Rileys Through The Red Centre Stories from a long drive North
The Contributors’ Stories Pat & Mike Osborne Jane Miller Annette & Chris Kinney Roslyn Walker Margaret, Peter & Edward Leppard Karin & Bill Riley Eddie Smith & Alan Kirby Jo & Paul Baée Mal Lorimer Ann Flynn & Neil Patrick Bev Wilson & David Thomson Pam Harding & Phil Soden Ralph Thomas Anne & Rob Russo Ann & Roger Gillbanks Georgie Bennett & Rowland Palmer Jan & Geoff Trezise & Barbara Parker Jenny & Bob Frean John Lambie Janelle King & Warwick Mainwaring
Riley 9 1928 Roadster Riley 9 1929 Monaco Modern Riley BMC 4/68 Sedan Riley 9 1929 Roadster Modern Riley Kestrel 1937 Big 4 Riley 9 Panel Van Riley RMB 1949 Saloon Modern Riley 9 1929 Tourer Riley RMC 1949 Roadster Hitchhiker Riley RMC 1949 Roadster Riley RMB 1949 Saloon Riley RME 1954 Saloon Riley RME 1953 Saloon Riley RMD 1950 Drophead Modern Modern
Other Riley folk who made the trip were: Beth & Phil Evans Mary & Keith Harris Wendy & Chris Gilbert Kay & Richard Creed Robyn Creed & Matthew Jones
Vic NSW SA NSW SA NZ UK NSW Qld NSW SA NSW RSA Vic WA WA Vic WA WA NSW
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The Back Story It was Phil Evans who sowed the seed of an idea that there should be a celebration for the 80th Anniversary of the Peter Antill crossing of Australia from Fremantle to Sydney and, after the event, he even took it upon himself and his purse to design and produce a car badge for each of the participants. Brian Graham took up the challenge and made the “re-enactment” a reality. Amidst all the euphoria of arriving into Sydney in our 1929 Red Devil together with sixteen other Riley Nines, I suddenly thought ....how nice it might be to travel from Adelaide to Darwin in warmer weather with time to stop, soak up Australia as a tourist, and enjoy a Riley good ride. I mentioned this to a number of Victorians who, triumphant in their “west to east accomplishment” immediately put up their hands. Brian Graham again set about researching route, fuel stops, accommodation and setting daily travel distances for the south to north challenge. There was an opportunity for another “re-enactment” in conjunction with the 2012 Queensland national event. As things turned out, however, it seemed more logical for the south to north crossing to start immediately after the national event hosted by South Australia in 2013. Phil Evans put forward his thoughts from a Riley Nine perspective, other SA Riley members provided input and the event was promoted for all Riley owners to register. The plan this time was to allow plenty of time and flexibility to “smell the roses” along the way. The SA Club changed its planning from an Easter national event to August as the weather for the journey north should be milder at that time of year. From an initial large number of registrations, there followed many cancellations. We had lost one dear Riley 9 Victorian friend - all the more reason to enjoy every moment. 45 people in 24 vehicles left Port Augusta on Friday 9 August – ticking off bucket lists and all wanting to stay “forever young”. The scheduled route from Pt. Augusta to Darwin was about 3,400 km but many drove over 7,500 km from leaving home until arriving back. Phil Evans, possibly the biggest trail-blazer in Australia and the world in a Riley Nine was with us – but he reluctantly decided at the last minute on a LandCruiser and 1940's-style teardrop caravan. Was “Rileys Through the Red Centre” a success? Everyone made it their own adventure. Have a good Riley read. Beverley Wilson Organiser of Rileys Through the Red Centre For the Riley Motor Club of S.A. Inc.
Front Cover photo by Neil Patrick Back Cover photo by Anne Russo Photo on this page by Eddie Smith
This magazine was produced by Ford Avenue Productions in association with The Riley Motor Club of South Australia. The Editor-in-chief, image doctor, layout designer and caretaker can be contacted at: Ford Avenue Productions@adam.com.au If nobody answers leave a message because he’s probably just outside sweeping up the leaves.
Monday was the longest run of the trip, 488 km to Erldunda towards the end of which there seemed to be a persistent miss under load. All sorts of dire scenarios came to mind but we pressed on to get there before dark. When we got there, I found that the problem was caused by a broken spark plug lead. Easily fixed. I also found that the fan bracket had come loose. Not so easily fixed because the two nuts that needed to be tightened are extremely hard to get at. With a bit of patience and Robert Russo’s help I managed to do them up again. The next three nights were in the relative luxury of the Outback Pioneer Motel at Yulara allowing us a day for The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and a day for the Rock (Uluru) followed by the second longest drive, 454 km to Alice Springs. On the way in to Yulara the engine would occasionally pause and then recommence. This is a symptom I have encountered before and is due to the pick-up brush in the magneto getting stuck in its housing. This causes sparking between the brush and the slip ring, the build-up of carbon and consequent breakdown across the slip-ring insulator. Taking out the magneto and freeing up the brush fixed that problem. The fan was loose again so I decided to reverse the bracket so that it would be easier to tighten it properly. On arrival in Alice Springs we were advised that the Rileys had been by Mike Osborne invited to join the grand parade for Henley on Todd on Saturday. Pat and I decided to use the roadster despite the extra space and This had to be one of the outstanding highlights of the trip, comfort of the Kestrel because it had ‘form’ for this sort of thing and trundling along Todd Mall with waving and shouting crowds on both since the only state or mainland territory it had not visited since I sides. We spent most of the day at the ‘regatta’. A lot of fun was had purchased it ten years ago was the Northern Territory, this seemed by all. The following day (Sunday) we visited the Desert Park in the like a good time to complete the set. morning followed by a barbecue put on by the Motor Enthusiasts Club of Central Australia (MECCA) where ‘Overlander’ car badges After being flagged off from the farewell breakfast at the end of the rally in Port Augusta the first overnight stop for us was Glendambo were presented to those who had requested (and paid) for them. To qualify in a vintage car you needed to have driven more than 1500 where we had made our first stop after Port Augusta in the 2000 km to get to Alice Springs. We qualified easily. The barbecue rally. Nothing much had changed there in the last 13 years but the food was still good and the beer was still cold. On the way we took a replaced the originally planned dinner. detour to Woomera where there is a large outdoor exhibit of various On the Monday we resumed our Northward journey. The first point rockets and other weaponry, unfortunately we were a bit too late to of interest was the Tropic of Capricorn marker, some 30 km from see the museum. Alice Springs. Despite having driven the roadster in every state and mainland territory of Australia, I had never been North of the Tropic The next two nights were in Coober Pedy, allowing us to take a of Capricorn so we stopped and took a picture it with the marker. A conducted tour of the area on Sunday with a very knowledgeable hundred kilometres further on we came to Aileron where there are German former opal miner. One of the highlights of the tour was a visit to the underground Serbian Orthodox Church, definitely worth two enormous sculptures, one of an indigenous man placed on a hilltop overlooking the settlement and another of a woman, child and a visit if you are passing by. We also joined the rest of the group at goanna near the road. We had planned to stop at Barrow Creek the first of the planned dinners on the Sunday night. where there is a pub. On arrival we were informed that the boss was away, the cook had done the bunk and that we were unlikely to like the room on offer. The last point was an understatement. We decided to continue to Wycliffe Well where a comfortable room and a good meal were both available. This place claims to be the UFO capital of Australia, if not the world, but the only aliens we saw were green painted statues of them here and there. On the way to Tennant Creek we stopped at the Devil’s Marbles. The rock formations do indeed look like they have been dropped there from above but in fact they have formed in situ from millions of years of weathering and erosion. Tennant Creek is not a happy town, there are barred windows on the shops and metal shutters on many businesses but we were assured that the motel we stayed in was secure. We visited the Battery Hill Mining Centre which houses a very well set up minerals museum and a social history museum, both worth a visit. I also encountered a green frog in the toilet bowl at the museum; apparently a fairly common experience in these parts. Next stop was Daly Waters. The town and its pub are a few kilometres off the highway but accommodation was good and the pub specialty of Beef and Barra was excellent. The next morning we had a look at the Stuart Tree and the museum inside the old hangar on the World War 2 airstrip that is still there. On to Katherine but on the way we called into the Larrimah Hotel for some refreshment and were approached by a bearded gent who enquired if we knew about a Riley that had crossed Australia in 1929. We were able to tell him that he was looking at the very car. He then told us that there was a chap called Len who used to work for Peter Antill and used to see the car in the Antill Ranger yard in Sydney. We duly drove over to where Len was working, showed him the car and took a photo of him with it.
A View from the Antheap
This is interesting because Antill Ranger started in 1948 so if what he was saying was correct, Peter Antill still had the car after the war. We arrived in Katherine on Thursday (22nd) and met up with Chris and Annette Kinney from Adelaide for a cruise through a couple of the sections of Katherine Gorge on the Friday morning followed by a visit to Springvale Homestead and the hot spring in the afternoon. On Saturday the group was invited to a barbecue lunch with the Motor Vehicle Enthusiasts Club (MVEC) followed by their Show and Shine that afternoon and an evening meal at one of the members’ place a bit out of town. One of the notable features of the savannah woodland that covers a large proportion of Northern Australia is the termite mounds. Every so often we would come across one which had been dressed up to resemble a human or perhaps an alien. After Katherine we took a detour to Kakadu, staying three nights at Jabiru. We took a cruise on Yellow Water (Ngurrungurrudjba). This cruise was another highlight of trip, numerous crocodiles warming up in the morning sun, birds galore including a pair of jabirus (blacknecked storks) squabbling over a snake that one of them had caught. We met up with some friends from Victoria (completely by accident) who were keen to see Cahill’s Crossing and the rock paintings at Ubirr. Pat was not that keen so she spent a relaxing day mainly at the pool and the Riley had the day off whilst I went with our friends. Cahill’s Crossing is very interesting. It is on the East Alligator River and is subject to a tidal surge where, over a period of an hour or so, the flow of water over the ford reverses. Numerous crocodiles hunt fish at this time and make use of the high volume of water going over the crossing to move from one side to the other. The rock art at Ubirr was quite stunning as was the view of the wetlands and the Arnhem Land escarpment from on top of the rock. After Kakadu it was off to Darwin where we were met by the local Shannons representative some 25 km out of town. Once all of the cars were assembled we were escorted into Darwin, through the CBD and then to the old Qantas hangar where the MVEC have their Darwin clubrooms and magnificent museum. A photographer and reporter from the NT News and cameras from the local channel 9 were there to greet us. A photo of our car with us posing in it
appeared in the NT News a couple of days later. That evening we were treated to a barbecue put on by MVEC and sponsored by Shannons. Thursday was a restful day, we had lunch with Mark and Phillippa Denton from Adelaide at the very nice apartment they had borrowed from a friend. Late in the afternoon we strolled around the Mindil Beach markets and watched the sun set over the water. The final organised activities on Friday were a tour of the military museum at East Point where we saw a very impressive sound and light representation of the bombing of Darwin in the morning and a farewell dinner at the Trailer Boat Club that evening where we all wished each other safe trips home and expressed the wish to meet again in Mittagong next March. In between these two activities we joined with Chris and Annette Kinney again to visit the Aviation Heritage Museum which has an extremely interesting collection of aircraft and other items all displayed under the shadow of an enormous B52 bomber. Many of the participants started for home over the weekend but we stayed on until Monday, delivering the car to the transport people in the afternoon and flying out that evening. We arrived home just after midnight on Tuesday morning. The car arrived the following Tuesday. Apart from a few minor problems such as the magneto misfiring, the loose fan bracket mentioned previously and a problem with the speedo cable which I fixed in Alice Springs, the car performed very well. We had no flat tyres however the generator was troublesome. I was able to persuade it to produce some output some of the time but I had taken the precaution of carrying a battery charger and a long extension lead so that I could keep the battery up to scratch whether the generator worked or not. Altogether a great and memorable adventure, many thanks to the South Australian Club for making it happen.
