National Highway 1 is the Aussie Everest.
We’ve got big pineapples, big prawns, big bananas and big guitars that get all the hype, but rarely does anyone mention the big-arse highway that circumnavigates the country.
It’s widely considered the longest* highway in the world, taking you 14,500 km from Sydney to Brisbane, Cairns, Katherine, Port Hedland, Perth, Esperance, Adelaide, Melbourne and back to Sydney in one trip.
Every patriotic punter has dreamed of taking six months off and slowly making their way around the nation, but in a challenge of endurance, speed and cabin-fever, the Highway 1 to Hell team plan on doing it in under seven days.
We are aiming to set a Highway 1 world record by circumnavigating Australia in a 2017 Toyota Landcruiser Sahara, starting June 12. The team consists of Will Atwood, Todd Atwood, Dan Gordon and myself, Jay Gordon.
We were inspired by other around-Australia speed attempts in the past – six days 16 hours in a Ford Falcon XD (Modern Motor Magazine) in 1979, and six days eight hours in two Holden Commodore SSs in 2004 (Motor Magazine).
Notably, however, those attempts had to detour off the National Highway 1 where the bitumen yields to the red stuff between Cairns and Katherine.
Purists at heart, the Highway 1 to Hell team are committed to sticking out the 30-plus hours (according to Google Maps) of intermittent dirt highway, despite its notoriety for discomfort, wildlife and poor conditions.
And while the team is hoping this road trip will be more Dumb and Dumber than Mad Max, we've put in a lot of work to prepare for potentially 170 hours of driving, eating and sleeping in shifts.
As we are all Brisbane natives, we will set off from Brisbane on Monday afternoon, heading north towards Cairns. The counter-clockwise direction not only gives us the inside track, but also puts the hardest and most remote parts of the highway at the beginning of the journey, before fatigue and any car troubles might set in.
However, unlike the fabled USA cross-country record that requires serious breaches of speed limits, police scanners, radar jammers and tail-light off-switches, the Highway 1 record can still be achieved by sticking to the road rules - as long as you’re committed to driving and sleeping in shifts, and taking few pit stops.
It’s the socially responsible nature of the record - rewarding competence and efficiency over adrenalin and skulduggery - that attracted all four drivers, as we will all be leaving concerned wives and children behind for the week.
It's fair to say the fifth member of the team is our Landcruiser. On top of its reputation for reliability, the Sahara comes with a slew of standard features including a refrigerated glove box, two screens for rear seat passengers, a handful of power sockets (including a 240V AC output) and radar-guided cruise control, making it the perfect starting point for building a vehicle fit for the challenge.
Additional to those features, we have also added a second fridge, more 12V and USB sockets (heaven forbid anyone runs out of battery mid-tweet).
Up front, we have fitted a TJM roo-proof bull bar and Lightforce DL230 HTX HID/LED spotlights to turn night into day. They’ve also added a rear rack to house the spare tyres and make room for a huge 180L long range fuel tank bringing the total fuel capacity up to 273L, hopefully good for over 2300 highway km’s between fill up and the yellow fuel light.
Bridgestone has come to the party by supplying a set of Dueler A/T 697s, including 2 spares in case of an emergency. XPEL Protective Films have stepped up and provided a full protective wrap to save the cruiser's pearl paint from chips and scratches.
Finally, if you thought this record-breaking attempt would be a 1 week long, caffeine assisted, awkward silence, think again.
SOYT tinting and their retro-gaming-themed front of house Café de SOYT has installed a custom in-car entertainment system consisting of numerous gaming consoles and a darker tint in the rear windows to give the two resting drivers in the back every opportunity to relax and recuperate.
Yep, we’ve come a long way from a humble 1979 XD Falcon.
To finish the trip in a record-worthy time, we'll be looking at maintaining an average speed of 95km/h across the whole journey, with each driver taking the wheel for nearly six hours a day. That means minimal stops outside of the necessary refuelling, which poses a problem for food and the necessary bladder and bowel movements.
To overcome the food issue, We've got a supply of water, snacks and a few meals, plus generous friends in major cities willing to perform roadside drop-offs. Outside that we will have to rely on the odd truck stop and drive-through.
Stopping for bowel movements is practically unavoidable (the suggestion of bringing along bedpans was met with a collective ‘nope’), but no single issue of the trip has been given more attention than ‘number ones’.
The team has looked into disposable and reusable urinal collection bottles, catheters, plastic tubing, or even the classic empty coke bottle. We think we have found an elegant solution, but don’t want to give anything away, and, for the sake of the car's resale value, it’s best left to the imagination.
As the Highway 1 to Hell team roll into Brisbane sometime next Sunday/Monday, we will have either beaten the six-day eight-hours standing record, or set a new benchmark by including the unsealed stretch of the highway in our route.
And while we feel sorry for the guy who has to Febreze the car, the wives that will wash the clothes, and the insects who will lose loved ones to the genocidal front grill of the Land Cruiser, this will be an epic adventure that we will laugh about for years to come. Stay tuned for updates.
The Highway 1 to Hell team are friends to CarAdvice, and we will be following their journey closely over the coming week. Stay tuned for more updates as the adventure goes on.