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The Quirky Trucks & Fire Engines Of Variety Trillian Bash

The Quirky Trucks And Fire Engines Of The Variety Trillian Bash

A two-faced bus, a zebra-striped foam-squirting fire truck and a Jeep with teeth are just some of the quirky vehicles that take part in the annual charity road rally

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Teams from Auckland•Cambridge•New Plymouth•Ohakune•Tauranga•Whangarei

Route Auckland•East Cape•Huntly•Mangakino•Murupara•Gisborne•Rotorua• Tauranga•Te Kuiti•Waikaremoana•Waihau Bay•Waitomo•Whakatane

A double-fronted American school bus, a zebra-striped fire engine and a Jeep with teeth, spines and a smoke machine – just some of the trucks that regularly take part in the Variety Trillian Bash, a road rally with a difference that delivers grants to kids in need, and fund-raises for Variety – The Childrens Charity along the way.

That bus was built using parts from two 1958 Bedfords and it’s powered by a Chevy V8 under one bonnet – we suspect the fan atop the Ohakune-based bus powers a karaoke machine rumoured to reside within. Past themes include a submarine, a banana and veggies, but a new one is promised for this year’s Bash, which kicks off on March 15.

Also getting a new theme will be Whangarei’s Team Taniwha, the 1978 two-door Jeep Cherokee Chief Sport with its 5.9-litre V8 engine, its roof spikes and front bumper-mounted teeth, its animal soundtrack and the dry ice that pours from beneath its grille is being retired. The now Team Taniformer has obtained a dispensation to go a bit newer than the usual rules allow, provided it comes up with an awesome theme. The 1993 Toyota Landcruiser already has an air horn and roof-mounted wakeboard speakers; its paint and other quirks remain under wraps for now.

But the Pop’n’Good-sponsored Foam – Friends On A Mission – 1972 Ford D1013 fire truck will retain its zebra stripes, and the tanks full of foam that are always a hit with the kids. And of course New Plymouth’s Scooby Crew – complete with Scooby-Doo and characters aboard – retains its 1977 Chevy van, painted to suit the cartoon characters it carries. 

The Tauranga Medics’ Japanese Toyota ambulance is one of a limited run of 100 fitted with a Lexus V8 engine and it’s a fully operational ambulance, staffed by Maria – a nurse – and Les, a former St John’s paramedic who provides medical coverage for events. They’ve found a knack at bucket-shaking, their record an epic $1960 in four hours down Taumarunui main street. Most memorable Bash moment? “TV star Suzi Cato singing to a small boy and his grandmother who had been waiting at the roadside in the middle of nowhere to watch us go past.”

And then there are the fire engines. Tauranga’s 8th Tribe, with its 1981 Kidicorp-sponsored International fire truck, is partly funded by sponsored theme parties. Resene’s 1967 TK Bedford fire truck is currently getting a repaint in the care of team captain Marc Sands, who’s been bashing for over 18 years because he and his friends like helping disadvantaged kids and having fun doing it.

Marc recalls a young boy with leg calipers and crutches. “We took him for a wee ride round the school grounds in the truck. The delighted look on his face was amazing, and when the ride finished he walked up to me on shaky legs – with no crutches – and gave me a huge cuddle. My crew are a bunch of softies, but I can’t figure out why I cried – and after 19 years I have a lot of those sorts of stories, enough to fill a book.”

The fire engines are always a drawcard for the kids – and for local fire crews who are known to come out and issue a water-fight challenge to the likes of Argus Fire’s 1987 Mitsubishi fire truck, the Every Little Boys Dream truck, the Rainbow’s End fire appliance, Cambridge’s Mooloo Crew Ford, the Pink Truck’n hot-pink International and Tron’s 1969 Ford fire engine which fought its last fire in 2002 – at Murupara Kindy – and which will this year have Elmo aboard.

And last but not least, there’s the famous Fishpot Café fire truck, a 1960 import from Los Angeles with an 18-litre engine and a 31-metre ladder that’ll reach 10 stories. But that deserves a tale of its own. Watch this space!


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