Gang-gang

Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez speaks at the launch of Summernats 26 held at Federation Mall.

Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez speaks at the launch of Summernats 26 held at Federation Mall. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Canberra's fogeys will flinch to hear the news that Summernats 26 is only a month away and that, revved-up Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez enthused on Tuesday, it will feature an attempt to set an official World Record for The Biggest Mass Simultaneous Burn Out.

Other loud noises at this Summernats at Exhibition Park between January 3 and January 6 will be made, Lopez announced at Tuesday's launch in front of Parliament House, by an array of bands including one called Johnny Roadkill and the VBs.

"What's in a name, eh?" the likeable Lopez laughed as he promised us Mr Roadkill and his combo. If we are ever to hear Johnny Roadkill and the VBs we had best go to Summernats because, alas, they don't sound the kind of ensemble that will ever be invited to play at the genteel and tightly-corseted Voices In The Forest.

Ross Ingham with his 1960 Flat Top Cadillac at the launch of Summernats 26 held at Federation Mall.

Ross Ingham with his 1960 Flat Top Cadillac. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Tuesday's launch on the hallowed grass at Federation Mall was staged there to give the event grandeur reflected from the front facade of Parliament House. High above the Parliament the gigantic flag fluttered stiffly (as though starched into shape) in a strong, flag-flattering breeze.

The true stars of the launch were, with all due respect to the ACT Minister for Tourism Andrew Barr, the dozen elite juggernauts (to just call them cars seems irreverent) that had roared, chugged and gurgled into place for the occasion. One of them, a 1960 four-door Cadillac belonging to Ross Ingham ("as in the chickens") of Queanbeyan was a dramatically-finned, long, low, silver-green spectacle. He's had it and loved it for three years and is finding that the cost of it, in fuel ("she's thirsty") and in buying authentic parts for her laps up a lot of what he earns from his plumbing and gasfitting business. But who can put a price on the joy such a car gives? In my envy of him (for my 'street machine' is only a 2004 Barina) I went as green as his Cadillac.

Another beast, a black and gold Ford R6 Turbo, was displayed with its bonnet open which revealed that lots of its engine, too, was golden, so that the effect was of a pirate's treasure chest with its lid flung open. This car's body language said (like Tony Abbott's cowboy walking gait does, although this car does it much more convincingly) "I am more virile than words can express."

Crowds cheer competitors in the burnout contest at Summernats, in Canberra on 6 January 2012.

Crowds cheer competitors in the burnout contest at Summernats in January this year. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Andy Lopez's spontaneous and informal speech was lots of fun. His enthusiasm for Summernats and everything about it is transparently sincere and peaked as he foreshadowed the aforementioned attempt on the burn out record. It was immensely disarming that he was simultaneously able to make this sound like the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind while owning up to how mindless it will be.

"On the Friday, at 11am, we will be attempting to set a Guinness World Record for The Biggest Mass Simultaneous Burn Out. Yes [laughing at himself] if ever there was something that the world needed it was a mass burn out record! So we're going to try and deliver that ... We went to Guinness and they said 'Why not use 50 cars?' So we said 'Mate, we'll do 70' and so that's what we'll do on the burn-out strip. It will be unlike anything that has ever been seen or heard or before!"

And, although Lopez didn't say so, it may very well be like nothing smelled before too because every year those who complain about Summernats complain about the smell of burning rubber, even though it's only a once-a-year inconvenience. But if on the day the breeze is anything like the one that stretched and flapped Parliament House's flag at Tuesday's launch that smell, and the best cacophonies of Johnny Roadkill and the VBs, will be quickly wafted away from Canberra's suburbs and away, harmlessly, into the bushy wastes of New South Wales.