Gary Myers takes out the Valvoline Street Machine Of The Year – for the third time

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

OUR sport has no shortage of high achievers who have maintained an enviable output of memorable cars and projects over a number of decades. Rod Hadfield would have to be near the top of the list, not only for the sheer number of convention-busting cars he has created, but for the scope of his ambition – from high-speed salt lake racing on two continents to building the world’s most powerful registered street car, to playing a pivotal role in the growth of the Australian aftermarket industry.

Norm Longfield is a hot rodder cut from a similar cloth, while on the street machine side, names like Astill, Fitzpatrick and Le Brese come up every few years with some new creation that blows our minds.

Gary MyersBut in many ways the closest bloke to Hadfield is Gary Myers. He’s still got a bit of catching up to do in terms of volume of cars built, but the broader list of what Gary and his wife Deby have managed to pull off from their home in Narrandera in rural NSW since the early 90s is simply inspiring.

Gary made his name in the early days of the Street Machine Summernats with a black ’66 Mustang wearing the number plates GM-176 – a car he has owned since he was 18. The Mustang was a strong contender among early burnout competitors from the get-go, but soon became a dominant force, taking Gary to his first Summernats Burnout Championship victory in 1992, as well as several Go-to-Whoa wins, the Burnout Championship of the World at Summernats 13 in 2000 and two Burnout Masters crowns.

With its signature flame job, the Mustang became an attraction at events all over the country. The car got a significant birthday at the turn of the millennium – which was rewarded with Gary’s first Street Machine of the Year win in 2001. The same year he took the car to Lake Gairdner and ran 170mph – impressive stuff from a basic 302 Windsor.

The salt trip was something out of leftfield, and a firm indicator that Gary wanted to branch out from burnouts into other areas, one of which was event promotion, starting with the first Gazzanats at Adelaide International Raceway in 2004. This was the first of the big events run by the competitors themselves and it paved the way for many of the great competitor-run events we have today.

Even with all that on his plate, Gary had another Mustang build on the way when he won that first SMOTY. This time, he wanted to build an elite car, the likes of which had never been seen in Australia before. Like Rod Hadfield, Gary plans his builds years or even decades ahead – slowly gathering parts, information and inspiration, ready for the right moment.

Gary Myers trophyThat second Mustang was the Silver Bullet – another ’66, but super-smooth from top to bottom and featuring a ton of body mods, including a roof chop to further accentuate the twin-supercharged 392 Hemi sticking out of what was left of the Muzzy’s bonnet. The Bullet debuted right when Meguiar’s MotorEx was really hitting its straps as a concept. And although the car was unlike anything Gary had previously attempted, it was a massive hit, winning not only the MotorEx Superstars award, but also Summernats Grand Champion and yep, Street Machine Of The Year in 2005.

And while Gary is now synonymous with Mustangs, his real big love is actually XA Falcons, leading to his next major project, the Repco XACUTER – built from a written-off GT coupe.

“The idea with XACUTER was to show that we could win the Summernats Burnout Championship with an aspirated car,” says Gary. “It was a quick build once we started and it debuted at Summernats 21. It never quite got there, so we parked it after a couple of years.”

Street Machine coversGary still had a dose of salt fever, which manifested itself in 2INSANE – a 2006 Mustang with a blown and injected small-block. This was the start of Gary’s association with WA drag racer and tuner George Separovich – the guy who arguably laid the foundations for the modern burnout scene when his screaming HK Monaro appeared at Gazzanats in 2006.

The Mustang was built to run big numbers at the salt, but various commitments – including an expanded Gazzanats series – kept Gary away from Lake Gairdner. But although it never saw the salt – it subsequently saw some action as a burnout and powerskid car – it gave Gary the push to move away from his tried and tested carby-fed blown 302 combination, which had served him well but was being overtaken by the likes of Steve Loader and other young guns.

Street Machine NationalsThe transformation was complete when Gary handed GM-176 down to his son Jake, who reimagined it as S1CKO with a radical new look, teamed with a blown and injected Windsor. Gary spent a couple of years getting on top of the new set-up and coaching Jake as he moved into the driver’s seat. Jake took to the car like he was born to do it – funny that! – and has recorded some excellent results over the past couple of years. All the while, Gary was planning to revamp XACUTER, covering the lairy paint in a tough but subdued wrap, changing up the wheels and – most importantly – funnelling his newfound knowledge into his ultimate blown small-block Ford. He couldn’t have been more successful, bringing the car’s visuals right up to date and completely transforming its performance.

The car, now known as AGROXA, won this year’s Street Machine Of The Year vote by a wide margin, but the victory still came as a shock at Narrandera. Of course, having won it twice before – the only other guy to do so being Adam LeBrese – Gary, Deby and Jake knew it was possible, and worked hard to promote voting across social media, at events, and by putting up posters around their local haunts. Even so, Gary and Deby were speechless when we rolled into their driveway with the famous SMOTY trophy…

Gary MyersCongratulations, Gaz!

