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2004/50/1 Automobile, full size, EH Holden Premier 179 sedan, 'The Entertainers', metal / glass / plastic / rubber, driven by Dick Smith in first Variety Club Bourke to Burketown Bash in 1985, General Motors Holden Ltd, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1964. Click to enlarge.

1964 EH Holden Premier 179 sedan Bash car

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.

Margaret Simpson
Assistant Curator, Transport
June 2004


Object No.


Object Statement

Automobile, full size, EH Holden Premier 179 sedan, 'The Entertainers', metal / glass / plastic / rubber, driven by Dick Smith in first Variety Club Bourke to Burketown Bash in 1985, General Motors Holden Ltd, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1964

Physical Description

This 1964 EH model Holden Premier 179 sedan has a 2.95 litre six-cylinder engine. The bonnet, roof rack and near side front mudguard carry the name 'The Entertainers', while the back and front windscreen and the driver's door feature the number '9 and a half'. The rear windscreen also features the wording: 'Since 1985 'The Bash' has raised $17 million to help Australia's needy children'. The yellow NSW number plates bear the registration: 'XLY 372'. The car has numerous advertising stickers for Dick Smith Foods, Muirs for Holden, Fox Sports, Harvey Norman, Foxtel, Henkel, Shell, Canterbury - Hurlstone Park RSL Club Ltd and Workhorse. A Mercedes badge is fitted to the boot lid and the steel wheels are from a Ford Falcon.

The car is fitted with numerous safety features to withstand the rough road conditions encountered on the Bash trips including underbody protection for the engine sump, gearbox and differential. The engine is secured to prevent it from being forced back into the passenger compartment, or forward into the radiator in case of accident. Inside, the car has a 40 channel UHF CB radio, an internal roll bar and a trip metre. On the large roof rack is an orange dust light, various spot lights, extra indicator lights and two spare tyres. A towing hook on the front and a tow bar on the back are also fitted together with a CB radio aerial at the rear and long range fuel tanks. The car is in running condition and over the years has had almost all parts replaced. One of the few original body parts is the driver's door. It is finished in red and white, the colours of the Variety Club of NSW.



1780 mm


1730 mm



The 1963 EH Holden was based on the popular EJ model but incorporated a new look roofline and clever styling giving it a longer look at the rear, neater more modern lines and a larger boot. A complete new six-cylinder engine, available in two capacities, 149 and 179 cc was developed. Dubbed the red engine, after the colour of the painted block, the new power-plant replaced the 'grey engine' used in all previous Holdens. It had a shorter stroke and larger bore and operated with a higher compression ratio.

This EH Holden Premier 179 was made at Holden's Fisherman's Bend plant in Victoria, in May 1964. It was originally silver with a white roof. The EH Holden was launched in August 1963 and was the eighth Holden model since 1948. In a period of 18 months over 250,000 EHs were sold, making it the fastest selling Australian car ever.



This EH Holden was driven by Dick Smith on the first Land-Rover Bourke to Burketown Bash which got underway from the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House on Saturday, 1 June 1985. Dick had purchased the car secondhand for $800 from Hornsby, NSW. Len Bedell, who established the infamous Gunbarrel Highway in Central Australia, sent the cars on their way. Although the event began in Sydney, it did not actually start until Bourke. The first Bash attracted 52 vehicles and about 200 participants. Once the Bash reached Bourke the town experienced its first rain for 14 months causing roads to become impassable. Dick spent the night on the phone setting up a new route through Cunnamulla, Charleville, Quilpie, Windora and Betoota and back to Birdsville, Mt Isa, then on Burketown.

After the race Dick sold the car to another one of the Bashers and it subsequently went into the hands of the Variety Club. This vehicle went on to participate in all the subsequent Bash events from Bourke to the Barossa Valley in 1986, Bourke to the Barrier Reef in 1987, Bourke to Blatherskite (Alice Springs) in 1988, Bourke to Broome in 1989, Bourke to Burnie in 1990, Bourke to Beagle (Darwin) in 1991, Heart to Heart (all state Bashes to Ayers Rock) in 1992, Bondi to Bathurst in 1993, Bondi to Ballina in 1994, Bondi to Busselton in 1995, Bondi to Batchelor in 1996, Botany Bay to the Barrier Reef in 1997, Botany Bay to Billygoat Hill in 1998, Brickpit to Broom in 1999, Bayside to Barossa in 2000 and the 2001 Bash which undertook a 3,000 km round trip of NSW from Newcastle. It is the only vehicle to have competed in, and completed all the Bash events from 1985 to 2001 and has raised over $2 million. A month after the 2001 Bash, Dick Smith was lent the car to drive in the 2001 Dick Smith Reunion Bash. Unfortunately the front chassis rail was broken during this event and the car had to be trucked back. It has been maintained for the Variety Club of NSW by Workhorse, light commercial specialists at Greystanes, NSW.


Credit Line

Gift of Variety, The Children's Charity, 2004

Acquisition Date

12 March 2004

Cite this Object


1964 EH Holden Premier 179 sedan Bash car 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 26 October 2020, <>


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