The Antheap with the Leppards’ Nine
It was a Struggle just to get to the Start When I married Ron we had a Riley Nine five-stud tourer with no side curtains. Many of this car’s parts now adorn Stephen Figgis’s present Riley. As one did in those days I eventually became pregnant and we had to sell our Morris 1000 to buy some land to build a house.... You get the idea. Thus we had to find a very cheap car that would be reliable and keep a baby dry. We eventually found her in a deceased estate. The accidental owners wanted room for their own vehicle. After beating off the opposition by making very disparaging remarks loudly to each other, we collected four wheels, a can of petrol, a crank handle and a pump (for blowing fuel lines) then took four hours to drive to Ramsgate. Using every bit of Ron’s ingenuity and not a little time, he kept her going for nearly four years until her arthritic progress on bumpy roads caused lots of daylight between the second baby and her baby basket which tended to frighten onlookers. So we bought a second hand station wagon and spread the then CEP100 in pieces all around the garage and walls. And there she languished for many years. At intervals Ron beautified and polished the instrument panel and door sills; taught himself how to mould fabric coverings using the originals as templates; (The first fabric cracked and he had to do it all again!); true the wheels and replace spokes; collect the broken door fittings, handles and hinges and draw up sculpt new ones from brass; make up a new set of SU carbies (we could never get the zeniths to work); have a new radiator core installed at great cost; and any other small individual jobs that were feasible. In 1991 he was forced to retire from work due to ill health and proceeded to give his almost undivided attention to his truelove. (He had her photo in his wallet.) In fact I must sheepishly admit to a spot of jealousy in my relationship with the old girl. The Monaco kept on getting better and Ron enjoyed driving her so much I didn’t get much of a look in until 2002 when, sadly, I found myself the car’s third owner. In 2011 she did No1 big end on the way to Beechworth and then in 2012 she did big end No 2 on the way to Toowoomba. I stood on the side of the road near Muswellbrook and I said to her “You are NOT doing No 3 on the way to Burra next year! I am going to fix you!” So I did. Luckily I had 17 months to manage the task which included purchasing a new crankshaft from the UK in case the old one was deformed; dismantling and transporting the block to Canberra for a total refurbishment with as many replacement parts as necessary; put the head on back in Sydney with all the replacements necessary. It sounds so simple, except we are talking about an old Riley here and nothing was...
by Jane Miller
By July 2013 I had her home to drive enough to find and iron out any little niggles which of course there were. Even had her back with Paul for a while. But at last 1 August nearly dawned and Bridgid and I in the Monaco and Paul in the baker’s van set off west over the mountains in sub zero temperatures. It was then, of course I realised that old cars with new engine assemblies need running in. But not necessarily up a series of long mountain climbs and into the teeth of a howling westerly with not a single gear left to drop on some of the climbs. Eventually we staggered into Blayney (coldest town on the Western Highway) and screwed the carbies back into position before eating a hot breakfast, feeding the cars and heading into the wind again. My mpg was appalling! I nursed and cajoled her all the way through West Wyalong to Rankin Springs. The wind on the Hay Plains was ferocious until a front passed over and we made a dash for Renmark with the warmer weather, lighter wind and evening air improving performance a little. At this point I took a day off. The following morning the car was most unappreciative of her day off and flatly refused to start... One new battery later - this necessitated taking seats, carpets and floorboards off in the middle of the main street with an interested audience - we were on our way to Nuriootpa, the other Riley people and dinner. On flatter ground with little wind we went a little faster but used far too much fuel still. At the conclusion of the national rally Bridgid caught the Ghan to Adelaide and we left for Darwin. Naturally I took my binoculars and my ears and identified the odd bird on the way. Bush camps, caravan parks and picnic areas were all productive. The most often heard birds were Crested Bellbirds, Chiming Wedgebills, Red-tailed Black Cockatoos and Pied Butcherbird. As usual lately, the Masked Woodswallow far outnumbered their cousins and Budgerigars abounded. To my great delight there were Orange-footed Scrubfowl wandering the parks along the Esplanade in Darwin. Then, just behind our unit in a caravan park I discovered one of their mounds and the local birds practically wandering under our feet. A wonderful finale for our trip. But, even better, by then the Monaco’s cruising speed and consumption were both almost back to normal.
We have an inclination toward Paul’s Baker’s Van
We did it with Van and 4 x 4 by Annette Kinney
We may not have real Riley motoring stories to relate but we did have air conditioning, and we were happy that we could share some adventures and time with Riley friends. Our Landcruiser, pulling a heavy caravan, was frequently overtaken by many of the Rileys it dwarfed as well as by road trains that dwarfed us. The long distances and itinerary choices meant that several vehicles travelled alone or in very small groups for many of the long miles, so it was good to catch up with others, often unexpectedly at wayside stops and towns and also at the planned reunions. We caught up with three Nines stopped along the way on the first morning, then again in Pimba together with Russo’s Roadster and Osborne’s Riley Nine. A look at Woomera, then on to Glendambo for the first night, a mild slightly rainy night in the camp ground, our van parked among a few other grey nomads with the three Nines camping in tents nearby. From rockets aimed at the stars in Woomera to shafts deep into the ground as Riley cars and people ran around Coober Pedy for two or three days, up mullock heaps, down into dugouts and out to the Coober Pedy race meeting. From the confusion of man-made excavations and structures of Coober Pedy, the Mainwarings kindly took us out at sunset to see the peaceful beautiful colours of landscape and sky at The Breakaways. When moving through Coober Pedy (and Alice Springs, and particularly Katherine ) my frivolous observations and smugness at thinking that I was learning so much about Australia were shot down by glimpses of many very visible town residents who don’t have as many opportunities and for whom life seems to be very difficult.
Just as I was excited to see the first termite mound and the first black kite, I was excited to spot the first boab trees, such round friendly trees which tell you that you are a long way north. It was funny to watch Mike Osborne taking a photo of Pat hugging a particularly engaging boab tree at Springvale Homestead in Katherine. The boab looked down with gratitude. John McDouall Stuart had passed this way 151 years before (hence the Stuart Highway) on his third attempt to reach the north coast. The Overland Telegraph Line was completed 20 years later in 1872 and we saw old stone telegraph stations at Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Barrow Creek. WW II staging points and airfields are also a reminder of the vital importance of the north-south transport route. We were in time to see the famous Ghan train pass in front of us at a railway crossing in Katherine on its way to Darwin.
Other man-made structures have less historic significance but are memorable, like the huge statue of an aboriginal man on a hill at Aileron and the images of UFOs at Wycliff Wells, apparently the UFO Capital of At Marla we were pleased to see a the World. So much to few happy Riley travellers stopped learn, some frivolous and for lunch near a truck with 36 some more important. disgruntled camels packed into 3 Gold rushes in the trailers for their journey south. 1800’s and vast mineral Our Rig with just another Antheap deposits currently being Our caravan park in Alice Springs was quite near the motel near Heavitree Gap where we stayed on the mined. Old cattle routes and vast cattle stations. Riley rally back in 2000. Memories of watching the flood waters rising towards our motel room, the rushing torrent carrying all sorts of Just as I was saying “look at that beautiful mountain range”, many people living and travelling on the Stuart Highway were saying “hey, debris down the Todd River, the frustration back then of not being look at those lovely old cars. What are they? Rileys?” Local car clubs able to drive out to see ranges, gorges and waterholes, and isolation from half of the rally participants. It was still a lot of fun and a novel along the way welcomed us, fed us and helped us out in many ways. experience in 2000, but this time we could sight-see and watch six of the Rileys amble down Todd Mall as a special part of the really funny Water is always a drawcard. Fortunately there was none in the Todd this time, but we were drawn to waterholes and rock pools east and Henley-On-Todd parade. west of Alice Springs, waterfalls and rock pools in Litchfield National Park, the vast Katherine Gorge and the gorgeous still Yellow Water Alone in Tennant Creek, with the black kites circling, we suddenly in Kakadu. Water is prized, no more so than in Coober Pedy where spotted the Antill Riley with the Osbornes on board. Then many we understood the need to find money for the slot to have a shower. more kilometres of beautiful hills, mountain ranges, the thrill of A wallow in the hot springs at Katherine was free and very cleansing. seeing eagles, changing vegetation, occasional cattle and termite The ultimate water highlights were the Indian Ocean and the bays of mounds wearing hats and T-shirts (no, not the cattle), before Darwin. catching up to a few Riley cars at Daly Waters. We moved on to Larrimah for a quiet but amusing evening at the Pink Panther Pub and caravan park with its pink hotel and outbuildings, and collections of snakes, parrots, emus and bettongs making it just that bit more classy than Daly Waters. An elderly resident of Larrimah told Chris that he had worked for Peter Antill and remembered Peter Antill’s Riley, and fortuitously the Osbornes called into Larrimah the following day, had a chat with the old gentleman and showed him the car - wouldn’t that have made his day?
For us the adventures of Rileys Through the Red Centre brought the opportunity of a longer caravanning holiday as we extended our trip across to the Kimberleys and down the coast of W.A. together with other friends. Caught a glimpse of a Riley in Kununurra but that was all.
found this then was duct taped, and the constipated car was back on the road. At Katherine, a Two Gorge Tour had been booked with a friend, however, twentytwenty-six km on the Gorge Road the electric fuel pump decided to spit the dummy and have an attack of the tropical syndrome. Hence, the RAA was called and a Tow Truck arrived for a lift back in to Katherine. A spare fuel pump was fitted whilst waiting for the lift, however not remembering that I had also packed a full set of Whitworth spanners, the pump was duct taped up in place until spanners from WA were borrowed the following morning. Thanks to Chris Gilbert for the help. Fortunately, during this time NRMA Premium Care came to the rescue with a V8 Turbo 4WD Work Mate which was returned within 24 hours.
