London to Sydney Marathon 1968…by Bruce Thomas

Posted: April 18, 2015 in Fotos, Obscurities
Tags: , ,

zasada 911

‘Polish rally ace Sobieslaw Zasada gave it all he had on the Numeralla to Hindmarsh Station stage, and the Porsche responded with the characteristic wail of its air cooled flat six engine. He improved from 9th to 5th place on this stage and ultimately took 4th place in the Marathon.’

The London-Sydney Marathon was run between 24 November and 17 December 1968. A field of 98 cars set out on a route covering 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometres) across Europe and Asia to Bombay, then from Perth to Sydney in Australia. It was the first in a series of epic transcontinental car rallies held in subsequent years, and possibly the most memorable of all. The event was sponsored by the London Daily Express and the Sydney Daily Telegraph and captured the imagination of the world, as the respective newspaper proprietors had hoped.

I was fortunate to be able to witness and photograph the final competitive stage of the event, over rough, unmade roads between Numeralla and Hindmarsh Station in southeastern New South Wales. This stage was designed to be a final, extreme test in order to find a clear winner.’

(Numeralla is a tiny little hamlet in sub-Alpine country not far from Cooma, between the national capital, Canberra and the NSW snowfields areas of Thredbo/Perisher Valley. The final run to Sydney was circa 420Km)


‘The Bianchi/Ogier Citroen was a clear leader on this final competitive stage from Numeralla to Hindmarsh Station. There were only easy transport stages then until the finish in Sydney. The Citroen had excelled on the rough, outback roads of Australia as other competitors, including Roger Clark in a very fast Cortina Lotus, succumbed to mechanical problems.

As it happened, the result was determined on the subsequent, easy transport stage when the leading car, the Citroen DS21 of Lucien Bianchi and Jean Claude Ogier, was put out of the event in a crash with an out of control spectator car. Andrew Cowan/Coyle/Malkin in a Hillman Hunter unexpectedly inherited the lead and won the Marathon. A total of 56 cars reached the finish line in Sydney.’

cowan london sydney

‘The Hillman Hunter seemed an unlikely contender, but Andrew Cowan had this low budget, works car in second place to Bianchi by the end of the Numeralla to Hindmarsh Station stage. He then simply inherited the lead when Bianchi’s Citroen was cruelly eliminated when it was hit by an out of control spectator car on the following transport stage’.

zasada 911 2

‘The mighty Zasada/Wachowski Porsche waits to leave at Hindmarsh Station. It finished in 4th place. Its interesting ‘kangaroo catcher’ was never tested.’

Check out Bruce Thomas’ photographs of the rest of the Numeralla to Hindmarsh Stage…

Nowra Stage and Sydney Finish…

The first part of this article above was uploaded in April 2015.

In September 2018 Rod MacKenzie, a professional photographer whose work I have used many times offered to share the following photographs he took of the Cowan Hillman, crashed Bianchi Citroen and destroyed spectator’s Mini during the Nowra stage.


(R MacKenzie)


(R MacKenzie)


(R MacKenzie)


(R MacKenzie)












(R MacKenzie)


(R MacKenzie)


The final series of photographs are of scenes at the finish in Hyde Park, Sydney.

This is a very familiar place for many Australians- I lived in the CBD very close to this spot for 9 years, it is thrilling to think of the end of the Marathon all those years ago, the excitement of the crowd, the colour, noise. Wonderful evocative shots.


(R MacKenzie)


The Cowan/Coyle/Malkin Hunter above and the crew imbibing some of a sponsors product below- a well earned drop no doubt!


(R MacKenzie)


(R MacKenzie)

Australian Leg of the Marathon Map…

london to syd map

(Stephen Dalton Collection)




(M Thomas)

The Zasada and Yannachas Porsche 911s at rest in Perth.

Resting place for the public to check out the cars was Gloucester Park trotting track.


(M Thomas)


(M Thomas)


(M Thomas)


(M Thomas)


(L Manton)

British Leyland press photographs…

This series of shots are from the collection of Luke Manton.

The first photo is on the start ramp at Wembley, Graham Hill just to the right of the flag.

(L Manton)

Evan Green, Jack Murray, did Miss World accompany them perhaps?

(L Manton)


(L Manton)

Cooper S and Austin 1800s in build at Abingdon.

(L Manton)


Bruce Thomas photos and writing, Rod MacKenzie photos and Stephen Dalton Collection for the maps. Murray Thomas Collection, Luke Manton



  1. Stephen Dalton says:

    A little family anecdote… On the map is a little place called Edi (‘E-die’) within the King Valley, out from Wangaratta in North-East Victoria.

