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

Saturday, 16 March 2019

0082 Gidget comes back from Sydney

16th March 2019
Tidying up lots of loose ends.

77 days to go
But only 11 before Gidget goes on the ship !

Packages arrive from around the world
While Gidget is down in Sydney, there is still a lot going on to keep the whole project moving forwards smoothly - A bit like ducks paddling furiously underwater while on the surface they just appear to keep moving along smoothly !    Ashton has had to apply for Vehicle Import Approval so Gidget can come back into Australia after Paris, while Giles is trying to get 101 things done or lined up so that when Gidget gets back to Queensland from Sydney all the final touches can be added smoothly, hopefully leaving a week free before we have to deliver her to Brisbane docks on the 27th March. More and more parcels seem to be arriving in the mail - On one day alone, 4 parcels arrived with parts or spares for Gidget !  Fortunately they are all very low cost items, but important nevertheless.

Plan for embroidery on clothng
Using an open car, and hopefully on the trip, apart from torrential day-long downpours, we will be able to keep the roof off, correct clothing choice will be much more critical for us than for people in closed cars with heaters !  Additionally we have a lot less space than virtually everyone except Anton Gonnissen on the Contal (See here  Contal MotorTri), so what few clothes we carry also have to be fast drying so we can wash them overnight whenever
Our embroidered patch
possible. As a result, we have carefully chosen waterproof outers, and warm inner layers, but none of them are the more generic official ERA "merchandise" which carry the P2P logo.  We have therefore decided to get our outer clothing embroidered with not only the P2P logo, but also our names and our car type.  Once again this is something I have never arranged before, so after spending some time looking at the options, we decided on local specialist EmbroidMe.  We are currently trying to get our clothing sorted out so we can deliver it to them for embrodering - The cost is in the set up and artwork, so once that is paid for, individual items are quite cheap to have embroidered.

Also trying to get our stickers finalized. Apart from the place names of the route that we plan to put on the rear fenders, we also have some small P2P stickers that we will also be able to give away en route.  Craig has been really busy recently so I paid him a quick visit this week to make sure everything will be finished by the time Gidget gets back to Queensland on the 9th March.   He assured me that everything was in hand.

It was the same situation with Andrew who is making the mounting base for the spare tyre on the boot.  Several visits to his workshop to make sure he also will be ready by the 11th March, because he will only have 1-2 days to fit the rack AND to spray paint the front fenders which are currently just in grey primer.  It all has to run like clockwork once Gidget gets back to Queensland.

Spinner spanner kit
One of the items to arrive in the mail this week was a "spinner spanner", received from Sarto Rocheleau in California.  He calls it a "knockoff spinner tool", but we find "spinner spanner" more descriptive and catchy !  Most cars would only take their wheels
Spinner spanner outside
off once or twice a year, so using a hammer to remove and tighten the spinners is acdeptable.  But accidents do happen, like the hammer slipping with spokes being hit and bent, or the frequent hammering eventually causing a potential problem with wheel bearings etc, and if we are going to take the wheels off almost every night in order to service and grease the car, the potential for accidents increases exponentially, and that is before we take into
Spinner spanner protective inside
account our tiredness or bad weather.  As a result, and after much deliberation, we decided the prudent path would be to invest in a special spanner which, when combined with a metre long breaker bar, will allow us to safely loosen and tighten our wheels on a daily basis.   Sarto has made these for a while, (Ashton has one for his 3 eared Elan wheel spinners), and he was able to provide us with one very quickly.  As you can see from the photos, this is a beautifullly made tool, fully lined with PTFE (?) so it protects the spinner.  It also comes with a small rubber chock to prevent the wheel spinning, as well as a bag to keep everything in.  A metre long breaker bar will provide us with enough torque to tighten the spinner, and this willl be easily anchored in the boot against one of the rear stays of the roll bar.   Unfortunately with the car currently in Sydney, my garage is empty and I have no wheel to experiment on !!  So more on our spinner spanner later !

