Flashback: Setting an around-Australia driving record in a rented Falcon wagon

12,693 kays. Five days. Three dudes. One rented EF Falcon!


In 1995, three Queenslanders took an EF Falcon wagon rental car and reset the unofficial around-Australia driving record to the tune of five days and 19 minutes, with an average speed of 105.6km/h! Check out the original yarn below.

First published in the June 1995 issue of Street Machine

Russ, Darrell and Vicky just had this five-day holiday. They drove a Falcon wagon all the way around Australia. Exactly 12,693 kilometres of sealed road. They were gone and back in exactly five days and 19 minutes to set an average speed for this continuous, counter-clockwise lap of Oz at 105.6km/h.

Unofficially speaking, that’s a new record – the old one stood at five days, 13 hours.

The vehicle of choice was a 1994 EF Falcon wagon with a split folding rear seat to sleep two while the third drove, a 4.0-litre petrol engine, and a four-speed automatic.

What triggered the incredible trip? “We were just talking,” said Russ. “My brother Mark and I have been wanting to do this for years and never got around to it, and then we just thought we needed a holiday. Let’s do it. So we did.”

Russ passed around an empty wallet to raise petrol money and a $100 donation bought window sticker space.

“We weren’t aware that John Taylor or anybody else had ever clocked or attempted a record.” John Taylor has record credits listed in the Guinness Book of Records, and on the fifth of March, we were scheduled to begin driving a Mazda 121 around the continent with serious intentions of breaking five days.

Vicky’s stint came entirely by good luck, if ‘lucky’ is what you are if you’re stuck in a car for a week with two blokes, stopping only to refuel, eat and relieve. What happened was that scheduled driver number three pulled out on the day of departure, leaving Vicky with one hour to go home and throw some clothes together.

Russ and Darrell closed the doors to the workshop at 8.35pm on a Thursday at BP Cades County at Oxenford, Queensland. The EF wagon was wearing a good set of Goodyear Eagles. The boys chucked in a spare drum of petrol. That, along with the Falcon’s tank, gave them a calculated cruising range of 1000km. They took no navigational gear, no tools, no second spare wheel.

Besides a few changes of clothes, they had a Bankcard and a mad passion to drive – in one b-i-i-i-g circle. They didn’t know that a cyclone was thundering in the Gulf of Carpentaria, that another was hovering off Darwin and a third was howling insanely off the Kimberley coast. Didn’t matter. They just got in and drove.

Spitting distance from home, they made the first wrong turn. Missed the Toowoomba exit and wasted 15 minutes trying to find a break in the concrete median divider. (Packing light included leaving the maps at home.)

They were heading towards Roma, Charleville, Mount Isa and across the border to Tennant Creek, where they planned on hanging a right at the Stuart Highway and going up to Darwin.

The kangaroos were out that night, and at Longreach they stopped for food, fuel and a lather. From then on, the pit stops were finely tuned to save time. While one filled the Falcon, one organised food and the third showered. “It’s all over and done within five minutes. Then you’re back driving,” explained Russ.

They drove in four-hour shifts. The plan was to drive until they felt tired. “Then we changed straight away,” Darrell said. “We couldn’t afford to fall asleep.”

At 2am they reached Katherine. From there – by holding speed at 160km/h through the Territory – they hit Darwin, 321kms in 21.5 more hours, 32 hours from the Gold Coast. The average speed was 109km/h, and those cyclonic rains had started.

Russ pulled over and slept for an hour. The rains were now squalling. Back at Katherine at 7.20am, Highway 1 in Western Australia looked bleak and nasty. Heavy rain for a week had closed the road. Despite that, they turned south for Perth.

Almost 100km north of Halls Creek, water was over the spoon drains and the Falcon had to be hauled through by a truck. The water surged over the bonnet, but the faithful Falc survived.

Brizzy to Broome inside 48 hours. The long, boring drive down the west coast went quickly. They averaged 112km/h for the 4048km between Darwin and Perth.

“We hit Perth on dark,” said Russ. “By the time it was dawn, we were on the WA border. I was booked at Penong (144km/h), and getting to Adelaide took forever. Perth-Adelaide: 25 hours, 106km/h.”

The servo food tasted like styro. Muscles were cramped and eyes ached. They followed a truck all the way into Melbourne at a slow 94km/h. Without a map, catching the right highway to Sydney was down to luck. Nine hours into Sydney, still heading north. Then rain blocked the road at Taree.

Back at Fitzroy Crossing in far north WA, record runner John Taylor had to call off his attempt.

Floodwater had cost him 10 hours of precious time.

The Gold Coast team pushed on through heavy rain and slowed traffic to reach the same BP Cades County service station they had left five days before at precisely 7.51pm. They smelled, they were stuffed and the drive from Sydney had taken 10.5 hours.

“I wouldn’t like to encourage people to beat the new record,” said Russ. “But there are areas where, with a smooth run at the right time, you could do better. The road was blocked at Norseman. We stopped at Longreach. We were at the Three Ways for a while and had a look at the John Flynn memorial. If somebody set out to do it seriously, I reckon it could be done in four days and three hours.”