Words: Mike Ryan
Photos: John Vitone
There’s no shortage of attractions on the Gold Coast, but come June, there’s only one that car buffs car about - Cooly Rocks On.
Born in 2011 from the roots of the Wintersun Festival, Cooly Rocks On has grown year on year, with new features added and existing ones refined or replaced as the show evolves.
An event that takes over Coolangatta for five days, Cooly Rocks On is much, much more than just a car show: it’s a whole nostalgia festival, celebrating the ‘50s, ’60s and ’70s with rock ‘n’ roll, swing and rockabilly music, dance competitions, the Miss Rockabilly and Miss Cooly Rocks On pageants, pinball challenge and retro market stalls amongst the attractions – there’s even a ‘Poodles and Pugs’ dog parade!
New for 2019
Held from 5 to 9 June, this year’s Cooly Rocks On started with the announcement of a festival ambassador. A new feature for 2019, the ‘Grow Bold Festival Ambassador’ was an online competition that welcomed entries from all genders and all ages to serve as the face of the festival. The inaugural winner, Rachaelle La Belle, lived the Grow Bold ethos by entering her first pinup contest at 50 years of age and was a finalist in this year’s Miss Rockabilly Contest, too.
Event sponsor Shannons presented the 1978 Porsche 911 driven by Jim Richards in this year’s Targa Tasmania, while Jim himself held court in a ‘Garage Torque’ Q & A session. Celebrating 55 years of the Ford Mustang this year, the Shannons display also include a genuine SCCA racing Mustang, which was a big hit with Ford fans.
After a hiatus, the vintage picnic returned this year, held on 8 June and joining the Harvest Moon Swing Ball, retro art workshops and a vintage bake-off as one of the most popular attractions.
On the music front, there were 30 different bands and performers this year, staying true to the rock ‘n’ roll/swing/rockabilly theme of the event. Most of the bands could be seen for free, too, at outdoor stages or in local pubs and clubs.
While the footprint of the Cooly Rocks On show ‘n’ shine had grown to what was arguably excessive proportions in past years, the scale is more manageable now, confined to Marine Parade and Griffith Street.
What hasn’t changed is the variety of cars on show.
The ‘chrome bumper’ entry criteria remains, but it’s not all ’50s and ’60s Americana. A walk through the show ‘n’ shine this year proved there’s still plenty of variety amongst the vehicles on show, with everything from bone stock Aussie classics to hot rods, street machines, muscle, rat rods, lowriders, panel vans, custom choppers and more. Left-field attractions this year included Austin-Healeys, a variety of AMC/Rambler classics (including a very cool lime green Gremlin), a couple of rare ‘pre-Valiant’ Chryslers and even a lineup of Goggomobils!
Many of these took part in the cruises held each day, too, including the big Shannons Super Cruise on 8 June and the Sunday Street Parade the following day, which is arguably the highlight of the week and where the newly-crowned Miss Rockabilly and Miss Cooly Rocks On winners for 2019 greet the crowd.
Speaking of the crowd, it was a record this year, with more than 120,000 attending. Event organisers estimate more than 700 cars and motorcycles were on display this year, with the latter boosted by Indian Motorcycle hosting their annual Indian Motorcycle Riders Group National Gathering at Coolangatta.
10 in 2020
Cooly Rocks On celebrates its 10th Anniversary in 2020 and the dates for next year’s event have been locked in – 3 to 7 June, 2020.
The 2020 Cooly Rocks On is set to be a big one, so for more information on the event as it draws nearer, go to https://www.coolyrockson.com/
Cool at Cooly – VW Kombi custom
Split window Kombis like this have been hot property for years, so it’s good to see one out and about – in use – rather than parked up in a collection or going across an auction block.
This black over crimson example had been slammed (note the stance), with Fuchs alloys fitted, while the ‘Need 4 Speed’ plaque on the engine cover could be interpreted one of two ways – it’s either got pace or it wants it!
There was a clear panel over the engine cover, with other features inside including a custom dining table and Mexican blankets for curtains and throw rugs.
Cool at Cooly – HT Monaro custom
Breaking the norm of fitting a 350 – or bigger – V8, this 1970 HT Monaro has stuck with six-cylinder power; in this instance a 186.
The 186 is far from stock, though, with triple carb induction, a custom exhaust system, custom radiator, chrome everywhere and even under-bonnet mirrors.
Customised inside, as well as under the bonnet, the interior was trimmed in orange and white leather complementary to the paint, with a custom centre console and custom door trims amongst the other features.
Aftermarket alloys and mirrors – as well as that bright orange paint scheme – helped this custom stand out.