Journey of a Lifetime
Some of my highlights
Photo: John Lambie
Nearing Kakadu I thought we would see the Security Officers out, but we arrived at Jabiru without anything further happening. A cruise down the East Alligator River was very interesting, watching a Crocodile splashing with his catchcatch-ofof-thethe-day of a small Bullnose Shark, with a couple of birds swooping down trying to get a bite of fish without being another meal themselves. Darwin, looking over a couple of Museums, BBQ’s, and having a cruise via the RideRide-A-Croc, a short tour of the town before being splashed in to Darwin Harbour and around an hour of sightseeing, knowing that the trip back home would be starting the following day. After our good-byes in Darwin, the trip back to Katherine was returning via Adelaide River etc. Arriving in Katherine it was time to pick up the new spare fuel pump that I had ordered before heading north. As I had to wait until Monday for the garage to open I had time on my hands to have a game of Lawn Bowls, having taken mine it was the first time available for a game. I also called in to where by Roslyn Walker we had booked for the Katherine Gorge Cruise, so I managed to do The car became constipated during the holding of the Conrod that. For the return journey I stopped at Mataranka for a photo shoot in the park with Jeannie & her husband whilst L’ll Riley Trophy, and Bandit had three Riley Mechanics checking under the bonnet, replacing spark plugs, modifying the air filter and air filter’s managed to get in between them. metal cover, etc. to get it driveable again. So, with a constipated car I turned off the Barkly Highway as I had decided to call in to still coughing, sputtering and spurting at times, the journey of a Townsville, to visit Mal Lorimar and Bill Bunt – two Riley owners lifetime began with meeting up with the old and new friends made. with Bill being experienced in twin SU Carbies. Whilst waiting to book in to Rowes Bay Caravan Park, suddenly there were four male Highlights of my trip from Port Augusta to Darwin were: heads under the bonnet giving me their opinion. They were Veterans having their annual reunion. Doing the Mail Run in Coober Pedy via a 4WD bus; a 12 hour adventure through Anna Creek, the Dingo Fence, William I spent some hours with Mal, showing me how to clean the engine Creek, up to Oodnadatta and return. This also included a 90 etc. whilst he started checking different things out. Mal found what minute flight over Lake Eyre where there was very little water. Bandit was suffering from: The spark plugs fitted previously had not A visit to an Underground Church; Golf Course, with a town been gapped as required by the workshop manuals and the spark lead on No. 4 was hanging loose and sparking. The air filter was taken and mine tour. off and air compressor cleaned as it was clogged up, the breather hose Driving around Ayers Rock; was reconnected to under the air cleaner, and the metal cover was once again modified with extra nuts which has held the whole thing Alice Springs held their annual Henley-On-Todd festival, where Bandit led the Rileys after the motor bikes and marchers; also together. Bill Bunt called in late afternoon, he did a compression test on the ‘B’ Series 1620 cc where he found that it actually was a having time to attend the Sounds Of Starlight (The Didgeridoo bit more than what was required, as well he checked the SUs and Show Outback) Dinner & Show package, besides another town & found nothing wrong with them. mine tour. Bandit then found he had been relieved of his constipation, and At Daly Waters, Bandit turned off towards Katherine. Somewhere along the way I had a Claytons Flat Tyre (it was flat on made the journey from Marlborough to Bundaberg in one day. The following day’s journey was from leaving Bundaberg at 8.30 am, the bottom) and the garage could not find anything wrong with the arriving in Gunnedah for lunch. Deciding there was nothing better tyre so he put in a new tube. Also going over the grids I heard a noise and decided to stop, opened the bonnet to see if everything was to do in the afternoon, the journey ended at 6 pm in Maitland for dinner with family members, then home to bed. In all just over still in place. I found the metal cover for the air filter was missing, 10,000 kms was travelled. so the two of us went walkabout up and down the highway. Not finding anything, returning to the car & having a decent look, the Our thanks to all who helped us being On The Road Again. metal cover was found stuck at the side Page 8 of the engine. With no screw or wing nut to be
by Edward Leppard
My trip started when I flew into Alice Springs airport to join up with my Dad for the remaining leg of the journey to Darwin. Mum had done the Pt. Augusta to Alice section with him. Don’t think the airport has changed since it was built in the 50’s? Certainly got a good view of the scenery of the top end upon arrival!
A Russo photo
My Journey through the Red Centre, from Alice to Darwin
Dad was waiting at the airport, I think it must be just Rileys that can park at the pickup and drop-off point, as the federal police don’t acclimatize me to it. We only required three tire changes on the way! appreciate people parking there. Bit of a frightening experience on the way, we spotted a strange looking shape on the side of the road, as we drove closer we realized it was Luckily I wore appropriate clothing for the conditions, and being a wedge tail eagle which to our surprise did not seem bothered. Until freezing on the plane was soon out of my mind. it decided to take off right in front of the car swooping past the front Had a bit of a scenic tour of Alice Springs while trying to drive to the window filling the area with its large wing span, a shock but also a Hotel. The local car club hosted a BBQ from which the walk back to amazing experience to witness, a lesson to travellers in this area to always have your camera at the ready. the hotel gave me a more in depth view of Alice with its myriad sporting facilities for such a small population and so many Also stopped off at Katherine and visited the gorge by way of a boat shopping centers! cruise. Many photo opportunities, a truly beautiful ancient landscape. Also sighted a large cauldron of bats at sunset, could not believe how Was looking forward to hitting the road but had coach tour booked many there were, seemed to fill the sky! for Uluru. Bus trip to Uluru didn’t take as long as I expected. Visited the Olgas on the way, amazing to see the huge rocks in the middle of the flat landscape. Looked like a Martian landscape, could not believe how red the rocks are. We then headed off to Uluru after a short stop. Spent a couple of hours and was surprised at people climbing the rock against the local people’s wishes, would have done it myself if not for that, looked quite the challenge.
Next stop Darwin. The landscape was tropical though very dry. Something I didn’t expect and was due to the season. While in Darwin we participated in the Parade of cars into Darwin lead by Shannon’s escort vehicle, quite amazing to see so many Riley cars driving in convoy heading into Darwin. Very reliable cars! It was great to see that so many had made the journey unscathed.
From there we headed to the old Qantas hanger, which now through urban growth is located in the middle of a suburb, with the original runway disappearing under the development of housing. We were met by the local media who recorded the SA Riley cars arriving, which aired the following night on the news – quite a treat! While at the Qantas hanger we took the chanced to look around. After this we The following day we started off to Darwin, we stopped at many places along the way, very diverse range people encountered along the headed to lunch and you guessed it one more tire change! We also took the opportunity after the Riley events had concluded to visit way, some of whose circumstances were quite confronting. Kakadu. The driving conditions were better than I expected with the scenery changing from flat dry landscape to a more tree lined area, with ter- The whole journey was an amazing experience. The diverse mite mounds increasing in size from mid shin height to three times environments, cultural complexities and overall the opportunity of seeing a part of Australia so very different to what I am used too. the size of a man the closer we came to Darwin. The heat also seemed to increase, although the length of the journey helped
Spent a fair amount of time walking around the rock taking photos of the beautiful scenery and rock formations. Headed a bit further away from the rock to watch the sun go down in the evening.
One more tire change! Edward provides moral support to Dad Peter and Ralph.
Long Distances, Massive Meals and Great Friendships - A Kiwi View By Bill Riley What started it all Some of our family lives in Melbourne and we visit frequently. As a member of the Riley Motor Club of Victoria the possibility of a trip through to Darwin in 2013 was raised. After some months it was confirmed that such a trip would be organised in conjunction with the National Rattle of Rileys to be held in South Australia. This presented a golden opportunity for us to both experience an Australian Riley Rally and travel with like-minded people through part of Australia that we were unlikely to do by ourselves. We would have liked to do the trip in a Riley but after a lot of investigation the only realistic way turned out to be by campervan. This gave us the freedom to go at our pace within the broad timetable and not be tied to pre-booked accommodation. As it turned out, most of the Rileys stayed in camping grounds which encouraged a lot of socialising so that, by the end of the trip, we had got to know most people.
are on every Australian calendar you pick up. Colours also change depending the time of day, the angle of the sun and the mix of minerals in the soil and rocks. The highway can be black ahead and red in the rear vision mirror. Australia is a country of extremes in just about every way you look at it and that is what we found so fascinating. The Red Centre Trip, in terms of where we went and saw, has been well documented by others, but I would like to comment on a few of the things that made a lasting impression on us.
Campgrounds As we were not fully self- contained we generally stayed in camping grounds on powered sites. Campgrounds varied tremendously, from the very basic at Curtin Springs to the best at Alice Springs. Kitchens were the most variable, several without any facilities at all, some with We purchased a well- travelled campervan off Gumtree from a it all except a place to wash dishes. Most of the time French girl in Melbourne which gave us the added freedom over we used our on-board cooking facilities and the camp washing up areas. the restrictions of rental vans as we expected to drive at night and on dirt roads occasionally. Our van, a 1989 Toyota Hiace, with 366,000 km on the clock, was not hard to find in camp- Two memorable things occurred during our camping experience. In Alice, on Sunday morning, every camper grounds, being mustard yellow with flowery curtains and was was invited to a pancake breakfast on the house. totally reliable throughout the entire trip from Melbourne to Hundreds of people were fed in a most efficient manner Adelaide to Darwin to Brisbane. and what a great social event it was sharing with people from all manner of places. At Curtin Springs we experienced what it The Trip is like to sleep near a power generator going full bore all night. At first my navigator was a bit apprehensive at the long In the morning a French couple offered us their unused Uluru distances we would be travelling most days through perceived National Park passes as they were running out of time to use boring unchanging countryside. This quickly changed as we began to appreciate the uniqueness of the outback. Everything them. Then they realised that they had looked at our van in Perth at the beginning of their trip and still had photos on the is huge; long straight roads, very flat landscapes, road trains, camera to prove it. enormous natural rock formations and big animals and birds. We imagined we would see lots of snakes, camels, kangaroos, emus and other birds as we travelled but that was not the case. Sunsets and Sunrises We saw 1 dingo, 2 emus, and a few kangaroos and crocodiles in We saw many brilliant sunsets on the trip. At Uluru we saw the the wild. Australia is reputed to have millions of these animals sun rise and set on the same day. What a spectacular sight that but they have so much territory to roam in they are very seldom is. The various array of colours across the rock as the sun changes elevation is awesome. Two other sunsets were seen near roads. Kangaroos seem to like playing “chicken” at spectacular, the sun setting while on the Yellow River cruise in night and don’t always win when they take on road trains. We only saw one snake in the wild and that was dead but ended up the Kakadu National Park and at Mindil Beach in Darwin to the music of didgeridoos. wearing a large tame one at the Reptile Centre in Alice. Even the smallest of insects build big houses – Ant Hills. Meals Eating out is a must when travelling in a foreign country. We Some things took a bit of adjusting to. For instance, in the outback in some towns (communities!) there was no shortage of did not expect to find anything particularly exotic except water, others piped water for miles or built desalination plants. perhaps in Alice and Darwin but the size of the meals was real value for money. At Coober Pedy where we had the first of the There were lots of river crossings and fords but not a drop of group meals at John’s Pizzeria.The pizzas were enormous and I moisture to be seen. Obviously there is water above ground have a photo of a certain Western Australian who declared he sometimes, and lots of it. In spite of extreme water and heat could eat a large one by himself. I believe he went home with a conditions a big variety of plants grow so the landscape does change as you drive along. The Sturt Desert Pea and the wild doggy bag. We had never seen such a variety of food as was on flowers were very colourful. We were intrigued with all the wind- display at Mindil Beach. It seems Road Train drivers can mills, presumably to provide water for stock. These seem to devour enormous meals. On the way home after the trip we have become the trademark of the desert as they
stopped at Kynuna and had a mixed grill. Karin asked for a salad to go with it and the lady remarked “it will not fit on the plate”. This rang alarm bells so we settled for one between us. What came was unbelievable, 4 beef steaks,2 hogget chops, 2 sausages,2 meat balls, a fried egg all covered with potato fries and gravy. We took over half away in a doggy bag and used the meat as the base for 2 more camp meals. Cost $23!
