WWII to 1959

Period in review

Car trials capture the attention of enthusiasts and the public

In the years following the Second World War, motoring became much more popular as people’s prosperity improved and local car manufacturing expanded. Petrol rationing persisted until 1950 but by 1947, motor sport had started to flourish again. With the democratisation of motoring and reduced costs of participation, car trials became ever more popular with motoring enthusiasts.  Long standing clubs such as the Light Car Club and the Victorian Sporting Car Club were soon running several trials each year.

These were mostly day time navigational and reliability trials, sometimes including some speed tests or other sub-events along the way. There was a strong social element with Sunday picnic lunches common. Attire was mostly collar and tie and a tweed jacket. Media reports of events tended to mention the names of all the control officials!

More challenging events soon developed, with the Light Car Club running the first Experts Trial in 1947. Night trials were relatively rare. The Victorian Sporting Car Club lead that trend with their Midnight Trial, first run we think in 1949 and traditionally starting late on a Saturday evening. The Light Car Club resurrected the Alpine Reliability Trial in 1950 (not run since 1936), an arduous almost non stop thousand mile journey through the Victorian Alps.

New clubs soon emerged, including the Western District Car Club (1947) and the Victorian Amateur Drivers Club (1950), while the Light Car Club had active branches established in Ballarat and Bendigo. The North Eastern Car Club was formally established in 1953 and soon became active in car trials.

In 1953 CAMS was established under the guidance of Donald Kingsley Thomson, or DKT, and, as the official national body associated with the FIA, took over the administration of motor sport in Australia (in Victoria, rallies had been conducted under the guidance of the RACV, and through them to the AAA). DKT instilled a deep philosophy of sportsmanship and camaraderie in all motor sport, but particularly in rallying. In the years that followed, numerous car clubs were established and became affiliated with CAMS, many conducting regular trials. Among the first of the “new” clubs were the Peugeot Car Club of Victoria and the Car Club of RMIT, both formed in 1954. The Melbourne University Car Club followed in 1955.

1953 also saw the running of the first Sun Rally, directed by DKT, as an “All Victoria” multi-day event. It also ran in 1954 and 1955, and lead directly to the establishment of the BP Rally which ran from 1958 to 1973 (the first ten BP Rallies were also directed by DKT).

The three REDeX “Round Australia” trials were conducted in 1953, 1954 and 1955 and elevated car trials to legend status in the eyes of the public. These were followed by three Mobilgas Round Australia Trials in 1956, 1957 and 1958 and the long distance Ampol Trials also in 1956, 1957 and 1958 (the first two were not CAMS sanctioned and resulted in much conflict within the sport over the role of CAMS).

Many vehicles of the era were large and cumbersome, although MGs were very popular in the early years. By the end of the 1950s the VW Beetle had emerged as a relatively cheap vehicle of choice for rallies. And during the 1950s, Victorians Harry Firth and Graham Hoinville established a reputation that would carry them into the next decade when they would win several state championships, the inaugural Southern Cross Rally (1966) and the inaugural Australian Rally Championship (in 1968).

The years underlined at left link to pages with content that has been provided to date.

The Melbourne finish of the 1957 Mobilgas Rally