Women in Motorsport & Social History: Joy Rainey

Alfa Romeo 6c. Joy Rainey and Murray Rainey - Prescott 1979.
Posted  01.02.2017
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Daughter of an Australian Formula 3 champion, Joy Rainey’s restricted growth didn’t stop her becoming a star in her own right.

Joy Rainey is the daughter of three times Australian Formula 3 champion, Murray. Her restricted growth meant that she spent a significant part of her childhood years wearing painful irons to straighten her legs, but her courage, immense talent, charm, dedication and determination, together with her love of speed and positive outlook on life, has always shone through.

Throughout her life Joy has achieved impressive goals in the world of motorsport including holding the ladies hill climbing record at Shelsley Walsh for twenty-two years in a number of cars (including a modified Pilbeam single-seater, her father’s newly restored 1937 Alfa Romeo and a Murrain sportsracer). She also claimed considerable achievements in long distance rallying, including completing the 2004 London to Sydney Marathon with her co-driver Trevor Hulks, a classic car restorer, in a 1970 Morris Minor.


Joy was born in the mid 1950s and grew up in Geelong, Australia. From an early age she shunned dolls in favour of ‘the bike’ – a sturdy British manufactured tricycle with pneumatic tyres on which she would race around town and which provided her with much-needed independence and mobility.

Joy Rainey
Joy Rainey


In 1959 Joy accompanied her father when he spent a season racing in Europe. Amongst the many people they met were Jean Behra who invited Joy to sit in his Ferrari and on another occasion Stirling Moss. Opportunity struck whilst visiting the Cooper factory where Bruce McLaren was trying out a kart – undoubtedly the perfect solution for Joy.

Upon their return to Geelong, Murray started building and selling Rainey Karts with Joy having the prototype and it was not long before she won her first race.

By the time she was sixteen Joy had clocked up an impressive number of victories in karts and when she was old enough to have a road car Murray treated her to a specially adapted 1953 Morris Minor.

Bruce McLaren on his Em-Bee Wasp Kart
Bruce McLaren on his Em-Bee Wasp Kart


When the Rainey family moved to England Joy studied for an Open University degree as well as working as a language school principal; with this came the offer of a regular column in the Daily Telegraph motoring section.

In her spare time Joy would compete at various hillclimb events, initially in her father’s 1933 Morgan-JAP three-wheeler and then her own E-Type Jaguar. As if this was not enough, Joy also drove solo in her newly-acquired Triumph Spitfire through Europe and down to the University of Perugia in Italy – and all because she wanted to learn the language!

Returning to England after a rather ‘Latin Experience’, Joy was soon mingling with the ‘Brooklands Set’ – often attending Vintage Sports Car Club events.

Murray Rainey at Brooklands with an Alfa Romeo in 1979
Murray Rainey at Brooklands in 1979


In 2009, Joy, together with Trevor, began planning their ‘trip of a lifetime’ – to drive her own 1904 single-cylinder Curved Dash Oldsmobile (with a top speed of approximately 28 mph, two gears and tiller steering), from Oceanside, California across to Daytona Beach, Florida – a distance of 2,903 miles. The idea behind this was to re-enact a similar trip made by Whitman and Hammond more than one hundred years earlier, where they drove an Oldsmobile Curved Dash at a top speed of 20mph from San Francisco, arriving in New York 79 days later.

Tragically, after suffering from ill-health, Trevor died and Joy, understandably grief-stricken, abandoned all plans for their remarkable challenge. It was not until the following year after a chance encounter with an old friend, Mark Riley, who had bought the late Murray’s Cooper-Norton, who suggested that he accompany Joy on the trip.


With a supportive team behind them, offering expert advice for everything involved in a trip such as this, Mark and Joy set out from America’s West Coast on 13th April, 2013, arriving 31 days later at Daytona Beach, Florida. What is so remarkable is that the Oldsmobile ran perfectly – a touching and surely no better tribute to Trevor who had completely re-built the Oldsmobile.

Joy Rainey – a woman inspired to succeed in a man’s world – and she did it, not for the accolade but because she believed in herself, her capabilities, her strengths and her passion.

Sarah Crofts has been sharing her passion for motorsport with Beaulieu’s visitors since she first joined as a volunteer in 2007. Now a Museum Attendant, she has grown to love her role more and more and can’t imagine doing anything else! Sarah’s popular Women in Motorsport tour is one of several daily tours on offer in the National Motor Museum.

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