ACT News

Fans back to worship at church of Summernats

Summernats may not be listed as a religion, but Rodney Phillips' annual trip to Canberra has the fervour of a pilgrimage.

The 37-year-old Sydneysider was among the throng of enthusiasts who rolled into the capital on Wednesday before the long weekend of burning rubber and gleaming metal.

Mr Phillips has only missed one weekend since the festival began in 1988, having been drawn into the world of street machines that he now describes as his family's "church".

"It's just part of my life," he said.

"It's great to see the different cars, the designs and the hard work that a lot of guys put in. We've already booked our cabin for next year."

With his wife Belinda and two-year-old daughter Breanna also avid attendees, Mr Phillips said it was promising that the event had become increasingly family-oriented over the past few decades.

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"People think people with cars are hoons, but they're not," he said,

"They're enthusiasts. It's a real community."

The family took part in the scrutineering process on Wednesday, entering their 1955 Vauxhall Velox. Nicknamed Chitty, the car was a joint project between Mr Phillips and his brother, who also did the airbrushing of pin-up girls on the front and back of the vehicle.

"It's a very expensive hobby, but you don't take much notice of the money you put in because it's a passion," he said. The annual festival will continue to feature the Miss Summernats competition, but the previous plethora of scantily clad entertainers has all but disappeared as organisers ditch the Saturday night strip show.

It is part of a move towards a more family-oriented festival, says Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez.

Up to 90,000 people are expected to walk through the gates over the coming days, and Mr Lopez says competitor numbers are also up from last year to an expected 1700.

The four-day event officially kicks off on Thursday with the traditional ''City Cruise'' along Northbourne Avenue, before competitions and performances by the likes of Rose Tattoo over the weekend.

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