Is there a more instantly recognisable car in Aussie street machining than Gary and Jake Myers’s Mustang? One thing’s for sure, there is no more popular car in 2023 than GM176/S1CKO, because the readers of Street Machine have elected it the 2023 Milwaukee Street Machine of the Year.
This is the second time the iconic Mustang has won the award, with the first being way back in 2001! However, it’s actually the fourth SMOTY win for Gary, having also claimed the award in 2005 with the twin-blown ‘Silver Bullet’ Mustang and again in 2017 with his AGROXA Falcon hardtop.
This year, we did something a little different and had the 2022 SMOTY winner, Jasmine Green, roll up to the Myers ranch in her drive-anywhere Toyota HiLux to hand over the trophy in person. We then caught up with the very happy father-and-son team for a chinwag about the win.
Congratulations on winning the 2023 Milwaukee Street Machine of the Year award!
Gary Myers: Thanks! It was another surprise – you got me again! I wondered what the V8 noise rumbling up the driveway was; having Jazzy drop the trophy off was grouse.
Gary, you’ve racked up a few of these things now!
GM: This one is Jake’s doing. It was grouse to get the car back on the cover of Street Machine with the ‘back in black’ look [SM, Summer Special 2023]. Obviously, the car still has a good following, and that helped us out in the voting. I was surprised though; there were some cars in there that I thought would give us a run. I really thought Paul Tinning’s [twin-turbo Viper V10-powered] XP from Darwin had a good chance at it.
Jake Myers: I thought [Peter Lewis’s] XC that Howard Astill built would do really well, too. It really is anyone’s award to win.
This year you guys are joint winners. Who gets the prize money from our mates at Milwaukee?
GM: Well, it’ll go into our joint burnout account for all the cars. We’re getting to the pointy end of Jake’s new build; we’re going to push to have it at Street Machine Summernats the year after next. We’ve also bought an ex-speedway Mack transporter that we need to get ready for rego, so that when we finish Jake’s new car, it’ll be kept nice and clean and out of the elements while we tour around with it.
JM: We’ll show the new car for 12 months before we skid it. Now we can look at purchasing a ProCharger for the Mustang also!
The retro makeover on the Mustang obviously resonated with SM readers and voters. Tell us the rationale behind that change.
JM: We had a lot of people asking online for us to go back to that original look, and the 35th anniversary of Summernats was coming up, so I thought, why not go back to black for ’Nats 35 and convince dad to get behind the wheel for one last ’Nats skid, just as the Mustang was back when he first skidded it at Summernats 1?
It worked out well, as he was awarded the John Peterson Burnout Hall of Fame jacket on the pad after the skid. My new car is nearly finished, so we’ll do one more year with the Mustang and then bring out the new car.
The car is being reinvented yet again for Street Machine Summernats 36. What can you tell us about that?
GM: We’re going back to black with flames and Convos this year. The flames were a bit damaged after all these years, so Dan at SignsPlus Wagga touched them up with the airbrush, and Andrew Damme and the boys from Batkin & Damme Smash Repairs repainted the rear quarters gloss black and re-cleared the whole car.
JM: Right now, it’s at my best mate Andrew Crook’s place to be blocked and buffed; then it’s off to Jimmy at Fatal Finish to give it a final spruce-up before Summernats.
And what’s this talk of it returning to street duties?
JM: The plan is to do one last Burnout Masters in the car at Summernats 36 – it’ll be the car’s last competitive skid at Summernats, and then we’ll retire it towards the end of 2024. We’ll pull the motor out and it will be a spare for my new burnout car, and then fingers crossed the new car will be ready for Summernats 37. At that time, we’ll put the Mustang off to the side. We’re getting parts together to build a 427ci Windsor for it, most likely with a ProCharger to keep it all under the bonnet. Then we’ll put it back on the street!
GM: We’d love to do Street Machine Drag Challenge in it. [Drag Challenge veteran] Jarrod Wood is a close family friend of ours, so I’d love to cruise down the highway with him. There’s no reason why it can’t be done!
