When I started this mad car photography journey in the early 2000s, I never thought I’d get one magazine cover, let alone 100 Street Machine covers, but here we are!
A lot of work and pre-planning goes into every one of my SM cover shoots.
Locations, angles, lighting and the particular features of the car all have to be taken into consideration to ensure the resulting image jumps off the page. And the post-shoot work on the computer can take up plenty of time, too.
Props have to go to the art directors who translate the image into a cover, and I’ve worked with some of the best, including Sonia Blaskovic, Gavin Morrison, Leah Gionis, Brendon Wise and Chris Andrew. For the past couple of years, I’ve been planning and collaborating with designer Povi Pullinen for each of my covers. Povi lives in LA, so the time difference can be tricky!
But it’s all worth it, because it’s a great feeling to have a helping hand in getting someone’s pride and joy onto the front cover of Australia’s modified car bible. While I remember almost all of my 100 cover shoots, here’s 10 that I’ll never forget.
Anthony Trevaskis – EH Holden
My first cover. Back in 2010, I already had a fair few Street Machine photoshoots under my belt, and luckily for me, editor Geoff Seddon and features editor Simon Telford placed great faith in me when they asked me to shoot this beast of an EH owned by Anthony Trevaskis (Trashy to his mates).
I believe Telfo said, “Get a crazy shot of it and it will have a great chance for the cover.” Trashy sourced a big, long, empty shed in Shepparton, and I attempted some rolling shots of the car in there. I somehow managed to snag a half-decent shot of it, and although it’s not my best photo looking back now, boom – first Streety cover! Anthony still owns AGRO64, uses it plenty, and it looks and goes better than ever.
Kerry Turley – Mad Max Interceptor replica
This shoot was memorable not only because it was an amazing Mad Max replica Interceptor, but also because I shot it around Broken Hill, which is where owner Kerry Turley lived. This allowed us to shoot in some actual Mad Max 2 locations, creating some amazing images with a couple of stunning sunrises and sunsets for backdrops.
I captured the actual cover image by lying in the back of my ute with a friend driving it down the road, with Kerry’s XB following very closely behind – no photoshopping necessary.
Harry Haig – XR Falcon ute
Any time spent with Harry Haig is a hoot, and this photoshoot for his XR ute was no exception. Once the meat-and-potatoes of the shoot was done, the Wild Turkey was flowing nicely and we had to try for a cover photo. One of Harry’s mates was a self-proclaimed licensed pyrotechnics expert, so he suggested we use some fire in the background.
So, we parked the XR out the front of Harry’s property on his “private road” at sunset, to get the best light and reflections on the car, and old mate ran some petrol around the XR and lit it. I snapped away, and the pick of the shots was the one that made the cover. So they are real flames, with the only touch-ups to the image being the sky and some of the reflections on the XR’s guards.
Adam Slorach – HB Torana
This shoot for Adam Slorach’s HB Torana was a highlight not only because it made the cover of the 300th issue of the magazine, but also because of the way the photoshoot unfolded. It was a pretty miserable, drizzly day in Bendigo, and Adam had cleaned out his ATS workshop so I could do the majority of the shoot inside.
With most of the shoot done, the rain stopped briefly and I went outside to find a weird tiny bit of road that was close to the factory. I suggested to Adam that we try a burnout photo, and of course he was happy to oblige. I quickly ran outside and set up my lights in the dark while Adam drove the HB into position, waking up most of the neighbourhood. Adam’s partner Terri hopped in the car to help keep an eye on the gauges, as it was one of the first times the Torana’s combo was tested.
The result was a photo that had a cool wet road, popping cherry-black paint, two people in the car enjoying the moment, and perfect tyre smoke, all with a magazine-friendly black background. We were lucky; after we wheeled the HB safely back inside, it poured rain, and someone swears they saw a police car cruise past.
Henry Parry – FB Holden
This is a standout car, and would still wow everyone if it came out today. Henry Parry’s FB was built at The Chop Shop by the late Laurie Starling and good mate Aaron Gregory. They made a super duo, and were truly going places before Laurie was tragically taken from us. Fortunately, Aaron is still kicking goals with his killer creative metalwork, as evidenced by his 2020 SMOTY-winning ’51 Chevy pick-up.
For me, Henry’s FB stands as a reminder of Laurie’s dedication, creativity and passion for modified cars.
Peter Grmusa – XR Falcon
Peter Grmusa’s ATRISK XR Falcon has to be one of my all-time favourite cars. Peter knows how to nail a certain look, the car always has a mental driveline, and he drives it so hard on the pad. I love the XR’s current gold GT guise, but I can’t go past how it looked when I shot it in 2013-14 – massive billet wheels, a huge PSI blower, and a slammed-to-the-ground stance. It was as in-your-face as you could get. But the thing that really blew me away was the paint.
I’d never seen anything like it, and I still haven’t. It was a special PPG metallic that changed colour from gold to green to light blue to royal blue, depending on where the light hit it and which angle you were looking at it from. It was a challenge to shoot, and I remember asking Pete which colour he wanted the car to appear in the magazine.
Unfortunately, the amazing coloured angles I captured in the shed didn’t make the cover. Instead, the burnout photo was picked, where the paint didn’t really shine. Funny thing with the burnout pic – I told Peter to do a small burnout in the one spot so I had the most chances of getting a winner. Instead, Pete just went ballistic and performed a couple of helis, covering my gear in rubber. After I reined him in a tad, we got a great burnout pic – radiator overflow and all.
