Six cars that Canberra street machiner – and multiple Summernats Grand Champion award winner – Peter Fitzpatrick says changed his life
First published in the August 2006 issue of Street Machine
He’s loathe to admit it but Canberra’s Peter Fitzpatrick is one of Australian street machining’s elder statesmen, having been a car enthusiast since before earning his licence, and an active participant in street machine shows — from small suburban affairs to Street Machine Nationals and Summernats — since the 1970s. Along the way, he’s earned hundreds of trophies and won more Summernats Grand Champion titles than anyone.
1. In 1975 I was running around in this EH Holden. It had a 40-80 Bert Jones-cammed 192 in it with a set of triple SUs and three-on-the-tree. At Castlereagh it ran 15 flat — very quick back then. At the very first Street Machine Nationals, in Griffith in ’75, it won Top Engine Bay and I won a socket set and four litres of oil. But would you believe I never got the trophy? They said they were going to get it engraved with my name and send it to me. I’m still waiting.
2. Alan Hale’s FC Holden. I’ve always like FCs but this one was influential on me. He won two or three Street Machine Nationals in it. Black, small-block, twin four-barrels. You used to always see it with no bonnet on.
3. A Mate’s Camaro that he brought back from America; Tony Seddon — he used to run a business called American Auto Conversions, doing left-to-right conversions. He used to drag race it, running a big-block with twin fours. Back then, we thought it was super-fast because it ran 11s — and it was competitive! These days, if a big-block Camaro doesn’t run eights they laugh at you! That car got me into performance — we used to street race, but this was more disciplined. Tony’s still a good mate.
4. Brumby was an FJ ute that used to run at Castlereagh. I can’t remember the bloke’s name who owned it [Ray Walker — ed] but this thing was a show car that ran hard. It was always immaculate — always — with a spotless body and paint with a simple ‘Brumby’ written in gold on the doors. Most racing cars out there were just big engines in tatty shells with no detail. This one was just schmick — that’s why I remember it.
5. I’m the kinda bloke who said: ‘Seen one burnout, you’ve seen them all’ but that changed a bit at Powercruise. Peter Gray asked me to jump in and come for a run. I said: “Yeah, okay, I’ll come for a run.” You’d be pretty silly to knock back a run in a methanol big-block Camaro, huh? He did one lap, full powerskid the whole friggin’ way. Two tyres and 40 litres of methanol. Gone. And mate, that bloke can steer a car … it changed what I thought!
6. Broomstick, my Holden Brougham. This was my first real show/comp car. I built it as a tidy street car, then later, when I’d seen what others were doing to the undersides of their cars, I came back and detailed the undercarriage. The ASMF Nationals (in many ways, the precursor to the Summernats) was held in Canberra. They used to have a ‘top’ class of car — it wasn’t called the Top 20 like today, but these were cars recognised for being the best; they were the ones called back for a second round of judging. I sold it in 2000.