Camel and Road Trains We knew both sorts of trains are what you see in Australia. Road Trains are plentiful but Camel Trains have gone in favour of the 53 metre, million wheel monsters. We saw our first camels in a truck rest area on the way to Glendambo on board a Road Train. We were led to believe the camels had been culled from the desert and on route to Syria (coals to Newcastle or Aussie humour!). We did see a Camel Train of sorts at Yulara The generosity of the Car Clubs in Alice Springs, Katherine where a tourist venture was providing rides between the humps. and Darwin was much appreciated as it was another opportunity They had 43 camels quietly chewing their cuds in the heat of to get to know our fellow travellers as well as see some great car the day while we had a self -guided tour of the operation. We displays. never did see any camels in the “wild”. Gorges Although Kings Canyon was not on our “official” itinerary we engineered an extra day to drive the 170 km in and out from the Lasseter Highway on the way to Alice Springs. It was well worth the trip to see the immense canyon formed by erosion over millions of years. The view from the top was well worth the hundreds of steps climbed to get there. Simpsons Gap near Alice was quite a sight in the late afternoon as the sun was going down with differing colours highlighting the gorge walls. On the walk in there was a sign warning against swimming but only a dry river bed to be seen – Australian humour we thought. The Katherine Gorge was quite different, a large river actually flowed through the gorge. We did the boat trip enabling the tourist to appreciate the majestic rock cliff formations and see some ancient Aboriginal art. Rocks Uluru and Kata Tjuta were awesome. The Devils’s Marbles and Devil’s Pebbles stopped us in our tracks to wonder how nature could come up with such landscape features. Sometimes you also wonder at what man can do to the landscape, such as the moonscape of Coober Pedy and rock tailings of the Uranium mine at Jabiru. Waterfalls and Swimming Holes There was some debate among the Red Centre Group as to whether Litchfield National Park was the better place to go to rather than Kakadu NP. We opted to go to Kakadu on the way up and Litchfield on the way home. We were glad we did see both for they are totally different. Kakadu sights included the Yellow River Cruise to see a huge array of wild life from tiny birds to huge crocodiles, mangroves to beautiful lily pads (actually a native of Thailand). At Ubirr we climbed lots of rocks to see Arnhem Land and get up close to some well-preserved Aboriginal Rock Art. To get the most out of a visit to Kakadu you need to do some 4 -wheel driving. We were fortunate to be invited to spend a day doing so with Warwick and Janelle from Sydney. We saw several isolated billabongs, Nourlangie Rock to view the wetlands, South Alligator River and Mamukala Wetlands Centre. This is serious crocodile country where our picnic lunch was had standing up on the road making sure you were not eaten for lunch yourself. We were sorry to miss the Twin Falls and the Jim Jim Falls but 70 km in and 70 km back on a dirt road was a bit too much.
Road Trains were no bother on the Stuart Highway but on secondary sealed roads there were rules to ignore at your peril. When a Road Train comes into view pull off onto the seal and stop until the monster has passed. Road Trains do not slow down or deviate from the seal. Visitor Centres and Museums On the way we managed to visit Woomera, Coober Pedy Opal Centre, Desert Park and Reptile Centres in Alice, Daly Waters Pub, Katherine Motor Enthusiasts Club, Bowah Visitor Centre near Jabiru, Qantas Hangar, Military Museum and Museum and Art Gallery in Darwin. The two museums in Darwin were particularly interesting as they were brilliant recordings of the devastation suffered during WWII and Cyclone Tracy. At the Bowah Visitor Centre we did not expect much but it was the best visitor centre we experienced on the trip, very helpful advisors, lovely café, very informative films and superb displays of stuffed wildlife and Aboriginal art. We really did not do justice to some of them as they were so extensive and our time was rationed. The Telegraph Line Before the trip I was lent a copy of the book “The Singing Line” by Alice Thomson, the great-great- daughter of Charles Todd, who with her partner, drove the original route of the telegraph line and documented all the trials and tribulations that Todd and his workers experienced to accomplish this historic linking of Australia to the rest of the World in 1872. The 3000km line took only 2 years to complete thanks to the determination of Todd. Today the Stuart Highway roughly follows this line. The line has long gone but many of the repeater stations have been restored and I found them particularly interesting having been a Telecom Engineer in my working life. Most of the towns up the Stuart Highway were named after the wives of the people involved in the building of the telegraph line. Alice Springs was named after Alice Todd, who strangely never visited Alice herself. I often found the lack of cell phone and internet service frustrating on the trip but considering the vast distances and sparse population up the centre it is a wonder they were still not using the Overland Telegraph Line given the costs of providing cell phone and internet communications.
In Summary Karin and I were very pleased we made the decision to do this trip with a group of Riley folk. We now have friends all over Australia and will certainly be striving to do a similar trip across the Nullarbor to Perth for the 2015 Riley Rally of Australia. Australia is a huge place, full of history, crammed with a diverse Litchfield NP was series of swims in glorious pools under water- range of natural wonders, unique wild life and a few Aussies. We know we only saw a small fraction of it in those three weeks falls. We visited Wangi, Lower Cascades, Florence and Buley and 4650 km. Pools and the great thing was no crocodiles to worry about. Further south we enjoyed swims at Edith Falls and Mataranka.
An Australian Adventure by Eddie Smith The adventure begins sometime in April last year. Alan had found an item in one of the Club magazines detailing the National Rattle and Red Centre tour and he suggested ‘why don’t we go on this and take one of our cars?’ I tend more towards caution, so I asked him if he’d taken leave of his senses, but I did add that it would be nice to visit Melbourne as well, as it had some nice Victorian buildings, and, particularly, a large tram system! It couldn’t be that far from there to Adelaide. After all, the map only occupies the same size page in the atlas as the UK. We didn’t really believe that… Research was carried out and it all seemed very complicated, but we decided to carry on anyway. A visit to the South Australian Riley website produced an application form and very helpful information regarding accommodation. I studied the route North on Google Earth, looking at each of the hotel locations on the route. Whilst I had anticipated travelling long distances, the realisation that there really were no other stopping points in between came as a surprise. We packed a tent and basic camping equipment in case of disaster. The entry form was filled in, flights and hotels booked and the documentation prepared for the car. The obvious choice of car was Alan’s Big Four Kestrel, as this was relatively low mileage since rebuild, and would lend itself well to the thorough cleaning required by Australian Customs. If I had subjected my RME to this nothing would have been left! The car was cleaned within an inch of its life, packed with our belongings, delivered to the UK depot in June, and we arrived in Melbourne in late July. After a week or so in Melbourne we made our way to Adelaide across the green countryside, the greenness probably enhanced by the torrential rain encountered on the way. The car suffered from persistent misfiring, which involved considerable effort trying to resolve it. The problem was not sorted out until we got to Uluru, when it was eclipsed by other troubles, as you will see…
Cloudless skies and Coopers brew. What more would you want?
The ‘Red Centre Tour’ cars were ‘flagged off’ from Port Augusta with great ceremony and a substantial breakfast. Going North from there the temperature rose noticeably and the landscape changed to scrub land, as if a switch had been thrown. An overnight stop was made at Glendambo, population 77 in 2006. It occurred to us that, with distances of 572 km. to Adelaide and 254 km. to Coober Pedy the population was actually the roadhouse and resort staff. I would not like to commute to a job there! A few days were spent in the opal capital, Coober Pedy, a hive of activity. A short run was made along the William Creek dirt road, as far as the dog fence. This run was quite sufficient, as it nearly shook the car to pieces at any sort of speed! When you consider that many of the roads we travelled must have been like this until relatively recently, one has to admire the Australian ‘spirit of adventure’. At Curtin Springs we stayed in a ‘budget room’. This comprised what looked like a tiny ‘shipping container’ with a space for two beds and a small gap in between. Comfortable and adequate, until you had to use the toilet at night. In one of these the light flickered on and off, and did not work at all in the other. We upgraded to an ensuite for the second night. We did the ‘tourist bit’ to Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Spectacular and well worth visiting, but expensive. Such were the hotel prices that we stayed in the very cheap hostel accommodation and used the ‘self cook barbecue’. It was in the shadow of Uluru that we finally solved the poor running which had been a problem since leaving Melbourne. At various times we had drained and flushed the fuel tank, fiddled with and changed the fuel pump, overhauled the ignition, tightened fittings, and finally changed the fuel pump back again because the replacement did not have a filter.
We think that the basic problems were a suction leak on the tank fitting, and a poor earth on the fuel pump.
transmission problem. It was decided that the problem was the overdrive. We drove car carefully to Stuart and Marie Gear, who we had met at one of the barbecues, and they kindly allowed us to At around the same time the transmission troubles started with the use their garage and facilities. An attempt was made to remove the occasional ‘clunk’ and noises from the three speed / overdrive overdrive and lock this out to allow us to continue. After gearbox, unique to the Big Four Riley. considerable dismantling it was felt that there was little chance of success within a reasonable time. It was decided to abandon the When I was a small boy, at least 15 years ago, I can remember attempt and reassemble the car to a rolling state to allow it to be gazing at the atlas at school, looking at a small point in the middle transported, and to hire a car to complete the journey to Darwin. of Australia – Alice Springs, and wondering what it would be like to Europcar supplied a lime green Hyundai Accent, cooler in be there, so far from home in England, and so far from everywhere temperature due to the AC, but far less ‘cool’ in character than the else in Australia. Many years later, in the 1960’s, there was a news Big Four. item on TV about a ‘Henley on Todd Regatta’, where they didn’t let a small matter like a lack of water stop them from holding a I shall conclude the story here, as the Kestrel made it most of the regatta – in, of course, Alice Springs. way, some 2500 miles. A great pity the car failed, and very disappointing, particularly for Alan, as it was his Grand Design. We arrived in Alice on the Saturday morning of the Regatta. As Just the luck of the game, though, far worse could have happened. promised on TV in my youth, there were well contrived The rest of the journey North and the meetings with the other competitions on the dry river bed, concluding with a set piece battle participants were enjoyable, but it has to be said that the South – with ‘sailing ships’ based on 4 x 4’s. The rest of the event was North run is ‘about a day or two too long’, although we did get to reminiscent of a fair in a small English town, with the hot dog see crocodiles in their natural habitat, and we weren’t eaten. On stalls etc. the plus side we stayed at the delightfully eccentric Daly Waters Pub, and, also on the plus side, avoided staying at the forbidding I think many British people get their impressions of Outback Barrow Creek! Australia from old films, and the expectation is of iron shanties and flies. Alice Springs turned out to be rather like Sutton, where I We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday in Australia, all the people we live, with all the home comforts, and where folk ‘go about their met seemed friendly, the Riley people particularly so, and very business in peace’. The bit about the flies was, unfortunately, true, similar in character to ‘our’ Riley friends in the UK. I enjoy a pint as I was pestered by them throughout the journey North to Darwin. of ale, and generally do not drink lager, so I was apprehensive about The flies did not bother Alan – he was bitten instead by every the available beer. In the event, the products of Cooper’s Adelaide variety of biting insect, so I probably got the best of the deal there. Brewery were enjoyed, particularly the Dark Stout in the large 75ml. bottles, which I understand are known as Darwin stubbies! Alan enjoyed the readily available cider. On our journeys around Alice the transmission problems finally made themselves felt. We visited Simpson’s Gap, where we were recognised from the newspaper article, Standley Chasm and Ellery Australia turned out to be everything I had imagined it to be, and more. The common heritage made us feel instantly ‘at home’. I Creek Big Hole. On leaving, the gearbox juddered again and was think the ‘common culture’ is summed up by the delightfully noisy. We decided to return home, whence the gearbox locked up eccentric ‘Henley on Todd Regatta’, the sort of thing the British and car would not move. Eventually it freed off and the car was would do in their lighter moments. turned round. The gearbox was by now very noisy, so car was limped home at 40 k.p.h (25 m.p.h) for 118Kkm (73 miles)! We must return some day. Anybody up for a trip across Australia The floor of car and gearbox cover were removed to investigate the East to West?
