The Most Brutal Reliability Trial... IN THE WORLD
The Redex Reliability Trials, Australia - and Gelignite Jack!
What's a Redex then? Redex is a UK based company which makes fuel additives like Octane Booster and Fuel Injector Cleaner.
I won't try and speak for the rest of the world, but Redex has declined in popularity in Australia after a very strong start back in 1950's.
Part of the reason for that start was that Redex sponsored an event which appealed to Australians, a reliability trial.
Initially held in New South Wales (Australia) the event was not a race, but competitors lost points for being late at check-points and for the condition of the cars at the finish line. Radiator and Bonnets were sealed, cars had to be reliable to finish!
The first two trials, held in 1952 and 1953 went mostly un-noticed by anyone other than the competitors.
The third event was held in late 1953 and covered 1825km's or roads starting from Sydney, winding through the beautiful Blue Mountains, and eventually finishing back in Sydney. Only 9 of the 17 competitors finished, but a couple of points are worth us noting. One competitor was an Austin A40 (which came third), and likely inspired the later use of the Austin A90 pictured above as an entrant. The other point was a competitor - one Jack Murray, who became very famous in later events - we'll get back to Jack shortly!
The NSW event continued, but it spawned something much larger - a Round Australia reliability event, which was sponsored by Redex.
In August 1953 thousands of spectators watched from the Sydney Showgrounds as 192 competitors started their epic trial around Australia.
Keep in mind that in 1953 Australia was largely untamed deserts and wilderness, with the population mostly living in a few towns and cities around the coasts. Tarmac roads were non-existent outside of the cities, and some parts of the rally had competitors racing across land that didn't even have tracks marked out. No GPS back then either!
Public and media interest was intense as the entrants made their way along the course of 6,500 miles, passing through Brisbane, Rockhampton, Townsville, Darwin, Adelaide and Melbourne before making their way back to Sydney, competing for a (then significant) prize of £1,000.
The first event was highly successful, and the second was even bigger.
The course covered 9,600 miles and was truly "round (mainland) Australia", beginning in Sydney on 3 July 1954, passing through Brisbane, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Mount Isa, Darwin, Broome, Meekatharra, Madura, Adelaide and Melbourne, concluding at Moore Park on 20 July. 127 of the 246 entrants finished in the allotted time, but many more drifted in over the next week, refusing to give in and stop!
The winner was a an ex-Taxi! a 1948 Ford V-8 driven by John Eric "Gelignite Jack" Murray (1907–1983) and navigated by the unrelated Bill Murray, losing no points on the trip. It was on this trial that Murray gained his nickname, from his occasional celebratory detonation of sticks of explosive, a custom that delighted some and infuriated others, but certainly turned Jack into a legendary character.
1955 was a bigger event again, with 276 cars departing Sydney on 21st August and making their way (not racing!) through checkpoints in Newcastle, Tamworth, Southport, Brisbane, Toowoomba, Maryborough, Rockhampton, Marlborough, Sarina, Townsville, Cairns, Hughenden, Duchess, Camooweal, Tennant Creek, Darwin, Katherine, Fitzroy Crossing, Port Hedland, Carnarvon, Perth, Northam, Kalgoorlie, Madura, Ceduna, Adelaide, Broken Hill, Mildura, Horsham, Mt. Gambier, Melbourne, Whitfield, Corryong, Canberra, Goulburn, and Wollongong, before terminating in Sydney on September 11, a total distance of 10,500 miles.
Less than half the starters completed the course, and a massive amount of contention arose on a section between Cairns and Hughenden where competitors had to negotiate a boggy paddock of a road. Gelignite Jack didn't do so well, and failed to check in at the finish line to be scrutineered. This wasn't the best move, as criticism of the stage was so intense that the organisers excluded that section. Jack didn't even attend the closing Ball where the results were to be announced. On the night that didn't happen as protests and disqualifications were rampant, leading to a huge backlash against the organisers.
No Redex Rally was held in 1956, or ever after. There is more modern Charity event (a Bash) which carries the Redex name, but it isn't usually widely publicised.
There are some really cool old movies on Youtube which captured parts of the Redex Trials - here are a few to get you started!
And one more, Gelignite Jack himself! Some very nice 1960's cars here!