What can you tell us about your new skid car, Jake?
JM: Not much, because we plan on having it unveiled at Summernats! It’ll definitely have a blown and injected Windsor in it though; we’ve proven that combo works over a lot of years, so there’s no point changing it up.
Gary, does this SMOTY win feel that little bit more special, given that your son has followed in your footsteps and managed to win with the same car you did in 2001?
GM: For sure. It’s really been his vision to keep the car alive, and he’s constantly changing it around. Obviously, we have a big fanbase, and Jake gets feedback from them around what they do and don’t like about the car.
JM: A lot of people have wanted to see it back in the flamed look, and by the time this mag comes out, hopefully it’ll be done and they’ll get their wish!
GM: I think it’ll be well received.
How long has the Mustang been in the family now?
GM: I bought it when I was 17, and I’m 60 next year, so I guess next year it’ll be 43 years!
JM: And it would have been a Mercury Cougar instead, except the dealer sold it on him while he was on the way down to Sydney to purchase it!
A case could be made for the Mustang being the most iconic car in Aussie street machining. What are your thoughts on that?
GM: How many cars have been from Summernats 1 right through to 36, stayed competitive, and kept up with the times? Twenty years ago, I never would have thought I’d be running a blown alcohol burnout car alongside my sons.
JM: You’d have to say it’s the only car from the 80s to still actually be giving it a good, hard crack and doing events and making an effort. These things don’t come easy; it’s hard work. The sport has evolved a lot; these days it’s all about high-speed tip-ins.
Aside from being a two-time SMOTY winner, the car has won a bunch of other stuff, too.
GM: Back in the day, we did Nostalgia drag race meetings at Ballarat and Mildura. I’ve always followed drag racing, but I ended up getting right into the show and burnout scene, and that kind of became my life. Early on, I was willing to travel all over Australia and either show the car or do burnout displays, and a lot of promoters ended up paying me to do that. It wasn’t big money, but it covered your costs. Back then, the car was very reliable with an avgas-blown 302 on low boost.
I’m the only one that’s won three Summernats Burnout Championships in a row, and that was back in the early 90s. I won the first Burnout Masters in the car, and I think there’s been seven Summernats burnout competition/Burnout Masters wins all up. I used to take the car down to the Hume Weir raceway [near Albury] back in the day. Then I took it to the salt. There’s nothing the car hasn’t done, from drag racing to salt racing, burnouts and the show scene. In fact, it won Top Ride at the Narrandera Rod Run at Easter this year!
JM: Between dad and I, we’ve driven the Mustang to four Burnout Masters wins. Hopefully we can make it five! It still has the Australian record for D/BGC [Under 305ci Blown Gas Coupe] on the salt at 170mph. It only had 6psi of boost in it at the time; it’d go a lot faster now!
How does it feel to reflect on all that history?
GM: It’ll be a sad day when we retire the car. We’ll probably still do some demos from time to time; we’ll see what happens. But I’m happy to sit on the sidelines and watch the young guns come through. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved with the car and what Jake continues to achieve with it. Besides, my reflexes aren’t what they used to be!
It seems like there will always be something to tinker with in the Myers family shed.
JM: There’s a few projects on. AGROXA is back underway now, and the motor for that is on the engine stand.
GM: We’d planned to unveil the XA again at Summernats 36, but it’s not going to happen. We’re going back to street duties and to an original GT look for that car. It might even have a ‘for sale’ sign on it when it comes back out. [The blown 2005 Mustang] 2INSANE is still sitting there, too. The motor for it is also on an engine stand getting a freshen-up.
Event promoting keeps you pretty busy these days, too.
GM: There is a lot of planning, because Gazzanats is all run by me and my wife Deby. It takes years to build up an event and get a good name and reputation. That really showed this year with so many people towing from all over Australia, especially Queensland. Each year we build on the momentum and carry it forward. It’s such a great event; there aren’t a lot of venues that will allow us to run the event the way we want to: run by entrants, for the entrants.
