Rumours

Most people love to hear rumours or listen to gossip, and these are all that we heard during and after the event. Some can be confirmed. Some cant. If they can… the persons name is written in there. If you know differently, we want to hear from you, so that we can put the rumour on the facts list. (Of course we would need proof, or at least be able to quote you as saying so.) If you have any more rumours or facts, drop us an email and we will post them up.

How much did it cost?

We heard the total amount was $5000.00 AUD to enter a car. This included accommodation in the 5 Star Diamond Beach Hotel – Casino for the driver and the crew, as well as petrol for the race.

That’s what “We heard”…. 🙂 Julie Coughlan of car # 29 set us straight.

At 23, both Julie and Warren were the youngest competitors. Julie has confirmed to us that the cost was $7500.00 and fuel was extra…. See… now that’s straight from the horses mouth…. that’s turned this rumour into fact. Big thanks for that Julie.

MGMGrand

This is the picturesque MGM Grand Hotel Casino. At the time of the Cannonball Run the venue was called the Diamond Beach Hotel – Casino. It’s a Territory icon, and a fitting place to finish the Cannonball Run event.

What exactly were the rules and what qualified you to drive in this prestigious inaugural event?

Well…. Glad you asked, cause Julie Coughlan (Car #29) has come through with the goods again.

Everything a driver needed to compete, including , payment plans, a run down of what the Northern Territory is like, the itinerary for each day of the “event” and more

 

Speed Limits?

Darwin: 40km’s out of the city limits has always been, flat out. There is literally no posted speed limit. Before the race began, the rule was “Go as fast as you like” after the death of the two Japanese dentists driving the Ferrari, there was a limit placed on all the competitors. 180 Km’s an hour. This essentially had the race decided at this point. With the exception of a car breaking down in front of you, that was the position you were going to finish in. Overtaking was not permitted. Everyone had to travel at 180 Km’s per hour.

speedPicture of a Speed Derestriction sign

 

Car number 28 – The Mini Cooper S

mini

 Driven by Charlie Ryder

Charlie Ryder was in his early 70’s when this race happened

Charlie was also the founder of the Mini Club of Australia and was the owner of the very first Cooper S (A London – Sydney Marathon Rally Car) imported to Australia. Charlie used to own a garage in Gosford called “Ryders Garage”, if anyone knows of Charlie, he was apparently a very fit man…. we would like to get in contact with him, Just to get his comments down on the site.

It was rumoured that on the very first day, Car 28 – the Mini Cooper S broke down only a few hours out of Darwin. It was also rumoured that they had called for a new motor to be delivered, had a tripod set up, and the spare motor was fitted, all inside an hour. We know these things are small, but we also know they can be a bitch to work on. It’s a credit to the drivers to be able to know their car and be able to do it at all let alone in that short space of time…. lets think… 70 and changing a motor inside an hour in a mini… are you up for it? 🙂 As you can see from the Finish Day page, they made it all the way home on that replaced motor.

23rd of September 2011 – Update

I actually spoke to Charlie today on the phone. He tells me he is 89 and his memory is not what it use to be. He parted with a few bits of gold about the run and I thought I would list them here for you.

On the above with the motor, the story is actually this:

“We blew a head gasket about 150k’s out of Darwin. My navigator had a relative in Darwin, so we rang on his mobile phone (Hahahah, can you imagine that…back then we would have all had the old Motorola brick) so they rang that relative and got him to bring down a head gasket. By the time he turned up with the head gasket, Charlie had the motor stripped down and ready to go.

Charlie had a plan. He knew his Mini couldn’t out run those exotic cars, but he knew his little Mini was better on fuel than most. What Charlie did was he got a fuel tank from an outboard motor boat and hooked it in with the tank he already had. (We bet he wouldn’t get away with that now.) So at the start all the cars would roar past him, and later in the day he would over take a heap of them as they were filling up on the side of the road. 🙂

Charlies wife was going to be the Navigator on the race. A few days before the race Charlies wife got sick. She watched the race from her hospital bed. Unfortunately about 4 months later she passed away.

