What comes to mind when you think of Australia? Kangaroos, summer in December and doing the Locomotion, perhaps? For those not in the know, the car scene is probably not something that comes to mind. But after spending a week in Melbourne recently I found out it’s more than just utes and V8s—it’s just mostly utes and V8s. But there’s other stuff too that is very good.
The car scene in Melbourne, and I’d say for the rest of the country, is just as diverse and multicultural as everything else in Australia. There’s a lot of influence from Europe, America, and Asia. If I’m honest, that surprised me a lot.
I was expecting 90 percent of cars would just be Fords and Holdens but there was a nice mix of fancy European cars, American muscle cars, and stanced out JDM cars. There’s no doubting the passion for cars in Australia.
Having already seen the various local scenes in London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, I wanted to see how Melbourne fared. Being there on the Australian Grand Prix weekend helped. Formula One has a way of transforming every city it comes to into a car town. Before going to Melbourne I knew there were some cool cars around on Instagram but I assumed they were a once in a blue moon sort of thing.
Most of the supercars I saw were Ferraris, unsurprisingly. Some the best and rarest from Maranello were out to celebrate, including an F40, F12tdf, 599 GTO, Testarossa, several 488s, and even a 458 Challenge. We decided to join in on the festivities and had dinner at Lygon Street where there it was just a sea of red Ferrari shirts as far as the eye could see. I had never seen anything like it before—not even the rain could ruin this parade.
Once the F1 fever had died down, going around the city I was able to see more of a variety. There are old Toyota Land Cruisers and Nissan Patrols casually driving around the city center. I’d like to think on weekends these will get taken out to the outback to do outback activities. There’s no escaping the fact you’re in Australia.
Then there were all the utes. After this trip I started to find the idea of a two-door, two-seater pick up truck based on a car quite appealing, particularly the ones fitted with the 580 HP LSA V8s in the HSV GTS Maloo. But it’s not all utes though. There were also a nice mix of Asian cars.
I say Asian because there were Japanese cars but also Korean, Malaysian and some Chinese ones as well. For various reasons, Japan doesn’t import any Korean or Chinese cars and the demand for cheap Malaysian cars isn’t very big.
So at the same parking lot the Paganis were at for the F1 race, I saw my first Malaysian hot hatch: a Proton Satria GTI. It basically just looked a lot like a Mitsubishi Mirage, hilariously small but with overfenders, so I call that a win.
Another random and noteworthy “classic” was a 1985 Toyota Crown, one of the last to be exported to Australia. I assume it was brought in new but certainly nice to see a Crown outside an Asian country. Of course there was the usual bunch of Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Honda sports cars around too.
Of course there were a few European cars around too. Australia and New Zealand have one of the highest ratio of AMG and M sales relative to the “standard” models. Perhaps owing to the country’s proud history of hoonage, AMG products account for 20 percents of Mercedes sales in Australia. C63s and A45s are especially popular. Quirky European cars such as TVR, Lancias, and Abarths abound as well.
Personally, the best thing about visiting Melbourne around the F1 was being able to drive around Albert Park when the race finished up. Even three days after the race was over there were still enough bollards left up to make it look and feel like the F1 track. At the end of the day it’s still an actual road people use; the guy in the E90 BMW M3 who must’ve had one of the best commutes in the history of commutes.
Thankfully my trip wasn’t limited to staying in the city. Out in the countryside they had their own unique ecosystem of cars too. There were a lot more older and less pristine condition utes. I got my history lesson of Holden Kingswoods here.
Another obvious difference were the large number of cars with light bars and special protective “bumper bars” attached on them. That’s to protect them from wild kangaroos on journeys at night. Apparently one of the things the average motorist in Australia has to worry about is a kangaroo jumping out in front of you, much like deer in America. Here I thought cyclists were a bad enough hazard.
One of the best things about the car scene in Melbourne was how willing people were to share their cars and stories with everyone else. Damon from Auto Attention messaged my friends asking if we were keen to see a Mine’s-tuned R34 Skyline GT-R he’d been working on. Naturally, we jumped at the chance to see it. It was a beautiful example looking relatively stock. The highlight for me were the NISMO LM wheels.
Another guy who let us in to check out his pride and joy was Chern Wong. When Chern bought an old, left-hand drive Porsche 930 in desperate need of TLC, he had no idea it’d end up being this light pink RWB you’d see here. He didn’t set out buying what was undoubtedly the best base car for an RWB treatment.
It was only after his trip to Japan and visiting Nakai-san at the RWB HQ in Chiba that made him fall in love with the movement.
Chern said being the first RWB in Australia had its challenges, but now there are two in the country with a couple more due later this year. Since its on a “Club Permit” plate, Australia’s version of a show and display permit, Chern is only allowed to take it out 60 days a year.
But on those 60 days the RWB Southern Cross (SoCross) gets taken out there’s a lot of love and appreciation for it. When the documentary for the SoCross build premiered, Chern got everyone who attended to sign the rear wing. He’s a cool guy.
Jordan Roddy also very kindly showed us around his workshop where he restores and maintains high end European cars, new and old. Outside he had a Lancia Delta Integrale Final Edition freshly imported from Japan but already had a buyer in the USA. He also had a stunning Daimler DS420 Limousine which looked liked it came straight from a period crime drama.
Inside, Jordan showed us some of the hidden gems he keeps inside such the front clamshell of a Jaguar XJR-8 and a the rear end of a XJR-9 casually hanging on the wall. There’s also a XJS which won the 1984 Spa 24 Hours for the Group A class and the Bathurst 1000 in 1985.
What made this car even more special is apart from the paint on the bonnet, everything is in its original condition. Jordan and his father Mike occasionally take it out for events and races.
But it was the Aston Martin DBRS9 that caught my eye. This is Jordan’s personal toy which he hopes to take on its first outing at new The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia. At 7.77km, it’s said to be the second longest permanent race track in the world behind the Nordschleife.
We pushed the DBRS9 outside his workshop around the corner to get some photos under the sun. There we started chatting about some of his stories, such as building a Group C engine to put into an XJS, buying the last Jaguar V12 from an auction in Texas, and about taking his old XJR-15 to the shops.
It was thanks to these guys and spending some time exploring the roads of Victoria that made me realize the car scene in Australia is so much more than V8 Holdens and Fords, utes, and kangaroo-proof Land Cruisers. There’s no denying the love for cars there; whether it’s people supporting an F1 team, a subculture style like RWB, or the local produce, the Australians are just as mad about cars as the rest of the world.
There’s a lot of influence from other parts of the world, but it all comes together in a true chilled and laid back Aussie style.