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

Monday, 25 February 2019

0081 Gidget goes to Sydney

26th February 2019
Pack the boot, fix leaking axle seals, and lots of paperwork.

94 DAYS TO GO !!
But only 27 days till Gidget goes to China !!

Harry Hickling's great story
Yes, today marks just 4 weeks to go until Gidget goes on the ship to China !! It has been over 2 years since our first entry on this blog, but the countdown is now almost in single digits.  Woohooo! Simultaneously the "To Do" list just seems to get longer and longer, and the stress levels increase as well !  "What have we forgotten ?"   "What major items still need to be done ?"  "Have we got all the
spares we might need ?".   To top it off, when down at Ashton's in Sydney last weekend, he gave me a book by Harry Hickling, who successfully drove a 1938 MG SA to a Bronze Medal finish on the 2007 Peking to Paris, which celebrated the Centenary of the original event in 1907.  This is probably the most enjoyable P2P book of the many I have read, but I found it also the most daunting since it graphically details some of the
Ashton having fun !
breakdowns and effects of the never-ending pounding the cars will get when driving on the endless corrugations across the Gobi Desert and Russia.  Cracked chassis (twice); bumpers just falling off as the metal fatigued; cam followers actually splitting in two inside the engine; head gaskets failing; carburettor fuel bowl bolt strips the thread due to the endless corrugations !!  As the adventure draws ever closer, my mind is equally split between the excitement of participating, and the dawning realisation of the enormity of this awesome project that Ashton is allowing me to share with him.  "Onwards, ever onwards", as someone once said.

Endless playing in the boot...
I spent a lot of time this last 2 weeks sorting out spare parts, and trying different packing methods in the boot.  Our trip to Alice Springs last August was a miserable failure in this regard, with bags and tools freely flying round the boot before we had even gone a couple of kilometres on the bush tracks.  So we have been refining our process, and a major, and unexpected, step forward was the installation of the roll bar, and in particular the long rear braces that run right down the sides of the boot.   These have not only provided secure mounting points for heavy tools like the jack and the wheel hammer, but also give us strong tie down points for our cross-straps over all the bags.  Nevertheless, it is a case of constant and time consuming trial and error, trying different shaped bags, different locations for everything in the boot, and different (and more secure ways) of tying everything down so it stays where it is put !    It is an ongoing process........

Dean collecting brake shoe samples
A point of major discussion recently has been the issue of asbestos parts used on older cars, and the crackdown by Australian Border Force.  The ban on asbestos importation on cars has been in force for over 10 years, but only recently has it been enforced - When I brought my Lotus back from Alaska in 2012, and my Toyota back from its round-the-world trip in 2016, the legislation was in place, but not strictly enforced.   But now is a different story, and there have been horror stories about cars (even Australian registered cars returning) being refused entry into Australia unless samples of clutches, brake pads, upholstry, and more are taken and checked for asbestos - And this obviously
Don't take too much off !!
requires a great deal of time and money by the owner.  We KNOW there is no asbestos in Gidget, because she has been stripped right back to a bare chassis, and every potential asbestos containing part has been accompanied by a letter or MSDS from the supplier stating that it is asbestos free.  However, if the ABF guy on duty on the day Gidget returns to Aus decides he wants a check, he can do so - It is only a 50:50 chance, but still a chance.  So the solution is to have a check down first by a certified asbestos inspector - Simple, but still time consuming and expensive.  Some people have had to drive their cars to Sydney or Melbourne to get checks completed !  We, with the help of our shipping agent, Austorient,  eventually found someone in Brisbane, and after we booked time on the hoist at Classic Car Clinic, he came down and took samples of brake pads, an identical clutch to our current one that we carry as a spare (which saved a LOT of time !), and also off all the modern ceramic heat shielding we have around the engine bay and the exhaust.   Together with all our documentation and photos of the rebuild, this Certificate will hopefully be sufficient to enable a smooth re-entry for Gidget back into Australia in August.   We will find out......!!

