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All revved up: Rev Up Whangarei 2018

24 May 2018



The second annual Rev Up Whangarei transforms the city’s CBD

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Whangarei over the last few years, and I’ve never seen it quite like this. If you’re a Northland local, you know that much has been made of the perceived decline of Whangarei’s town centre in recent years. It’s the same story in many of our provincial hubs — too many empty shops, too many sketchy characters, and too few actual customers, with many now doing all their shopping in front of a laptop. Pure doom-and-gloom stuff. You can imagine, then, just how damned good it was to see the central area of the town come alive on 21 April for the annual Rev Up Whangarei.

Organized by the Whangarei Rod & Custom Club, the Rev Up is now in its second year, attracting over 230 hot rods, muscle cars, untouched classics, and everything in between into Whangarei’s central streets for a casual, relaxed Saturday full of food, drink, music, and car culture.

“We organized last year’s inaugural event with a couple of weeks’ notice,” explains Steve May, president of the Whangarei Rod & Custom Club. “It was a way to bring people into the city centre during the Whangarei Festival of Motorsport [which revolves around the International Rally of Whangarei]. We had about 140 cars show up, and the business association posted their biggest day in eight years.”

After that first year success, things have really escalated. With 100 more machines on display and much more support from the council, this year’s event was on a whole new level. The sheer variety of cars crammed into the area was impressive, especially considering that the vast majority hail from the local area. Everything from traditional hot rods to muscle cars, low-riders, and modern muscle was well represented — and the top three spots all went to Northland folks, chosen by the community. Don Ross’ ’37 Chev claimed the top spot, followed closely by Caroline Cressey’s immaculate ’58 Impala, and Clint Wheeler’s wild chopped ’62 EK Holden panel van in third.

The Rev Up made sure that the streets were full, the bars and cafes were pumping, and that the crowds were happy — all to the soundtrack of live bands, plenty of laughter, and the ever-present eight-cylinder rumble. In a time when our passion can often be looked down upon by the fun-suckers, it’s immensely satisfying to see that it was car culture and the love of all things loud, low, and custom that made this happen. It made central Whangarei the most vibrant and interesting I’ve ever seen it.

What’s next for this fledgling event? Are we heading towards a Beach Hop or Americarna for the North? Steve hopes so; “The local scene is only growing. Six years ago when I came back from Aussie, there were 34 members in our club, and now we’ve got around 180. But really, we didn’t put this event together for the club, we did it for the entire community. It brings everyone together and puts back into the town through the local businesses and charities — all proceeds this year have gone to Women’s Refuge.

“Next year, we hope to take over more of the city, which will give us much more space and allow us to invite more clubs from around the country. In an ideal world, yes, we would love it if this event could become something on the scale of Whangamata’s Beach Hop. Why not?”

After chatting with Steve and understanding his club’s passion for their cars and their community, and then seeing the pure potential of the Whangarei Rev Up first hand, I find myself asking the exact same question — why not?

Whangarei’s entire town centre was overrun with American iron, while the buzzing bars and cafes dotting the main street were jammed, helping create a friendly festival atmosphere

Don Ross’ ’37 Chev always had a crowd, and deservedly took away the top award

Caroline Cressey’s 1958 Impala took second overall, as judged by a public vote

This radical ’62 EK Holden panel van, built by Clint Wheeler, wowed crowds with its chopped bodywork, out-there interior, and pristine engine bay — good enough for the third place spot in the winner’s circle

Late ’40s and early ’50s pickups of all varieties dominated the main street

Steve Walker of Whangarei shop Mike’s Engines pulled his very tidy and decidedly rowdy twin-turbo Galaxie out for the afternoon

Ian Neary’s Chrysler V10-powered Plymouth GTX is still one of the toughest muscle cars in the country, and its incredible build quality went down well with locals

Josh and Sara Churches’ beautiful ’48 Fleetline perfectly illustrates the idea that while modifying vehicles is fun, sometimes keeping a car like this clean, pristine, and stock-standard is just as satisfying

Event organizers Whangarei Rod & Custom Club recently donated this T-bucket project to the local Tikipunga High School. Automotive students will work on the project throughout the year, and come Rev Up 2019, the completed machine will go to auction, with all proceeds above the club’s initial costs put back into the automotive shop at the school — very cool!