RACV history: motor gymkhanas

Living Well | Helen Stitt | Posted on 22 March 2017

The way we were: a look back at RACV's past.

An old game of musical chairs played with cars and bales of hay

RACV organised motor gymkhanas in the first decades of the 20th century to help support charities and WW1 patriotic fund-raising. This 1927 gymkhana run by the Wangaratta RACV branch was in aid of the local hospital.

Motor gymkhanas were popular entertainments and a great test of competitors’ driving skills. The Wangaratta races included a bending race around an obstacle course, and a liquid race involving running, driving and ginger beer-drinking. In the blindfold competition drivers took turns to aim for a flag in the centre of the oval, stopping halfway to complete a full-circle turn. Many lost all sense of direction.

This photograph shows the musical chairs competition where male participants drove in a circle until the music stopped, at which point their female partner sprinted to claim a hay bale. J and Miss Phillips won the competition in their Chrysler (fifth car from the front). The final event was a slow race with the drivers riding on the running board.

Motor gymkhanas clearly reflected their era in terms of safety but also demonstrated the excitement caused by the relative novelty of the motor car.