Tow truck with turntable !
Just as an aside, while doing this inspection, a tow truck arrived with a helilift Jeep on the back for repairs - But it was the truck that was of interest !  His flatbad tray could not only slide backwards, but could also rotate 90 degrees on its turntable, allowing cars to be loaded and unloaded in tight spaces.  What a machine !!

On the 14th February, it was not only Valentine's Day, but also my wife's 70th birthday !   Due to the increasing commercialisation of the day, we usually celebrate it on any day except the 14th, as it is impossible to get a restaurant booking !   This was fortunate because a busy weekend was planned, and Ashton actually flew up for the weekend to help finalise some of the stuff on Gidget, and also to attend a Healey Club outing on the Friday, which would be the first time she has been out on a club run.

On go the door numbers
I had been saving this job for Ashton, and in the morning, as the car owner, he had the enjoyment of affixing our Peking to Paris number roundels on the doors.   We then went off to Classic Car Clinic so we could put the car on the hoist and Ashton could see some of the issues under the car, while the skid plate is still off.  After discussions with mechainc Steve about a number of items, we then set off to Tweed Heads to meet up with the Healey boys, and had a very pleasant Fish and Chip lunch with everyone beside the Tweed River.  Lots of discussions with everyone about the
Almost finished
technical aspects of Gidget - And it was also pointed out that the boot hinges on a Healey 100 are handed, and we had ours on the wrong way round !!   Whoops !!

Friday afternoon and most of Saturday were spent sorting out spare parts, agreeing what we needed and what we didn't need to take, shopping for tools, and then loading these into the canvas bags that we had ordered some time ago and try to store them all securely in the boot.   This sounds a very simple operation, but it is so much time consuming trial and error, but in the end, we got everything fairly well sorted.

Investigating bolts for rear dampers
We also agreed that some of the items that still need attention would be better done by Ashton's man in Sydney, Garth, so I agreed to drive Gidget down on Friday 22nd Feb.  One major item we had found was that the (new) main engine mount rubbers were already delaminating from their metal side plates !  This is totally unacceptable, but is inline with the delaminating of the rubber exhaust mounts that I detailed in the last post.   We are carrying 2 spare engine mounts, but on finding out from the Healey boys that this delamination is not an uncommon experience on the modern repro parts, we decided we could do a better job ourselves.  So we drilled 2 holes through each plate into the rubber, and then inserted large self tapping screws so that IF these units also delaminated, at least the rubber would be held in place and could not fall out, which of course would be catastrophic.  We also found that once the car is all together, it is extremely difficult to access the rear shock absorber mount bolts, just due to lack of space - And checking and tightening these bolts will be an almost nightly service task. We are therefore taking up the suggestion of a US based Healey owner that we fit allen head bolts (or similar) instead of regular bolts, making them easier to tighten up.   These and a few other jobs, and a general check of the car by Garth will give us another pair of expert eyes looking over our work - Always a good thing.

Replacing rear axle seal
When we had the asbestos inspection at Classic Car Clinic, we had of pull off a rear brake drum so we could access the brake shoes, and on doing so we found two major problems - Firstly there was evidence of a leaking axle seal, and also the rear brake cylinder was leaking - Again !!   Basically this is once again all down the poor quality of many of these reproduction parts - And unfortunately we were stymied because whether you buy parts from Melbourne, England or USA, they are usually all made by the same people !!  I think there is room in the market place for someone to just make some decent parts !!  Anyway, we had order new axle seals from the Healey Factory in Melbourne, and as soon as they arrived I had Steve fit the LH unit because I didn't want to risk driving to Sydney with a leaking seal.  I also received two new brake cylinders from the UK, but these will be taken down to Sydney for fitting there.

