This year’s Milwaukee Street Machine of the Year field was one of the toughest in recent memory. We’re talking about four cars from the Street Machine Summernats Elite Top 10 and two from the Top 20, just for starters!
Among the elite crew were some hardcore muscle cars that are already iconic in their own right, including Jason Mansweto’s Grand Champion and People’s Choice-winning XW Falcon, Trent Carter’s Top Judged Barracuda and Jovan Batar’s exquisite HK Monaro.
There were a few less-conventional SMOTY finalists in the pack too, including Michael Ellard’s spunky Corolla, Simon Birch’s Motorvation Grand Champion-winning Suzuki Mighty Boy, and Anthony Fuller’s outstanding wild custom FJ Holden coupe.
The winning vehicle – Jasmine ‘Jazzy’ Green’s HiLux – has both elite and unconventional credentials, having placed in the Top 20 at Summernats 34 but also being the first Japanese car (and the first mini-truck) to win SMOTY in the award’s long history.
Thanks to some stealthy organisation by Jasmine’s boss Greg Maskell, the Street Machine team – accompanied by Jasmine’s parents, her fiancé Michael Warren, their husky puppy Bolto, Michael’s parents and a group of mates – surprised her with the news of the SMOTY win at her workplace at Maskell’s Customs & Classics in Shepparton.
After the formal proceedings were finished – including the cutting of a HiLux-themed cake – and the shock had worn off a little, we sat down with Jazzy to hear her story.
How does it feel to know that you’ve won Milwaukee SMOTY?
I’m actually still shaking [laughs]. Greg told me a film crew from the VACC [Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce] were coming out to do some filming, which is how he made sure I drove the ute to work. I had no idea!
How did you rate your chances?
I was really surprised just to be nominated; I never thought a HiLux would get that far. I didn’t think I had a chance against some of the really strong cars in the field. But once I knew I was nominated, people started sharing it on social media and I decided to give it a go and promote it as hard as I could. I just got the car out and showed what it could do. I even did a burnout video, and it surprised me how well it went.
How did your journey with the ’Lux begin?
The HiLux was my first car. I’m into dirt bikes and needed something to cart them around in, so I bought the HiLux.
So it was never meant to be an award-winning show car?
It just evolved over time. When I first got it, I didn’t know much about cars, but I was used to working on dirt bikes, doing engine rebuilds. The HiLux did a few head gaskets and blew a couple of engines, so I started learning how to fix that stuff. Then I wanted to learn how to weld, so I started by shaving door handles and all that usual mini-trucker stuff. Then I learned how to paint, and as I kept chopping up the car and modifying it, I kept repainting it. And that’s how it went for the whole build as I did the engine conversion and chassis stuff; I learned as I went.
Same with the trimming?
Yep, I couldn’t afford to pay someone to trim the car and I like to do everything myself, so I taught myself the basics on YouTube. I couldn’t attend trade school during COVID, so I did the whole interior rebuild through my apprenticeship and have pretty much ticked off all my modules.
You’ve developed a very well-rounded skillset; how did you decide to focus on trimming for your apprenticeship?
I think trimming kind of ties all the different skills into one. To be a good trimmer, you need to understand metal fabrication and how a car comes together. 3D design and printing really goes hand in hand with trimming these days, and I’m loving using that technology. I’ll be incorporating a lot of that in my next build, a 1964 Toyota Stout.”
What’s the plan with the Stout?
I’ve got three of them. I’ve been collecting them; they are all old farm utes. One has a birdbath roof, one is totally rusty and one has a good chassis, so I’ll make one out of the three of them. I’d like to make it better than the HiLux – design the chassis on the computer and go a lot crazier with the bodywork.
Rather than chopping up or combining panels, I’d like to make them from scratch. And I want to put it on hydraulics – I think that would be cool.
This is definitely a SMOTY winner that is driven, not hidden!
I’ve driven the HiLux all throughout the build. As soon as each stage was done, I’d take it out and drive the wheels off it, then pull it apart again and repeat. It has been down to Tasmania, and the East Coast Cruise in Jindabyne multiple times.
We even drove it to Adelaide to pick up my new puppy, Bolto! I just love driving it. You’ve got to get out there and enjoy them. I never planned on showing this car, but there was a point where I realised I’d done a lot to it and maybe I had better show it. And I’m glad I did!
So what are you going to do with the $20,000 prize money from Milwaukee?
It is the most amount of money I’ve ever seen in my life [laughs]. I think I’ll put most of it back into the HiLux – I’d like to do an engine rebuild and a cam swap.
I only spent money where it was absolutely necessary, so it would be good to refresh the LS, put a cam in it and make it really reliable. I’d also like to put power steering in it! And get a head-start on the Stout.”