Shannon Jennings – HQ Holden
I’ve lived in Geelong my whole life. Ford Australia called Geelong home since
forever, and I believe this is why the city has such a rich modified-car culture. I’ve shot many Geelong cars for the mag over the years and know a lot of amazing people in the local car community, so when I got my first Geelong car on the cover, I was stoked.
I’m not certain Shannon Jennings’s HQ Monaro was SM’s first Geelong cover car, but I’m claiming it anyway. HQ Monaros are an amazing shape, which makes them pretty easy to get killer photos of. Shannon managed to get us into a metal fabrication factory for the photoshoot, so we placed the HQ in front of a giant plasma cutter, which made for an epic background when combined with that tough, bright green Monaro.
Chris Bitmead – XB Falcon
No Aussie had ever taken their car across the pond to the Detroit Autorama to compete for the pinnacle of modified-car gongs, the Ridler Award – until Chris Bitmead did so with his jaw-dropping XB coupe, XBOSS, that is. Most people don’t know that this photoshoot was done just a day after the Autorama in Detroit. Perth shooter Jordan Leist and I tackled the daunting job of capturing Australia’s best modified car all night.
Chris, Greg Maskell and their team fell asleep pretty early on, and I remember having to wake Chris to open a door (no way was I wanting to touch the XB myself!). I also remember getting up in a scissor lift to turn off the annoying fluoro lights, and the side-on photo taking over an hour to get right. When we finally finished around 6am, we went outside to see it snowing and the guys getting the container ready to load the XB up to take it back home to Oz.
Robert Giangrave – XR Falcon ute
During COVID lockdowns, it was obviously pretty difficult to find and photograph cars. Fortunately, we got wind of some mad bastard who’d shoehorned a twin-turbo big-block Ford into an XR ute – a perfect candidate for a cover car.
With Melbourne well and truly in lockdown, the Street Machine boffins scrambled to get me the necessary permit to shoot Robert Giangrave’s XR. When I arrived at Rob’s factory, I was prepared to shoot inside, but Rob wasn’t fazed by the lockdown, so I shot some epic driving pics of the XR on Citylink, running twin ’chutes and no exhaust. As the sun fell, we went to an industrial road for the cover image and Rob got the XR onto the two-step to create some massive exhaust flames.
People started to come out of the nearby factory, wondering where the gunshots were coming from. On our second attempt, the XR blew a transmission line, spewing fluid all over the road and putting an end to the cover shoot. Luckily, it was just a short flat tow back to the factory, and I had already grabbed the winning image for cover.
SUMMER SPECIAL 2023
Gary Myers – Ford Mustang
To shoot Gary Myers’s iconic GM176 Mustang was an absolute honour and a
massive highlight for me. What was even better than the car was the way the Myers family treated me and writer Jack Houlihan. They were warm, welcoming, humble and loved cars with a passion, and nothing was too much trouble. On arriving, we were given the grand tour through the Myers clan’s epic shed and car collection.
Then Gary and son Jake fired up the angry blown 302 Windsor, and we headed off to a perfect road location in country NSW against a beautiful, clear sunset.
December 2012: Adam LeBrese’s XC Falcon. A SMOTY-winner and an epic build!
August 2015: Greg Trapnell’s AGROHQ, popping wheelies just before it went into a container for its first trip to Drag Week.
April 2016: Rhys Christou’s XR Falcon. Perfect pro streeter, owned and built by legends.
December 2017: the Judd brothers’ PROEH wagon – epic photo of a stunning SMOTY winner.
July 2018: Shane Braybrook’s HK Monaro. We did many laps of DECA in Shepparton with Shane and Scott from Southern Rod & Custom.
October 2022: Peter Sauer’s HG Brougham, with tuning on the fly by Justin Simpson. The photoshoot was the first time Peter drove the car. All that power under the stock flat bonnet!
July 2011: Here’s Scott Taylor’s favourite cover – Steve Edsall’s SKDUTE frying the hides.
Telfo’s favourite Thorogood covers
February 2019: SMOTY-winning HQ Statesman at speed.
March 2015: It is hard to take a bad photo of Shane Harvey’s GRUNTA, but Tappy hit this one out of the park.
April 2015: Steve Loader didn’t hang on to his RELOAD Commodore for long, but she sure made an impact on the newsstands.
August 2021: Billy Shelton’s SICKEST VL just burst out of the page here.
August 2018: Green is nice! Shannon Heraud’s genre-busting TUF253 matched to the perfect coverline.
February 2018: Quentin Feast’s three-time Drag Challenge-winning Torana lights ’em up. The driving shots in the Melbourne CBD are also well worth checking out.
January 2016: Graham Laity’s 1969 Camaro is pro touring perfection.
November 2016: Not many journos get the chance to get behind the wheel of a SMOTY winner, but Craig Parker did with King Kong ’Cuda!
November 2011: Leisa and Shane Chinnock’s PSYCHO XF was nailed perfectly by Tappy, with Greg Maskell jammed in tight behind the wheel.
January 2017: We don’t get people on our covers as often as we’d like, but this shot showcased both the toughness of Bubba Medlyn’s Drag Challenge-winning Commodore, but also the man’s larger-than-life personality.
Of course, Tappy’s 100 covers don’t include the any of the one-shot covers he did for us, including the SM Hot Rod Annual, LSX Tuner and many others. This SM Hot Rod cover shot of Richard Dabbs’s wild Model A is a stand-out.