We have also been dealing with a lot of Rally and shipping paperwork, one of which is the
"Supercheap" store in Beijing !
comprehensive packing list of what is in the car - And what is NOT allowed to be shipped in the car.  Aerosols and and flammable items are the main no-no's, and as we can't take these on the plane when we fly to China either, we are searching for a "SuperCheap" equivalent in Beijing !!  With the help of other competitors, I think we have found it !!   But one of the items we carry is tyre - gunk, the stuff you squirt into your tyre to fix a puncture.  Yes I know this is "nasty stuff", but it can be useful when it is raining and blowing in the Gobi, but it normally comes
Non-aerosol "Slime"
in aerosols so we cannot ship it.  Then I found some that is actually squeezed into the tyre manually, so it can be carried !   We are also allowed to ship small quantities of engine, gearbox oils etc, as long as they are in "new and unopened containers", so I have been buys buying small quantites of these to take.  Help - The boot space seems to be getting smaller and smaller !!     In Alice Springs, our oils were one thing that did not want to stay in place, but I seem to have found a solution ! 
Foam to hold everything in place
They are in a foam "box" that I have made which clots into the rear boot side-well, and then each bottle / can is covered with a good old Aussie beer cooler sleeve, in order to prevent the individual bottles abrading against each other and then leaking (that makes a horrible mess in a boot!!).  Finally I have cut some large sheets of soft foam to shape so they fit over the tops of the bottles, and, held in laterally by the roll bar rear stay (again!), that holds the bottles in place from every direction.  We shall find out of it works when we are in Mongolia !!

Tow strap on front bumper
The new tow strap was taking up space in the boot, so we have wrapped it around the front bumper, and that is how it will travel - Ready for instant use if required !  It might get a bit muddy on the road, but at least it freed up a little space in the boot !

"Rally time" on the dashboard
"Rally time" is vitally important for us during the event, with all
our potential penalties dependent upon us departing and arriving on time everywhere, to within a minute or less.   So we bought two digital clocks this week, and mounted one on the dashboard, and that will be set to official "rally time".  We have a second identical clock that is synchronised with the other, so if one should fail, we know what the time is !  BTW, "Rally Time" never changes during a day, even if you cross a time zone or a border.  Rally time will only change overnight.  

Measuring up the mesh
I have also been making up a small piece of grill mesh to go underneath the main radiator grill, where there is a gap between the front valence and the skid plate.  I have used the left overs of the same mesh we used for the radiator grill (so it matches !) and it will serve 2 purposes - 1) it will reduce the chance of any small
Mesh panel ready to fit
rocks going in over the top of the front of the undertray, and wedging in front of or under the sump, and 2) it will provide backing support for the water proof shield we will carry that will fit over the radiator grill, and cover right down to the undertray, to limit water getting in when we have to make river crossings.  We will also of course be able to turn our radiator fan off manually so it does not "suck" water through, but this shroud should limit the amount of water that actually gets into the engine bay and potentially all the electrics etc.  This will be completed when I get the car back from Sydney in a couple of weeks time.

Hope it warms up !
Happened to check the weather out along our P2P route today - We hope it warms up a bit before we get there !!   Then it was time for a quick wheel alignement down at Action Tyres & More, before I set off to Sydney on Friday morning.

What happens on Friday morning ?  Cyclone Oma decides to arrive, so as I set off at 5 am, it is raining and very windy - But hey - this is good practice, so who
Wheel alignment at Action Tyres
needs a roof on ? 😊   Basically it showered all the way to Sydney, but it really was not heavy enough to be unpleasant.  And looking at all the glum faces in their Holdens and Fords as I passed them, I knew I was the one who felt alive, and was having fun !   What a great trip down it was - Only stopping 3 times for fuel, Gidget didn't miss a beat, and was really happy just sitting between 100 and 110 kmh, with plenty still in reserve for overtaking.   Got into Sydney about 5 pm, and after a quick shower it ws off down to the pub for supper !  Feeling a lot more confident in and with Gidget with every extra kilometre we travel.

