Where, what, why and who of the Wastelands Cup

May 26th, 2024Where, what, why and who of the Wastelands Cup

Where do artists go on holiday? Straight to the wastelands of course.

Where: Where do artists go on holiday? Straight to the wastelands of course.

Creative folk are forever busy, swanning about in some poetic reverie, dispensing passion and ebullience for all things aesthetic. But when the time comes to spare a few days for relaxation, that task should take the form of attending an event that leaves reality outside a padlocked gate.

What: Far from prying eyes, far from civilised society, the Wastelands Cup as it is known, takes place somewhere in NSW. It is a bare windswept place and the lucky participants are only there because they know someone who knows someone else who knows whose land it is and where the key is stashed.

The guerilla event has been going on now for many years, starting out as a bit of get-together among friends to thrash old cars around a two-kilometre track into the wee small hours until motors blew up or the beer ran out. These traditions continue today except the event has grown a little more sophisticated.

Why: At some point over the past decade, a trophy was created out of old gear box parts, the visitors began to organise themselves into teams, the motley wheeled creations began to get more and more outlandish and at dusk on the Saturday night, the Wastelands Cup would be presented to the most deserving machine and its team.

It was and remains a vastly unfair competition, subject to the vagaries of a popular vote, liberal payments of baksheesh to organisers, nepotism and general corruption. Loud revving of engines helps, as does undressing, dressing up and cross dressing.

However, there are two fundamental rules. All teams must be seen to be doing constant circuits day and night and to be able to bring their machines to the judging circle under their own power or be disqualified with extreme prejudice.

Who: The 2024 event saw a couple of teams come up from Victoria, the Freeloaders from Woodend and Spacemex from Wheatsheaf. Spacemex, pictured above, consisted of a crew of eight people decked out in silver-like actual astronauts, headed by Jeep stalwart Tony Whitehead.

The craft, a Jeep Grand Cherokee tarted up as a space shuttle complete with wings and tail fin was a very comfortable vehicle to do laps in, with plush suspension soaking up the ruts and jumps with astounding ease, almost like you were in outer space or something. To complete the picture a launchpad was established at base camp and emergency flares, pictured left inset, were deployed on the shuttle wings to facilitate smoky and thunderous launches.

However the competition was stiff. The Freeloaders had their own version of a Tesla Cyber Truck, a sound system, DJs and a golf range. Rockatansky, a veteran team from Sydney were stalking the course with a pair of 1950s Morris sedans grafted onto Suzuki Terios running gear. Known as Boris, pictured right inset, and Doris they were a formidable sight as they paced the course, not to mention the vulgar spectacle of their feral pit crew with welders, cranes and coffee machines in constant operation to keep the little cars and drivers functioning.

Judging was at 5pm and with an hour to go it was unclear who would take the cup with the teams neck and neck. However Rockatansky are film/television types including prop builders and pyrotechnicians and they executed a cunning plan.

One of their drivers took Doris out on a pretext of getting a few more loops in before deadline and set about rolling her a couple of times on a particularly rutted section of track, damaging a front wheel.

Winner: They got back to the pits somehow and proceeded to enact a dramatic display of repairing the car before deadline complete with craning, welding, grinding, sledge hammering and coffee drinking. It was an effective performance which won over the motley crowd and Rockatansky took to the Wastelands Cup for 2024.

I would like to think Spacemex came close to winning but like I said, the entire event is corrupt and rife with cronyism. Furthermore it is rumoured the Wastelands Cup is cursed.

Better to come a close second and lament that ‘we wuz robbed’ than have some greasy metal albatross around your neck for the next 12 months. With the presentations out of the way, guests settled into a routine of chatting around the bonfire or continued to flog cars around the circuit in the dark.

Others went to bed at a sensible hour, the sound of overheating, overstressed, over revving engines lulling them off to sleep. Until next year, viva la Wastelands!

Words & images: Tony Sawrey

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