    We moved to Edi when I was a kid of 10 in early 1975. It was Edi Motors, situated just over the King River bridge that my parents took over at the time. Exactly the venue of the 1968 London to Sydney Control Point. Hence why it is on the map and probably the only time Edi has been on an international event itinerary. It wasn’t used for the 1993 L&S re-running.

    I am reliably told that the teams had marquees set up in front of ‘our’ place and the neighbouring roadside for service work on the cars. Maybe we can find some L&S photos from Edi?

    In our time there it was just dairy farming and tobacco farms in the district. Now the tobacco is long gone and there’s not much dairy either. Grapes took over, but even that has suffered. Edi Motors no longer exists, although the building does.
    And a well known motor sport family in the fabric game are nearby.

    Good times


    • markbisset says:

      Great story Stephen! I’ve been there, a mate of mine played the ‘spoons’ for ‘The King Valley Ramblers’, well known (sic) local musos of some repute…will find out the exact address of the place we stayed once or twice many years ago. Cheshunt is just down the road…

    • Sam Kent says:

      Hi Stephen,
      I’ve been looking for a copy of the marathon map for a while now. I’d love to be able to photograph it. Would you be interested in making it available to me?


    • robgarns says:

      Stephen – cars coming thru Edi Dec 14th or 15th 2018…!

    • Hi Stephen, the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon is returning to Edi on morning of the 5th November 2021 in the form of the 2021 Perth-Sydney Marathon. We have all of the remaining 1968 LSM cars on the event and a good group of competitors and people of interest from the event. Up to 85 cars on the event.

    • Laurie Mason says:

      Hi Stephen, from the 28th October to 6th November 2022 an event is being held that will retrace the entire route of the 1968 London-Sydney from Perth to Sydney. A control will be established in Edi where it was in 1968 to check over 70 cars through exactly the same in 1968. A little bit of history being recreated. Cheers,

  2. Jason Currie says:

    I currently own a rare piece of history from this race. I have a 1968 London to Sydney Shell Gas Compass… it is made by the SAWAN Company. I haven’t been able to find anything about it. Do you gentleman happen to know anything about this Shell sponsored compass for the race… I did notice that the Hillman Hunter car was sponsored by shell. I wonder if it was owned by that team. I didn’t see any of the other cars with a Shell Sponsor like Hillman was. I live in Seattle Wa

  3. robgarns says:

    Stephen – I am looking for original detailed maps of 1968 London to Syd Rally. Thinking of retracing the route ex Perth. Thanks Rob

  4. Hello All. My understanding is that there is no definitive map of the 1968 Route apart from what is known of “Town to Town” (e.g. Youanmi, Lake King, Ceduna, etc). I also wish to drive the route in December 2018 to celebrate the event. I have a copy of the Recce Notes for the Works Holden Team prepared by Castrol and I have been studiously mapping the route using these Recce Notes from Perth to Sydney. I am about 95% complete with GPS co-ordinates for every turn and feature. Bloody big job considering a lot of the old roads are re-aligned and where new roads exist, the old ones are way off in the bushes. But I have most of it mapped now. Regards, Laurie.

    • robgarns says:

      Laurie – if you are prepared to share thos co-ordinates we would love to have them.. Given we cannot run the original route without being kidnapped or shot, we will run thru Gernany, Russia, the Stans into China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and then airlift to Perth. From Perth we have yet to plan and given there will be some very tired crews and cars – Kalg, Nullabor, Flinders Ranges, Mildura, Echuca, Omeo, acros to the coast at Nowra and then onto Sydney. A lot of thos points touch the old route and it would be great to “touch” as many original towns as possible. Rob

  5. Rob Mason says:

    We have recently found and acquired car#40 from the 1968 London Sydney Marathon. We have precious little in the way of images of the car. Wondering if Bruce has images of the car somewhere in his archives. We wish to replicate its livery which was removed some years ago.

    • markbisset says:

      Which car is that- if you go to the Flickr site referenced you will see all of the photos Bruce Thomas has uploaded, but if you make contact there may be more, I’ve never spoken to him. Best of luck with the project.

  6. Paul Sulma says:

    I am in the UK and know a driver who drove one of the Rover P5s. He understood the all the cars were left behind in Oz after the rally. Does anyone here know if any of the cars survive? He would love to see his old car again and to know what happend to it.

  7. Margaret Yates says:

    London to Sidney marathon 1968 world map

  8. Hi Margaret, I must agree with you and support the drive by Sobieslaw Zasada as a drive of the event. For your information, Car # 58 has been fully restored and will join the 2021 Perth-Sydney Marathon that will finish at Warwick Farm on 7th November 2021. Well worth attending if you are in the vicinity.

  9. ROSS BURBIDGE says:

    Trivia note: Sobieslaw Zasada competed in the 2021 Rally of Kenya this month at the ripe old age of 91. He was forced to retire on the last stage when his car hit the rear of a stuck car around a blind corner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s