Summernats is just over a week away, with some entrants taking a cautious approach to Canberra's street machine party

He may take a brief cruise through Summernats next month, but Josh Calgaro is more looking forward to taking his unique Holden Grange into Braddon. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
He may take a brief cruise through Summernats next month, but Josh Calgaro is more looking forward to taking his unique Holden Grange into Braddon. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

There was a time some years back when Josh Calgaro relished the car party atmosphere of Summernats as much as any street machine fan, jammed in with the crowd on Tuff Street, and shrouded in burnout smoke.

Now 36 years old, married with three young daughters and running a busy, successful business, the Queanbeyan plumber admits those sombrero-wearing, beer-splashing days are behind him.

More recently, he has preferred taking his summer break - the only one he has all year - with the family down at Bermagui.

But this summer, the Summernats breakout onto the public streets of the Braddon nightclub and restaurant precinct - coinciding with the emergence of his car from its latest metamorphosis - was irresistible.

"Getting the event out into Braddon is a great thing to happen; I just want to be part of it," he said.

Getting the event out into Braddon is a great thing to happen; I just want to be part of it.

Josh Calgaro

Right around the country, the fast-spreading COVID Omicron variant has thrown a spanner in the works for major events like Summernats.

However, the organisers and the ACT government are pressing ahead with the four-day event which starts on January 6, imposing a cap of 20,000 people a day, or around 20 per cent fewer than would usually attend. Uncertain, at this time, is what may unfold from a public health perspective in the next week.

After spending so much time, money and effort on his fully refurbished HSV Holden Grange, Josh Calgaro just wants to go for a cruise around Braddon, meet up with some mates, and talk cars.

And what's certain is that his car will be one of those talking points.

His leather-lined 2003 Grange - originally factory modified by Holden Special Vehicles off the long wheelbase Statesman platform but modified much more since then - is one of the most unique in the Canberra region.

Its "sleeper" looks are deceptive. Beneath the olive green-gold metallic custom paint lurks the thumping, twin-turbo seven-litre, $100,000 V8 heart of a genuinely quick drag car.

How quick? Around 7.7 seconds for the old-fashioned quarter mile strip, with a terminal velocity of 296km/h.

Many, many hours of effort have produced a car which is registered and docile enough to rumble around the city streets. But with a few five-minute tweaks, it spits tongues of flame and produces enough horsepower to lift its front wheels.

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Mr Calgaro's Grange has been built and optimised for events known powercruises, one of the many splinter events which now fill the modified car calendar. Powercruises are held at race circuits where the competitors can perform 200km/h burnouts.

"There wouldn't be anything like this car in the Canberra region," he said.

"I guess you would call it a cross between a drag-racing car and a very highly engineered road car."

With a huge amount of work ahead when his team returns to the building sites in mid-January, the last thing Mr Calgaro wants is to come into contact with a positive COVID case and have to take time off to isolate.

"So I really don't have a fixed plan at this stage, we will be just cruising," he said.

This story Uncertainty lingers around V8 rumble to come first appeared on The Canberra Times.