A Canberra custom car builder has beaten the world's best by grabbing the General Motors designers' choice award, one of the most coveted prizes at the world's largest specialty automotive equipment show in Las Vegas.
The Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Show (SEMA) has grown from a US-only trade show into one of the world's most important automotive exhibitions, growing in size at a time when conventional international car shows are in rapid decline.
For Australians to take a car all the way across to Nevada to challenge the world's best on their home turf is one thing, but for the ACT's Peter Fitzpatrick to bring home one of the top GM trophies is a major coup.
Mr Fitzpatrick is no stranger to Australia's modified car scene. He's a multiple Summernats grand champion and street machine car of the year winner, and a regular judge at Canberra's annual national modified car festival.
The right-hand drive Aussie car which topped the SEMA prize pool is a gorgeous custom-built 1935 Chevrolet coupe which was bought from a wrecking yard in Gunnedah, NSW back in 2003 by Kees Weel, a Gold Coast businessman.
Mr Fitzpatrick tried to buy the original car but when the new owner wouldn't give it up, was given the task of customising it with some of the bits arriving in a trailer to his Mitchell workshop.
The original coupe has provided only the basic styling template because almost everything on the car has been modified and hand crafted over five long years.
Installed in the engine bay is a fuel-injected 6-litre Chevrolet V8 and much of the wider body is hand-shaped in aluminium to fit a completely new Corvette suspension system, steering and brakes.
The roofline has been reduced in height by 50mm and the exterior repainted in a custom blue mixed to Mr Fitzpatrick's specifications by specialist PPG.
Despite his many national awards and plaudits as a custom car builder, to take a car across to the US and win on design excellence rates as one of Peter Fitzpatrick's finest achievements.
"It's an awesome thing to win given the level of US-based competition," he said.
"We didn't even know about this particular design category at the show and the deadline to enter had already passed.
"But then when we got there [to Las Vegas], an Aussie guy saw the coupe, was completely taken with it, and he went off and arranged for us to be a late entry.
"So it was sort of like fate, I guess."
The prestigious billet trophy, which is of the new mid-engined Corvette, was presented by GM's head of design, Phil Zak.
Chevrolet had a massive presence at the Las Vegas show, using it to roll out a number of its factory firsts.
The coupe is now being shipped back to Queensland where it will be part of Mr Weel's collection.