Photo digitally enhanced for your enjoyment
Special Warning for Riley Drivers
My Red Riley Adventure Through the Eyes of a 16 Year Old by Jo Baée Yes, that is a photo of me. The 16 year old learner, in the middle of the desert, doing chemistry study in the back of the van. Good use of space and shade, I would say! What else are Riley 9’s supposed to be used for? Nothing like the silhouette of some old mining equipment when watching a desert sundown... We were walking ‘home’ - as in to the caravan park where our tents were in Coober Pedy- from an amazing pizza catchup night. Let me tell you, pizza has never tasted so good in all my life!
Here is a my dad (Paul Baée) at the wheel of his 1929 Riley 9 van. He is the best-and-only dad of all time who lets their 16 year old daughter drive their recently built vintage car from Adelaide to Alice Springs practically straight. On the left is one of most annoying people on earth, Phil Evans who gets so much amusement from teasing me. But he is also one of the most generous and caring people on earth, who gave me a Morris Minor 1000 for my 16th birthday (including spare parts). Together, those two are great people to be around - if you like talking all day and night about Rileys and other mechanical thingimobobs! As we were leaving Port Augusta for the almighty big road trip up the red centre, dad and I were peacefully following behind Jane, and then we see this sign. One of two amazingly funny signs on this trip, for those who have a slightly warped sense of humour like me! Now. Turn left and you will arrive at Perth!! (sometime in the next couple of weeks.) Turn right and you will arrive at Darwin!! (sometime in the next couple of weeks.) Guess you wouldn’t want to accidentally turn the wrong way, in a couple of weeks you’ll end up in Perth instead of Darwin!! And for those poor folk out there in the world who have not been accustomed to the great expanses and distances of the Australian terrain, when they see that sign, they might think they’ll just get to Perth or Darwin in a few hours or so...
Ahh, desert camp. I may have been a little scared when we were sitting around the fire later that night and I could hear a pack of wolves howling in the distance. At least, for the adults, Ralph had brought a strange South African liqueur (Amarula if I remember correctly), so that’s why the adults didn’t care about the wolves that much! One night we are at the fly phenomenon. We had decided to set up camp in this cute little place off the highway in the desert. Little did we know how many flies there would be! The flies were everywhere, I’m telling you. Once the sun went down they went away, but I remember when we woke up the next morning, we couldn’t even drink any water, let alone eat breakfast, let alone breathe, because the flies were falling into everyone’s tea, and buzzing around everywhere!! So that was the quickest pack up we’ve ever had, no breakfast, just hit the road. Poor Ralph, he was not used to Aussie flies either... And here is the little tent that dad and I stayed in on the trip, and our 9 van, complete with dangerous ‘L’s and all! Although I have so say, by that time, having clocked up a good 20 hours or so, doubly clutching with a crash box didn’t seem as challenging after all!
I like to call this the shoe tree. I would have brought an extra pair of shoes on the trip just so I could put them on the tree - if I had known - just so that now I could be like, “you see that one there? That’s my shoe!” The sign is pretty interesting also, as it basically just tells you that you are here, and that anything else possibly habitable is about ten million light years away. This is when Jane got a flat tyre. Do you notice the height difference between Ralph and Jane? Luckily Ralph can fit in Jane’s car to drive, but unfortunately, as much as he tried, he was not so lucky fitting in the driver’s seat for dad’s car. Dad has been told many times that he only builds his cars to fit himself, and I guess that’s partially true! Fortunately, however, Ralph managed to fit in the passenger side so he still got to hitch a ride in dad’s car. Why hello there, I can see you little lizard! The closest I’ll ever get to feeling like royalty!! The street parade Alice Springs. And my awesomely cool coloured plane at Alice Airport there to take me back to reality, school, exams and boring stuff like that! But, before I go, I’d just like to thank everyone, (in particular my dad, Phil, Beth, Bev, David, Jane, Bridgid and Ralph) but EVERYONE for one of the bestest travelling experiences of my life!!! :) THE END OF JO’S STORY
Highlights from the Red Centre by Mal Lorimer
A Russo Photo.
Meeting together at the designated places was a marvellous idea. Getting to know people and their cars was both fascinating and often hilarious as we swapped stories and experiences - never a lack of conversation, that’s for sure!! It also made you aware of what a huge and diverse country Australia is. But, regardless of what State you come from (or what football code you follow) we can sit down with someone we’ve never met before and relax over a meal, a beer or just a ‘cuppa’ at a wayside stop and share common interests. My first night was at Woomera, having pretty-much wasted the day driving 90km out to Roxby Downs to visit the Olympic Dam Mine, only to find that tours were conducted just once a week, on a Friday morning - I got there at lunchtime on Friday!! That was very disappointing, but meeting up with some other ‘Riley-ites’ for dinner, with red wine from the Barossa Valley, made up for it. Uluru, Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Kings Canyon are quite different in their geology and spectacular scenery. I walked around each one and it was impossible not to be in awe, particularly of Uluru, its mass, changing moods and its mystique. It is easy to understand why the aboriginal people have so many dreamtime stories relating to it and so many sacred sites around its base. After all, Uluru is the source of life in that region; animals come to drink from the permanent water holes and feed on the diverse plant species that exist and survive only because ‘The Rock’ is there. The 10km walk around the base, with all the informative plaques explaining the relevance and importance of different sites, is ‘a must’, and guaranteed to create enormous respect for Uluru and its keepers. The Stuart Highway was a completely unexpected and welcome surprise. I had not given it much thought, knowing that at least it
was sealed and therefore much better than the horror stretches littered with broken and abandoned cars, caravans and trailers that I’d heard about in the ‘70’s. But to have this wide, smooth two-way strip of road in front of the bonnet all the way to Darwin was fantastic. Road trains, 4WDs with caravans or tailers, even the ‘odd’ cyclist: no problem! ‘Missy’, my RMB, loved cruising along at 90kph hour after hour - no bumps, no squeaks, no rattles! It was tempting to push the 130 kph speed limit, but with time up my sleeve and still 5,000 km to go before rolling into the carport at Townsville, why tempt fate? Why, indeed!! I had been to Kakadu NP several years ago so I opted to visit the Litchfield NP, which is altogether different, being on the edge of a sandstone plateau. Beautiful cascades and waterfalls plunging over the edge of the escarpment have carved out deep, vertical-sided gorges covered with plant species that have adapted to a wet and humid tropical environment, whereas the sparser vegetation on the plateau has to endure harsh dry conditions for most of the year. It was hot travelling (despite both ‘air-conditioners’ on the RMB being open) and several bushfires were burning out of control in the Park, so a swim in the crystal-clear waters of the Florence Falls plunge pool (having been declared free of ‘salties’, of course) was an unexpected bonus. The hospitality showed to us ‘Riley-ites’ during the Rally was unbelievable. In Alice Springs the MECCA (Motor Enthusiasts Club of Central Australia) hosted a fantastic welcome Bar-B-Q and presented those that had driven more than 3,000 km to the ‘Alice’ with an ‘Overlander’ car badge as a reminder that we were re-enacting the amazing journeys of hardship on nothing more than tracks to ‘the Alice’ back in ‘the good old days’, whereas we did it on roads that the old timers would never have thought possible. Our arrival in ‘the Alice’ coincided with the Henley on Todd Festival and we were invited to take part in the Festival’s street parade. Where else in the world would you find a city having a festival to promote something it didn’t have? Like, a river with water in it, and then organising a series of boat races? Crazy? Yep, it sure is and it happens in Alice Springs every year, in the dry season of course, and it’s a whole lot of fun.
Similarly the KMEC (Katherine Motor Enthusiasts Club) put on a Bar-B-Q for us in their newly acquired, work-in-progress clubroom/ shed. After lunch we drove to a large shady and grassed area in front of the City Council Offices for a huge Show and Shine display of cars and motor bikes sponsored by Shannons - some cars and motor bikes had driven the 340 km from Darwin to be in it. Sunglasses were essential to combat the glare from all that chrome and gleaming paint work. The biggest surprise for me on the day occurred when ‘Missy’ was awarded the ‘Best British’ trophy - that wash and bit of TLC in the morning must have been the clincher! The boat trip along the Katherine Gorge is another ‘not to be missed’ activity. Simply spectacular, with fascinating rock formations carved out by the river and fantastic scenery around every bend. Only one ‘salty’ was spotted during the two-hour trip and I was surprised to learn that crocodile numbers have been decimated as a result of the poisonous cane toads invading the water way - what an environmental disaster that introduced species has been. Darwin just blew us away!! Fifteen Rileys, five ‘moderns’ and cars from the Darwin Car Club assembled 35km out of Darwin to be escorted by a Shannons car with yellow lights flashing into Darwin and through the CBD - the lunchtime crowds loved it; waving, taking photos and enjoying the spectacle of these amazing 55-80 yearold cars that had just driven more than 3,000km to their city. The convoy continued on to the old heritage-listed Qantas Hangar, which doubles as a club room and workshop for the Darwin Car Club, to be met by TV cameras and newspaper reporters. That evening we were treated to a wonderful dinner and social evening under the stars outside the hanger, courtesy of Shannons. Darwin is a vibrant city at ‘the top end’ with plenty to see and do. The Darwin War Museum is another ‘must’. The devastation caused by the Japanese bombing was shocking, but the loss of life and the bravery shown by an unprepared, under-resourced defence force against all odds was gut-wrenching. Shamefully, most of us had no idea the bombing raids continued for two years, not just the two initial raids we hear about - such is the lack of Australian history in our schools’ curriculum!
