Driving a 1954 Austin-Healey 100/4 from Peking to Paris in the June 2019 ERA Rally.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

0061 3500 kms across Australia

Thursday 16th August 2018
It's a BIG country !!

291 DAYS TO GO !!

Drooping the trailer off at Barry's
On Thursday 9th August I hitched up Barry's empty trailer and headed out of the GC by 7 am, travelling south down the coast road to Sydney.  Barry has just moved to Sydney so I was just deliverying his trailer down to his new home in Sydney.  The plan was to overnight half way down and then run into Sydney for Friday morning, but the traffic was remarkably light and the roadworks were few, and by about noon I realised I was going to make it easily in one day.  So I dropped Barry's trailer off at his house in Tennyson Point, and made it to Ashton's before the traffic got too bad, and we then all met up at a local pub for a beer and a feed.

Trying the spare tyre for size
There was another reason for getting to Sydney in one day, which was that Patrick Quinn, the Austin Healey magazine Editor who has been running ongoing articles on our rebuild of Gidget, had requested a face to face interview regarding the car, plus a test drive, on the Friday morning.  As Ashton would be working, it would be easier all round if I was there to meet with Patrick, and since Wayne Watkins from the online Austin Healey Experience site also said he would come over, it was good that I got to Sydney early.  I was also able to get a few things done to Gidget during the day.

Photos in the sunshine
It was good to meet Wayne and have a face to put to the name - He has provided us with information via the online forum, and as he only lives about 10 minutes from Ashton, it was too good an opportunity to miss.  A pleasant and informative morning with him.  Later on Patrick arrived and we did a walk around the car discussing the various things we had done so that Patrick could see them first hand rather than from just photos. Patrick is so knowledgeable not only on all things Healey, but also about Gidget in particular and her revious history, that is was a fascinating and valuable couple of hours.  Patrick and I went out for a short drive in the car so he could compare it firsthand with other Healeys, and I hope he was suitably impressed !  No doubt we shall find out in the next Australian Austin Healey magazine !

Gidget stickers on the car
After Patrick and Wayne had left, Ashton and I knuckled down and started packing up all the gear and getting it into Troopie, and also put the Gidget stickers on, as well as those for Beyond Blue and Cancer Council, who we are supporting financially as and when we raise money.  Then it was time to load Gidget on the
Ashton putting stickers on
trailer, strap her down, and once everything was done, we went of for a delightful dinner at a local French Restaurant - I have to say the food really was superb.  I could have ordered anything on the menu as it was all very much to my tastes - Might have to go back there another time !  Thank you Ashton - A fine evening before I set off to Alice.

Loading Gidget on the trailer
Early the next morning I slowly got the rest of my stuff back into Troopie, and headed off by 7 am.  All went well for about 10 minutes, at which point I went over a speed hump and the trailer hitch came undone, dragging the trailer along the road wildly (fortunately the chain did its job, but it sure woke me up in a hurry !!). Luckily I was able to pull off to the side and park, and inspect the damage. The chain had held, but the electrical cable had been damaged when it got caught under the trailer, and the winding handle for the jockey wheel had also been snnapped off.  Of more concern was how I was going to get the trailer back onto the tow ball, as the trailer nose was far too heavy for me to lift.  Even with a passing walker's help we were unable to lift it - What to do ?  I couldn't back the car off the trailer because, with the trailer unhitched, it would have just tilted up into the air.

After thinking about it, I decided I would have to wake Ashton and get him to bring a trolley jack over so we could lift the nose of the trailer - But Ashton was not to be roused, so I had to go to plan B.  Although I have a bottle jack, it was buried deep under everything in the car, so I decided to try my hi-lift jack, since there were a couple of places on the trailer where I could insert its nose, even though it would not be very stable.  It is a big heavy thing, but eventually I got it unbolted from the spare wheel carrier and got to work,  although my first effort just resulted in the nose of the trailer moving sideways 6 inches !  Then I found the jack wouldn't go down !  Eventually I dug out a can of WD 40 and gave it a liberal spraying - It was all the dust from a couple of trips around Australia that was the problem.  Eventually I got it all working, and then got my wheel chocks out of the storage area in Troopie and chocked the two trailer wheels so the trailer would no longer rotate on the sloping side of the road when I lifted it.  And very gingerly I slowly jacked the nose of the trailer up, keeping my toes out from under the bars !

Success - Eventually ! I finally managed to lift the nose of the trailer enough to then reverse the car back under it inch by inch (so I didn't bump the trailer and knock it off the jack), and hitch everything back up.  The jockey wheel still worked, but I had to use an adjustable spanner to raise and lower the wheel, and I needed to do some quick repairs to the wiring so I had some rear lights and indicators.  At which point the phone rang - It was Ashton asking if he needed to come over !  I told him to relax in bed on this Saturday morning - I was all done !   And about an hour after it had happened,  I was on my way again, although for a while every speed bump was treated with utmost respect.   Right, 3000 kms to go !!

