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…

Australian Leg of the Marathon Map…

london to syd map

(Stephen Dalton Collection)

Photo and Writing Credit…

Bruce Thomas

Thanks to Stephen Dalton for the maps of the Australian phase of this amazing event

  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…

  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

    • markbisset says:

      Hi Jason,
      Thanks for getting in touch, I’ll have a poke around on the internet to see what I can find- an amazing event to be part of for those lucky enough to compete!

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