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Why 500 people are driving ‘s***box’ cars from Rockhampton to Hobart – ABC News

Steve Richards is “definitely not” a revhead, but the Queensland man is once again driving a “beautiful lime green” wagon on a seven-day adventure across thousands of kilometres of back roads.

Nicknamed The Frog, the car set him back $500 when he bought it out of a paddock years ago.

While Mr Richards hopes it once again carries him across the rally finish line, he admits the wagon has needed some running repairs in the past.

“We did a bearing on the car and it was repaired with a rubber thong, metal zippy ties and some Sikaflex,” he said.

“That lasted me 7,000 kilometres.”

A man in a mankini stands on top of a brightly coloured station wagon in the desert. Another man points at him.

The Frog, containing Mr Richards and his Shitbox Rally partner, is one of 250 cars leaving Rockhampton today.

They will traverse the Artesian Basin and cross Bass Strait to finish in Hobart on Friday.

“There are three rallies per year,” Mr Richards said.

“Each rally raises around $2 million.

“Over the years the rally has raised over $36 million and all this money goes directly into cancer research.”

The main rules are that the car’s value must not exceed $1,500, and each vehicle has to raise at least $5,000 and carry two people.

A smiling man in a cap and sunglasses stands on a desert road.

For founder James Freeman OAM, and many participants, every rally is a personal event.

“I lost both of my parents to cancer within 12 months of each other,” he said.

“So rather than just doing an office job and putting some small contribution each month through to cancer research, I came up with this idea and ran with it.”

A map of Australia with an orange line marking the route of the car rally from Rockhampton to Hobart.

Where are they going?

This Rockhampton to Hobart rally, which heads through Tambo, Eulo, Cobar, Tooleybuc, Melbourne, across the Bass Strait and through Strahan, marks the 29th event.

“This is about 3,700 kilometres in seven days and we take the roads less travelled, and we’re in $1,500 bungers,” Mr Freeman said.

“We have all sorts of issues along the way and that’s the point.”

An aerial shot of a long line of cars travelling through the outback.

Teamwork and generous mechanics make overcoming challenges such as breakdowns and punctures achievable.

“Most of the cars can be repaired and those that can’t, we find a new home for them,” Mr Freeman said.

“Those that are in those cars jump in the back seat with other teams so no-one gets left behind and everyone makes their way on down to the finish line.”

Two men wearing manikinis stand in front of a bright-coloured station wagon.

‘Borat’s Crusade’

While many know Mr Richards as a Fitzroy Community Hospice board member or retired accountant, for some rally participants he is better recognised by his red mankini.

While the costume was “retired” for now, Mr Richards said it was a nod to his fundraising team, “Borat’s Crusade”. 

“That’s a reference to my son, whose legacy we’re doing the rally for,” he said.

“Borat was one of his favourite characters and also he looked a little like him, no — he was a lot taller than Borat.”

Every rally, a dress-up day is held in remembrance of loved ones.

“We lost our son nearly five years ago to cancer,” Mr Richards said.

“He very much wanted me to do this — he was very much an adventurer, much more than I.”

Two men sit on bikes stuck to the roof of a yellow and blue car. There is a large crowd around them.

Who is involved?

Mr Freeman says every rally offers something unique.

“The teams work all the way through the year and do all their fundraising and then the rally that comes along ends up being the reward for those fundraising efforts,” he said.

He said every participant had a heartfelt reason for embarking on the journey.

A line of cars travelling on a dirt road. Two men stand in the foreground, one giving a thumbs up.

“Nursing mum and dad through the last stages of their lives, taking them both down to have chemotherapy at the same time … we were a very tight family, and you wanted to do everything you possibly could for the people that you love and it was a really incredibly, horrible period,” Mr Freeman said.

“Losing both of them so close to each other, it impacted me very significantly and will continue to impact me significantly for the rest of my life.”

Mr Freeman said there were many people who had “a similar sense of adventure and, unfortunately, similar stories”.

But raising money through the rally allowed people to honour their loved ones and feel empowered by their contribution to the Cancer Council.

“We’ve all combined and joined forces,” Mr Freeman said.

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