The Birth of Valla
The history of Hot Rodding leading to the birth of Valla Park Rod Run (The world’s longest running free entry family rod run)
The year 1945 saw the guns stop, the ships and planes return home to the USA. The boys had developed new skills, a high level of confidence and looking for an outlet in the home of the automobile. These guys took to modifying old cars with later model engines or developing performance items to help them go faster. Some of the guys had developed an entrepreneurial approach to make performance parts for these modified cars and this led to the new terms of “Speed Equipment” and “Hot Rods”.
These Hot Rodders developed their own vocabulary and expertise in their personalised cars. Hot Rodders started to compete and to compare the performance of the cars that they had built. Closely behind was the start of car shows that were firstly staged in auto premises.
The interest was such that publishers started to dedicate magazines specialised for the enthusiasts. It did not take long for these magazines to appear in Australia.
In the 1950’s Hot Rods started to appear on Australian roads. As the interest widened, likeminded “hot rodders” would hang out with each other. This led to the creation of Hot Rod Clubs, which allowed members and their clubs to socialise and compete with other Clubs.
One of the activities a Club would organise was a Rod Run, where members would drive to a venue and socialise with picnics and activities.
In 1970, the NSW Early Times Hot Rod Club and the Queensland Roadstars Hot Rod Club, jointly organised the first of a two state run to Coffs Harbour on the Australia Day weekend.
In 1971, the same clubs chose to have a second Australia Day Weekend rod run to Coffs Harbour. The Drag-ens Hot Rod Club saw this as a challenge and in conjunction with Queensland club, Rods Inc, proceeded to organise a two state rod run in October of that year, to Kempsey, NSW, which was attended by 22 hot rods.
The Coffs Harbour rod run was again repeated in 1972, when it rained all weekend. As per a local newspaper article of that time, 50 hot rods participated in the run.
Then on the October long weekend of 1972, the Drag-ens hosted a second run to Kempsey, NSW, where the Mayor and Tourist Officer for Kempsey, Ms. Val Melville, supported the Drag-ens Hot Rod Club and their cars.
Not wanting to just repeat what had been done previously, the Drag-ens then hosted a two-state rod run to Port Macquarie in 1973 and 1974. Ms. Melville again supported these runs.
At the 1974 Port Macquarie run and in cohorts with the Queenslanders, a suitable venue was discussed for a future rod run about half way between Sydney and Brisbane. Tamworth was the chosen and was also supported by the local Hot Rod Club, the Road Runners of Tamworth.
The Run was scheduled for October 1975. Unfortunately, the local Police had no idea of Hot Rods were, what constituted a rod run, nor the benefits that it created for an inland community. This created some difficulties and tension. The local Hot Rod Club and the community nevertheless requested that the Drag-ens have another run to Tamworth in 1976, which also took place.
However, realising that The Drag-ens would have to come up with a more suitable venue, one prominent Drag-ens club member, Dennis Campbell, had been told about a tourist resort just North of Nambucca Heads, named Valla Beach Resort. On Dennis’ return from the second Tamworth rod run, he decided to drop in and check this place out. After surveying the Valla Park resort, its location and facilities, he quickly formed the opinion that it would be ideal for a family friendly rod run. The management of the park was taken back when Dennis made the request to book all of the Park’s accommodation and camping facilities for the long weekend the following year. He was requested to make a formal application for the hire. That done and notification to the NSW and Queensland Clubs, the date was set for the October weekend 1977. Impressively, over 100 Hot rods turned up for the first inaugural Valla Park Run. This was a very successful run and what started out as a long weekend event, slowly moved to participants booking their accommodation at the park for a full week and then progressed to a week before and after the run. It soon became the hot rodders’ annual family holiday choice.
After 1977, future Valla Park rod runs were organised by a Valla Committee group from within the Drag-ens Hot Rod Club, who then and now continue to deal with all of the events organised to take place within the week long run, together with liaising with major stakeholders, such as the local Nambucca Shire Council, Police, shop owners. SES and Valla Park management.
Since its inception, the Rod Run has grown to see between 300 to 400 hot rods enter each year, culminating with a parade of these cars in the main street of Nambucca Heads on the last Saturday of the run, for all to see and enjoy.