Redex 1954 Redux

Peter Carey conjures up a racy ethos and mood in early 1950s suburban Melbourne in his recent novel ‘A Long Way From Home’, featuring his birth-place Bacchus Marsh, and a car rally that captivated the nation. 

Reminiscent of ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, Carey charges full speed into this story, with characters, ideas and narratives bouncing off each other, until it settles down to a manageable rhythm. Probably an apt metaphor as the real hero of the story is the amazing Redex Round Australia Reliability Trial of 1954 (second of three). 

Among the larger-than-life central characters he even manages to invent a blond, German background, part aboriginal man, and reflects on our inglorious 20th century indigenous history.

Regular KC readers might recall my father John (Jack) in Berlin 36 Redux. Well, he’s also in the background of this story, as he competed in this 15,400 kms trial, driving a Chevrolet (car 36) for Christey’s Motor Auctions. Only 120 out of 263 entrants managed to finish the punishing event, with points lost for late arrivals and replaced parts. Dad’s car finished 97th.

His mate, legendary Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray won in a Ford V8, incredibly with no points lost, and Carey draws on his character. My childhood memories include calling in to Murray’s Bondi garage with my father for a chin wag with Jack later on.

If you want to know more about him, get ‘Gelignite Jack Murray, An Aussie Larrikin Legend’ by his son Phil Murray – it’s not literature, but lots of photos and cars, and O’Hara too.

The Christey’s crew learned a few tricks, as in 1955 they entered the Trial again, with a longer 16,900 kms route round the country: their Ford Customline (car 76) came a very creditable 20th out of 54 finishers and 276 starters! 

I reckon Carey captures the hardships of the Trial and devil-may-care attitude of the self-reliant bunch of individuals who threw themselves into this ‘adventure of a lifetime’ – overall, a rollicking good read, as the cliche goes. Highly recommended.

1954 redex 1

1954 redex 2

1954 redex 3




  1. hi peter nice post meant to mention re your previous post have you come across a short history of the world , by geoffrey blainey ? (yeah, him) very good!

    hectic festive period here we are going to porto for a week next saturday to make use of kathy’s empty flat (she is in aust) cheers, & all the best for 2019 ian & sue ________________________________ De : KOOKYNIE COURIER Envoyé : mardi 8 janvier 2019 06:50 À : Objet : [New post] Redex 1954 Redux

    POH posted: “Peter Carey conjures up a racy ethos and mood in early 1950s suburban Melbourne in his recent novel “A Long Way From Home”, featuring his birth-place Bacchus Marsh, and a legendary car rally that captivated the nation. Reminiscent of ‘Oscar and Lucinda’”

  2. Hi Peter – Am gradually working my way through the ‘backlog’ of your posts and feel moved to comment on this one in particular. By strange coincidence, I borrowed a library copy of Carey’s ‘Long Way from Home’ a week or so ago…am yet to dip into it….but your post has given me a stimulus to do so. I noticed with interest your three photos. Your old man was directly involved in the purchase of my first car in 1962 – a 1946 Chev Fleetmaster – which looks remarkably similar to the Redex model in your pics. He recommended this particular model and accompanied me on the day of the purchase, with the philosophy that ‘you need a lot of metal around you for protection’. In the days before seatbelts, this proved to be sage advice! The price: 40 pounds. I vividly recall lying on my back under the car in Chambers Ave replacing the rear axle which broke a few times. I also learned to pull the engine apart in the course of replacing the rings and bearings. Remarkably, under Jack’s guiding hand, this inexperienced mechanic was somehow able to keep the beast in something like running condition.

  3. Thanks Dick for that terrific JOH vignette. I also remember as a young teenager we had the same Chev model as a family car, with the forward-opening rear door (now called ‘suicide’ doors for some reason).

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