Redex Trials were novel with 200 amateur and pro-drivers circumnavigating Australia in a contest of points won [or lost] in each section. The first trial was held in 1953 and most cars were not fit for the arduous trek over unsealed roads and tracks.2
Bill Nelson [my father] was always passionate about cars and talked his mate Don Wright, a Taree accountant, into joining him. They decided to use Don’s Riley. They asked Ernie Murdoch, a brilliant mechanic, to join them, but Ernie deserted them at Brisbane and from thereon my father used his past mechanic’s skills to care for the car.3 The Riley’s long wheel base made creek crossings difficult and when it broke down my father begged and scrounged parts from stations along the way. A run of bad luck forced them to withdraw but they still completed the course vowing to have another go next year.4
In 1954 a Vanguard was donated by Manning Motors with sponsorship from the Celebrity Nightclub in Sydney complete with paintings of girls on the side [much to my mother’s disgust!]. This time they were better prepared and invited Alan Jurd to join them. The team were making excellent progress when their steering column broke in the Northern Territory and they were again forced to withdraw, though still completing the course.5
During this second trial I was at Teachers’ College in Sydney. One night the matron came to my door and said there was a scruffy looking hobo to see me. It was my father, who had not had a shower or shave for 3 weeks! However he cleaned up and took me to the Celebrity Club on a promise that I would not tell my mother!!
Author: Elaine Hughes
1 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 5 July 1954, 2.
2 Northern Champion, 11 August 1953, 1.
3 Northern Champion, 17 July 1953, 1.
4 Northern Champion, 15 September 1953, 1.
5 Northern Champion, 20 July 1954, 1.