I’m not into markets very much but the Mindil Beach market is quite something. The range of foods to eat while walking around or sitting on the beach watching a brilliant sunset, and the ‘stuff’ for sale, are unbelievable. Then, to watch some of the younger generation dancing on a sand dune, silhouetted against the evening sky all to the enchanting throb of a didgeridoo was pure magic!! The farewell dinner at the Trailer Boat Club was a mixture of relief (that we’d made it), sadness (that it was all over) and varying degrees of exhaustion. Bev Wilson (Rally Director) was thanked and applauded for attempting and pulling off such an ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable rally. There were lots of hugs, handshakes and back-slapping with wishes for a safe, trouble-free trip home, together with invitations to next year’s Riley Rally in Mittagong NSW, and rallies in New Zealand and South Africa. The next day we set off in our ‘trusty steeds’ for the 5-7 day drive back home, hopefully making the right choice of south, east or west, at Katherine or Three Ways!! For those who might be interested in some figures relating to both rallies (4-day SA Rally and the Red Centre Rally), check out the following, keeping in mind that I camped with a swag and had a single burner gas stove to boil water for tea, coffee, noodles or soup for brekkies and lunches to keep costs down, but had most dinners at a hotel or restaurant. Total distance travelled (T’ville-Nuriootpa-Port Augusta-Darwin-T’ville: Time away from home: Cost of petrol (Max price $2.26 at Kings Canyon, Av price $1.78): Engine oil used (including an oil change (5L) in Alice Springs): No. of ‘freebie’ nights with friends: No. of nights camping: No. of night’s accommodation in hotels or caravan Park cabins: Av. fuel economy for the whole trip: Total cost for the two Rallies (approx.)
10,125km 5 weeks $2,280 17 litres 4 19 12 21.3 mpg $4,400
A Russo Photo. Page 17
Tagging along in a Skoda by Neil Patrick Our “Rileys through the Red Centre” experience was enjoyed vicariously, as once again we found ourselves travelling in a modern. Whilst it was certainly a comfortable air-conditioned journey, in an automatic, with cruise control, we would have much preferred to be in a Riley – any Riley. We made a very early decision to travel with some of the Nines, and had a memorable time, for all the right reasons. Ralph Thomas had been given a suitable Riley Nine welcome at Coober Pedy Airport, and our first night was a bush camp. No prizes for guessing which car had the most difficulty negotiating some mildly uneven ground. As we travelled north, two of the group began to succumb to a nasty virus. Consequently four of us went straight to Alice Springs for medical treatment, so we didn’t make it to Uluru with the rest of our party. Ann and I subsequently spent a week in Alice, and as we had originally booked B&B accommodation, in anticipation of the side trip to Uluru, we enjoyed the last few days in relative luxury, and were able to see a lot of the area. Needless to say, we came across quite a few Rileys and encountered Alan Kirby and Eddie Smith in the Kestrel Big Four, and a photograph taken at Standley Chasm turned out to be the last one taken of the car an hour or so before the overdrive internals cried “enough”, and the car was sent back to the UK. Alan and Eddie were not to be diverted, and promptly hired a car to complete the journey to Darwin.
We headed north to catch up with the Nines. Before we reached Tennant Creek we collected part of the remains of a dead kangaroo. An approaching road train prevented any evasive action. The smell as we got out of the car at Tennant Creek was difficult to describe. After an overnight stop at Tennant Creek, we were able to relax again and travel at Nine warp speed. Katherine Gorge has gone a bit upmarket since our last visit (1991 in my RMB), and I didn’t see any goannas this time – probably a legacy of the cane toads. Ralph had been studying maps and eventually found a quiet road off the Stuart Highway. It was a relief to be free of the 130kph+ traffic and the road trains. After an off road lunch stop, we made our way to Litchfield Park. It was a new experience for us, and we spent the next couple of days relaxing and cooling off, sampling as many of the swimming holes as possible. The nights were quite smoky from a number of fires burning within the park. Aside from the amazing welcome and the associated festivities and celebrations the Riley entourage received in Darwin, for me the most enjoyable part was the journey itself. Travelling with a bunch of people determined to enjoy themselves whenever the opportunity arises can be quite addictive. I probably wasn’t alone in this as quite a few fellow travellers continued down the west coast or through Queensland and down the east coast. Since returning home I’ve been working steadily on my own Nine and hope to be Riley-propelled again in a few more months. Percy willing.
Photo: Eddie Smith .
Digitally enhanced for your viewing pleasure
A Russo Photo
That’ll keep’m out!
Religion’s gone underground
The much-travelled Red Devil was overdue for an overhaul and not planned for Darwin. Instead we were restoring a 1933 Riley Nine. Then Ralph Thomas entered for “Rileys Through the Red Centre” and Phil Evans wanted to make a Riley available for him. Phil didn't have a spare Riley ready, or a four-seater that would tow a 1940'sstyle teardrop caravan (hereafter known as Deidre) so Phil borrowed the Red Devil, changed over the engine, gearbox, rear axle and fitted a tow bar. Time was not on our side. Despite efforts, Phil conceded the Red Devil would not do what he expected of it. We conceded “Lynx 33” wouldn't be finished in time and the RMB needed too much work so a modern was the answer. With only days to go Phil phoned to say he thought we should take the Red Devil. It would go well with just two people and no caravan. Phil would take his Landcruiser and “Deidre”. We have Phil to thank for the pleasure of driving the Red Devil to Darwin and return - all up around 7500 km. Port Augusta to Darwin was full of surprises. North of Pt. Augusta the terrain became flat and "Nullarbor-like" for quite a distance. At one point along the Stuart Highway there was a long rise and an overtaking lane leading up to where it crossed over the Ghan railway line. I drove the Red Devil that day and Phil Evans was driving Jane Miller's Monaco. We camped at Glendambo that night - unpowered sites just inside of the caravan park outer fence. Early Saturday morning a vehicle was driven up alongside and the occupant asked to see the driver of the Red Devil. I was taken aback when presented with a laminated A4 photo. There was a different one for Phil. The photographer also had left Pt. Augusta the day before and was or became aware of old Rileys travelling north. He found a good photographic vantage point on the top of the rise and caught the Monaco and Red Devil in action. That day was the first of many when people photographed our Rileys. The Coober Pedy Cup just happened to coincide with our overnight stays and there was a circus in town. An event booking had been made for a big group catch-up at John's Pizza Bar. After collecting Ralph from the airport on the Monday morning, Phil gave Ralph a quick tour of the town and a chance to buy opals and souvenirs. Late that afternoon, well north of Coober Pedy, we enjoyed our first real bush camp – in a dry river bed. Ann Flynn and I had managed to catch a virus that resulted in severe continuous coughing. I am not sure how much sleep anyone camping near us got over the next few nights. Ralph came to the conclusion that we were on “dingo watch”. Drivers and passengers happily swapped and changed between Rileys and moderns. Most of the meals heading north were prepared by Beth out of Deidre's kitchen. Sitting around the bush camp fire with friends and sleeping under the stars made it a holiday not to be forgotten. Thanks to Leigh Johnson for loaning us a dongle for our notebook. If there was Telstra mobile phone coverage we could receive emails. This proved invaluable because many of the details for events in Northern Territory had not been finalised. As the emails came in I sent SMS messages to entrants' mobile phones.
The photo taken by an unknown roadside photographer
by Beverley Wilson & David Thomson Such details included a last-minute invite for our Rileys to participate in the annual Alice Springs Henley on Todd Regatta street procession. Later followed final details for Katherine and even later again, the time to meet at Sattler Airstrip 25km south of Darwin. The Northern Territory car clubs were most welcoming. I eventually understood that “Northern Territory time” is different from everywhere else. The pace is somewhat casual. We felt honoured to be invited to participate in the street procession at Alice Springs. Ralph Thomas was wearing a grin from ear to ear as a passenger in Jane's Monaco. The Red Devil literally bubbled with excitement (boiling radiator) in front of hundreds of onlookers as we drove along at a slow walking pace, but fortunately was nonetheworse for it afterwards. Several RTTRC participants (humans, not cars) made appointments to see GP's for their coughs, as the ailment had somehow spread around. Lunch with the car club was good. A member called Marie made a delicious MECCA pie and other dessert goodies. Many received their “Overlander” badges. Stuart Gear's garage started taking bookings for “pit time”. While based in Alice we did a few touristy things with a quick drive to Simpsons Gap, visited the Transport Museum and stopped at Anzac Hill the morning we left town. Barrow Creek was a place like no other. Peter and Edward Leppard had booked accommodation. Their pristine clean and neat clothes were in total contrast to the hotel and its surroundings. The hotel owner had skipped through to Bali and left two barmen who didn't know anything about bookings and suggested that no-one would want to stay there or use the toilets anyway. It seemed there was no cook, no cleaner and not much at all except for beer. So Peter and Edward drove further north in search of better facilities. As for our travelling group, we were invited to spend the night at Neutral Junction cattle station because Marita, daughter of Frank & Moira McKenzie, is the Principal of the school there. We all enjoyed great hospitality, a good Aussie barbecue meal and David and I had a comfortable bed. Ralph and Paul slept on the school library floor. Next morning David took a good look around the station, while the
A Russo photo
Talk of The Devil and ......
rest of us boarded the 4-wheel drive Mercedes school bus and went on a scenic drive to a waterhole. Rather than staying at Tennant Creek we travelled a little further north and took a dirt road toward Devil's Pebbles. About 2km off the Stuart Highway a graded inlet looked a good spot for a camp fire. We pitched tents in the adjacent low grass. It was at Daly Waters Pub caravan park that Deidre's understructure gave way. Paul went scavenging for metal reinforcements at the airstrip. Alan and Eddie caught up in a bright green modern hire car and were there reading up on WWII history. A road train fuel tanker pulled in to fill the service station underground tanks and we watched with interest as the driver finally managed to manoeuvre his monster truck back out toward the main road. Larrimah was not much further north and okay for a leisurely stop and lunch. It was at Katherine that I phoned John Palamountain (Shannons Insurance) to get the final details for Darwin. He was only 30 minutes away travelling with a large contingent of Darwin MVEC members to join us for lunch – a short trip of 300km. I grew up in Gawler, South Australia. The town was small back then and I knew a John Palamountain. Yes, that same John Palamountain moved to Darwin 22 years ago. John was involved in local Gawler car clubs so to be with Shannons Insurance was most appropriate. The NT club members are an active group with vehicles and motorbikes from all vintages. It is a very family-orientated club across all age groups. We enjoyed a one-night stay at Mataranka Springs where there is live Aussie-style entertainment every night from 6pm to 9pm. The Springs were bath-temperature warm, inviting and relaxing. Over dinner around our tents the rock wallabies came looking for a handout and a peacock proudly showed off his plumage. There was an abundance of bird-life. Ralph appeared to be absolutely rapt with the experience. Litchfield National Park was picturesque and an opportunity for a two night stay. We shared a rather luxurious cabin with Neil and Ann to avoid inhaling too much bushfire smoke. The procession into Darwin went smoothly with the Shannons vehicle leading - orange flashing roof and grille lights plus the headlights flashing alternatively on high beam as per police cars. John had obviously done this before and knows better how to herd Riley drivers than anyone I know. It was a prestigious way to drive through the main streets of the city to finally arrive at the 1934 Qantas Hangar. We thoroughly enjoyed the welcome dinner later that day, the Bombing of Darwin Museum morning tea and talk by Dr Tom Lewis, and our final dinner at the Trailer Boat Club.
