We’re sitting in John Curley’s kitchen on a sunny Spring day, the day before the start of the 2103 Variety Bash: Bankstown to Ballarat. Besides John and myself are his compatriot Bashers John Lindsell and Andrew Snelling.
Their chosen vehicles for the Bash have always been the Aussie-only Wolseley 24/80. John Lindsell belongs to the Bathurst Light Car Club, while John Curley and Andrew are members of the Wolseley Car Club. And they all like a good laugh.
John Curley, or JC, has been involved with BMC cars since he was a lad as he explains. “My dad brought a Freeway home in 1973, a station wagon. Before that I was a bit of a Torana boy, but I fell in love with them (Freeways). I was 12 or 13 then. Of course it never went again and as we were growing up it was always ‘why is this not going?’ I used to get ridiculed by my mates. They were all into the Holdens and Fords.”
“My dad bought a second Freeway and it just continued on from there. I’ve had Freeways, Wolseleys, 1800s, a couple of Minis. It’s always been predominantly BMC cars. I lashed out once and bought a Ford, then sold it again within about a week”, JC laughs.
Living in Lithgow he saw the Bash come through in 1987 and wondered how he could get involved. The following year the president of the Wolseley Club, Colin Smith, got involved with a Wolseley 15/50 that had been brought over from the UK for the Bash.
In 1989 Colin called up JC and asked if he had a car they could enter in the Bash. “He said we want one that’s really stuffed, that we can build up. I said yeah, I’ve got one”, JC recalls. “It was a 24/80, the old wine colour, and I drove it down from Lithgow to Seven Hills, sitting on a milk crate.”
The same year John Lindsell was entered in the Bash, also in a Wolseley, which had come about almost by chance, as John explains. “I was Marketing Administration Manager at Edgells at the time and our Public Relations Manager, David Rose, came up and said he had entered the REDEX Bash – it was called REDEX back then – but he had to commit the company to do a lunch to get the entry in. There were six divisional managers. That’s why he came to me because I had access to the other blokes to get the money.”
“Anyway, we spoke to the marketing people and they came up with the money and we did a Chiko Roll lunch at Augathella, Qld. The oldies still ask about that: ‘When are we going to have another Chiko lunch?’ It cost a packet, because they had to fly in all these special cookers. We couldn’t get them in Brisbane so had to fly them up from Sydney. That was one of the big years. We had 210 cars.”
John became the second member of the team and they applied for car number 2480. When JC and Colin applied for the same number, they were allocated 2481.
The Wolseley people are a tight-knit group and the Edgell/Birdseye car, as it was known then, had come from Colin Smith’s collection.
In 1990 car 2481 was retired and 2480 was repainted black and the Chiko Roll was mounted on the roof. The car was crewed by David Rose, John Lindsell and the third seat was shared by a company employee and a major sponsor.
John bought it from his co-driver David and turned to JC for a bit of help. As a BMC-trained mechanic, JC’s a handy man to know and he virtually rebuilt John’s car.
“That first Bash for us, our car didn’t have any trouble, but John’s did”, JC muses. “Just the way it had been set up, with rally suspension, gas shocks and this and that, huge front coils. So, I worked on that more than I worked on my own car.”
In 1990 JC was all set to go in what was now the Chiko Roll car, but David Rose had entered another Wolseley, a 1948 18/85, and JC was coerced into that instead.
The following year the two Johns were in the Chiko Roll car, along with John Lindsell’s son Steve, and, apart from JC missing a couple of years, they’ve remained a pretty cohesive team.
Andrew Snelling’s involvement with the Bash actually goes back to 1988, but his life with Wolseleys goes back a lot further than that, as he explains. “I came home from hospital in one of them, after I was born…I helped on the Pommy 15/50 in 1988, then the following year I was asked to build a car. I did half of that then bailed out because I didn’t like the way it was going. Then, the following year dad said, well how about we do it ourselves. People said we can’t do this, it’s too big, but we did. We just built up a car, did that, then thought we’d go again, So, we went again.”
Andrew’s car came from then club president Ken Watson (and received number 2482). Andrew turned to JC for advice on building it for the Bash. “I’ve known John since I was a little kid, through the car club. He was my guiding light in the early years. I asked him for advice, how he did his car, and we did the same things for the back springs, the same thing for the back shackles, the propshaft…A few things we’ve differed on…”
Andrew did nine Bashes with his dad, Graeme, but said the best year was when he also took his grandfather.
John Lindsell has kept family tradition, with his son Steve doing 14, his daughter Elizabeth five and son-in-law Paul has done two. But he said his favourite year was when his grandson Blake joined them.
All agree, though, that the best thing about the events is the impact on the communities.
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The BMC Experience Issue 9. Apr-Jun 2014 Magazine
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