Sunset the first night
The plan was just to get as far as I could each day, then to stop in a suitable Rest Area and camp in Troopie.  I really enjoy being on the road, camping and cooking as I go, and it is always interesting travelling around Australia - If only because of the spectacular sunsets and sunrises you so often see in the outback.  I chose the
Morning sunrise
Mildura road because I hadn't been on that one for a while, and managed to get past Narrandera and it was a beautiful sunset but very cold as I cooked and ate my supper inside the van ! When I woke up it was 0.2 deg C, so quite chilly, but in my sleeping bag I was as warm as toast and had slept for some 10 hours !  I donned my fur hat and warm jacket and had a quick breakfast while I packed up, enjoying a fine sunrise before I got back on the road.  The next night I got to the Nukunu Rest Area, which is some way south of Part Augusta.

Crossing the Murrumbidgee
I hadn't been on the road long the next morning when there were police cars blocking the main road, and sending us on a detour.  Something had obviously only just happened as no one quite knew where they were sending us. However on my mapping system I was able to find the right road - A narrow strip of tarmac only wide enough for a single vehicle, with rough dirt on either side for passing. To start with there was no traffic coming the other way, but after about 20 minutes it started - And there were caravans and 3-trailer road trains - It became pretty chaotic, especially over some of the narrow bridges where one line of traffic had to stop.  It was probably about a 40 km detour, so it was with some relief when we finally got back to the main road.  Never did find out what had happened !

Coober Pedy
From there it was through Port Augusta, and eventually that evening I arrived in Coober Pedy.  I knew the rest of the rally cars were scheduled to be there, so I went down into town to the hotel to meet up with them.  Great to catch up with a few of them as they worked on their cars, and then I found out that there was to be a Navigation Information meeting at 7 pm to help people understand how the Alice Springs Rally would be organised. I felt
it was important for me to be there so on the map I located a potential camp site some 50 kms from Coober Pedy, and although I don't like driving at night with the kangaroos on the road,  I was able to make it ok once the meeting finished.  I will meet up with them all again in Alice as they are heading out to Uluru for a couple of days first.

The next morning I saw one of the most magnificent sights I have
1941 Ford Coupe
ever seen as I ate my breakfast in the early morning light.  A roar of sound, and along came one of the Bentleys absolutely flat chat, with the occupants wrapped up warm in their hats and scarves, just roaring across the Outback.  Probably never see that again !!   So I packed up quickly and got back on the road as a few more of the cars came through, and I was able to merge in
1934 Ford Tudor
with them, travelling just a little slower than them so they were catching me up and overtaking me.  What a wonderful experience with all these wonderful cars bombing along in the Outback !!

Camel Train
We stopped for coffee at a road house,and as we parked all the
cars together, a triple road train pulled up - Full of camels !!  Does that make it a Camel Train ?  Haven't seen that before either !   Then it was back on the road amongst all the other cars, and eventually they all turned off west to go to Uluru, while I continued north to Alice Springs. eventually arriving at about 3 pm.

Safely unloaded in Alice
I decided to try to check in early to the  Lasseter's hotel where we will be based for the rally, and fortunately they had space.  I quickly unloaded the car from the trailer and got everything into the room - Fortunately on the ground floor close to the cars - And for the next 3 days I worked on Gidget.  There are still so many things to do, but first of all I started fitting all the storage pieces I had been making over the past month.  The spare wheel cover to separate the passenger compartment from the fuel tanks in the boot went in first, and required a couple of trips to the local Bunnings for some bolts before I got it all in.  It was difficult with the seats in the way as they just won't move forward far enough to enable easy access, but eventually it was in. 

I then finished covering the armrest storage area I had made, and fitting that into the car.  It will need
Armrest storage box
a little more work once this week is over, but should be fine for now.  I then fitted the battery power unit for the intercom, mounting it on top of the spare wheel cover so it is easily
Intercom unit mounted
accessible.  Then I made some hooks on which to hang the headphone sets when we are not using them, pop rivetting them into the spare wheel cover as well.  Lastly I fitted the new storage box into the passenger foot well - Again something that will need minor reshaping after the rally. 

Fitting rally stickers
Then it was time to fit the Rally stickers on the doors.  The one on
the driver's side was fine, but because the passenger door has been shortened to accomodate the raised exhaust, there wasn't enough room for the entire sticker.  I therefore cut off the bottom part and moved it forward.  I then added a couple of extra Beyond Blue and Cancer Council stickers on the rear wings, as well as our Facebook link.

The itg foam filter hadn't been oiled yet, but with the dusty conditions expected this week, I did this and refitted it.  I then moved to the boot.  The boxes that I had previously used for parts had proved unstable in the boot when on rough roads, despite being strapped down, but the canvas bags I had purchased recently turned out to be exactly the right size, holding 6 of the boxes.  We are not there yet, but we are slowly getting there.  I do not think we will be able to pack everything we will need for P2P, but we are heading in the right direction.

The hotel car park is slowly filling up with some interesting cars that are taking part in the Rally this weekend - Mustangs, Mercedes, Volvos, as well as more modern rally cars.  Several of them are also doing the P2P next year, so we will be touching base with some of them, and of course looking for ideas as we inspect their cars !

Rest of the pics are here :- https://photos.app.goo.gl/W5Sdf5UEcGFEPr1A9

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Ashton & Giles welcome any visitors, support, and comments as we prepare for our Adventure !