Back on glory road
Peugeot has re-run its great race, writes Karla Pincott
THINGS have changed a bit since Peugeot made its name in the 1953 Redex Reliability Trial. The event was a landmark for endurance rallies in Australia and also for the French carmaker, whose little 203 model driven by Ken Tubman won the 10,500km slog around the country, a great deal of which in those days was tracks through remote areas.
But bitumen roads greeted the two stock-standard Peugeot 3008 compact SUVs that have just finished a rerun of most of the 1953 trial in the Peugeot Redex Tribute.
It’s part of the brand’s 200th anniversary celebrations, and acts as the scout announcement for the feature film Dust and Glory that is being made about the trial.
Powered by an 80kW/ 240Nm 1.6 litre turbodiesel with a six-speed semi-automatic transmission, the cars drove from Sydney to Tamworth, then to the Gold Coast, on to Brisbane, then Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Mount Isa, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, Adelaide, Melbourne, Albury and back to Sydney, missing only a side leg up to Darwin.
Drivers in the 1953 trial included some who became household names, such as Sir Jack Brabham and Jack ‘‘Gelignite’’ Murray, but Tubman’s win became legend and caused such a sales run that every Peugeot in Australia sold within a week of the finish.
Peugeot Australia general manager Ken Thomas says: ‘‘It wasn’t slick marketing, it was about the ability to demonstrate the cars could cope with pretty rugged conditions back then.
‘‘Australian roads outside Sydney and Melbourne were pretty ordinary in 1953. They were just goat tracks.’’
Thomas admits recent Peugeots, beset by quality problems, might not have lived up to the reputation of the 1953 legends. But he says the past two years have seen high standards return.
‘‘There was an era where the quality wasn’t up to our standard and we had to deal with that,’’ he says.
‘‘I think Peugeot themselves got a bit of a fright when they were experiencing issues not only in Australia but in the UK particularly with electronics.
‘‘We weren’t alone. Mercedes was suffering and so were other brands. But in the past two years, it’s been outstanding.’’
Thomas says the 3008 model is an outstanding example of a well-built car and had no problem with the 8500km, 15-day trek.
‘‘We are approaching this in a way to prove the 3008 is not an urban show pony — that it can emulate what its forebears did in the 203,’’ he says.