The Swing Katz are among Chromefest entertainers to take your breath away.
The Swing Katz are among Chromefest entertainers to take your breath away. Gary Luke Photographics

Born in the USA: Classic of a festival at The Entrance

IT'S a celebration of all things classic American - cars, fashion and rock 'n' roll.

But there's nothing dated about the energy and enthusiasm for this slice of history which is Chromefest at The Entrance.

Now in its ninth year, Chromefest runs for three days from October 27-29, and will bring 500 classic cars and hot rods, thousands of visitors and millions of dollars into town.

California Cruising Inc started the event and still runs the motoring side, with Central Coast Council taking over the entertainment, but the club's events co-ordinator Janet Holmesby said it was far more than a car rally - it's like stepping into Happy Days.

"It's not about trophy-hunting, it's a celebration of the era - the music, the cars and the dancing," Janet said.

Fred Champkin is one of those bitten by the "classic American" bug, boasting a bright orange 1928 Essex Tourer hot rod, for which he found a matching 1972 caravan, and a purple 1966 Chevy Impala for his wife, Robyn.


UNIQUE: Fred Champkin's 1928 Essex Tourer is a real head-turner.
UNIQUE: Fred Champkin's 1928 Essex Tourer is a real head-turner. Gary Luke Photographics

"She'd always wanted a purple car and this one came up in Queensland that had been sitting in a shed for five years, so we bought it and resurrected it," Fred said.

While it's not a show car as such, Fred said it still got a lot of comments, although not as many as the hot rod and caravan, which would have people literally hanging out the windows of their cars trying to take photos when they saw it on the road.

It's the ability to customise the hot rods to exactly what you want so that no two will ever be exactly the same, which Fred said was a big part of the attraction.

"I had always had MGs, but once I met the hot rod fraternity, and saw how diverse it is - there's just no limit at all to what you can do, and there's such camaraderie, it's just great to be a part of," Fred said.

"Guys can spend easily five or 10 years working on things, trying to get the right parts etcetera.

"You're always trying to think outside the square and come up with something no one else has thought of."

As an example, he points to the owner of a 1953 Ford F100 who had a decommissioned rifle as a gear stick.

In the case of his Essex Tourer, it started life as just a body with a six cylinder motor and no roof or upholstery. These days it outshines the sun as a 5-litre V8 auto with removable roof and faultless interior.

While it's taken a lot of time and money, Fred said it's an "appreciating asset" with his investment of about $25,000 now worth $57,000.

But it's not all about shine, with Rat Rods - usually a bit rusty and made up of old bits of pieces, the latest fad.

Fred said they were a bit of a throwback to how hot rods had evolved after the war years, from people literally finding what they could on old farms and fields and putting them together as something to drive.

These days, of course, the internet and social media make it a whole lot easier to get your hands on the pieces you need, but Fred said there's nothing like getting together at events like Chromefest and seeing what others have done, and how.

"Everyone loves to talk about their cars, and it's a bit of a learning curve and spurs you on to new ideas," he said.

There's a huge program for this year's Chromefest, which begins with the official Coastal Cruise of about 300 cars driving from Oakland Ave to Avoca and back to Memorial Park for display from 12pm on the Friday.

There's retro markets and rock and roll music throughout the rest of the weekend, including dance exhibitions, vintage fashion, crowning of Miss Pin-up Doll and of course cars, cars, cars - including a twilight cruise through The Entrance on Saturday and the Show and Shine, with the full 500 cars on display on Sunday and three stages of entertainment.

To find out more, including when to see special guest UK singer Si Cranston, go to

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