Dodgy cars hit the dirt to fight cancer

Tracey Ferrier

A few months ago, Andy Holdich and Laura Beverley paid $300 for a 1975 HJ Kingswood ute that sat abandoned under a tree for the best part of 20 years.

On Saturday, they'll get in and start driving it from Brisbane to Darwin - most of the 3800km route on unforgiving rock and dirt tracks - in the name of cancer research.

Andy and Laura are veterans of the annual Shitbox Rally, which raises more than $1.5 million a year for Cancer Council research.

This year, the rally's 250 teams will tip a record $1.75 million into the Cancer Council's research coffers.

The rules of the rally are strict. Pack your sense of humour, leave any expectations of creature comforts at home, and don't even think about showing up in a car worth more than $1000.

At $300, Andy and Laura reckon they might have paid a tad too much for their shitbox. But it was worth every cent to secure a vintage, truly Aussie car they hope might earn them the Shitbox of the Rally award for the second consecutive year.

Their shitbox for the 2017 rally was a 1976 KE30 Corolla that against the odds got them from Adelaide, up the guts of Australia, to Cairns. It was on day two of that rally that Laura's mum, Jan, died from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Jan, who did the 2015 rally before she learned she had cancer, has insisted Laura should go despite her condition.

When Laura set off from Adelaide last year, it would be the last time she'd spend with her mum.

After this year's convoy has snaked its way across outback Queensland and over the Northern Territory border, Laura will stop the scatter her mum's ashes in the red dirt.

"She always wanted to go to Darwin but she never made it," Laura says.

"So we'll be leaving some of her ashes in the Territory."

Andy has spent months getting the Kingswood to a driveable state and he and Laura's team, Wrong Direction, have raised $8000 for research.

The ute ain't pretty but it has new brakes, new floor panels welded in to replace the rust, and a new radiator and thermostat, among other things.

Andy's confident the ute will make it but concedes they may need the help of the bush mechanics who are along for the ride to make sure as many shitboxes as possible make it to Darwin in a week's time, on May 25.

"It's a shitbox all right, a total shocker. But I fully expect this car to make it," he says.

ABOUT THE SHITBOX RALLY

- Since the event began in 2010, it's raised almost $14.5 million and counting.

- The route varies each year but long stretches of unsealed, potholed and horrendously corrugated roads are guaranteed.

- 250 teams of two will take part this year, backed up by teams of mechanics.

- Teams spend the year leading up the rally raising the minimum $4000 they need to earn their place.

- Road-weary shitboxes are auctioned off at the end of the rally, with proceeds also flowing to the Cancer Council.

- The rally was founded by Adelaide man James Freeman after he lost both his parents to cancer within a year of each other.

- To donate, visit shitboxrally.com.au.