It’s a lot of effort and a lot of organisation, but we have an awesome team who are all our friends and family, and it wouldn’t happen without them. Our Gazzanats team has supported our events in SA, WA, NT and Victoria. Gazzanats NT pumps a million dollars into the economy up there each year. I ordered 32 barrels of methanol for the last event!
Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
GM: Our family, especially our partners – my wife Deb and Jake’s fiancée Amy. Also Jimmy and James at Fatal Finish Detailing, and all of our sponsors, some of whom have beena with the car from day dot: Proflow, VPW, Nulon, VP Racing Fuels, Showtime Customs & Fabrication, Lovells, Purfit Covers, TCE Torque Converters, Ingrams Automotive, Batkin & Damme Smash Repairs, Tempe Tyres, Yella Terra, Crow Cams, and Southern Diecast. We’d also like to thank Milwaukee for sponsoring the award and Street Machine for allowing us to have the opportunity to share our stories and dreams with the world! Lastly, a big thank you to everyone who voted for us!
Given that 2022 Milwaukee SMOTY winner Jasmine Green lives relatively local to the Myers clan (well, within a few hundred clicks, anyway), we asked if she’d mind delivering the trophy to the 2023 winners in person. Rarely one to pass up an opportunity to point her drive-anywhere HiLux at the horizon, Jazzy gladly obliged.
How was it to surprise Gary and Jake with the trophy?
It was cool being able to be a part of it! Gary didn’t work it out at first; he was wondering why I was there, then I reached into the back seat and grabbed the trophy. As soon as he joined the dots, he was stoked.
What are your reflections on your year as SMOTY champ?
It sank in really slowly over quite some time. It still feels surreal to have won such a prestigious award. I took the trophy to shows with me in the beginning, but it takes up a lot of space in the car, so it became a dining table ornament. It was good having it there as a reminder that it actually happened!
It was cool for you to progress from winning the Laurie Starling scholarship to SMOTY!
Yeah, one thing led to another with that. I even met my current boss [Greg Maskell] at the SMOTY party the night I received the Laurie scholarship. That’s how I got the job at Maskell’s Customs & Classics.
How’s the HiLux been treating you?
It’s been good! With the SMOTY prize money, I rebuilt the engine, put a cam in it and got it tuned. I also put power steering on it, just to make it more enjoyable to drive, and I’ve been driving it a lot. It’s done its show days, and now it’s a driver. I’ve been towing with it a lot, and I’m about to tow my Stout project to East Coast Cruise at Jindabyne with it.
Tell us about the Stout.
I got stuck into it in March this year. I always said I wasn’t going to touch it until I finished the green one, so I pulled it out of the paddock and ripped in. I’ve done the body drop, body section and made the new floor. I’m doing it bit by bit, and I’ll chop the roof next. It will be on hydraulics; kind of a lowrider mixed with a mini-truck and a custom. It’ll have a 302 Windsor in it, so it was cool to pick Gary’s brain about that!
And the reader winner is:
First held in 1988, Street Machine of the Year is decided by popular vote, with the street machine community voting for their favourite car out of 16 finalists selected from the past 12 months of Street Machine feature cars.
Every voter goes into a draw to win $5000 from Milwaukee, and this year’s winner is Ash Torpy from Geelong in Victoria. Ash loves motocross, offroading and burnouts!
“I’m so stoked! The timing of this is impeccable as I’ve just had my first child. I can’t believe it – I’ve never won anything in my life!”
While the 2023 Milwaukee Street Machine of the Year win belongs to both Jake and Gary, the latter is the winningest SMOTY competitor of all time, with four wins dating back to 2001, when GM176 won the award for the first time!
- 2001: GM176 Mustang
- 2005: ‘Silver Bullet’ Mustang
- 2017: AGROXA Falcon hardtop
- 2023: GM176/S1CKO Mustang