Girl TORQUE: Variety Club Bash

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

You had to feel sorry for the elderly couple on the ferry, their camper van surrounded by garishly painted classic cars and fire engines; with music pumping, horns blasting, and outlandishly dressed crews hanging from windows. But this was mayhem with meaning, for they’d encountered the Variety Club Bash.

Variety raises money for sick, disabled and financially disadvantaged children, and the Bash is its flagship event. Teams raise money to enter their classic car, then undertake a road trip to give it all away.

The kiddy-friendly theme mandates the silliness; there’s nothing guaranteed to raise a small child’s smile than clowns in cars – unless it’s the scale of the water fights a pair of fire engines can generate.

I’ve done the Bash before, each time in Ford’s MkIII Zephyr, now repainted Ford Blue, with retro-styled flames and of course a rear-mounted flagpole. But this time was different – for Ford has sponsored Variety with vehicles, and the Bash with staff, for all of the 20 years it’s been run. And to celebrate, this year it delivered 20 grants in 20 hours. Me? I was the driver. I’m a sucker for classics, and I’d got the blue wig to suit…

I joined in at Blenheim, which we left at 6:30am to catch that ferry. The Zephy’s headlights took a dim view of the route, but we were greeted with enthusiasm by Bluebridge staff.

Once on shore, we had work to do. Off to the ‘cake tin’ to scarf down some chips while sorting books into piles, as kids from several decile one schools lined up for snacks, give-aways and a show – followed by donations of books and sports gear. That’s 10 donations made.

Then we started on our list of kindies and schools. We got lost of course, the Zephyr’s wipers working valiantly as we negotiated back streets to a deadline. It was worth it.

Ten-year-old Yusuf Guled has Downs syndrome and was born with Perthes disease, which affects his hips. He can’t ride a proper bike, or keep up with his classmates.

Ford donated a special trike, hidden at the school until our arrival. Yusuf knew it was his the moment he saw it. He was lifted aboard – and immediately pedalled out of sight. His face when eventually he returned was a picture that moved a number of us to tears.

After that it was a quick round of kindys delivering cheques, with the day ending at Masterton’s soon-to-open Te Kowhai hospice with a working bee that ended well after dark.
But we were up at 6, meeting the other Bashers – who’d made their own way here – and donating an insulin pump to 13-year-old Zoe Bowater, to help her balance her diabetes with a full social and sporting life.

The Bash doesn’t normally follow the frenetic pace we managed, but it did distribute $230,000 in grants this year, and raised $30,000 in bucket shaking along its Christchurch-to-Auckland route.

The big money’s not all from corporates, though a few are involved; the Post Office, McDonalds, Cadbury’s and Ford to name but four. Yet most entrants are privateers or small businesses keen to make a difference, to have a bit of fun along the way, and raise awareness of local needs wherever the gaudily painted classic-car parade pulls up.

Read previous Girl TORQUE columns here.