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Australia Day means a lot of different things to different people. For some it’s a celebration stemming from the arrival of the First Fleet back in 1788, while for others it’s a solemn reminder of our nation’s less-than-humane beginnings. For us here at CarAdvice though, it’s a day to relax and pay homage to what we love about this country: BBQs and rear-wheel-drive cars powered by big V8 engines. This is the CarAdvice Australia Day Challenge.

So, like us, you’re having your Australia Day BBQ. But you need someone to bring all the stuff. Who do you call though? Your mate with the ute, or your mate with the wagon?

Well, James and I headed to the Driver Education Centre of Australia (DECA) in Shepparton to settle an argument of the ages…


Now being the relatively conservative chap that he is, for this year’s inaugural event, James has gone with the possibly smarter approach and selected a wagon. In this case, the 260kW/517Nm 6.0-litre V8-powered Holden Commodore SS V Redline Sportwagon.

Being potentially more foolhardy, I felt that the ideal tool for this job was a ute. But not just any ute, the SS Holden Ute.

Using the same 6.0-litre V8 as Wardy’s six-speed automatic wagon, my six-speed manual ute gets 270kW and 530Nm, thanks to the omission of cylinder deactivation that comes with Holden’s Active Fuel Management.


The task? To get a load of ‘stuff’ from one end of the DECA skidpan to the other.

Sounds simple enough but the challenge comprises a standing start, a challenging and largely unhelpful motorkhana course, the loading up of several Australia Day-specific items and the setting up of our own individual BBQ scene next to our respective ‘garages’.

So what are we charged with delivering to our faux Australia Day event? Well, we’ve each got some lawn, a TV to watch the cricket on, a deck chair, a backyard cricket set, an Esky, a box of highly nutritious Cheezels, some jam lamingtons and of course, a Pavlova.


With everything awaiting our (backwards) arrival at the other end of the skidpan, we line up side-by-side ready to start the challenge.

Three, two, one, go!

Both taking off with day-appropriate amounts of gusto, we each tackle the short coned-out course with equal vigour, arriving at the far end of the skidpan at near identical times.


Backing into our individual garages, I’m slightly ahead of old mate wagon but things are definitely tight.

Having a deep understanding of the wrath dealt out by a woman upon her discovering that the job she has bestowed upon you has been poorly executed, James is deliberate but careful when it comes to loading up.

A touch more focused on time and victory, I go with the iconic Aussie approach of “She’ll be right, mate”, lobbing much of the gear into the back of the ute at a rate of knots. The Esky, the lawn, the TV, the cricket set, the deck chair, it’s all in there.


But while James – the thinker of the two of us – puts the plate of lamingtons on the backseat and the Pavlova on the front passenger floor, I’m keen to make the most of the ute’s tray capabilities and rest both delicious items in the back…

Tailgate up and boot lid down, we take off and head for the finish.

Within seconds it’s immediately apparent that James has made the better decision, with my Pavlova flying clean off the back of the TV, followed soon after by my lamingtons.


Rolling hot into our finish garages it’s still neck and neck. Time to unload.

Hammering home the ‘slow and steady wins the race’ mantra, James calmly lays out his scene, seemingly unfazed by any potential pressure.

More ‘bull in a china shop’, I toss the deck chair, cricket set and TV out of the Holden Ute’s tray, but I can see that I’m already falling behind – even if only just.


Sure enough, the sound of Wardy cracking an ice-cold ginger beer is signal enough of a crushing defeat and a triumphant victory.

With assessment and talk of ride, handling and fuel consumption put on hold for a day, the first-ever CarAdvice Australia Day Challenge comes to a close with James Ward claiming the win.

And if you thought this was just some silly excuse for CarAdvice to slide around in rear-wheel-drive V8-powered cars making lots of noise and plenty of smoke… then you’re absolutely right. From all the CA team, Happy Australia Day – or Happy ‘Straya Day, depending on which side of town you reside.

Click on the Photos tab to see more Australia Day Special images by Tom Fraser.