Chad Ribbons’s HD ute wins SMOTY 2021

The 2021 Milwaukee Street Machine of the Year result is an emotional one, with Chad Ribbons’s low-buck, shed-built HD Holden ute being a rolling tribute to a dearly departed dad


I was just stoked to be nominated with a car that I’d built myself. I was on a tight budget and had some help from some mates, but against some of those other cars – I grew up looking up to some of those guys, and I didn’t think I had a chance. I built the car while I was trying to save for a house and work towards starting a family. The initial build cost me $6000, because I just thought, “I’ll do everything myself; what have I got to lose?” That was something my dad taught me: give it a crack, what’s the worst that can happen? I think that may have been what a lot of people who voted related to; it gave them an insight into what they could do themselves if they just had a crack.

For those who may have missed the feature, give us a rundown on the HD.

It has a 202 in it with all the fruit, with triple SUs and a Trimatic. It used to belong to my dad; it was his everyday car for years. Unfortunately I lost him coming up to five years ago. It’s tough, but I always tell myself to just soldier on; he’s still with me. When he passed away I decided to tart it up a little bit. Being that it was Dad’s car and he’s what got me into all this, I built it how he would have wanted, but with my own twist on it. That’s why it had to stay a Holden six – he loved them. I made the shifter out of a can of Coke and I got a thong 3D-printed for the accelerator pedal because Dad was never ever seen without thongs on. Also, the sticker on the windscreen is from Dad’s old mechanical workshop – it’s about 25 years old. So there are a few little elements just to keep it his.

Your dad obviously instilled your passion for cars.

He was a mechanic and always had something on the go. I remember him telling me at one stage he had nine EHs in the front yard, just because! So growing up and going to work with him, it was always inevitable that cars were going to be in the blood. He had a pretty cool FJ ute, which Street Machine has featured in the past. We built a couple of gassers for the nostalgia drags and a little Lloyd 600 that we put a 350 Chev in just for fun to do burnouts, take to Mud Run and just run amok, really. There was always something on the go, some sort of weird idea.

What’s the story behind the number plates on the ute?

The number plates started out as a joke. I was always into mini-trucks, so I put air suspension in the car, which Dad wasn’t really a fan of. I think he was deep down, but he liked to give us heaps. So that’s where the number plates come from – just a little stab at Dad. I think he’d be pretty stoked to see his ute win SMOTY, to be honest. He always used to say, “Oh, I’ll get around to doing it up one day.” That’s where the colour came from; he used to say, “I’ll paint it toilet-wall green and tidy it up,” so to see it win Street Machine of the Year, I think he’d be ecstatic.

You and last year’s SMOTY winner, Aaron Gregory, are in the same car club.

Aaron is a good friend, and the club we’re in is called Negative Camber. The boys actually surprised me at my Street Machine feature photoshoot and welcomed me into the club then, so for the club to have this trophy for two years in a row is pretty cool. There’s been a bit of banter and back-and-forth on socials with Aaron, especially because he did 90 per cent of the work on Johnno Dennis’s Escort [which was also nominated]. I was onto him about voting for me, but obviously he had to back Johnno. He told me that if I won I wasn’t getting the trophy, but the joke’s on him – I’ve got it now! I think if I wasn’t a nominee this year my vote would have gone to Johnno’s car, actually. He’s a friend of mine for one, but I just love everything about that car and he drives the absolute tyres off it.

Do you have a favourite past SMOTY winner?

I sat down the night that I got the trophy and was reading through the names, and I actually Googled the SMOTY Hall of Fame and was looking at the pictures of the cars. Growing up reading the magazine as religion basically and seeing those names and becoming a part of that is a really special feeling. They have all been amazing cars, but I think out of all of them Darryl McBeth’s FJ or Ron Barclay’s HQ ute are probably it for me, because they’re clean, simple, tidy cars that you could drive anywhere, anytime.

What are your plans for the $20,000 from our mates at Milwaukee?

I’ve got all sorts of ideas around what I’d like to do to the car, but the fiancée thinks the smart thing to do would be to put it into a house for our future, so I’ll probably have to do that to keep her happy. She lets me play with cars!

You had a bit of a scramble to get the car back together for the shoot.

When I received the call to say that I’d won, the engine was actually out of the car. We were in lockdown and there were no shows on, so I thought it was a good time for a freshen-up. Then I got word that we needed to get some photos done in a hurry, so a good friend of mine, Rob at Shorty’s Performance, pulled through and did some real late nights. We got the engine together literally today and it’s a bit of a hottie. It’s a 202 out to 208ci with flat-top pistons, and it should have around 12:1 comp. It’s got the whole ARP catalogue, triple 1¾-inch SUs, a 3700rpm converter, and the biggest hydraulic cam Crow makes. It should be a bit of fun and sound the part.

Any other plans for the car?

I’d like to take it to the next level and give the Top 60 at Summernats a go. After that, I just intend on driving it and enjoying it as much as I can. That’s what Dad would have wanted, and that’s what I need to do.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank?

I’d like to thank Street Machine first of all, and Milwaukee for putting up the prize money for this great award. Then of course my family for letting me get away with all this, my fiancée especially – I don’t know how she hasn’t killed me yet. My friends who have helped me out, the guys and girls from Negative Camber who have been a great support, Rod from Rod’s Custom Restorations who did the paintwork for me, and Robbie from Shorty’s Performance – if it wasn’t for him, the car wouldn’t have been together for the shoot.