Street Machine of the Year 2021 VIP Party

A gaggle of Street Machine legends and supporters gathered to anoint the 2021 Milwaukee Street Machine of the Year winner

Photographers: Ashleigh Wilson, Povi Pullinen

With old mate Omicron kicking off across the eastern seaboard, editor Broads and I thought long and hard about whether it was sensible to proceed with our annual Thursday-night-of-Summernats Street Machine of the Year shindig in Canberra. After all, we love shouting our mates a beer, but we’d feel pretty bad if any of them caught the spicy cough at our barbecue!

But with the invites out and the drinks already on ice, we decided to push on. Our hosts – the ever-accommodating George Harcourt Hotel – put some social distancing measures in place and we were off!

Our guests were greeted by Jasmine Green’s very recently repainted HiLux. Jazzy is a previous Laurie Starling Scholarship winner, so it was awesome to see her completed mini-truck at the same place she received her award. And the fact that she placed in the Elite Top 60 a couple of days later was even sweeter!

Jazzy’s ’Lux was meant to be joined by the slammed HD Holden ute of 2021 Milwaukee Street Machine of the Year winner, Chad Ribbons. Like Jazzy, Chad and his mates spent the days leading up to Summernats working flat-out – in his case, repowering, smoothing and painting his SMOTY winner.

As the clock ticked towards 7:30pm, Chad was nowhere to be seen, which set our hearts racing a little. We knew our man had been burning the candle at both ends to make the ’Nats deadline – surely he wasn’t going to miss his own party?

Phone calls and text went unanswered, so we were mightily relieved when the HD rolled into the car park on the back of a car trailer. One look at Chad’s weary visage told us that this wasn’t the time to ask him to unload his creation, so we left it on the trailer and ushered him inside for a seat and a well-deserved lemon squash.

The formal proceedings began shortly after. First, I was joined on stage by Rob Starling to announce the eighth winner of the Laurie Starling Scholarship – namely, Corey Scragg of Deluxe Rod Shop. Corey’s handiwork went on display for the world to see the next evening in the Elite Hall, so there is no doubt that he’s a fitting recipient of the $4000 in tuition fees and $3500 worth of tools thanks to Milwaukee. You can read more about Corey in this story here.

Then it was time to formally award the 2021 Milwaukee Street Machine of the Year. While we had chatted with Chad over Zoom and on the phone during the year, it was a blast to present him with the iconic trophy – and the all-important giant novelty $20,000 cheque thanks to Milwaukee.

With Chad’s family and friends in attendance, it was an emotional moment as he retold the story of losing his dad Scott and his decision to rebuild Scott’s old work ute as tribute.

After the huge thrash to get the ute to the party, an exhausted Chad found the celebration a delightfully surreal experience. “The party started at six in Canberra and I was still fitting up the bonnet at 5:30 in Sydney, but we got there!” he said. “It was a bit nerve-wracking, but a great night. I had people like Peter Fitzpatrick walk up, shake my hand and congratulate me. All these legends that I’ve looked up to my whole life coming up and offering to get me a beer; it was bizarre!

“That last week was a wild thrash. Huge thanks to Rod from Rod’s Custom Restoration, Les from O’Connor Body Works, Robbie from Shortys Performance, Auto West Paint Supplies, and the family and fiancée for not murdering me!”