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Pat Callinan: Revisiting one of Australia’s Overland Firsts

Pat Callinan is not a name that many of you US folks would have heard much about in your travels. His name in Australia however is synonymous with the 4WD industry.  Pat has been in the industry for many years but more recently he has started his own TV series and Magazine. Pat Callinan’s 4×4 Adventures started in the form of a TV series in 2008, and in 2011 he started a magazine to go with it. His goal for both media outlets is to make a product that is timeless and very much about the experiences of getting out and seeing the Australian bush. The magazine itself, much like the Overland Journal, is designed to be more of a coffee table book then a catalogue, something that you would be more then happy to collect. The desert is a big part of Australia, with just under 20% of the country being part of a named desert. On top of that almost another 50% of the country is considered to be arid or semi-arid land. And just under 3% of our population lives in these areas. So it wasn’t until just over 50 years ago that much of this land started to be opened up to vehicles.

 

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The Simpson is the most well known desert in Australia and while it is not the largest it is certainly the one that most strive to cross. Traveling from Birdsville to Dalhousie Springs (or reverse) along the French Line, which is considered to be the most difficult route, you will travel just under 600kms over roughly 1200 sand dunes. You wont see anything but desert sand, low lying shrubs and perhaps a couple of cars depending on your time of year. So, you can only imagine what it would have been like to be the first through there when there was no track to follow. One of the great things that Pat and his team did, along with Nissan Australia, was to reenact the first vehicular crossing of the Simpson Desert in 2012. The original trip was completed in 1962 by Reg Sprigg and his family, he was a geologist that not was not only looking for resources in the desert but also wanted to be the first to cross the Simpson in a vehicle.

 

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To make it a proper reenactment they needed the right car, and in this case it was Nissan G60, while the original was an almost new car the team used a fully rebuilt G60 from the same time period. Very little was done to the car to modernise it, apart from what it needed to be legal. This team consisted of 3 vehicles the G60, Pat’s Patrol and a Nissan 50th Anniversary Patrol. Not only did they get together the cars, but they also got Marg and Dug Sprigg along for the ride. At the time of the first crossing they were 9 and 7 respectively and spent most of their time crammed between there mum and dad on the front seat of the G60.

 

© Tony Knight 2012 WWW.TONYKNGIHT.COM.AU
When the team successfully made it across the Simpson they were welcomed into a camp of over 100 Nissan Patrols which equaled a large group of Patrol fanatics. The night was celebrated with a concert involving Darryl Braithwaite and James Reyne, two famous Australian singers. I was lucky enough to head out with Hema Maps and our fleet of Patrols for the event and from all the feedback this was the highlight of the weeklong event.

What I am trying to get at with this brief article is that while there may not be as many new frontiers to explore and discover as a few decades ago, there are still people out there exploring in different ways. Pat and his crew are a great example of this as they are often out doing things that have perhaps been done before, but never in quite the same way. Admittedly Australia has the advantage of a low population so allows for more opportunities but there is always something that you can be doing that might not have been done before.

 

Tony Knight Photography


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