Charlies Mini was the underdog, and everyone wanted to see it… so much so that Allan Moffat had Charlie leave first, every day after the first day. Not because he was the fastest of course, but because he was a crowd favourite. 🙂 Everyone cheered the old Mini on.

Charlie says he has a bit of video. He is going to make a copy and send it up for us. I’ll keep you posted.


Telecom (Telstra) car with the trailer/camper

It was said that a couple of the drivers complained about a Telecom Vehicle (The company is now known as Telstra) towing either a trailer, or a small camper during the final leg of the race, on the Alice Springs to Darwin route. This is how the story goes:

A Telecom vehicle towing a trailer or small camper over took us (the competitors) whilst we were restricted to the speed of 180Km’s per hour. We (the competitors) had a speed limit placed on us of 180Km’s per hour, but the general public could go faster if they chose to. So the Telecom car & trailer was “leap frogging” us all. To add insult to injury the car occupants were taking pictures of every competitor’s car as it over-took each and every one of us at speeds of in excess of 200Km’s per hour.

As a bit of general background information…. Telecom, or Telstra as it is known now is a Government owned organisation.

(For our overseas readers who don’t yet see the irony)


The Local Lads Funeral

Keith Alan Pritchard, & Tim Linklater…. they are the only names that stick in our mind for the two mates that died in that Ferrari accident. Aside from the drivers, two other people died, and they of course were the officials that manned the check point.

The reason these guys are on the “Rumours” page is that we heard but cannot verify the following:

The two mates were both members of the “HQ Club” (part of the Darwin Motor Sports Club) for those that may be reading this asking “What the hell is a “HQ Club” let us start here:

In 1971 to 1974 Holden, a local Australian car manufacturer released a model of car called the Holden HQ. The “Holden HQ” covered a range of cars including the Belmont, the Kingswood, the Premier, the Monaro, and the Statesman. Basically if you had one, you could race it in the club they belonged to. Holden made 485 650 of these HQ’s, so there was quite a few around in their day. Nearly half a million of them graced the streets of Australia.

Rumour has it that the police allowed all the HQ Club car owners vehicles, registered for the road or not, to go into the funeral proceedings for these boys. Basically, if you belonged to the club, and had a Holden HQ, for that one time you could drive your car on the road as a mark of respect for the lads that died doing what they loved best…. anything to do with cars.

The wife of Keith Pritchard was paid on the statutory entitlement for the traffic act of slightly over $99 000.00 by the NT government for her husband’s death. Racecage Pty Ltd ACN: 058 876 298 or ABN: 79 058 876 298 (Alan Moffat & Crew) paid nothing towards anything to do with these local boys that lost their lives volunteering to help and work for free.

Racecage Pty Ltd is still in business today and has been since the 17th of February 1993. We suspect, possibly since they got the idea to stage the Cannonball Run in Darwin, May 1994

Keith1

 Keith Pritchard

RIP

12-07-1962 to 24-05-1994

Keith leaves behind wife Susan, sons Daniel & Wynn, and daughter Nicole.

You made it to Bathurst mate…. Some people dream it… you made it happen.

With special thanks to Gerry Pritchard (Keith’s Dad) for the pictures and permission to post them.

Gerry Pritchard has informed us that he sent a letter to the two wives of the Japanese dentists that died in the Ferrari F40 at the same time their son had died.

The wives had arrived in Alice Springs under a media frenzy when they were told that Keith had said the “Japs were crazy” we know in Australia that when someone is “crazy” it can mean a variety of things, in this case… that the two Japanese drivers were a bit gun ho, or a bit to showy…. show off’s if you like. (Nothing wrong with that… they had a Ferrari…. wouldn’t you be… 😉 However in Japan it was taken literally and Gerry (Keith’s Father) set out in the letter to right the wrong. There was no disrespect intended. The letter was sent to the wives through the Japanese consulate. Gerry was told that the letter had been published in every Japanese newspaper of the time,

The following is the reply from Mrs Kabe. Both in Japanese, and the translation from the consulate.

