ONE-hundred and ninety-nine classics, immaculately prepared and loved by their owners. Who are about to hurl them at the most mud they can find. Sounds like a recipe for chaos.
This article on the Variety Club Bash was originally published in the January 2009 issue of Street Machine
Actually, it’s the recipe for the Variety Club Bash and it’s surprisingly well-organised chaos. It’s not a race but there are big prizes for the winners — disadvantaged kids all over Australia who’ll benefit from this unique form of fundraising. Queensland’s 2008 event raised $1.9million dollars, and with each state running its own Bash, that’s a lot of money raised by people having fun in their cars.
Every Bash has a theme and this year’s was Live the Dream — the dream being to drive to Bathurst and watch the big race. Queensland Bashers (though there were Victorians, Tasmanians and even Western Australians in this mob) gathered in Toowoomba and made their way to Mount Panorama by a carefully mapped route avoiding tarmac and taking in plenty of mud and water-crossings.
So the route wound from Toowoomba to Casino, Dorrigo, Barraba, Mudgee, Cowra, Temora, Lake Cargelligo, Parkes and finally Bathurst to watch Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup win the race. Then there’s the little matter of the trip home.
The city of Toowoomba sent the Bashers off with — ahem! — a bigger bang than expected. While the city suffered a black-out, Bashers found the river crossings. Which created another kind of electrical problem. Who forgot to waterproof their distributor?
With Bash regulations specifying two-wheel drive only, a lot of drivers got caught out by rocky creek beds — momentum was vital.
Many lessons were learned that first day. “Every servo around here is gonna be packed,” Mudd, one of the officials, laughed. “And every mobile workshop is gonna be flat-out!”
When the truck that's recovering the stuck vehicle gets into a spot of bother, there's only one way to rescue the situation!
The mobile workshops are what makes the Bash such a good thing for taking your golden oldie to the bush. As well as workshops that can fix just about anything you can break, there are auxiliaries to help with less serious problems. If you break something attached to your person, there’s an ambulance, mobile clinic and a brace of doctors and paramedics to look after you. This year the worst of it was one broken ankle and a round of gastric problems.
Quite a queue built up waiting for the recovery to be completed
Every town along the way got a boost as 600 people in more than 200 cars (including officials) rolled in and filled up, then had dinner and a drink or two before bedding down. In each town, the locals chipped in to help feed and entertain the crowd. Barraba put on one of the biggest nights, blocking off the main street to erect a stage for a preview of the Buddy Holly Story, one of the Qld Bash’s main sponsors this year. In fact, there were bands playing every night but only Buddy Holly could rival the final night’s performance, by Mental As Anything.
Everyone knew the promised drag race couldn't be straight. But no-one expected a dozen blokes in make-up and ladies' cossies
Other entertainment along the way included a unique form of drag racing, a number of fancy dress evenings such as the Cowra prison break, and stops at attractions like the Temora Air Museum. But by far the most fun is had simply kicking back and driving old cars on the dirt. The banter on the UHF radios, the rivalries that boil up and evaporate, the kidnappings, bribery and general point-scoring childishness. It gets the dullest old farts smiling.
There’s a serious side, of course. When you stop in a small town and an earnest dad tells you how much the wheelchair that Variety bought means to his little daughter, it’s pretty hard not to get choked. When school principals are thanking you for the laptops now in the hands of beaming kids, you realise how easy it is to make a difference.
And you know what? It’s not selfish to enjoy yourself while you go about it. And if you go out and give a Bash a go, you will have fun. So if you’re one of the people out there saying you’ve always fancied it, then get into gear. 2009 is a National Bash, which means all states go to the same place and that’s going to be Alice Springs. Doesn’t matter where you start — that’s lot of dirt miles under your wheels. Find a car, get a crew and talk to your local Variety Club. You won’t regret it.