Fiat Nationals History
In late 1963 the Fiat Car Club of Victoria proposed to the Fiat Club of New South Wales that an Motorkhana be held to foster competition between the clubs.
The township of Wagga Wagga was chosen as the venue as it was situated approximately half way between the two clubs and was large enough to offer suitable amenities and accommodation for the competitors.
Ian Kay, President of the Victorian Club, and Kevin Roberts, Club Captain of the NSW Club, met in Wagga in November to finalise arrangements. The first Interstate Motorkhana was held on the Australia Day long weekend on the 26th January 1964 at the Kurrajong Reserve, 5 kilometres east of town.
With 25 entrants, the event was a resounding success and a decision was made to hold it annually. Fiat Australia offered generous assistance and Fiat of Italy supplied a trophy for the event. It is purported the trophy had its origins from the European racing era of the 1920s – today we know it as “The Fiat of Italy Cup”.
Attendance steadily grew and in 1972 there were 84 competitors, including 5 from the Fiat Car Club of Queensland, who made the 1400 kilometre trek south for the first time. By 1975 Queensland was fielding a substantial team of 23 competitors, and a decision was made to relocate the weekend to a more central location. It was also decided that New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria take turns at organising the event each year.
The township of Dubbo in central New South Wales was chosen as it was approximately half way between the Victorian and Queensland clubs. Unseasonable flooding prevented some competitors reaching the event, and the Motorkhana competition had to be hastily relocated from the river flats near the town bridge to the livestock sale yards.
The sale yards were again used in 1977, but the competition surface proved to be a problem, so it was decided to look further afield for a more suitable competition venue. For the next 7 years the Motorkhana was held 20 kilometres south of town at the Toongi Reserve, while the socialising continued in Dubbo.
The Fiat Club of the Australian Capital Territory fielded 3 competitors in 1979, and 2 competitors from the Fiat-Lancia Club of South Australia made the 1300 kilometre trek east the following year. What started as a two state event had evolved into a near National fixture.
There was considerable controversy for some years about the heat and dust (and shortage of accommodation in Dubbo due to other sporting events in town over the same weekend), and a decision was made to shift the running of the 1984 event to the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June.
In 1985 the event was relocated 150 kilometres south to the township of Forbes, still on the long weekend in June. The event was shifted again in 1987, this time to the town of Orange, 120 kilometres to the east. The following year in Orange, the event was run for the first (and only) time on bitumen, due to the condition of the original venue after excessive rain throughout the region leading up to the event.
With limited availability of suitable venues, it was decided to move the event back to Dubbo for 1989. Discussions between the Queensland organisers and the Dubbo City Council secured the use of the Bunglegumbie Reserve on the northern edge of town. Seasonal winter rain saw the event turn into a mud bath and competition was called short on the day.
Over the 6 years that the event was held in winter, there was considerable controversy about the cold, frost and generally wetter conditions. Not to mention the reduced socialising opportunities. Heat and dust was looking the better option and the event was moved back to the January long weekend. A new venue was also located at Troy Junction, 5 kilometres north of town.
The event was to remain unchanged for the next 13 years and the weekend became affectionately referred to as “Dubbo”. The only exception was in 1999, when to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Fiat Auto, the 50th Anniversary of the Fiat Club of NSW, and the 20th Anniversary of Ansell Park (the NSW club grounds), the event was held in Sydney.
In 2001, 9 members from the Fiat Lancia Club of Western Australia made the mammoth trip from Perth, transporting vehicles one way for the competition and disposing of them before commencing the trip home. The event was now truly “National”.
A major review and expansion of the event was agreed to by the event’s organising committee, which is comprised of State and Territory representatives from all of the Fiat Clubs of Australia. The location for the 2005 Fiat Nationals was changed to Bathurst and the event expanded to include a hillclimb at what is the most famous motorsport location in Australia – Mount Panorama, Bathurst. The event became known as “Fiat al Monte”, meaning “Fiat at the mountain”.
For 2009 the event moved to Goulburn NSW, and officially adopted the name, the “Fiat Nationals”. The move offered competitors a new set of challenges in the form of a circuit sprint at the Wakefield Park race track as well as the traditional Autokhana and Show’n’Shine events.
In 2012 the Fiat Nationals was held for the first time outside of NSW at the Winton race track near Benalla Victoria. This event marked the beginning of a new program of rotating locations based in the State of the organising club. This was followed in 2013 with the event held at Queensland Raceway.
The Fiat Nationals has now grown to be a full weekend festival of social and competitive events centred around a love for the FIAT automobile, and attracts Fiat owners, enthusiasts, and motoring devotees from around Australia.