An Australian Cannonball Run in 1984?

John Avis by | April 8, 2016 | Street Racing Automotive

I must be living under a rock because I have never heard of this race. But apparently in late 1984 a race took place from Sunbury in Victoria to Perth, Western Australia.
Update: I have set up a website for this event, actually titled The Australian Cannonball Cup, where we can create a permanent record of this event. Go to
I must be living under a rock because I have never heard of this race. But apparently in late 1984 a race took place from Sunbury in Victoria to Perth, Western Australia.

Charlie Kovacs, who I have heard of from Ute racing, was first across the line driving (would you believe?) a Holden ute, but according to John Crowle it was disqualified and the official winner was a Holden Commodore VK driven by himself, Ian Bray and a third unknown driver.

However, Kovacs claims to have the winners cheque, which he has framed as a memento as it bounced (there was a $10,000 first prize but it never got paid because the organiser went bankrupt).

Crowle claims that they did receive a trophy as the winners, which was presented by ex-Skyhooks lead singer, Shirley Straughan.

Kovacs' vehicle was a six-wheeled Holden HX ute. He said of the race, "I saw an advertisement from someone who was going to start a race across Australia. I was interested, and at that time I had a six-wheeled V8 Holden HX aluminium tray ute so I ran that."

"One of the secrets was not stopping for fuel very often, so we made a purpose-built aluminium fuel tank which carried quite a few hundred litres. We went to Melbourne to start the race and it was in a paddock down by a gully somewhere out of eye shot, very secretive. I think it took us 31 hours to go from Melbourne to Fremantle."

The (possible) winner's Commodore was an ex-police interceptor, still in yellow, with a modified engine and an extra fuel tank, which was home-made and mounted in the boot.

Other vehicles participating in the race included a supercharged Ford Fairlane ZL (owned by Graham Funston and named "TransAust"), Chrysler RT Charger and a Holden LJ Torana V8. There was also reportedly a VH Commodore with a 5 speed gearbox out of Peter Brock's experimental stock (possibly unbeknownst to him).

Some competitors were able to complete the event in under thirty hours, despite the fact that the Western Australian police were waiting at the border for the entrants, which made speeding there almost impossible.

Here's a current Google Map for the trip which shows as 3,427 km and an estimated time of 35 hours. Now imagine what that would be like in 1984!

Here's some photos I found from the event...

Kovak Holden HX
Supercharged Fairlane
Inside the Fairlane

Sources: Boost Cruising Forums, Holiday Forum, Australian Muscle Car magazine #56

Update: I have set up a website for this event, actually titled The Australian Cannonball Cup, where we can create a permanent record of this event. Go to

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by Peter | December 27, 2016

Hey can u tell me more about the cannonball run ,any more extra vids or photos ,my dad ran the vh red brock commodore?do u remeber?


John Avis

by John Avis | December 29, 2016

I am afraid I had never known of this race until this year so I don't have any information other than what I've written above. I know there is an article about the race in Australian Muscle Car Magazine. There's also some information in the links at the end of the article. If you have any other information or find out anything further please feel free to post here again.


Len Walsh

by Len Walsh | December 30, 2016

Peter, I vividly remember your dad's car.

I have a copy of the Muscle Car magazine article, which includes numerous pictures of Charlie and me, plus some of the cars, although I don't think the Brock Commodore is included. Also Michael Willesee, Jr filmed us re-enacting aspects of the race for A Current Affair WA. I have a copy of that program too.

Crowle is a weak wannabee who offers no evidence anyone, much less us, was disqualified from this illegal race. That's preposterous. Charlie will certainly be annoyed to learn of Crowles pathetic attempt at recognition. He certainly does NOT have the Cannonball Cup, which Charlie proudly displays in his SA home. I enjoy a replica, as only one was presented, and it wasn't given to Crowle. What a weak prick.



by Peter | December 31, 2016

Do u have any pictires of my dads car , Also i kind of mis inderstood what you were on about on the comment prior to this hahah ,what car did u drive and i was wondering if there was any other place where i can dog up information on my dads brock commodore during the cannonball run?


Len Walsh

by Len Walsh | January 18, 2017

Hello Peter, I'm sorry that I have just noticed your post. I don't have any pics of your dad's car, but my daughter may have one. I'll ask her. I'll also ask Charlie Kovacs. He owned the Holden 1.5 ton, 6 wheel ute that I co-drove to victory.
I do recall speaking with your dad, both at the start, and later after finishing. A nice, friendly bloke I remember. I hope I can find some pics for you, because I've never been able to find information relating to this race.
It's very annoying to discover this fraudulent nobody here, pretending to have been the winner. What a wanker Crowle is.



by Peter | January 18, 2017

Hey reharding all this may you contact me by phone , i really want to see any footage u may have or any photos or anything really ,expecially if its concerning my dad ,can we get in contact by phone


Len Walsh

by Len Walsh | December 30, 2016

Charlie Kovacs and I won the '84 Cannonball race. I remember the red Brock Commodore too.

John Crowle is an unmitigated liar. Shirley Straughan presented us with the $10,000 cheque and a large silver trophy which Charlie retains to this day.


John Avis

by John Avis | December 31, 2016

Thanks very much for your comments, Len.

It's good to get some more information on this event.

I would love to hear more about your experience during the race.

It would also be great if you could upload that video to Youtube for all to see.


Len Walsh

by Len Walsh | January 18, 2017

Thanks John, I've got an old VHS tape with unedited, raw footage from a bulky camera we had on board. The same tape has a copy of the WA Willasee program, which was superior quality. Sadly the magnetic tape has deteriorated badly in the intervening decades. I can't review it now because I need to find a VHS player, unfortunately. If I can organize it, I'll adopt your suggestion to publish on YouTube.
If you're interested in my recollections I'd be happy to post them. Given the paucity of information available, your blog might become the 'go to' resource for anyone seeking knowledge about the '84 Australian Cannonball Race.


Noel Dey

by Noel Dey | June 26, 2018

Steve Swan and I drove the 66 blue Ford Falcon in the 84Cannonball. Our car was very competitive but had overheating problems due to recon motor and dirty radiator. Morning after the presentations,film crew turned up and were aghast when told who won it. "They were booked for speeding in the race which automatically puts you out of the running for a place". He has the trophy and lots of memories about the race,but he can tell stories and show the cup off,that's not really his under the race rules. The race was a lot of fun and we've still got memories and laughs almost 35 yrs later.


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