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More Than Hoons: Capturing a very Newy sub-culture on film

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Although Supercars have been racing the city circuit on and off for the past five years, there’s a distinctly Newcastle underlying theme that has been racing through our veins for a lot longer. 

From gathering at Nobbys Beach car park to racing four-abreast at speed under Stockton Bridge. 

This was a sub-culture synonymous with Newcastle’s history. 

And, they were known as “Hoons”. 

Filmmakers Glenn Dormand and Tony Whittaker, the faces behind Stories of Our Town, are releasing their latest installment on Friday 2 March More Than Hoons: 100 Years of Newcastle Motor Sports

In little more than 30 minutes, the duo will sum up the sub-culture in imagery, interviews and sound, as well as a whole lot of hot tyres and blown smoke. 

One of the few photos of car enthusiasts’ in action from a time gone by

The Film 

“It’s a celebration of Newcastle and the Hunter’s love of all things petrol,” Dormand says. 

“From the invention of World Speedway in 1923 at Maitland Showground to 100 years later hosting the V8 Supercars.  

“Along the way we visit the names of our legendary regional events; Mattara Hillclimb, Motordrome, Super Moto, Rickshaw’s Hot-Rod Show and of course the infamous Kooragang Island, home to the region’s illegal drag racing.” 

Filmed over the past three years, Hoons captures moments of time that few were privy to experience firsthand. 

What began as a handful of raw footage has been compiled into a glimpse of Newcastle’s legal and illegal car-loving subculture. 

“We’d be filming in the sheds and these guys would be revving their 1500-horsepower cars, and it’d be a Sunday morning and they’d be drinking a beer already. It was incredible really,” Dormand reflects. 

The ‘boys’ and their sheds

The Cast 

Regardless of your stance, there’s no denying the passion each “cast member” has for his or her beloved “hobby”. 

Cars and bikes (the motorised kind) is the passion they all share. 

“They’re so passionate about them, their cars are like their babies, they’re a family member, and some of the vehicles we came across were nothing short of spectacular,” Dormand adds. 

The film relays conversations with dozens of race drivers, event coordinators, mechanical wizards, car lovers, an ex-highway patrol officer and of course, as Dormand says “our local hoons”. 

“The world of car culture is divided into two camps – hoons and car enthusiasts,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.  

“The way they treat their cars is very different but ask any ‘car enthusiast’ what they were doing when they were 17 and you may get a different answer.” 

During the filming process, Dormand says it was hard not to get somewhat attached to the characters. 

“You couldn’t get a more Newcastle cast than this, this will go international because it’s a universal theme,” he said. 

“I got a couple of the boys over to the edit suite the other day and sat there and watched them watching the film, which doesn’t happen often.

“They were loving it, they were cacking themselves, it was a wonderful experience. 

“Sometimes when you make these things it’s like a painting, you’re painting up close and you’re working on tiny bits over and over and you don’t often get to step back and look at it all and that was an opportunity to do that, and I loved it.” 

The Title 

“It took us ages to work out what it would be called but the More than Hoons thing they love because it’s the whole divide with car enthusiasts, they don’t like being called hoons, they’re much more than that, when in actual fact when they looked at the footage many of them actually said ‘yeah, I probably was a hoon back in the day’.” 

Hoon culture was synonymous with Newcastle

Newcastle culture 

“It was hard to find photos and footage of this racing because it was all kept under wraps because it was such an underground culture but like Rod (former Policeman) says these days they can check six regos in a second and see whose got defects, so all these cars are just tucked in garages all over the suburbs these days,” Dormand said. 

The characters in this documentary could be anywhere in the world, but the locations and the stories are endearingly Newcastle. 

Even the reference to workers at the city’s BHP plant who were working on parts for their cars and bikes that came under the heading of “foreign orders” 

“When I was growing up here in Newcastle you were either into surfing or cars, and I wasn’t into either, but I had an opinion of what that culture was like,” Dormand said. 

“You learn the story and you try to tell it from every angle, and we had some fascinating people tell us some amazing stories, and each from their own perspective.” 

Glenn Dormand was the front man for alternative rock band Machine Gun Fellatio.  

He later morphed into TV presenter Chit Chat Von Loopin Stab. 

Building vehicles to race.

A Time in History 

This film is set in a time when there were no mobile phones, a fact many of the “drivers” were grateful for. 

“I love that part when Dave says, ‘you couldn’t call Steve’s mum and say we’re going over to the island’, this was a time before any of that existed,” laughs Dormand. 

“And, my favourite line in the film was when this guy says ‘sometimes you’d get over to the island and there’d only be two guys, so we’d come back and then we’d see six cars driving over and he says ‘and they weren’t going to F*@cken Jims to get a milkshake’ – that’s not Newcastle that’s Newy.” 

Why Now 

Now is the right time to release the film, in anticipation of Supercars, Dormand says. 

“It makes people want more; Newcastle is synonymous with motor racing,” he added. 

“And, I’m embarrassed to admit it but about a week ago I realised that the first Speedway event in the world happened 100 years ago, that was serendipitous.” 

Glenn Dormand with car enthusiast.

The Future 

“The point of the end of the film was to try and find a solution, and that’s what all of them said, from Charlotte to the 82-year-old character, they all said we need our own track,” he said. 

“It was important not to be left feeling hopeless at the end. 

“It [motor racing] doesn’t suit everyone, but it deserves a look at, there’s enough interest.” 

Feedback 

“I had a friend watch it, who didn’t grow up in Newcastle, and isn’t into cars, and she was surprised by the warmth of it.” 

Given the topic, that was surprising, he says. 

“I learned a lot doing the film and in fact I’ve started noticing cars more,” admits Dormand. 

More Than Hoons: 100 Years of Newcastle Motor Sports is coming to Youtube on Supercars weekend. 

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