 

Prize Money

As I was walking by the TV, I personally caught the end of a program, that showed a quick flash picture of the Strathfield Porsche that won the event. In this website we have very rarely used the word “I” but…. on this one I am on my own. As I sat on the step of our sunken lounge, I was horrified to hear that “the race organisers didn’t pay out the prize money”. The “Race Organisers” were Alan Moffat and Company or “Racecage Pty Ltd”. They sited “Legal Reasons” for not being able to pay. I remember either myself speculating, or the winners of the Cannonball Run that were driving the Strathfield Porsche said words to the effect of “Alan Moffat had a heap of legal fee’s to pay out on after that horrific crash involving the dentists” In the end, Racecage Pty Ltd did pay out a “undisclosed amount of money”

Alan

Alan Moffat

At the finish line. How easily he could have been the hero of this town. How easily it could have gone the other way.

You can picture here that if no one had died, and the event had been a success… the smile on Alan’s face, and the arm out of the window either punching the air, or waving.

You also have to remember the emotional and financial strain this would have put on Alan Moffat. No matter who you are, how famous you are, or how much money you have… this would have had to affect you.


Why the news pulled the footage of the accident off air.

Without going into too much detail of what we remember about seeing the crash actually happen on TV that night and what exactly happened, we have a rumour as to why the footage was not shown on air again after the first time. In fact, we have never seen the footage since…. anywhere.

We remember hearing about it on the radio all day, and we sat glued to our televisions all night waiting for the footage to come on, with the local news.

The reasons for why the footage was only shown on the news once, and not again in later bulletins was that the Australian Federal Government had stepped in and stopped it from being aired again. This was the rumour the next day that everyone was talking about. On one hand people didn’t want to glorify an accident and see it over and over again in their lounge rooms. (Something like they did with September 11 and the planes hitting the Twin Towers. After some time the government banned the continual playing of the footage) .On the other hand, the people of the Northern Territory didn’t like the idea or the knowledge that the Government of Australia had decided what they could, and could not watch. Especially as the Northern Territory had founded itself as a Territory because it didn’t want to be a state that was told what to do by the Australian Federal Government. The people and the local government, had always carried out things their own way, hence the open speed limit. So being told you couldn’t see “that footage” again, was a bit of a slap in the face to the Territorian people.

Maybe it wasn’t the Australian Federal Government at all, but this was the rumour on the day.


Facts from the winning cars Navigator

On the 20th of November 2008 I was contacted by one Mr Andrew Kelly via email, who introduced himself as the navigator in car 184, with the driver being Ron Conrad. Car 184 is the Strathfield Porsche. The Porsche that won the event.

He told me that he had some “Goss” for my website. Of course we are always up for a bit of Cannonball Run associated gossip… only this goss… is fact…. read below… it’s quite chilling…

Every other check point the roads were bitumen and the checkpoints were in the middle of the road.

What was not stressed in the documents supplied was the (death point) checkpoint was not on the road but was on a clear piece of bush land on the side of the road. Further there was fresh gravel that was dropped on the ground to supposedly make a smoother stopping area to check in.

We were 3rd out that morning, 1st the Ferrari, 2nd Johnny Kahlbetzer and 3rd car 184. I never heard why this point was ignored. Further the distance was at least 100m out, that means shorter than the calculated distance so as you came up over the hill and thought you had 300 meters you realized there was only 200 meters.

We called for the race to be postponed and were nearly going to pull out but we were told that we need to move on. After seeing those guys laying on the ground it is a scary thought of how the organizer just walks away with no liability.

I personally was a contributor in the charity to raise funds for the time keepers but that does not go far.

Neither Andrew Kelly, or Ron Conrad have ever been asked to testify, even though they were the second on the scene that day.


Where were the cars kept?

Whilst the cars were in storage waiting for the race, it’s know they were kept in storage in a “Not so secret” location.

The Trade Development Zone.

This was a group of buildings set up by the Northern Territory government to encourage overseas manufacturers to our shores.

This now has the main loading terminals for shipping located there.