Thanks, mate! It was a bit of a blowout when you guys drove up the driveway. I don’t know how you figured out I’d be home – I decided to take a day off work and get our XA Fairmont ready for Bright. Then you guys drive up and I’m thinking: “What are these blokes doing here?”

Had you given up on the idea of AGROXA winning?

Pretty much. It was nearly two weeks after the voting had finished so we thought: “Oh well, it is what it is.” So yeah, it’s a huge surprise.

This is the third time you’ve won, and with three different cars.

Yep, that’s a huge privilege. I couldn’t ask for any more. There are a lot of people behind the scenes and sponsors I have to thank, as well as you guys, the readers and Valvoline.

How big a project was AGROXA?

It was big. The burnout scene is so crazy now that you need a lot of firepower to keep up. It took three years to get the parts for the engine together; it isn’t a cheap exercise. And while that was happening we were combating the new injection set-up in S1CKO and putting my time into that. We got that sorted and then slid the knowledge over onto the XA.

Is the old XACUTER paint still underneath?

Yep, the wrap completely fools a lot of people; they think it’s paint. Matt from Vinyl Wraps & Graphics did a great job on it.

How big a role did George Separovich play in getting on top of that?

George is the man. I took the XA over to Perth to get it tuned by him at Easter. I did a test skid at Collie and took it home. That was a solo trip, but that’s the kind of thing you need to do to make things happen. And it’s been awesome so far. Jake looks at the data at each track and I adjust the tune to suit. We came third overall in the burnouts at Northern Nats and second in the powerskids, so that was a pretty good debut.

Have you earmarked what you’ll do with Valvoline’s $20K?

We’re planning a holiday to the US, so that’s where most of it will go. Though you never know, I might bring back another toy! And I want to build another shed! [Laughs]

Do you think you’ll have another go at SMOTY?

I think this is my last one. There are still plenty of cars I want to build, but not to this level. I’ve just about finished a John Goss Special restoration, but I’d really like to build a gasser. I’ve still got a mild 354 Hemi that I rebuilt to slot in the Silver Bullet and I’ve just bought back the injection system we had for that car as well.

What car would you base it on?

It would make sense to buy something as a roller and put it in that, but I’ve also got my old man’s ’58 Studebaker President. It’s a cool old thing, black with a green interior, but it leaked oil like it was going out of fashion and he parked it up in ’69. Dad never really sold his cars; he just parked them up as they weren’t really worth anything back then.

I don’t think I’ve ever asked you this – how did you get started with cars?

I started out with a mechanical apprenticeship at a motorbike shop. At about the time I was finishing up my apprenticeship, they became a Harley dealer and I bought an ’89 Super Glide, and then swapped it for a Heritage in ’91. I still like bikes.

What then?

After the bike shop I walked into the local Ford dealer and got a job. That was the best thing I ever did. Back in those days dealers did just about everything – the only thing they farmed out was rebuilding automatics, so I got to learn absolutely everything. All I wanted to do was work on V8s, and I’ve never stopped.

AGROXA1. Your 2017 Valvoline Street Machine Of The Year winner being thoroughly thrashed at Performance Car Mania at Winton Raceway. Gary put on a staunch performance in AGROXA during qualifying for the burnout comp, but a mechanical injury incurred during the powerskids meant he wasn’t able to contest the final.

Gary Myers cars2. This FB farm ute (far left) is a favourite. “The old girl that sold it to me gave me all the history,” says Gary. “They drove it across the Nullarbor back when it was a dirt road, and they used to use it for hunting – she’d drive and he’d wedge himself between the bullbar and the bonnet with his shotgun! But he was meticulous with servicing it; she gave me a book full of service records.”

Gary Myers cars3. Besides Gary’s sheds, there is a paddock full of raw material pulled out of creeks and off farms. One lot is the good stuff – that is, chrome-bumpers – and another group of ‘dungers’, which includes a Town & Country VL and a VL Vacationer. “I’ve sold some of the really bad stuff off as lawn art,” says Gary, “but some of the better stuff will be moved inside as I make room.”

Ford Falcon XB GS4. This XB GS was cut up by a former owner as a farm hack but Gary plans to unpick the centre pillars off one of his dungers, fit a new roof and treat it to a basic restoration.

small-block Chev5. The ‘good’ shed has a nice little collection of go-fast exotica, including a Duggan-headed small-block Chev, an ex-Alan Moffat 4V Cleveland fuel injection system, the Silver Bullet’s spare 354 Hemi and injection system, and the old GM-176 engine that Gary’s eldest son Ivan is planning to fit to his own burnout car.

1955 F500 truck6. Gary has recently picked up this 1955 F500 truck with 272 Y-block power. “The guy only parked it up because it had oil leaks,” he says. “It’s got a lump in the roof, but otherwise it is pretty straight. It will make a good car carrier.”

1958 Studebaker7. Gary’s dad’s parked up this ’58 Studebaker President back in 1969. Gary is contemplating turning into a blown Hemi-powered gasser.