Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Green, Evan Clifford (1930–1996)

by Andrew Moore

This article was published online in 2020

Evan Clifford Symons Green (1930–1996), rally driver, journalist, broadcaster, and author, was born on 21 May 1930 at Fairfield, Sydney, second child of New South Wales-born parents Clifford Green, manufacturer, and his wife Kate Elizabeth, née Buntine. Educated at Parramatta High School, where he was a prefect in 1946 and excelled at athletics, Evan’s first job was to work at a local newspaper, the Biz. In the early 1950s he became a cadet reporter on the Maitland Mercury, before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald in 1953, where he became motoring editor. On 3 January 1953 at St John’s Church of England, Parramatta, he married June Betty O’Bryan, a schoolteacher.

It was an auspicious time for a young man interested in cars. The round-Australia Redex trials attracted public attention unlike any event in Australian motoring history. Across the street from the offices of the Maitland Mercury was the chemist shop operated by Ken Tubman, the winner of the first Redex trial in 1953, whom Green subsequently befriended. Rallying, as trial driving became known, and the opportunities it provided for travel and adventure, became Green’s great passion.

In the 1954 and 1955 Redex trials Green navigated for John Lefoe, and in 1956 and 1958 he helped organise the long distance Ampol trials. He was associate editor of Modern Motor in 1961 and 1962. He began rally driving in 1963. In 1964, employed by the oil company Ampol, he managed Donald Campbell’s successful world land speed record bid at Lake Eyre in South Australia. The highly superstitious Campbell feared the colour green and never used his manager’s surname. Campbell’s wife, Tonia, referred to him as Evan Turquoise. Green’s time at Lake Eyre earned him the nickname of ‘Bluebird,’ the name of Campbell’s record-breaking car.

As a rally driver Green displayed exceptional ability. Though safety conscious, he was extremely fast, with considerable powers of concentration and endurance. Bad luck and a sporting attitude, however, dogged several of his most significant entries into world rallying. After stopping to assist the ultimate winner, a mistake by an assistant in over-tightening a rear-wheel bearing in South Australia cost his British Motor Corporation (BMC) Austin 1800 any chance of a major placing in the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon. A broken front suspension strut in Algeria, far away from service support, thwarted his quest to win the 1974 London–Sahara–Munich World Cup rally and his car finished thirteenth. Possessing a great love for the Australian outback and travel, Green completed thirty-seven long-distance trips in Australia, often in the company of his friend ‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray, whose status as a folk hero Green helped to consolidate with his 1966 book Journeys with Gelignite Jack.

During the mid-1960s Green was public relations manager for BMC in Australia. While he was with the firm, his outback expeditions were mounted to advertise the reliability of its products. In 1966 he managed the factory team’s successful attempt to win the annual long-distance sedan car classic at Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Though he never claimed an Australian Rally Championship, he won major events such as the 1969 Snowy Mountains Rally in an Austin 1800. Between 1979 and 1981 he was in charge of corporate affairs at General Motors-Holden’s Ltd (GMH), with a seat on the company’s board; he moved to Melbourne. In this period the company axed the Kingswood model, providing Ford with a valuable market advantage for full-size sedans that took Holden many years to recover.

Intelligent and urbane, of equable disposition and with a warm presentation to camera, for many Australians Green became a public face of motoring on television. After introducing a live cross to the beginning of the Ampol trial in 1958, he featured on Channel 7’s Tonight program in a motoring segment and became the principal expert commentator for that network’s coverage of the annual Bathurst sedan car endurance race. As motoring editor for the Sun Herald, he wrote an infamous article in June 1972 that ended the era of increasingly powerful race-ready ‘Bathurst specials’ being manufactured in Australia. A man steeped in Australian motor sport, he was an unlikely assassin of such race-oriented production vehicles. He was ostracised by several leading racing drivers and team organisers, as well as booed by the crowd at a rallycross meeting soon after, a disconcerting experience for a man accustomed to approval and popularity.

Green’s frequent absences on rallying adventures did not assist his marital relations. Though he once rejected, for family reasons, an offer from Lancia to drive in Europe, he and his wife divorced. Illness caused him to resign from his position with GMH. Coupled with Jack Murray’s death in 1983, this changed the direction of his life. At Ravello in Italy in 1985 he married Yolanta Novak, a radio presenter, and with her support became a successful novelist. Two of his motoring books, Journeys with Gelignite Jack and A Boot Full of Right Arms (1975), had already demonstrated his literary talent. Using his knowledge of Australia and its people, he wrote seven novels, all best sellers. His first, Alice to Nowhere (1984), became a television miniseries, while Adam’s Empire (1986) reportedly sold more than 250,000 copies. Green and Novak also produced a thirteen-week television travel series, Escape, which emerged from a similarly titled radio program. For a time the couple lived in Fiji.

While there Green developed prostate cancer. Though he returned to Australia to seek medical treatment, the cancer metastasised. Despite his illness, in 1993 he took part in the twenty-fifth anniversary of the London to Sydney marathon with his son Gavin. In 1995 he completed his last drive through the outback. Survived by his wife, the four children of his first marriage, and the adopted two of his second, he died on 16 March 1996 at Darlinghurst and was cremated. In Barry Lake’s estimation Green wrote only as a sideline. He was a rally driver first and foremost whose major disappointment in life was that he never won a major long-distance international rally. In the literary agent Selwa Anthony’s view, however, Green was ‘one of Australia’s greatest storytellers’ (Anthony n.d.). The Australian Historic Rally Group holds an annual Evan Green Memorial Rally in his honour.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Anthony, Selwa. ‘Tribute to Evan Green—the Storyteller.’ Selwa Anthony Author Management Agency. n.d. Accessed 29 October 2019. http://www.selwaanthony.com.au/tribute-to-evan-green/. Copy held on ADB file
  • Hagon, Will. ‘Motor Enthusiast Played Many Roles.’ Australian, 20 March 1996, 12
  • Lake, Barry. ‘Evan Green: A Full Life.’ Motor Racing Australia, no. 22 (July/August 1996): 36–41
  • Motor Racing Australia. ‘In Passing.’ No. 21 (May/June 1996): 8
  • Watson, Craig. ‘Travelling Man.’ Mini Experience, no. 13 (January–March 2008): 54–61

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Andrew Moore, 'Green, Evan Clifford (1930–1996)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/green-evan-clifford-27664/text35205, published online 2020, accessed online 7 December 2021.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2021