Practicing for China traffic
On the freeway
On Saturday morning Ashton and I ran Gidget over to Garth's, with me following in Ashton's mini.  Gidget looks so small on the freeway with all the trucks, but has not trouble keeping up with everyone, and looks great !  Lots of admiring glances and waves from cars we pass.  Garth has some great cars in his workshop, but all I could do was
Hope that hoist is locked !
hope that the hoist holding the Bentley over the top of Gidget would strong enough to keep it up !   And of course, Bentley's don't drip oil......Do they ?

Saturday afternoon was enjoyably spent working on Ashton's 1950 AJS motorcycle.   The intention was to start her up and ride it over to a work shop for some maintenance, however it was very reluctant to start, and we eventually took all the carby apart and found gunk in the bottom that was part of the issue.  By the time we got it running, we only got about 100 metres up the road before it stopped again, by which time it was raining quite hard, so we called it quits.  Interesting for me, probably frustrating for Ashton !
Ashton playing with his AJS in the rain !

New, unopened oil etc ready for packing
Once I had flown home on Sunday evening, it was back to work - Mostly paperwork.  The packing list of the car has to include everything, plus a $ value for each item !  I had  a good packing list so we know where everything is, but adding values to everything took a while !   But managed to slowly work my way through a lot of it over the next couple of days.   I also spent time out buying all the oils and fluids we can pack in the car for shipment.  I plan to fly down and pick up Gidget on the 8th of March, and then drive her back to finish all these last items, so the more I can have ready on the shelf to put straight in, the better.

One item that has really puzzled us it the mechanical oil temp gauge that we fitted.  Knowledge of the
Yes, the new oil temp gauge works
oil temp is invaluable on long drives as it gives you an idea of how hard the engine is working, and hopefully advance notice of potential problems so one can stop before it gets too serious.   On our very first run in Gidget, over a year ago, the guage went up from its bump stop on 40 deg C to 60 deg C when we were stopped in some traffic for a while.  Luckily I took a photo of it at 60 deg, because the needle has not moved since !  The intention was always to use boiling water to check if it was working "the next time we did an oil change" - Well, we haven't done that oil change yet, and so the gauge has never been tested, and time is running out.  Despite spending a small fotune with them on engine parts over the past
Coming in to land at Coolangatta
couple of years, the Healey supplier in the UK who sold us the (Smiths) gauge refused to send us a replacement unit unless we paid cash in advance, so rather than give them more money, I found a place in Sydney, Namiss Gauge & Control, who were only too keen to help, and sent up a new unit. overnight   As soon as it arrived, I got the saucepan full of water and lit the gas, and watched as the gauge slowly crept up to almost 100 deg C.   So this one works !  We will be doing our final oil change just before the car ships out, and will fit this new gauge then.  I will then do the boiling water test on the current unit, and assuming it isn't working, will send it back to the UK for a refund then.    Yet another example of brand new parts just not being up to scratch !!  Grrrrrr.   The amount of extra time and work that these non-functional parts have made for us means that if we could have bought better quality (and probably more expensive) parts that worked in the first place, it would have been a lot cheaper and easier in the long run.

Stuff on the bench for loading
The next two weeks are going to be spent mostly on paperwork, on getting Andrew to finish the spare
wheel mounting for the boot, and then getting everything in or on the car before taking it up to the Brisbane Docks on the 27th March.    Plenty to do, then !

Rest of the pics are here :-  https://photos.app.goo.gl/YadqnKHwAhKAQ4ex6


  1. Not long to go now guys . Love your number 77 Sunset Strip .

  2. I follow your preparation with great attention and look forward to seeing you in Russia in Altai!

  3. Thank you all for your comments and support - We both really appreciate them. Please keep them coming because once we hit the road we are really going to need all the support we can get to keep us going ! Giles & Ashton.

  4. Great photos on your website, Nikolai - Make sure you come and find us ! Dhaval, I think we might be needing a rest rather than going sightseeing in Paris when we arrive, but we will keep those locations in mind !


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