights include a fabricated boot floor and trick suspension front and rear. Originally bought as a dead stocker, it has taken Roger five years of his own handiwork to get it to this stage.

12. XY Fairmont is the perfect melding old and new. Vincenzo Tigani has owned this car since the late 80s, having originally been featured in Performance Street Car magazine with a tough 302 Windsor and its original white paint. After way too many years off the road, Vinnie has returned it to the streets with turbo Barra power and deliciously deep black paint, bookended by 7in and 10in Auto Drags.

13. Karyn Voysey and her immaculate HG Kingswood are regulars at Joe’s Diner and many other car events on the local calendar. “The police who attend here are great,” she said. “They’re very giving of their time, can have a laugh, and understand that we’re not here to cause trouble.”

14. Joe’s Diner owners Steven and Cherie Karagiannis welcome the police attendance at their monthly events. “So many car meets get shut down because of bad publicity, and we don’t want that to happen here,” Steve said. “We are so lucky to have attendees who are happy to abide by the good behaviour and no alcohol rules. Following our last meet, I found only one stray drink bottle, so they’re a tidy bunch, too!”