Mark, Phillippa, Trevor and Helen – all happy and familiar SA faces were there to greet us in Darwin. Mark was in 'organisational' mode, having arranged for the local newspaper and television cameras to be there. We had the pleasure of enjoying a more than pleasant afternoon with Mark and Phillippa at their friends' home in Darwin. In Darwin we stayed with Shane Post – owner of Combined Communications – on his 5 acre property at Howard Springs. Shane is one of our SA Club members. His brother, Ryan fitted a “TurboTracker” in the Red Devil in Adelaide. The concept of having such a device in a car is marvellous. As a temporary installation, I suggested it could be plugged into the existing cigarette lighter attachment. Everything checked out well but, as it turned out, the tracker wasn't fully compatible. The voltage of the Red Devil fluctuated continuously and dropped excessively below 2 volts at times which far exceeded the tracker's tolerance level. Things also had a habit of vibrating loose so David re-tightened everything when we became aware of it. Albeit, via login to a website, SA Club members could see our “staggered” progress and knew when we reached Darwin. We felt privileged to stay with Shane and his family. Our trip home went well. Darwin to Adelaide took us 6 days. Beth had flown back to Adelaide so we travelled with Phil – three drivers across two vehicles, until Pimba. Phil left Pimba extra early on the last morning to be back into Adelaide in time to cast his electoral vote. We chose to vote at Woomera instead. Peter and Margaret drove home separately and did more sightseeing on the way. Both the Leppard and Thomson/Wilson SA Riley Nines performed well. Overall we only had two flat tyres. The second one could have been catastrophic. We were on the Stuart Highway heading toward Howard Springs in the left lane of the dual highway travelling at 8090kph. The front right tyre tube split without warning. It was impossible to control the steering as the Red Devil careered immediately into the right lane and then the slope down into central nature strip. David was fearful the car would roll. It was fortunate that no vehicle was in the right lane at the time. We quickly checked the underwear situation and then changed the tyre. The tube was changed back at Shane's place. With only a 22 litre fuel tank and poor fuel economy (for no apparent reason), there were a lot of fuel stops but the Red Devil coped with the distance and red dust excellently thanks to all of Phil's bits. We never stop counting our lucky stars at how many beautiful Riley friends we have and what wonderful times we have shared with them.
Now thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a road train!
A Few Snippets from my Sub-conscious by Phil Soden On the way to Coober Pedy, on the advice of locals, we set off to find the dog fence and some history. Pretty crook corrugations on the roads made various Riley screws fall out on the rough dirt tracks, but what an interesting place. And photogenic! We stayed in this motel converted from a disused mine, sharing space with the Revivalist church. 60 feet underground and there's no view. Or sound, air or light; a strange experience. It was 31 degrees yesterday but a little less today, glorious sun on masses of pink and white flowers across the desert. Lovely top down motoring but a sunburnt nose makes me look like a local. Woomera (on the way) was good to visit again. Silent, deserted in the desert, gently corroding rockets pointing at the sky, a museum filled with memories and unproven dreams. Uluru Yes, I know this is a typical tourist cliche. The locals didn't even play the didge, but we had it all. Wine to watch sunset on the Rock, then candle-lit dinner under the stars, aboriginal dancers then a talk by an astronomer on the brilliant sky. Grilled Roo, lemon myrtle chicken (I think) and lots more wine. The desert air is fragrant with this sweet spicy scent from a small white bush. Lots of tiny flowers in all colours too. I have to admit I really enjoyed Uluru. Walked round the rock this morning and also walked the Olgas, perhaps even more spectacular . Alice Springs. It's a pleasant 33 degrees and we went to Simpsons Gap, just out of Alice Springs. Time for a hike up the track to the canyon. I could see pretty black footed wallabies ahead and a couple of pools of clear water. When we were here with the Rileys in 2000 we couldn't get
through because of the floods... Desert Park was a must, wonderful setting and a real experience. The car's front was covered in yellow bug squish and inside was coated in red dust. Cleaned it later as the big Todd River regatta parade was the next day. On to Ti Tree. A couple of hundred km north of the Alice, on the way to Tennant Creek. When I left this morning it was 12 degrees; jumper, coat, gloves, two scarves and a beautiful crisp day. A couple of hours later, at Ti Tree. 34 degrees (41 in the Riley) and I'm surrounded by dogs and flies, enjoying my plunger of ground coffee and a curried egg sandwich from the roadhouse. I think it was curried emu egg. Despite the heat, Riley was fine, both coolant and oil in a comfortable range. Still, the Devils Marbles were great, stopped at Wycliffe Well for the alien encounters (really) and stopped at Tennant Creek before heading off to stay at Daly Waters. There were still 14 Rileys strung out on the Stuart highway south.... The heat and the high number of very dead cows beside the road makes this road trip interesting. And pungent. The roads are empty and really smooth - also boring after a few hours. Thank heavens I am travelling in an old car to keep me interested! I'm continuing my interest in our early explorers and detoured west to Daly Waters. The historic tree with 'S' carved in it was demolished by the locals who much prefer the historic pub (opposite the petrol station) As it was already hot, passing 37 degrees (47 in the car) it made some sense to stay there in the shady bar. The pub is a wonderful place, every inch of ceiling or walls covered in signed old caps, bras and thongs. The beer is icy and the food plentiful. You can choose beef or Barra. Or half beef, half Barra on your plate. Both done on the BBQ in the beer garden. And both cooked to order at half hour intervals. "Phil's 6.30 Barra is ready! Salads and gravy over to the left!" They had home made damper although the butter had melted in the heat so you just poured it on. On top of that, this tiny pub in the middle of nowhere puts on a nightly show with dinner. Last night was a bunch of musos who did 3 shows over 4 hours, everything from 70s and 80s to Abba, all with costume changes. And they were
flying foxes under the stars.... Barking owls in the trees too. Our host was talking food. The sort of food you'd eat at the camp drafts happening all around the district. We started with camel sausages, slow cooked with a mango and local Birdseye chilli dressing. Then croc and beef rolls and barramundi fillets. Wild, he said, although as far as I can tell most Barra is something else. Then beef and lamb cooked in the camp ovens. Not great, but what can you expect from something that tends to stew food... Oh, and lots of damper made with self raising flour and a good dash of custard powder and a bit of local cheese on top. Surprisingly good, too! Billy tea, black, one gum leaf.....With mini damper scones. He trades the sifted white ash from the fires with the lubras for local bush herbs and these flavoured the food. The aborigine women mix the ash with the very potent bush tobacco and chew it.... The drive back to the Shady Lane park where I was staying was weird. With high beam and the three big driving lights on, all I could see were wallabies.......Everywhere. Left Katherine in the morning early and spent the day exploring Litchfield National Park. Very hot, perfect for swimming through waterfalls and in crystal clear and cool waterholes. The evening was spent, or misspent, at Bachelor, a tiny town with a great pub. I avoided anything with camel in it for dinner. The pub was filled with real characters “Mate, do a burn-out in the Riley!’ who were supporting the beer industry. Funny guys, but you could see why they’d be bachelors... Darwin. A delightful city in the dry. Hot, sunny, wonderful evenings of soft warm air and wonderful cooking aromas... The waterfront in the city was lovely. Huge wave pool and Harbour to swim in and I couldn’t believe how warm the water was. The historic wharf has great food and we enjoyed fresh prawns with a choice of beers. Sat at one of the waterside tables and watched the water boil with huge yellow fin Trevally and Moonfish just below. Beach markets at Mindil Beach, outdoor deckchair movies, the fabulous museums and galleries, yacht club, all under bright blue skies. I really enjoyed Darwin! Darwin has a museum devoted to the bombings in the last war. More bombs fell here than in Pearl Harbour. We gathered at the old Qantas hanger where there were still bullet holes... It is the headquarters for the local car club who looked after us very well.
Photo: Russo Collection Digitally enhanced for your enjoyment.
remarkably good, often had the grey nomads up bopping. Back on the road early today. Breakfast at the Pink Panther pub which has a large salt water croc in the backyard along with a zoo of weird birds and wallabies and some wonderful weird characters who couldn't work out why anyone would want coffee. "Nah, machines broke, but go and have a decko at the snakes in the room behind the bar and I'll get the Missus" Yes, there were snakes in the next room. Lots of them. Mostly caged. The Stuart highway continues north and the only entertainment apart from avoiding heatstroke is admiring how the locals dress up termite nests by using old t-shirts and beanies. Strange. Starting to see some 4 trailer road trains. When they go past the other way the combined draft at over 200kph is extraordinary! I'd hate to be in a Nine... They almost lift you out of the seat with a great slam of air. And it is interesting when overtaking them. The roads are empty and straight, but it seems to take a long time and a lot of speed to get by 80 metres of truck doing 100kms... Spent a few days in Katherine waiting for other cars to catch up. It's 38 here so a gorge cruise seemed like a good idea. Three different boats were used as the Gorges are divided and you have to walk cross country between each. Didn't see them all; Stunning sunset, crocodile warning signs but only for freshies and a really interesting history from the aborigine boat driver and guide.... It was winter, and we were talking to a French couple who said it was 39 at Kakadu yesterday. Makes you really appreciate air conditioning in a modern car.... Went hiking to get a view of the beautiful Gorges and followed a local guide, a very dark young woman called Amanda. She's normally an artist but the other guide was in jail. We climbed hundreds of metres up red rock cliffs and then kilometres of tracks and saw only 2 of the 14 Gorges. And it was 43 degrees on the track, much too warm for comfort. Did you know Japan bombed Katherine in 1942? We spent this morning at the museum and local hot springs and stayed at Shady Lane caravan park. With a big cabin overlooking the pandanus and yellow kapok flowers. The huge swimming pool was calling and so were the hundreds of small wallabies all around at dusk. Cooking at Katherine. Imagine a hot, still evening. There are 400 small agile wallabies all around and a silent stream of huge
South to North Through African Eyes by Ralph Thomas
All too soon we are at the most iconic feature of the Red Centre Ayres Rock or as the accepted dual naming system operates Uluru. This has been on my bucket list for some time and it now has a tick against it. That evening leaving the rock we find a bush camp. I have a sense of humour failure about the flies, even the Aussies are complaining. Why they are there and what they live on is a mystery. The trip is arranged so that people do their own thing, but with selected stops and gathering points on the way so that there is some coordination of itineraries. One such stop is at Alice Springs, ready for the Henley-on-Todd regatta. The only regatta in the world that is cancelled if there is water in the river. This fund raising event draws entries of "boats" without bottoms that are run across the river bed and around marks. The Rileys are invited to grab a place in the procession through town, what an honour. The politicians have a field day, with an election coming up, each trying to claim the good and place blame for the bad. Here we catch up with a couple of people that we politely say have been on "Dingo Watch". They got sick in the awful weather at Port Augusta and have spent some time giving throaty vent to their coughs. A dollop of rest and some antibiotics latter and they are again accepted into the group of Rileyists.
A Russo photo
The prospect of a second crossing of the Australian continent was in the offing very soon after the successful West to East crossing in Riley 9s in 2009. This time through the Red Centre - South to North. Due to time constraints I unfortunately could not join the festivities from Adelaide to Port Augusta where the National Rattle of Rileys was held and I flew in to Coober Pedy. A reception committee awaited with most of the tiny airport car park taken up by Rileys. The town of Coober Pedy is the Opal "capital" of the world, where temperatures ensure that the mining and living is done underground in burrows. It is now on the road north, basically following the route of the telegraph line that was commissioned in 1873 between Darwin and Adelaide for a connection the London and the rest of the world. The Stuart Highway is tarred and flat, with just enough space for two Road Trains to pass. These 54m long triple trailer behemoths travel at speeds just a little faster than a Riley 9. This means that every now and then a Riley at full chat (say 60 mph) is passed by one. This gets to be an occasion, with no real side effects except soiled underwear. In the outback on our trip every little road house or watering hole has a place to camp or park a van. This has become a feature of the landscape where the "grey nomads" continually roam. Of the 21 nights in Australia I sleep under the stars or in a tent 15 nights. The real features of being "out bush". We have a group of 9s that travel at about the same speed and are happy to take the issues of punctures and minor mishaps in our stride. There are at various times 3 or 5 together. The faster post war cars can start a little later in the morning, but generally do not join us at bush camps, preferring a little more comfort.
