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Overland Adventure: The Story of the 1954 Redex Reliability Trial (1954)

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clip Not for Sunday drivers education content clip 2, 3

This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Between Townsville and Mount Isa the roads become more rugged and difficult to negotiate as the cars’ suspension and shock absorbers are pushed to their limits. The action is shot from a number of positions: on the side of roads, at sharp corners, and – at the end of the clip – from the passenger seat of one of the cars. Cascading music and a descriptive on-the-spot commentary accompany the footage.

Curator’s notes

The point-of-view shot from the passenger seat of a car climbing up and down hills like a roller-coaster captures the excitement of the event. Often, the camera in news or non-fiction film is placed as an observer, but here it positions the audience as participants by proxy.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This black-and-white clip from Cinesound’s documentary Overland Adventure shows scenes of the Townsville to Mount Isa section of the epic Redex Round Australia Endurance Trial of 1954. Early scenes show cars navigating dusty unsealed bush roads. An assortment of competing cars is then shown dealing with dry and wet creek beds, and a few being pushed out of boggy sections by spectators. The narrator almost joyfully describes the difficulties facing the drivers, both male and female, as they speed towards Mount Isa. Bustling lively music adds to the effect.

Educational value points

  • This clip dramatically presents one of the most demanding of the 16 stages of the 1954 Redex Endurance Trial, with a length of more than 15,000 km the longest endurance trial in the world at the time. The 986-km Townsville to Mount Isa stage in Queensland was the fourth stage and competitors had to average 48 km per h. The rough tracks and hazards of this stage began to eliminate cars: 245 cars left Townsville but only 216 reached Mount Isa.
  • The 1954 Trial was the second of the three famous Redex Endurance Trials that catapulted on-road motor sport in Australia into the public eye. They were enormously popular, attracting the most adventurous male and female drivers of the time. After the success of the 1953 Trial Australia’s two newsreel companies, Cinesound and Movietone, produced segments focusing on almost every aspect of the Trials. Radio broadcasts carried news and results daily.
  • All the popular marques of the time were represented – some, such as Holden and Ford, in considerable numbers. In 1954 Holden had 34 FX cars in the Trial. Ford had 25 cars, including Consuls, Zephyrs and a Customline. Fifteen Standard Vanguards were entered while Peugeot, the previous year’s surprise winner, had 11 entrants. Two Austin marques were represented by eight cars. The 1954 winning car was a Ford, with a Peugeot second and a Holden third.
  • As illustrated by the clip and the required average speed for this stage, Australia’s country roads were almost exclusively dirt and generally hazardous. In fact, few roads were sealed except for the Hume and Pacific highways. Modifying the cars in the Trial was not allowed apart from the addition of different seats, a few protective devices and auxiliary fuel tanks. Most cars carried a range of tools, including picks and shovels, to deal with the road conditions.
  • Although female drivers competed successfully in the 1954 Redex Trial and were the focus of much publicity, the narrator reflects the patronising view of women drivers that was common at the time. In the clip, the female drivers of a Humber are seen successfully powering their car out of a boggy patch. Nonetheless the narrator describes them as 'damsels in distress’ and a 'real windfall’ for the men waiting to push the competing cars out of the bog.
  • A range of film techniques serve to heighten the excitement and adventure of the fourth stage of the Trial. Cinematographers, including one seen in action in the clip, were stationed at hazardous points. The action was filmed using a range of shots, some from within the cars through the front and back windows and some alongside the cars. The fast-paced commentary heightens the drama of the clip and the music complements both the commentary and the visuals.

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  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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