Alice Springs legend: Peter Hondow

If you've ever driven through the remote town of Alice Springs, you’ve surely admired the surprising number of custom cars parked up at the pub. We’ve got Peter Hondow to thank for that

Photographers: Ashleigh Wilson

PETER Hondow has dedicated the past 16 years to restoring rare steel out of his shop, Custom Automotive. We caught up with Peter at Red CentreNATS 7 to talk about car culture in the heart of our country.

First published in the Street Machine Yearbook 2022

You’ve collected more cars than most people will own over their lifetime; what sparked your obsession?

I’ve been infatuated with cars for 50 years. I was 12 when I saw my first hot rod. It was a black 1933 coupe; it had chrome all over and flames up the side. I knew then that I wanted to build a hot rod. I’ve built a few now. My black ’36 tudor is my favourite car, and I’m still thinking about putting flames on it.

Tell us about the Aces & Eights Car Club.

In the early 2000s, we had a very small car scene in Alice Springs. I rang everyone that I knew who had a car at the time and invited them cruising. We ended up running cruise nights, scavenger hunts and swap meets. We started the Aces & Eights Car Club in 2007 – which I’ve been the president of since it began – with about a dozen cars. Today, we have around 150 members and have put on some big shows. We brought Gary Myers out for our last event and raffled off passenger rides in his burnout car.

It sounds like there’s a bit of gear hiding out in the red dirt.0

We’ve got around 300 good-quality cars and bikes in our little town. The whole scene has just gone ballistic in the past five years and the standard of cars has exploded! Red CentreNATS has played a big part in that.

How did you go at RCN this year?

I was a show-car judge in the Elite shed. I also entered five of my own cars. My red ’33 Ford coupe was on show. I blew up the motor going for Grand Champion at Red CentreNATS 2, and since then I’ve rebuilt the 366-cube, four-bolt small-block Chev. Now it’s blown and makes 700hp. My 1971 HG Holden, JOOSE, also sat with the show cars.

Tell us about the first car you built.

I bought a four-speed ’67 HR Premier sedan when I was 17. I rebuilt the motor, put wheels on it and re-did interior. I’d had it for about 10 months before it got stolen on Christmas Eve in 1975. The police found it a few months later, so I followed their tracks out to where it was dumped and pinched as much off it as I could. It rained so much over the next few months that the tracks washed away, and the grass was about four feet high. It was gone. Four years ago, a picture of it popped up on the Alice Springs Bush Wreckers Facebook page. I went out with a trailer the following weekend. I’ve now got it sitting under the sign at work. There’s not much of it left; it’s just a shell with a caved-in roof, but I love seeing it every day. It feels a bit like coming home. Every journey has its end, and I’m glad it found its way back to me.