Mud, mayhem and marvellous machinery at the third annual Uralla Dust Up

Photographers: Peter Bateman

The third annual Uralla Dust Up proved to be filthy fun for the whole family.

This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of Street Machine.

Uralla is on the New England Highway, halfway between Sydney and the Queensland border, a handy spot for travellers needing a stop on the long drive. More importantly, though, it is Hot Rod Central in August, as many rod clubs converge on the town for the annual Dust Up.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-1The Uralla Dust Up began in 2014, the brainwave of then-president of the New England Rods & Customs club, John Baker. JB wanted an event everyone in the club would love and that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to attend or strain club funds to organise.

This year’s Uralla Dust Up (for those looking to save energy on pronunciation, the locals call it ’Ralla) was a laidback affair, with few queues to hinder the action; rarely did you have to wait very long for your turn at spinning around the showground dirt. Speaking of which, the organisers have been told they do less damage to the grounds than the rodeo bull-riders. There is no harm in smoothing that fertile New England dirt, is there?

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-2The diehards camped on-site at the Uralla Showground, right beside the action, but Uralla also provided for those who like their creature comforts, with plenty of motels and hotels available for good tucker and warm beds. On site, the Showground Trust supplied food and refreshments.

Coming from the big smoke to the country is an eye-opener. The bushies are so practical. Up here Suburban Assault Vehicles are actually needed – not like the city slickers who think 4WD is a setting designed to jump the kerb while taking the ankle-biters to preschool.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-3You get the feeling the folks out here can do anything with bits of old discarded machinery. The king of these bush designers in New England has to be Inverell master builder and truck driver, Snapper. Street machiners will remember Snapper’s FX-grilled FJ ute Cranky Frank, which featured in Mad Max: Fury Road. For this year’s Dust Up, Snapper and his stepson Spud arrived with an awesome sloper and a unique motorbike that takes its name from the Moffat-Virtue single-cylinder stationary engine used to make it move.

The sloper is the result of what this mechanical whiz calls “a Snapper moment”. The unidentified original vehicle came from the neighbour’s creek bed. It was dragged home and Snapper originally thought of cutting the doors off and making another ute. “I was going to put a V8 truck engine in there, but, well, I got a little excited,” he explained.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-4He ain’t kidding! The engine is a 350 Chev with two mismatched (“for better balance”) old truck turbos. The bonnet and grille are Vauxhall, while the tyres have a modern touch with their very trendy white Dulux high-gloss painted sidewalls. The interior trim may not be to modern tastes, but the seat cover does have some merit. Snapper considered using a real Shaun the Sheep for his makeshift upholstery, but in a moment of responsible recycling and conservation used an old rug he found at the tip. Fortuitous for Shaun! The car even has a ‘seatbelt’, which may not exactly meet ADRs but does keep Snapper within the cabin when he is on full noise, relocating the dirt.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-5A bunch of old postie bikes provided regular enjoyment on the dirt. Led by the Postie King, Clarky, from down Newcastle way, the riders had a ball. Even the nippers took to the dirt and mud with gusto. Clarky has mastered the Honda CT110 postie bike’s lack of power and almost achieved speedway solo standards. It was a real sight watching a postie bike sliding, in full oversteer, with mud everywhere and the manic Clarky urging it for more speed.

During a quiet period there was a contest between Clarky on the Honda and Greg Love in his Model A barn-find. It was sublime. How could it be that a bog-standard Model A dragged from a shed, with a bullet hole through the windscreen and original tyres, could drift sideways in the mud, while a postie bike slid around it in a frantic overtaking manoeuvre? Mud splashing everywhere, and all this happening at a speed slightly faster than a trot. Now, that’s a giggle.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-6But serious mud-churning required serious mud cars. John Baker had his LS-powered International, Al Fountain brought his Model A with the 493-cube Mopar from his old bellytank. Ben Wells’s 350 small block-engined FJ had a great day, until he boiled the kettle. Fortunately there was no damage and it drove home.

Events like ’Ralla are what make club outings a dream; meeting others with the same interests makes for a better world. The love of interesting machinery extended to all, from Yatesy’s 100 per cent original FJ ute and the mildly hotted-up cars Paul Cundy arrived with, through to the varied Death Dodgers fleet and Snapper’s works of agricultural genius.

Uralla -Dust -Up -2016-7All that fresh country air must have a healthy effect on these clever bush designers, who create rides that are as cool as they are practical. These beasties don’t sit in the garage, all polished and spruced; they’re created for a bit of bush-bash fun. Mud and dirt? Mate, it washes right off.