ERA support vehicles
Yes another item that made everything even more "imminent" for us was a posting from ERA (the event organisers, Endurance Rally Association) with a photo of their 16 Toyota Hi-Lux support trucks that are are about to be shipped from the UK.........In their own words :-

"With just 92 (sic) days until the 110 Intrepid Competitors embark on the 2019 Peking to Paris rally, preparations are now reaching an advanced stage. This includes those in the massed ranks of the ERA support team, who yesterday, under the watchful eyes of Competition Director Guy Woodcock, loaded the 16 Toyota Hi-Lux trucks that will keep pace with the competitors for the duration of the event, to be shipped out to the start.    The list of vehicles
Mechanical support trucks
included nine support trucks, two dedicated medical vehicles and five mechanical assistance trucks, who along with their crews will be doing everything they can to keep the competitors safe, maintained and moving in the right direction on the arduous 9000 mile, 36 day long endurance adventure.   Big thanks must go to Maulden Garage Ltd and Owen Turner – Complete Rally Services, for doing such a wonderful job in preparing the vehicles for the task ahead."  Unquote.     

I think we are going to become VERY familiar with those red Toyotas as they follow us every day half way across the world! 

Australian AH Magazine
Qld on-line AH Magazine

The Australian Austin-Healey magazine, through their editor Patrick Quinn, have been running a regular series of articles detailing the rebuild of Gidget over the past 2 years.  This month saw the next installment in the recent 4th Q 2018 issue, while the Austin-Healey Owners Club of Queensland on-line magazine (titled "Healey Torque") also came out this week - And Ashton and I, along with Gidget, found ourselves on the front cover !  There was also a report by Editor Alwyn Keepence about the Club's lunchtime Fish and Chip run which we had attended while Ashton
was up here a couple of weeks ago, which included some thoughts about our participation in the P2P.  I should add that Club President Neil Tregea and his committee have very kindly agreed to donate funds to our 2 chosen charities, Beyond Blue and Cancer Council, so we will be carrying the Club logo on Gidget to show their support.  On behalf of our chosen Charities, our big thanks to the Club for their kind generosity.  


What I started with - Name tag clips !

When driving to Sydney last week, one issue that came to light was the frequency of times that my hat nearly blew off in the high winds, or when passing big trucks.  Time lost stopping to pick up errant hats is not something we plan to include on the P2P, so I set about looking for hat "ropes" that we could use.   I have often seen tourists using such devices, just a short string with a clip on each end, so I imagined they would be available to buy off the shelf from adventure clothing or fishing stores.   Wrong !!  No one had anything like it - So it was time to make them myself.  I search for suitable clips in hardward stores everywhere, but everything was too big.  Next I looked as small alligator clips in electrical stores, but they were a bit too long too.   Eventually I hit on the solution -
Finished hat tether
the small clips that are used on the back of conference i.d. badges !   A quick check on the internet showed that Office Works had them, so off I went, finding them in aisle 3.  While there, I also picked up a stylus because if you use your finger on the small screen Garmin GPS we have, it leads to all sorts of errors due to the size of my finger !   Once home, I found that I could easily remove the safety pin, drill out the small rivet that holds the clip to the badge holder, and with some suitable cord knotted into the same hole the rivet came out of, a perfect hat "ropes" for each of us, with a spare just in case !!   Problem solved ! (Stop press - After doing all this, Ashton later told me he has some and they are available from ship's chandlers like Whitworths !!   Never thought of trying them !)

Crumpled stickers mailed from UK

Our replacement 3/4 size P2P stickers also arrived from ERA today.  The original metal plates are just too big for Gidget as they cover half the radiator, so while we were anticipating that ERA would provide us with some 3/4 size metal plates once we got to Beijing, I ordered these decal versions while I was at the brieifing in England at the end of last year.   Unfortunately they put them in a non-stiffened envelope so they arrived here pretty scrumpled up - Hopefully they will go on to the car ok. But then I realised that, unlike our personalised metal plates that have our car number (77) on them, these are just generic stickers for everyone, so they don't have the car number on there.  This has subsequently been fixed by having some 3/4 size stickers made locally, so we will be OK !

New small canvas bags

During the Alice Springs event last August, and throughout our trial packing,  we have found that tools and spares packed into small canvas bags and then labelled as to contents are a very effective way to handle the storage issue.  Big tool boxes (or even small ones !) just aren't practical in Gidget, either space wise or weight wise, but these small bags can be stored within a larger canvas bag for storage, and just the bag required for the task in hand can be removed.  Having bought 10 of these small bags on eBay from China, we found we needed another 5, and these arrived this week - At about $1 each including delivery, they are also cost effective !!

