The Ultimate Summernats Survival Guide, Part 2

I’ve made the bold assumption that you’ve already read the Ultimate Summernats Survival Guide, Part 1. I mean, it’s not compulsory, but very little here will make any sense if you’re choosing to make Part 2 your Summernats starting point. If you’ve not read Part 1 yet, right now is the perfect opportunity to bring yourself up to speed.

Caught up? Great. Let’s get cracking.

With our disclaimers and reintroductions taken care of, it’s time to put my travel guide hat on. In this situation, that’s the widest sombrero available.

This is my one-day Summernats attack plan. If you are serious about heading to the ‘Nats, feel free to use this as a template and adjust it accordingly to better reflect your interests.

As I mentioned previously, the size and the sheer number of attractions at the Summernats makes it almost impossible to cram everything into a single weekend. If you’ve only got a single day there, you’ll be forced to prioritise and cut a few activities off your list.

That said, with a little planning and a willingness to trim your time at most attractions, you’ll at least be able to get a taste of (almost) everything. Rushing around like a madman is not the ideal way to visit Summernats, but by checking out most of what’s on offer, you’ll know exactly where you want to spend your time if you ever make it back down.

Ok, it’s just gone 9:00am and the gates are opening. Let’s go adventuring…

Firstly, it’s always great to find the lay of the land. In addition to the non-stop parade of muscle cars, there’s also a metric sh*t-tonne of amazing vehicles lined up along the main strip and even littered throughout the campsites. Wherever you look, there’s something to find.

Unlike your traditional show, the cars aren’t static here, and almost all entered are worth a look. We’ll find some absolute magic as we stroll, which why our first hour or two is budgeted purely for exploring around the compound.

After a couple of hours under the brutal sun, it’s time for some shade. While we’re over on the far side of the show, now might be a good time to seek shelter and check out the drifting. Not only are there regular tandem displays, but there’s also an opportunity to slap on a helmet and fill the passenger seat of whatever ride takes your fancy.

Drifting is fairly new to Summernats, and honestly, I was a little surprised by how positively it’s being received by the regulars. I guess it makes sense when you consider most of the cars are running an LS setup, more often with boost.

With our core temperatures back to normal, sunscreen reapplied and thirsts quenched, it’s time to kick on. My next tip will be tricky to execute: We’re going to bypass the action that’s happening on the main burnout pad and head straight to ‘Skid Row’.

Don’t worry, we’ll be back for the Burnout Masters eliminations or finals later on in the afternoon to catch the big dogs in action. After spending some time around ‘Tuff Street’ you’ll be better positioned to contextualise and appreciate the level of insanity and differences between powerful cars and top-tier burnout weapons.

Skid Row is a fenced-off area for non-competitive burnouts, situated between the bar and the main cruise boulevard. Not only that, this is where the crowd is generally at its very rowdiest. This is as ‘Summernats’ as it gets. I mean, what’s not to like about a Barra-powered Lightning McQueen sending a set of tyres to an early grave?

It’d have to be close to lunch now – time to find some shade and a cold beverage or two (or three). Typically, the outside temperature spikes between 2:00pm and 5:00pm, which makes this an excellent time to soak up the air-conditioning in the trader halls and the highlight of Australia’s show car scene.

Tucked away quietly away from the smoke and fury of the burnout pit rests the Top 60 Hall. A car space within the hall guarantees bragging rights for years to come; it’s quite an honour to be invited to park inside. Year after year, the country’s finest builds are unveiled for Summernats.

Vehicle direction lays somewhere between SEMA and a Mooneyes event, and quite often, once a car has finished a season on the show circuit it’ll do time on the burnout pad. Many owners definitely aren’t afraid to try the impossible, or to get a little wild.

We could spend hours walking the hall combing each car for fine details, and without fail, every car residing within the hall is a masterpiece. I often leave feeling bad for not giving each vehicle the time and attention it deserves.

Once we’ve soaked up enough inspiration and we’ve prepared ourselves to brave the heat again, a bourbon or vodka-flavoured slushie is the perfect accompaniment for seeing some big power in action on the hub dyno. These days you can expect to see a whole range of vehicles pushing well above the 1,000hp mark, and some even capable of melting your eyeballs as they’re pushed to 2,000hp and beyond. Seeing, hearing, and feeling what it takes to hit these stupid numbers firsthand is a must.

After some power runs, we should start moving towards the main burnout pad, but this time we’ll cut straight across the main arena. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see some driving events, a mullet parade or a tattoo show along the way. I was pretty sad that I only caught the very last race of the modified lawn mowers this year.

It’s important that we consult the schedule and arrive at the burnout pit about 20 minutes before the day’s finals kick-off. There’s plenty of seating available, but as you’d imagine, Summernats’ headline act always attracts a massive crowd.

Bonus tip: bring along a bottle of water or two. It gets hot in the grandstands, and even hotter if you’re right in the thick of it down along the fence line. Be prepared to get loud if you’re spectating from the frontline; on the ground it’s less car event and more of a concert. Headlining today’s show is ‘Rage Of The Machines’.

You’ve got two choices, and if you’d rather not cling to the fence at ground zero being peppered with marbles of hot rubber, you can try your luck amongst the more civilised folk in the grandstands. Ultimately, it’s not as exciting in the bleachers, but it does provide a better view of the entire pad.

Well, until the smoke hits.

The best way to wind down after the methanol-fuelled adrenaline subsides is to pull up a seat or patch of grass, and enjoy the last parade of the night – the Summernats Supercruise.

Right now, with the sun setting and the cooler southerly breeze kicking in, your body informs you that it’s pretty much spent. Most folks nearby have engaged chill mode. You decide this is a great idea and join them.

Wow, what a day, I’m exhausted. Thanks for tagging along with me; I trust you’ve had an awesome adventure. The only task left now is to find some well-deserved dinner and maybe even stick around to enjoy the concert.

If you’ve made it this far then congratulations are in order – you’ve just survived your first Summernats car festival.

Matthew Everingham
Instagram: matthew_everingham
matt@mattheweveringham.com