Thursday, June 4, 2015

1953 Redex Trial diorama, pt 4 – the Holden FX


The third car in the diorama might only be playing second fiddle to the Peugeots, but it has been a real pleasure to learn the story of its driver, Mr A.L. 'Possum' Kipling. More on him later in this posting, but first let's look at the car.



Click on this photo and it will come up bigger, and mods to be done are all explained there in the image. The original 1/43 diecast model I am modding is by Trax, of the car with two model names. Formally known as the "48/215" it's the famous first Holden that established that brand's excellent reputation as a tough, simple and reliable car beautifully suited to Australian conditions. The Holdens following this all had model designations such as FJ, FE, FC, FB etc, and so retrospectively the 48/215 became known as the "FX" just to give it a more familiar name.

The reason for choosing this car was a simple one, at first. Number 5 was the first car to officially cross the line at the finish. It was always one of the leading cars, but when all the hubbub at the finish died down it turned out that Number 5 came 10th overall, a very creditable result. And so I thought if was to include an Aussie car in this Aussie diorama, the first one home was as good a choice as any.

Here's Possum Kipling easing the 48/215 through a creek
crossing, watched on by curious locals.
And here he is in much more relaxed mode, first across the
finish line of the Redex Trial, back in Sydney. Of all the mods
I am planning for all the cars, the sun visor on the Holden
will probably be the most difficult thing to make...
There's precious little colour film of the Redex, and its quality
is variable, so trying to find out the real colour of the cars for
my diorama has proven difficult. However, this calm scene of
the cars parked at one of the rest stops shows that's it's blue.
As Possum Kipling was the first to finish, he was also the first
to be interviewed, and thanks to this he achieved a small
measure of local fame, especially with the folks back home
in South Australia.

Here's my favourite shot of Possum Kipling at the finish, happy but tired, and hopefully very pleased. Possum's navigator was John Hughes, from Quorn in South Australia. Possum himself was from a bit further north and inland, Leigh Creek, where a local history I found online mentions that he was "the fastest ambulance driver in the north". (I immediately thought of one of my greatest motor-racing heroes, the Italian great of the 20s and 30s, Tazio Nuvolari, who was also an ambulance driver. This was during in the First World War, and legend has it that he was relieved of that duty for driving his ambulance too fast!)

Possum married and sort of settled down to run the roadhouse (petrol/service station) at Port Wakefield, South Australia, for many years. I say "sort of" settled down because the 53 Redex must have given Possum the long-distance endurance rally bug.

In following years, he entered the 1954 Redex Around Australia Trail, and the 1955 Redex Trial, finishing both events in the top 25 each time. Then he did the double in 1956, competing in the 1956 Mobilgas Rally and the 1956 Ampol Trial. After that I couldn't find his name in the entries or results for the later rallies of the 50s, but perhaps by then the married man had to settle down. 

Whatever the story, Possum Kipling lived the life of a local hero with real achievements no one doubted. There's still a plaque in his honour in the town where he lived, and I hope by including him in my diorama I have helped his name live on just a little bit longer.




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