The "Genevieve" Rally
Although just recently formed, by mid 1954 what the Veteran & Edwardian Car Club of Australia lacked in members was more than compensated by the zeal and enthusiasm of those members which it had. It is not surprising therefore that when advance publicity for the movie "Genevieve" reached members' ears, approaches were made to British Empire Films and the "State Theatre" in order to see if the club could somehow become involved with the Sydney Premiere.
Obviously with the view that any publicity is good publicity, both B.E.F and the State Theatre management welcomed involvement with the club, and so in due course a meeting was convened which was attended by a representative of British Empire Films, State Theatre Manager, Mr "Buddy" Scott, and Bill Daly, who represented our club.
Obviously with the view that any publicity is good publicity, both B.E.F and the State Theatre management welcomed involvement with the club, and so in due course a meeting was convened which was attended by a representative of British Empire Films, State Theatre Manager, Mr "Buddy" Scott, and Bill Daly, who represented our club. It was decided that the publicity would be in the form of a rally, in which the veteran cars would travel from the State Theatre to Bondi Beach then return. Prizes would be presented, and all club members were invited to a "private" advanced screening of the film. Ten cars participated in this event. They were marshalled near the foot of the Harbour Bridge south pylon, and drivers were given route instructions, identification sheets, and lapel cards, and then commencing at 1.30pm they were escorted in groups of two or three to the State Theatre in Market Street for the official start. The first car to be flagged away at precisely 1.45pm by club president Bll1 Daly was the 1908 Le Zebre, driven by Kelvin Perdriau, * with Jim Perdriau (his father) as passenger. The rest of the field were flagged away at two minute intervals, to the cheers and whistles of thousands of spectators who had gathered in order to witness the spectacle. Extra police were called in when it appeared this large crowd of spectators would block the street to traffic. The route taken was Market Street, Elizabeth Street, Park Street, College Street, Oxford Street to Bondi Junction, Old South Head Road, O'Brien Street and Bondi Esplanade. A distance of eight miles, and entrants were allowed forty-five minutes to complete it. Unfortunately the veterans were the cause of considerable traffic congestion by the time Old South Head Road had been reached. The "Daily Mirror" reported that as modem cars eventually managed to overtake each veteran, their drivers and passengers were heard to shout such remarks as "You can speed up now 'cause were out of the funeral", and "Why don't you get a horse". Although two "blitz buggy" tow trucks had been hired to accompany the rally, their services were not required. The only veteran car to experience a mechanical problem of any sort was Jack Garwood's 1912 Renault which "boiled towards the end of the run and consumed a gallon of water - which was added whilst on the run".
Another very large crowd of spectators awaited the cars at Bondi, and it was found necessary to park a tow truck at each end of the line of veterans and then pass a wire hawser between them in order to keep the overly enthusiastic crowd at bay. Large quantities of "Murlex" were undoubtedly used that evening by innumerable wives and mothers as they endeavoured to remove dark oil stains from clothing which had come Into contact with those hawsers.
It was upon the arrival of the last car that judging of the vehicles commenced, by a panel consisting of "That well known Veteran, Edwardian, and Vintage car authority Mr Bob Shepherd", Club President Mr Bill Daly, and State Theatre Manager Mr "Buddy" Scott.
The following awards were made:
THE VETERAN OR EDWARDIAN CAR MOST LIKE GENEVIEVE :Brian Marsland's 1910 Napier
THE MOST ORIGINAL CAR: George Ball's 1912 Ford
THE BEST RESTORED CAR: Jack Myers' 1912 Argyll (George Campbell's 1908 Argyll was awarded just two points fewer)
COMPETITOR TRAVELLING LONGEST DISTANCE TO THE START: Ray Hope, 1912 Sunbeam (Twenty-eight miles from Blacktown)
OLDEST VEHICLE ON RALLY: A tie between Kelvin Perdriau (1908 Le Zebre), George Campbell, (1908 Argyll), and John McLean (1908 Vulcan)
About a month before this rally was held, all club members attended a preview screening of "Genevieve". In a club newsletter, club secretary Jack Myers advised those members who had not attended that "The film was really good. There were a few errors but the comedy was good". Jack Garwood's Renault was displayed in the foyer of the State Theatre for several weeks during the time that "Genevieve" was being screened.
Those cars which took part in the "Genevieve Rally" (In order of starting) were:
1908 Le Zebre - Kelvin Perdriau
1913 Sunbeam- Ray Hope
1912 Renault -Jack Garwood
1912 Ford- George Ball
1908 Vulcan -John McLean
1910 Napier - Brian Marsland
1908 Argyll - George Campbell
1914 Humberette - John Crouch
1912 Argyll - Jack Myers
1911 Detroit Electric - Geoff Hancock
Many of those cars competing in this event were incorrectly dated. The Le Zebre was actually a 1911 model, the Sunbeam was 1915, the Ford was 1914, the Napier was 1913, the Detroit Electric was 1915, and Jack Myers' Argyll has since been dated 1911. Only four of the ten entrants are still owned by club members. The Le Zebre, is still owned and driven by Barry Perdriau, the Renault is owned by Jim Cooper (who is presently advertising it for sale), the Ford is owned by Robyn & Peter Wards, and the "1912" Argyll is owned by Graham Steer.
Of those cars no longer owned by members of our club, the Sunbeam is in Victoria, and the Vulcan is in England. The Napier is in the Kay Brothers collection, the 1908 Argyll is on the North Coast of N .S. W. and is still owned by a member of the Campbell family. The Detroit Electric is in Western Australia (For many years it was at "Gilltrap's Auto Museum" at Coolangatta), and I have been unable to discover the present whereabouts of the Humberette.
Like almost every other veteran car enthusiast, I have seen the movie "Genevieve" many, many times, and I can clearly recall the very first time I ever saw it. My mother and an aunt took me to see it at the Victoria Theatre in Perkins Street, Newcastle, at which time I would have been about four years of age. My strongest memory of that visit to the "pictures" however is not of the movie. What I remember quite clearly is that the theatre was filled to capacity (daunting to a four year old), and that the people sitting next to us ate salmon and vinegar sandwiches during the show. To this very day I never smell salmon without thinking of "Genevieve".
*This Le Zebre is of course the one which is owned by Barry Perdriau. When I asked Barry why he hadn't driven the car himself and participated in the rally, he replied that he and Patricia were to be married very soon afterwards, and that he probably had other things on his mind at the time