Australian History

AUSTRALIA HISTORY: Red Dust Revival sparks huge turnout of vintage cars, motorcycles at Lake Perkolilli

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#AceHistoryDesk – Red Dust Revival: One of Australia’s oldest motor racing tracks has roared back to life, more than a century after it became a playground for pioneers on West Australia’s Goldfields.

a vintage car racing on a dry, red dirt lake bed.
Cars can reach well over 160kph racing on Lake Perkolilli.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)none

About 150 vintage cars and motorcycles from across the country are racing on the hard claypan surface at Lake Perkolilli on the outskirts of the historic gold mining city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

The Red Dust Revival event has attracted hundreds of spectators as vintage car lovers re-enact races held there before World War II. 

Russell Platts has spent much of the event waving the chequered flag as one of the race marshals and says he has the best seat in the house.

“We can smell the action here, it’s so close, I love it,” he said.

“We’re right here on the start and finish line, nice and close, it’s the best seat for sure.”

A man in a white coat waves the chequered flag at a vintage race car.
Russell Platts says he has the best view of the action.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)none

Organiser Graeme Cocks said it took an army of volunteers many months of planning to stage the event.

He said the interest from around the country had been overwhelming.

“With the three-year break, we’ve had people building cars all over Australia — from Tasmania to Queensland to Darwin — and we’ve got three times the number of cars here this time,” Mr Cocks said.

“There’s now a big shortage of spare parts because everyone has bought it all up.”Organiser Graeme Cocks says 105 vintage cars and 40 motorcycles registered for the Red Dust Revival.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)none

‘It’s very nostalgic’

Between 1914 and 1939, speed records were set on the lake’s hard, smooth surface at a time before quality roads were built.

But WWII put an end to the legendary races as fuel and men became scarce.Cars line up at the starters’ line on Lake Perkolilli.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)none

Among the most determined to make the trip west for the event was Johnno Everett, who lives on the outskirts of Sydney.

He drove his 1928 Model A Ford nearly 4,000 kilometres across the Nullarbor.

Most towed their vehicles or put them on trucks.A sign at Lake Perkolilli points to other famous race tracks around the world.   (ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)none

Kevin Boardman attended the last event in 2019 and has made the journey again from Goulburn in New South Wales.

“It’s very nostalgic,” he said, while leaning against the tyre of his 1914 T Model Ford speedster.

“The thing is this race meeting was very unique back in the days when it ran.

“It’s the oldest racecourse in Australia, exactly the same as it was back in 1914.”A race car driver and crowd at Lake Perkolilli claypan racetrack near Kalgoorlie in 1928.(Supplied: WA Museum)none

Family affair rebuilding car

Matt Harrington is a fish out of water in the dust of Lake Perkolilli.

The remote-control submarine pilot from Perth has spent the past year rebuilding a 1930 Model A Ford with his children.

“My 13-year-old twins got interested in it,” he said.

“We thought it would be a good thing as a family together; get them off social media [and] all the online bullying and everything.

“We sat down in the shed, put the radio on and we built a car together.Matt Harrington and his son Tom, 13, with the car they built together.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)none

“We bought it as a rolling chassis and then with the help of Tom and his twin sister Sarah we’ve put the engine together, got parts from all around Australia, and now we’re competing.”

The vintage car hit a top speed of 82kph on one of its early runs around the 3km track. Other drivers were clocked well above 160kph.

“That probably doesn’t sound fast but out there it’s so scary,” Mr Harrington said.John Lakeland behind the wheel of a 1938 Triumph sedan that he has converted into a sports car body.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)none

Car body made from oil drums

While most of the cars at the event have seen better years, they were built to last.

Vintage car collector John Lakeland is effectively running two cars in one.

He purchased a 1938 Triumph dolomite sedan seven years ago and combined it with the body of a pre-war sports car that had been parked in a friend’s shed for decades.

Even among such an impressive field of vintage cars, the rustic body of the Triumph stands out due to the fact it is built from old oil drums.

“We’ve gone to great pains to make it using old worn-out parts from that era. So the car basically looks like it has just come out of a barn,” Mr Lakeland said.John Lakeland, of Melbourne, has been racing a 1938 Triumph at the Red Dust Revival.  (ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)none

“The car still runs well. It’s done 650,000 miles (1 million kilometres) when I bought it and we’re probably up to 670,000 miles (1.1 millions kilometres) now and still going strong.”

As a member of the UK-based Pre-1940 Triumph Motor Club, Mr Lakeland has owned more than 30 Triumphs in his lifetime.

His present collection stands at six.

“I currently have more pre-war Triumphs than anyone in the world,” he said.

“They are absolutely magnificent cars that are polished to the Nth degree, but this car [the 1938 Triumph] gets more attention than the polished cars do.The hard claypan surface at Lake Perkolilli is one of Australia’s oldest race tracks.  (ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)none

“If I drive to an event or a service station, people are drooling over it and talking about it.

“Whereas if I drive the shiny one, they like it but they don’t pay as much attention as they do to this one, which looks like it’s been knocked around.”

Embracing the 1920s theme

While most spectators’ eyes are glued to the track, not everyone comes for the racing, but rather to relive the fashion of a bygone era.

One group of four women was spotted walking their dogs in 1920s-themed clothing, as they headed for the trackside tent to sip on champagne.Heather Mettam (from left), Ray Yates, Erna Gazeley and Jenny Fuller embraced the event by dressing in 1920s fashion.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)none

“I don’t think we’ve seen a race yet,” Jenny Fuller joked.

“Definitely Great Gatsby — that’s the theme,” Erna Gazeley said of the group’s outfits.

“I think we’ve all watched Downtown Abby a bit too which helped,” Ray Yates said.

It’s proof that the 1920s has indeed been revived on the WA Goldfields.

#AceNewsDesk report ………..Published: Sept.24: 2022:

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