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

Sunday, 30 December 2018

0076 We DO get going again !

Sunday 30th December 2018
Almost 4 months with no running......but lots of activity !

154 days till the start
But only 90 until the car is shipped out !

Gidget ready for a drive after 4 months
Well, I finally got Gidget to the stage where I could take her out for a drive - The first time since we got back from Alice Springs in August and took her up to Peter Janetzki to get the roll bar fitted.  We had to remove the fuel tanks for that, and since then have been doing many items that prevented us from running the car - Replacing fuel pumps, moving fuel pumps, resealing fuel tanks, fitting seats, and fitting a new electric water pump and radiator fan.  With these and a number of other items completed, and after a tiny break over Christmas, I was finally ready to start Gidget up.  But it turned out that she wasn't quite ready !!

Despite the warm weather, and plenty of choke, she really didn't want to start.  However, this showed that a separate change I had made some weeks ago was working.  Previously, when we tried to start the car, the front carburettor needle would stick and the carb would flood, running fuel down the overflow pipe and onto the ground - Not good.  But I had recently dismantled the front carb and replaced the needle - And no the carburettor no longer overflowed fuel !!  Finally, with a litle help from some Start Ya Bast**d, and almost immediately settled down to a steady idle.  So far so good.  I

then took some new photos for presentation to various authorities because she now looks quite different with the roll bar and new seats.

Retaining chains on filler caps
To get the car to its runnng state, I had continued doing some of the many small but time consuming items that have been on the list for some time.  First of all I made some small alloy tabs, drilled a couple of holes and fitted a short length of chain.  I then bought some small bolts and some plastic sealing washers, and then I drilled a small hole in the centre of the fuel tank caps, and the oil filler cap of the rocker cover.  I then bolted the alloy tab in place, tightening the bolt against a second nut so there was space for the tab to swivel easily, With the other end of the chain then attached to a nearby fixed point, the caps were all secured and could not be lost, mislaid, fall under the car, or otherwise get lost in the dark or the mud.   Job done, at last !

Dip stick under construction
With both fuel tanks totally empty, now was the perfect time to fill the tanks in measured amounts not
only to find out precisely how much fuel each would hold, but also to create a dip stick for each tank so we can measure exactly how much fuel is in each - The original fuel tanl is not only pretty inaccurate, but of course it only measures the original main tank, and not the new auxillary tank.  I therefore bought some wooden dowelling, and, using my little 5 litre jerry can, I started filling the main tank 5 litres at a time.  Once there was enough fuel in the main tank to get to the gas station, that was when I started her up and set off to the gas station.  Once there, I added fuel 5 litres at a time, measuring the contents with the dip stick and marking it in 5 litre increments.  It is amazingly difficult to see the fuel level on the dip stick as the wood absorbs the fuel very quickly.  I tried painting another disptick black, and even fitted a rubber strip to another, but neither option worked any better.  There must be a better / easier way !!  Nevertheless I got the tanks filled and measured - although they took slightly less than officially stated - 11.6 gals in the main tank instead of 12.0, and 7.6 gals in the aux tank instead of the expected 8 gals.  However, this will be sufficient as long as we can get the optimum fuel consumption from the car !  A total of 86.4 litres even at 15 litres / 100 kms will still get us 576 kms, and at 10 litres / 100 kms we can get 864 kms.  Now to get some accurate consumption figures.

Waterproof SPOT cable
We are required to carry a GPS SPOT tracking device throughout the rally, not only so that our whereabouts can be seen by the rally organisers at all times, but also so family and friends can log on at any time during the rally and see where we are.  We have to purchase our own unit. and this week received the separate waterproof cable required in an open car like ours, and this will be wired direct to the battery so it is always live.

Adding film to bonnet
Because the bonnet of Gidget isn't hinged but comes right off, the edges
were starting to get damaged every time it was stood up on a hard surface.  Since I had some paint protection film left over after putting it on the rear shroud, I cut some
No more red marks on bonnet
suitable strips and fitted them to the edges of the bonnet so that we can now set it down without damaging it.   There were light red rubbing marks on the bonnet where red sand had got under the leather strap and abraded the paint surface slightly.  I took some cutting compound and worked the area carefully, and the red stain slowly came out, leaving only the slightest mark in the paintwork.  With the softer liner now added to the inside of the bonnet strap, this will now hopefully be a thing of the past.

Inner section of Gobi tent
Outer fly sheet fitted to tent
I had purchased a tent from Anaconda very economically due to a
sale at the store.  We have decided to use separate tents in order to at least give us a little privacy after spending all day in the car together, and also to give us a little more room to store our bits and pieces. but before splashing out on a second tent, I needed to test the first tent to make sure it was easy to pitch and was suitable.   As the Anaconda sale finished on Christmas eve, I had to do this on a day which was a little overcast - In fact it turned into a big Queensland thunderstorm with high winds and lots of heavy rain - An
Storm testing of Gobi tent !
ideal test.   The tent was easy to pitch, but I took the trouble to paint each corner of the tent tie down points and ends of each support pole a different colour - Red, Yellow, White and Black - So that now the tent can be erected even quicker even in the dark or rain, simply by matching the colours.  Once the tent was pitched, the wind and rain started, so I left it pitched overnight to see how it fared.  In the morning the tent was not only still standing, but the groundsheet inside was completely dry - It passed the test with flying colours.  So I quickly went off to Anaconda and bought a second tent before their sale ended, and then painted the tie down corners similarly to the first tent.

