Street Machine Summernats 34 Fringe Festival

We check out all the action from the first-ever Street Machine Summernats Fringe Festival

Photographers: Simon Davidson, Ash Wilson

The first-ever Street Machine Summernats Fringe Festival rocked Braddon on the Friday and Saturday nights of the ’Nats, with hundreds of Australia’s toughest street cars coming out to play in a chilled-out environment.

Lonsdale Street and the surrounding block was closed to public traffic, creating a precinct filled with restaurants, food trucks, pubs and bars, plus DJs and live music well into the night. Pedestrian entry was free, allowing onlookers of all ages to enjoy the quality metal up close.

Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez said the Fringe Festival was created to harness Braddon’s existing nightlife energy in a safe and controlled way. “Braddon’s had a long relationship with Summernats; cars have gone down there for years and years to cruise around,” he said.

“Over the past few years it was getting more attention from the police – they weren’t necessarily against cars driving around, but there was no management over the top.”

In response, Andy and his team came up with the Fringe Festival concept. While discussions began prior to the 2021’s postponed ’Nats, the final go-ahead was only given in October that year, following consultation with local residents and business groups. “We only announced it three weeks before the event, but the entrants embraced it and had a great time,” Andy said.

Friday night was a damp affair in Braddon, but many punters braved the wet for a cruise around the precinct. Saturday proved bigger again, the rain gods holding off to create cruise-friendly weather. “Saturday night went off,” Andy enthused. “With cars cruising, the DJ in the roundabout, people parked up everywhere and the bars and restaurants filled, it was exactly as it was meant to be!”

Even the city’s popular (and somewhat chaotic) E-scooters were managed effectively around festival. “They’ve got a bit of bloody stick on them,” Andy laughed. “We ended up getting them geoblocked, because the last thing we want is somebody bashing into a beautiful car!”

Andy said the Fringe Festival is sure to return in the future, with even more to see and do around Braddon. He also believes its success could mean more events held outside of EPIC during the Summernats weekend. “It’s a model for things to come,” he said. “We’d love to see other activities happening in different parts of Canberra so we can stretch that economic and community benefit wider into town.”

1. Steven Bellman’s VR faithfully replicates the iconic Perkins Racing Bathurst 1995 winner. “I first planned to do a big-banger VK build, but there’s lots of those around and this car was the first Holden I saw win at Bathurst,” Steve said. A Holden 5.0L, five-speed ’box and 9in diff make up the driveline. “I never thought I’d take a later-model car to Summernats, but a lot of people loved it!”

2. The Fringe Festival was a great opportunity to see proper toughies out in the wild, like Dean Beattie’s utter showpiece of a VL Calais. Powered by a staunch blown Holden V8 combo and detailed to within an inch of its life, the car has won plenty of Tuff Street tinware in the past.

3. Canberra local Aaron McInnes debuted his 650hp, 408 Clevo-powered XY Falcon at Summernats 33, after a four-year build. Since then, he’s done about 3500km in the car, which features rack-and-pinion steering, Wilwood brakes and big 20in Simmons rims. This year he hit the streets for both the City Cruise and Fringe Festival.

4. American car nut Jake McMullen recently got his mean black-on-black ’71 Challenger back on the road, now running a Jeep-sourced 6.4 Hemi donk. It’s backed by a beefy 727 auto and 8¾in diff. “I drove the car from Bellambi with the air con and Bluetooth on, went through six sets of tyres, and drove it home again” Jake enthused.

5. Matthew Mayberry’s ultra-smooth 1960 DeVille was an unmissable presence on Lonsdale Street. The luxo-barge packs a 400 Chev, with Level Ride ’bags and 20in Intro billets underneath. A Top 40 place and Top Custom in Street Elite were icing on the cake for Matthew, who loved the Fringe Festival. “It really took you back to the old days, just hanging out with mates and enjoying everyone’s pride-and-joys,” he said