Variety Club Bash 2015: Variety Hippies

By: John Willis and Variety, Photography by: John Willis and Variety

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The 'Variety Hippies' let their hair down for a good cause, as they hit the road for their fifth Variety Bash


Variety Bash 2015

This is the fifth year of The Bash for the Variety Hippies, a team that was formed by the creative minds of John Evans (aka Johnny Vans and well known to Unique Cars through his companies Race Paint and Fleeting Image) and Don Hailes (AKA Mezzmo – The Roman Empire and hard rockin’ drummer). They are both car enthusiasts.

The boys put the Hippy team together some six years ago, with the idea forged from their musical relationship in their band The Occasionals. Don was already a veteran of a number of Bashes and wanted to do it in his own style hence the purchase of the 1976 Bedford and the transformation to Bash-ready specifications. It’s not that hard really, a complete transplant to a Holden V6 and Commodore running gear, replace the old drums with discs, beef up the suspension, install bash plates to protect the undersides. Easy when you say it quickly!

There were, however, some development challenges. On the way to Ballarat for the start of the 2010 Bash (its maiden run) the entire electrical system fried itself! Luckily it happened to fail smack bang out the front of a pub. Even better, an ex-Basher wandered past and admitted to being an auto electrician!

They immediately towed the van to his workshop where he proceeded to strip his wife’s VN Commodore of its electrics and transplant them into our van. The stand-up fight that ensued between husband and wife wasn’t pretty, but he had the spirit of the bash in his soul and come midnight the very grateful Hippies were rolling again.

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Day One proper found the boys dressed in full hippy regalia and ready for the Bash when, wouldn’t you know it, a tree actually falls across the car taking out one of the all-essential hydrofoils on the roof (a surfboard) and leaving an big indentation on the front fender. The dent just happens to be at exactly the right height for an armrest, and has been known to double as a stubby holder on more than one occasion. Next stop saw the complete collapse of the front end just prior to the start of the long journey to cross the Nullarbor Plain on their way to Margaret River.

But the Bash spirit thrives and the magnificent team of volunteer mechanics got them back up and running to complete the trip.

The Bash enhances the human spirit and brings out the wonderful side of normal people, while the costumes and themes help to unwrap the inner child in all of us. Inhibitions are thrown to the wayside and egos are levelled with common ground. It’s not a race and no-one, absolutely no-one gets left behind thanks to the tireless work of the volunteer mechanics, paramedics and officials who all perform miracles keeping the large contingent continually on the move.

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Each state has its own Variety Bash and is intent on spreading happiness to kids in need of some assistance through the work of Variety – the Children’s Charity.

This year marked 30 years since Australian icon Dick Smith inaugurated the event back in June 1985. He organised the first Bash from Sydney to Bourke in far west New South Wales, and from there to Burketown on the Gulf of Carpentaria in Northern Queensland.

Vehicles are basic, with the rules saying each vehicle must be at least 30 years old, be two wheel drive and be non-performance modified.

The trip is an enormous undertaking for the eclectic collection of people and vehicles. They are continually challenged by every dirt track, bull dust covered corrugation, slippery and steep incline, thick mud, sand and every other possible physical challenge. Then there are the kangaroos, emus, buffalo, pigs and dogs. Some of the time it feels like there are lions, tigers and elephants as well!

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Most vehicles have a theme including the Elvises, Sesame Street, The Smurfs, Rat Pack, Mounties, Chefs, Disney, Super Heroes and even Where’s Wally – but no one can ever find them, especially when it’s their shout!

There are cars of all shapes and sizes, with big local cruisers such as Fairlaines and Statesmen proving popular. Plus you’ll find ex-ambulances and fire trucks, loads of Chevs, a few Chryslers, many Mercs, some stretch limos, and even the odd Pug. The rookie team that won the award this year for Best Presentation was "The Garden Gnomes" in their specially-fitted Kombi.

The Hippies’ eventful start in Ballarat only served to harden their conviction and they have now completed five out of the last six annual excursions.

We have just returned from the 2015 event a little staggered, battered and bruised, having run from Melbourne to Port Douglas via Cooktown. Whilst the Variety Hippies always have the underlying groovy theme we diversified in 2014 by becoming Sgt Poopers Lonely Old Farts Club Band complete with replica costumes of the original Beatles classic album. The sides of the Bedford were adorned with a faux replica of the Sgt Peppers album cover with all of our friends donating money to have their faces in the crowd.

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We got sick of wearing long wigs in the tropical heat and took on a new persona: Hippy Krishnas.

We had a ton of fun annoying the bags out of everyone along the trek both on and off the bash with finger bells, cymbals, triangles, Tom-Toms and every other noise-making instrument in a continual transcendental chant of pseudo-spiritualism that spread peace and goodwill to all we met... Or not.

We had weddings, breakdowns, silly string, water fights and stink bomb wars, incredible antics, costumes, themes, great cars and amazing sights. All this while exploring our beautiful and still wild country.

Peace, love and mung beans! Next year we’re Darwin bound. Will you be there?

(Note: Thanks to our sponsors’ generosity the event raised a record $1.4 million-plus to help our sick, disadvantaged or special needs kids.)

Visit the Variety website to see more on the current programs helping kids.


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