Car #110 Dodge Viper. Car #95 Ford Mustang Fast Back in the background
Car #110 Dodge Viper. Car #95 Ford Mustang Fast Back in the background
Car #32 Ford Cobra XC
Car #32 Ford Cobra XC
Car #109 Ford GT HO XY (Shaker)
Car #109 Ford GT HO XY (Shaker)
Car #27 Ferrari
Car #27 Ferrari
Car #93 The Volvo 850R
Car #93 The Volvo 850R
Car #26 The Jaguar XK140
Car #26 The Jaguar XK140
Car #29 The Mazda Rx-2
Car #29 The Mazda Rx-2
Car #36 Porsche 928. Car #50A Mazda RX7 in the background
Car #36 Porsche 928. Car #50A Mazda RX7 in the background

 

Use of the word “Cannonball”

It’s been rumored that Racecage Pty Ltd didn’t have permission to use the word “Cannonball”.

Poor buggers… I don’t think any other word would have done the trick.


What happened to the checkered Flag?

“I almost ended up with the starting flag at the end of the race but it ended up going for

somewhere over $3k at the gala auction held at the casino, after the race.”

Wayde McLeod – The Official standing next to Marshall Perron at the start line.


This is from a mechanic who was at the event

Who sadly doesn’t do email or whatever so it’s hard to get a first-person story out of him!

F40 Japanese weren’t wearing seatbelts, and having had a big one the night before the driver chucked the keys to the navigator.

 

Car 164 – Mercury Cougar GT – “Found it” 

1967

Driver: Marshall

MercuryCougar1
MercuryCougar2

 

Look what John found… This is THE “Cannonballrun 164” 1967 Mercury Cougar Big Block 460 Ford.

The old girl had all her race stickers removed long ago and it sat in a shed in far North Queensland for over ten years. Other than the stickers being removed and having a tow bar fitted… (What the…..!) The car is exactly as it raced back on the big day.

John plans to have this fine piece of motoring history registered on the road by the end of 2010.

John is also trying to track down the original number plate… “Cannonballrun 164″…. 🙂 Yep… he knows….


Then you would never guess… One of the co-drivers sent me this email:

The vehicle was purchased from my father and driven there (to Queensland) by the new owner when he moved to Qld to live.

He fitted the towbar so he could tow his sand-drag bike. Also the engine is a 460 BB Ford, bored to 482.

By the way, the plates are still in Darwin but NOT for sale.

I co-drove with my father in the ’67 Cougar #164 and raced with & against Slim & Tim at our local club meets here in Darwin. RIP lads.

Keep up the fantastic work with your website and maybe people will realise it wasn’t a full-blown “race” but a run/rally due to it being a timed event.

Thanks Lane Marshall. Great to know that people still care enough to let me know what’s going on.


Another mechanic at the event

My name is Scott, I found this site in the Australian muscle car mag & congratulations on a top job to bring this all together!

I moved from Darwin 12 months ago after living there for 28 years, & of course love the place!!!

Anyway I have some (disposable camera) shots I will find, scan & send them!!! From the Noonamah check point!!! I wish I had more but I always thought there would be another!

I was an apprentice mechanic at Kerry Holden & worked on Greg Hanfords VN, the aircon wasn’t working so I fixed it.

They then drove the car for a test drive & returned to ask me to “remove the condenser, as it was causing the car to overheat”! I had to ask, at what speed did it overheat?, I think it was Greg or one of his crew that pointed to the 300km/h extra centre dash VDO Speedo & said “at top speed!” This car was amazing & had lots of cash thrown at it, wish I had taken some pics!!!. It was sold for a steel after the run & I wish I had the money! I’m a Ford man now but I would still love to own this tough street car!

CAMS licences… issued or not?


“did you know that after the crash at Ayres Rock that night we all got issued with Cams Cannonball licenses.”

Mark Byrant – Driver of Car #10

Now that puts a whole new spin on things doesn’t it


Ian McAlister, driver of car 93, the only Volvo, and the only station wagon in the event, kept some personal records.

Check out point 9

93notes

Got any more rumours or facts we don’t know about…. Send us an email to let us know. info@cannonballrun.info

 

 

22nd – 27th May 1994