Axle & lock nut from Healey Factory

We also managed to get some axle spares from the Healey Factory this week - Our normal UK supplier had none in stock, but the Melbourne Healey Factory still had some (ironically supplied by our usual UK supplier !) and they arrived up her promptly.  Stuart at the Healey Factory has been most helpful over the past months, digging up hard to find parts for us, and being very understanding when I ordered incorrect parts which had to be susequently returned.  Thanks guys - Refreshingly good service in today's automated and impersonal world.  Garth Selig in Sydney (who has been working on Gidget) also used Healey Factory, and they immediately knew the car and helped him accordingly. 

Ashton & Garth "thinking"

While the plan had been for Garth to go through the brakes (again), double check the timing, and also to install new engine mounts to replace those that had delaminated, during the first week Garth felt there was a "clutch issue", and we quickly agreed that it needed to be addressed, even though we had put a new clutch in there during the rebuild.  However this meant that half the interior had to be removed, and the engine supported and moved forwards, in order to get to the gearbox and clutch.  On closer inspection, it turned out that the throwout bearing was the issue - It was NOT new and was disintegrating.  In discussions with CCC it turned out that after I had just bought (in my ignorance) the clutch plate and not a full "kit", they had decided the existing unit was good and to leave it in.  Obviously in hindsight this was a case of saving $50 but in the end costing a lot more, but at least now Garth has managed to sort it out and we now have a good clutch system.  The down side was that this work delayed us by another week, and it was the 15th March before the car was ready and I was able to fly down to bring her back to Queensland.

Gidget on the dyno

When I flew down, Ashton and I went straight out to Garth's Repair & Restoration Services business in Wetherill Park, and he had the car on the dyno at Forza Performance, just round the corner.  He worked on a number of options during the runs - No oil in carby dashpots, thicker engine oil, thinner ATF fluid, comparing all parameters during each run.  We eventually settled on ATF fluid being best option.  He was also checking timing settings, as well as all other engine parameters to make sure all was working well.  We eventually left
Leaving Forza
Forza at about 7 pm, but Gidget hadn't finished with us yet.   While driving to Garth's place to drop him off (Ashton in Gidget and Garth and I in Ashton's mini), I suddenly noticed Ashton drop back - Oh no, what was the problem ?   It turned out Gidget had boiled, which really had me stumped because the one thing she has done consistently is keep her cool, never running over about 190 deg F.  Fortunately there was an off-ramp and a gas station not far away, and we limped in to search for the problem.  It turned out that the 10 amp fuse for the water pump had blown, thus the pump had stopped pumping, and she had overheated.  On checking the specs of the Davies Craig water pump on the internet, it turned out that the max draw of the pump is 10 amps, and we can only presume that a 10 amp fuse in inadequate.   In the meantime, since I had most of our P2P spares in the boot, I was able to quickly locate our fuses so we could be on our way again.   Gidget always seems to want to have the last word..............😏

After a quick (and delicious) take-away supper, and a few hours sleep, I was up early in order to head out before too much traffic.  And with the forecast for very heavy rain the entire trip, I was not overly excited about the drive, and we had the roof up and the passenger sidescreen in place, although I left the drivers screen out so I had a bit of air.   Suffice it to say, no pics because I was too busy, but while for the first 2 hours it was mostly just gentle rain, for about 5 or 6 hours in the middle it was TORRENTIAL - The kind of rain where you can see little, everyone is driving at about 10 kmh, and some cars are pulling over to the side with their emergency flashers on.  Add to this the brilliant (not) 1954 windscreen wipers on Gidget, and the inside of the windscreen fogging up, and it was certainly a good "baptism" for Gidget (we haven't really driven her in the rain very much).  I was busy checking for the sources of leaks etc, but was pleasantly surprised to find few.  Sure, it does dribble in a little, but I think most of it is coming in underneath the bottoms of our illfitting doors, and just blowing into the floor of the car.  The only other major source was that where the wire for the Monit gps unit comes under the windscreen rubber water was blowing in the tiny gap there, and this was then dribbling down into the car.  But, Gidget didn't miss a beat, the water pump fuse didn't blow again, and I arrived home almost exactly 11 hours after leaving Ashton's.  I only stopped 3 times briefly for fuel, and found the seat quite comfortable (fortunately !), and we managed 11 - 12 l/100 kms.  This would give us a range on full tanks of about 650 kms on good roads, and about 450 kms if we were only getting 18 l/100 kms, which should be OK.

Once home, after a quick supper and sleep, I was out in the garage and working !!!

Rest of the pics are here :-  https://photos.app.goo.gl/ECE7ovfv6WCBwPQu6

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