Baked snapper
Feeding our magpie family
Christmas arrived, and I had a couple of days off from the car, although I started on some of the extensive paperwork.   As a digression from cars, we had a quiet Christmas at home, and decided to have seafood instead of the traditional fare, with a grilled snapper, oysters, scallops,
Murraya bushes in bloom
and a little French champagne to wash it down.  Delicious.  Then I had to feed our local magpie family ! Meanwhile the murraya bushes bloom at this time of year, and over Christmas the scent from the many bushes in our neighbourhood was almost overpowering.  A true Queensland Christmas !

3/4 vs full size
Next job was to prepare brackets for the Rally plates that need to be fixed front and back of the car - But they are SO big ! (40 cm x 22 cm)  They are just too big for our car, and either cover the spotlights or part of the radiator - They just look ridiculous on Gidget.  A bit like an elephant sitting in a small car - Just doesn't work !   I sent an enquiry to the Rally organizers and was advised that we could order 3/4 size plates, as well as vinyl stickers, and having made a mock up of a 3/4 size plate, found this a much better option.  In order to be ready when the plates are handed out in China, I am making all the support brackets now so the plates can just be bolted to the brackets in China.  Last thing we need is
NSW plate moved to left
Brackets for rally plates bolted to bumper
to be running around trying to buy or make brackets in China and having to drill holes and cut lengths of bar for support brackets.  Much easier to do it now.  We also have to fit Chinese number
plates because we are required to actually register our car in China, so I have moved the original NSW number plate over to the left, leaving the RH side for the Rally plate, andpride of place in the centre for the Chinese number plate, which should keep the authorities happy !

Where to fit washer jets ?
I then started trying to fit some electric windscreen washers that Ashton had purchased - We found dust settled on the windscreen in Alice and we need a way to wash it off quickly. The lack of space meant there are not many places where we can hang the water bag where it can be refilled easily, and doesn't get in the way of anything else - ie don't need
Washer bottle hidden in engine bay
water near electrics !  I eventually fitted it in the engine bay, way off to the side against the inside of the fender - A good location except, when I started to look at how to fit the water piping, it would mean drilling holes through the bulk head (and all the attached heat shielding) as well us up through the front shroud in front of the windscreen.   After a couple of days of thinking about this, I tried putting the bag in a place Ashton had suggested - Up high in his driver's side footwell, out of the way.  It turns out there is just enough space up there, and this will eliminate some of the holes to be drilled, as well as making it easier to access and fill, so that is where it is going.  Just got to find a way to attach it !

Original + 2 new options, plus brackets
Lastly I had to tackle the issue of the radiator overflow bottle.  We had a fairly large diameter one in there previously, but the space where that went was now completely filled by the new electric water pump.  Once again, space was an issue, and there was just nowhere where this large bottle could be attached securely - We needed a small bottle.   I looked around on line, and found some bottles that look suitable, but when I went out today, all the "drink
New washer bottle in place
bottles" which were suitable sizes were expensive / fancy / and had tops that would be difficult to adapt.  Then I visited a kitchen store - And there they had two sizes of ketchup bottles for under $2 each - Perfect !  I then cut the nozzle off one of the caps, reamed out the resulting hole slightly, and took the grommet and 90 deg bend from the original bottle and fitted it to the new one.  I then made up an alloy bracket based on the design of the original larger one, and after eventually getting the design correct, mounted it to one of the radiator support brackets.  It is tight in there, but we will make sure it all works ok over the coming weeks.

Paperwork everywhere in my office
So, we are now back on the road, and ironically, about where we wanted to be almost exactly a year ago when we said we wanted to have the car running by Christmas 2017 !! As you know from this blog, everything conspired against us, but at least now we are running.  While there are still a lot of smaller things to do to Gidget, I am now starting to look at the mounds of paperwork - Visas, International Driver's licences, first aid kits (and training courses), asbestos inspections, flights, hotels, and more.  I even had to go an buy hooks to stick on my study walls so that I can get some of the mounds of paperwork off the floor and into some kind of organisation !  I think I prefer working on the car !!

The rest of the photos are here :-   https://photos.app.goo.gl/zPF7AriCjFuCrP64A 


  1. Great progress! One thing about fuel consumption; be sure to also measure it in hills, at altitude and rally speeds (special stage stuff). We were amazed by the thirst of our Lagonda once we were getting into hilly parts ascending from Beijing. Worst we had measured in Europe was 1 liter per 5 kilometers (average), but during the rally it easily went down to 1 liter per 3 kilometers. Normally (not rallying) it would do 7 kilometers. We had 2 tanks, totaling more than 120 liters, so we were fine - sort of. Until one of the tanks got polluted by so much sand during an impromptu refill in the middle of nowhere (basically from a hole in the ground - that should have warned us!) that we had to run on 1 tank until we could clean everything. Sadly, we never came to that because of the halfshaft shearing and us retiring, but one tank would not (or barely) have given us the required range and getting rid of sand in a tank is more difficult than you think!

    Another thing; after we retired we approached the rally from Europe in a Healey 3000. The car was not prepared in anyway, but it was totally reliable, never gave any problem in the 8 years of ownership. We "broke" the front suspension of that car on a special stage in Greece because 3 of the 4 bolts came of that hold the lever-arm shock. (Never forget the feeling of the steering going binary all at once...) These were loctited bolts! One of the mechanics told us that we should have done a spanner check especially on these bolts because they have a tendency to come off. I'm sure you'll be checking these every morning!

    Maarten Hoeben

  2. Brilliant feedback Maarten - thank you so much! The whole fuel consumption/cleanliness/viability issue has been exercising our minds considerably! One thing I have just added to the packing list is a funnel with gauze filter on it to address the issue of foreign objects in petrol. We already have a water separator in-line :) And your comment on the front suspension bolts coming undone is a very valid point - we found this to be the case during our shakedown in August - I had to tighten them every night. That is on the daily maintenance schedule! Thanks again Maarten.


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