This 1964 EH Holden is an example of one of the Bash cars used in Australia for fundraising for the charity, Variety Club. 'Bashing' was initiated in June 1985 by businessman, adventurer and philanthropist Dick Smith, who wanted to 'take a few mates on a drive in the outback' and drove this car in the first Bash of 1985 with a surfboard on top. The drive was eventually called 'The Bourke to Burketown Bash' and went from Sydney to Bourke in Far West New South Wales and on to Burketown in Northern Queensland. The reasons for initiating the Bash included reliving the fun and adventure of the Redex car trials of the 1950s, popularised by 'Gelignite' Jack Murray, to see the wonderful outback and to raise money for the Variety Club.
The car has subsequently participated in and completed every Bash event up to and including 2001. The first Bash was called the Land Rover Bourke to Burketown Bash. Land-Rover were the sponsors and Jaguar Rover Australia (JRA Ltd) provided nine Land-Rover 110's as support vehicles, equipment, four wheel drive experts and mechanics.
The annual Variety Club Bash is Australia's most successful charity motoring event. Over the last sixteen years it has raised over $18 million for disabled and disadvantaged children. Although the Variety Bash began in New South Wales, it has now been established in all states of Australia and has spread to New Zealand, USA and South Africa. The combined efforts of Variety Club Bashes has now raised mover $40 million.
The Variety Club is the world's largest children's charity with strong support from show business personalities. It began in Christmas 1927 at the Sheridan Theatre in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. A baby girl was left destitute by her parents with a plea that the actors look after her. More than enough money was raised to care for the child and the charity spread. It was established in Australia in 1975.
Participants in the first 1985 Bash, included John Newcombe, Len Evans, John and Belinda Singleton, Simon Townsend, Ron and Valerie Taylor, Gordon Elliott, Peter Ritchie of McDonalds, and Kevin Weldon from Weldon's Publishing. In all, 52 vehicles and about 200 participants undertook the event. All participants paid to enter with the minimum fee being $1000. Entrants not only provided and totally funded their vehicles but paid for accommodation and petrol. Outback accommodation was often scarce and many participants camped. Money was also raised by prior arrangement with local suppliers and participants were instructed to buy petrol for example from the Caltex service station at Bathurst or lunch at the hotel at Boulia as the owners had agreed to donate part of their takings to the charity.
Regulations for the Bash include that all vehicles have to be built before June 1966, have to be roadworthy, registered and insured. Performance modifications such as extractors, headers and multiple carburettors are not allowed. All vehicles carry a 40 channel UHF CB radio, are fitted with laminated windscreens and have tow bars fitted front and rear. The teams of between 1 and 4 members are largely self sufficient with the cars carrying extra tyres, fuel, 20 litres of drinking/radiator water and 5 litres of oil. Numerous spare parts are necessary including radiator hoses, fan belts, oil filters, air and fuel filters, spark plugs, 10-gauge wire and fencing pliers.
Over the years the Bash organisers developed various specifications for the vehicles. Non-original engine types were allowed as long as they were from the same make and model of vehicle. The original exhaust system has to be retained up to the point of entry into the first muffler after which modifications are permitted. Brakes, shock absorbers, road springs, wheels and tyres may also be modified as may fuel tanks but their securing and location must be scrutineered. During the running of the event mobile workshops with welding kits and crewed by mechanics, engineers and technicians undertake roadside repairs to vehicles to get them to the nearest town. Although individual support vehicles are not permitted, space can be hired for spare parts such as axles and drive shafts on the Baggage Truck which travels the Bash route.
Methods of fundraising during the Bash include issuing vehicles with fines for unauthorised modifications. More light-hearted fines are applied for going too fast or too slowly, cheating or not cheating, not enjoying yourself enough, taking the Bash too seriously, by bribing officials and not giving refreshments to officials. Bonus points are awarded for vehicles with style, gimmicks, cleverness and outrageousness. Prizes awarded to winners of the Bash are of minimal value to ensure that as much money as possible is raised for the Variety Club.
Assistant Curator, Transport