Cleetus McFarland does Summernats 33

American YouTube star Cleetus McFarland brought his TOAST Camaro to Summernats to try his hand at burnouts Oz-style

Photographers: Chris Thorogood, Shaun Tanner

CLEETUS McFarland (aka Garrett Mitchell) is one of the biggest names in the Youtube world for car nuts, amassing a huge following in only a few years with his love of turbos, V8’s, Mountain Dew and all things freedom.

His most famous car is LeRoy, a twin-turbo seven second manual Corvette (not that there’s much ‘Vette left) that launched him into stardom. Other notable projects of his include Project Neighbour, a supercharged Crown Vic Police Car built specifically to slay tyres, plus a whole host of other fan favourite machines.

Cleetus’s first rip in TOAST was a baptism of fire, literally. Taking on the Last Chance Wildcard Shootout on Thursday afternoon, Cleetus got things off to a great start with a monster tip-in, but got cut short when the car had a huge oil fire just 30 seconds in, which killed the 632ci BluePrint Engines big-block

Street Machine Summernats 33 was Cleetus’s third time at the event, but this time he decided to take his Summernats game to a new level by building and shipping his own car all the way from the US to take on the burnout masters.

What resulted was a hastily prepared third-gen Camaro, sporting a monster 632ci Blueprint big-block and with a huge freedom-inducing blower. With such a short turnaround to get the car ready before it had to be shipped here, Cleetus hadn’t turned the wheel of the thing until he hit the pad on Thursday afternoon for the last chance wildcard shootout for the burnout masters.

The wildcard skid started of swimmingly, but was cut short due to engine trauma. Not to be beaten, Cleetus and crew dug deep and found a new mill for the third-gen dubbed Toast, before sending it out for exhibition runs on Saturday and Sunday.

Alongside his burnout duties he also took on the celebrity mower race, in which he was just beaten out by local hero Shannon Noll.

Despite busting the engine and putting themselves out of the running for a shot in the Masters, Cleetus and the crew got to work sorting a new donk for the Camaro, and with some help from Steve Nogas and the crew from the Canberra Institute of Technology, they had TOAST fixed and ready to hit the pad again on Saturday

We sat down with Cleetus on the last day of Summernats to discuss his love of Australia, burnouts, how he got to this point and what the future holds.

This is your third time at Street Machine Summernats and your first time bringing your own car. How has your weekend been so far?

Weekend’s been busy; we’ve been breaking stuff, fixing it, breaking it again and fixing it again and having fun.

Cleetus returned with a fresh engine on Saturday and did what he came here to do – get the tyres off – even if that meant nosing up to the wall to finish the job.

It’s a big deal to ship a car all the way from the States for an event like this; what is it that keeps you coming back to Australia?

It’s just the volume of people here and the volume of cars. In the States we cap our events at 30 cars, and there are more than 2000 entrants here! There’s so many cool cars, so for us to get over here, it’s not like we were just going to some small event; this is like its own little country we’re in of just gearheads, and we love it.

You’ve built a big following on YouTube, with nearly two million subscribers, and a stable of killer project cars. How did you get started?

Cleetus started on a whim, just having a good time with some buddies. I made a video that happened to go viral with the 1320Video guys, and from there it just built into something fun. We just build cars; we’re just like every other car guy – we build stuff and we do crazy stuff that we just film. A lot of these guys don’t film what they do. So we’re not different from those people; we just put it on the internet.

The Summernats crew organised for Cleetus to have his own mini-Cleetus & Cars meet-and-greet on the last day of the ’Nats, giving out awards to his favourite automotive Aussie specimens and spending time with adoring fans, before jumping in an EH Holden to take a lap of the cruise route and down

Tell us a bit about TOAST. You’ve it built specifically to bring over here and destroy tyres.

We wanted to choose a car that was rare over in Australia but also cheap and available in the States, because we knew we were going to destroy it – I’ve hit the wall twice already and I’m probably going to smoke the wall today. It made sense to be a third-gen Camaro, and the way we built it, with the big-block and big blower, is just Australian-style. That’s what all the kings out here have – the higher the hat, the better it is. We’re hoping to build a crazier set-up for next year, but we did it in such a short period of time. We just put a bunch of power in a Camaro and sent it over. It’s not a true burnout car yet, but it’s close enough.

The carnage wasn’t just limited to the engine, with Cleetus getting both rear corners of the Camaro acquainted with the walls over the weekend as he sent it hard to give the fans a proper show

What’s it like to drive?

As far as a burnout car goes, I have absolutely no control over the car; it does whatever it wants to do. I’m in there turning the wheel and the car is just driving around. But it does smoke tyres, so I’ll give it that – that’s where it gets its 2/10 points! That’s the fun part of it though. It’s almost more fun that I’m just sending it in there with absolutely zero idea of where I’m going to end up, because that car is out of control.

Cleetus came back for one last exhibition burnout to open the masters finals on Sunday, which unfortunately also ended prematurely when the engine died mid-skid due to a suspected tuning issue with the heavy bushfire smoke.

Do you have any plans for Summernats next year?

It’s hard to say what condition TOAST will be in by the end of 2020, because he’ll be going around the country doing skids in America, but maybe at that point we’ll say we need something with a shorter wheelbase, something that turns harder, and build a different car and send it back over here. I wouldn’t mind doing that, but it’s hard to say. I have no idea if TOAST will be back here or if it’ll be a different car.