A Russo photo
The Devils Marbles provide a wonderful lunch stop and to my mind is as impressive as Uluru. We are now entering the area where there was massive deployment of troops and aircraft during WW2. The bombing of Darwin is probably well known, but what is lesser realised is the extent and duration of the Japanese raids. We have had a tear drop caravan with us and at Daly Waters the dysselboom breaks. After finding a welding machine, some handy scrap and renovating the welder to its former glory we are on our way again to the hot springs at Mataranka, mainly for their medicinal properties.
The next arranged stop is at Katherine to meet the local MVEC (Motor Vehicle Enthusiast Club). There is a local "show and shine" followed by the hospitality that we now are getting quite used to. After dark and on the way back to our camp, I get to understand why there is the amount of road kill there is. The kangaroos do not seem to understand that in a Riley 9 the centre pedal is more "means of retardation" than actual breaks. They stand no chance with Road Trains. The Litchfield Nature reserve provides many truly Aussie sightings and backdrops. The cars are behaving and the miles fly by to our next gathering, which is the grand entrance to Darwin and the journeys end. I am given the honour or driving Jane's Monaco in, and I realise that through the generosity of fellow travellers I have driven on this trip more distance in prewar cars than most people do in a lifetime. The Qantas hanger provides the focal point for final dinner. For many this is actually the middle of the journey with cars to get back to Perth, Townsville, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Once again I bid farewell to my Aussie mates - "odd sock Evans" and Beth, Bev & Dave and the new friends - with a massive lump in my throat. Secure in the knowledge that at next years Riley Rendezvous IV (RRv4) I will have markers to repay.
Beth Evans discovers Deidre’s broken dysselboom?
Photo: Jo Baée
We gratefully accept the hospitality of the Alice Springs Motor Club for a barbeque and facilities for an oil change. Two of the cars have driven from Sydney to Adelaide prior to the event and the third is just loosening up after an engine rebuild. There is plenty to see in Alice Springs and a visit to the Telegraph Station prepares us for the stations "up the line" at Tennant Creek, Barrow Creek, Katherine River and finally at Darwin. Just outside town we cross the Tropic of Capricorn, and as we go North it gets warmer and warmer. We get news that the Kestrel Big Four "Blue Streak" from England has retired from the event with gear box problems. No worries, that gets shipped back via Melbourne and a hire car take its place as a way of completing the journey. Jo Baée has also scarpered. Nothing like a 16 year old, driving with "L" plates to keep you on your toes. Both her dad (Paul) and Jane Miller, whose cars she has been driving concede that a musical ear when determining the optimum revs when to change gear on a crash box is an advantage. The Riley 9 that Paul has built is designed to enable her to transport her harp! We turn onto the dust just north of Barrow Creek to visit a "station". Frank and Moira McKenzie's daughter, Marita is the school Principal. This is an eye opener. Not only is this blonde beauty out in the sticks, but she is getting it done at grass roots level. What can be offered to those sitting in the Ivory Towers in the Capital Cities by this cannot be underestimated. I am fortunate enough to ride shotgun when picking up the kids from the local community in the 4x4 school bus. The issues of the poverty trap are being experienced all over the world and are dealt with in different ways.
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A True Maiden Journey By Rob Russo I rejoined the Club in April 2012 as I needed to get the Roadster back on the road for our daughter's wedding in early June. The newsletter arrived shortly afterwards mentioning the prospect of a run to Darwin in 2013. Despite the fact that I've had the Roadster since 1969, very few of those years have seen the car on the road with most of them under wraps at the back of the shed, barely visible. The wedding was behind us and expressions of interest were called for the Darwin trip. Not too much had to be discussed - we were in for the adventure! In all the years that I'd had the Riley I had never travelled further than a few hundred kilometres from home so this trip was a whole new experience both for us and the car. With that decision came work on the car. The radiator was out and cleaned, a new water pump and exhaust were fitted, wiring was tidied up - which took some time! - and a thorough service and tune was done. After quite a few weeks and some long nights, I felt that I had done all that was possible at this stage to have the car ready for the trip. I had acquired all the spares I felt necessary to cover most issues and with a good supply of enthusiasm we set off for Horsham on August 2nd. The weather proved to be a bit of a challenge with rain, hail and icy winds to send us on our way. The noise proved to be a greater problem though and we were glad we remembered to grab a handful of earplugs before leaving. Undaunted - but with the hood up! - we arrived in the Barossa without a hitch and very much enjoyed meeting all the Riley folk as they arrived for the Rally. Rambling our way through the beautiful countryside with Rileys ahead and behind us along the way was great as were the communal lunches and dinners in the little country towns. Then, Friday the 9th saw us flagged off from Port Augusta and on our way to Darwin! First stop Glendambo and first night tenting. We loved it and the sense of community that was already beginning to develop. Then, north to Coober Pedy with the Roadster really enjoying the open roads as we sat comfortably on 95-100 kph. With a significant rise in temperature we also encountered our first little
issue with the car - overheating. Chris and Wendy Gilbert camped next to us in Alice Springs and Chris suggested blocking off the opening between the bottom of the radiator and the grill to force the air through the radiator. At the Motor Enthusiasts Club of Central Australia lunch I was introduced to a member whose son had a sheetmetal business. The next morning I had a plate made and fitted and the heating problem was dramatically reduced. After a great few days in Alice with a highlight being our group's participation in the Henley-on-Todd procession through the town, we headed towards Barrow Creek. On arrival, I met up with a group of nines who were having a drink and a relax before setting out to a station where Frank and Moira McKenzie's daughter is a teacher at the indigenous school. We were invited to join them, and it was there, having travelled 13 km of dirt road that I had my first and only puncture. The journey was long and hot from Alice to Katherine and the evening meal at the Daly Waters Pub along the way was a bit of welcome respite! The group met up again in Katherine and a Show and Shine put on by the local car club was a wonderful display of local cars and bikes of all makes and models. Mingling with members of the club later at dinner was also a great way to hear new stories about projects completed and in progress. The few days in Katherine were very relaxing but we were keen to make it to Darwin. Litchfield Park saw us in the midst of a bushfire which didn't seem to bother the locals as much as it did us! Helicopters were dumping water around us but despite this, we were able to still see much of the park the next day.
Our arrival into Darwin saw us escorted by Shannons from a meeting point 25km out of the city, through the CBD to the Qantas hanger, the home of the MVEC of Darwin. As was the case throughout the trip, they were very hospitable and offered the use of the workshop if needed. I took them up on this offer, as did quite a few others, and gave the Roadster an oil and filter change and a set of points in readiness for the long trip home. Some cars had already been loaded onto trains and trucks for
their return journey, but we decided that, given the fact that we had come so far without any great mishap, we would just hit the road again and head for home. Mal Lorimer, from Townsville, invited us to his place for a few days so we decided on a little detour of around 2,700km to visit him and travel home via a somewhat longer route. We left Monday morning and travelled down the Stuart Highway to Threeways and then onto the Barkly Highway towards Mt. Isa. The Roadster was running very well until about 6 km out of Julia Creek where the temperature rose very quickly. We slowly made our way into the town, found a camp for the night and began to look at the problem. On inspection, I saw that one of the studs holding the water manifold to the head had completely broken. Early the next morning, I walked the town to find a mechanic to repair the problem but to no avail. They were either too busy or not prepared to tackle the job. One mechanic, however, offered the use of his workshop and tools so with that I was able to drill out the stud and re-tap the thread. I could only find a metric bolt long enough to do the job but, three hours later, we were on the road again.
Towers, Emerald, Roma and St. George was long, very hot, a bit monotonous and the stench of the roadkill was actually quite overbearing sometimes. Despite this, we managed to clock up 600 to 650km each day and our motel room and pub meal each night were really appreciated. Our great plan was to reach Wangaratta on Thursday night, catch up with a friend for dinner and cruise home quite leisurely on Friday, arriving home just after lunch with enough time to visit family and let them know of our triumphant arrival. We certainly did get to Wang. and met up with our friend, and we did leave early next morning - in the freezing cold!! - so as to get to Yea and have brunch at a favourite place, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Marmaladesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. We did leave there, warm and well-fed and we did travel the back way through Seville to arrive at the Koo-Wee-Rup Road, Yellingbo. But there the story ends. Almost!
As we pulled onto the Koo-Wee-Rup Road, I put my foot down on the accelerator but there was no drive, no drive at all. It was quite We arrived in Townsville and had a wonderful weekend with Mal and obvious we had broken an axle - approximately 27km. from home!! his Riley friends, checking out some of the most impeccably restored The truck was called, the Roadster was loaded, we climbed into the truck and 20 minutes later we were home. Not quite the way we cars you would ever find! expected, but safely home, having had a really wonderful time and Once again, on a Monday morning, we set out on the final leg of our travelling over 10,000 km. journey, homeward bound! The route we took through Charters
Russo Popup Restaurant Open for Business
points adjusted the charging rate, instructed his apprentice on older systems and we had no further problem at least as far as Darwin, but we were still using oil. Chris and Rowland managed to borrow a ramp from a friendly garage owner for a nominal fee, over his pit we by Roger Gillbanks did an oil change for Bob and looked for my oil leak. “You do this for fun?” my friends in the club asked incredulously. There appeared to be minor leaks from “Well: yes” I replied”. “What happens when you break down?” they asked. “We try not to” I replied, but it was a good question. The real oil pressure gauge fittings and from oil filter unions these were tightened as best we could and a leak from the rear main bearing was answer is we rely on our friends, luck and other enthusiasts met on identified, but it was declared too hard to fix then and there. the way. There are some incredible people in the world of old cars. We were still losing oil so in Coober Pedy Chris and Rowland took There was a lot of interest among the Riley fraternity in WA when another look and also fixed a throttle linkage malfunction which the Red Centre rally was first suggested and at one stage there were emerged when the carburettors were removed. The trip into Uluru said to be 13 starters, but better sense prevailed and numbers came was uneventful but still we were using oil at a rate now established at down to 5, three RMs one BMC and one Pathfinder. Then Chris one litre to 200 miles. Gilbert had problems at Norseman with his Pathfinder and had to change it for his Holden. So there were four actual Rileys. Myself In Alice Springs we were greeted by the local Central Australian car and Ann in my 2½ litre , Rowland and Georgie in their 1½, Bob club with a well organised barbeque lunch and an offer from the and Jenny Frean in their 2½ drophead and the Creed family in their president Stuart Gear that we could use the pit at his private house. BMC Kestrel. Several car owners took advantage of this kind offer and the Gears’ generous hospitality. They included the owners of the Blue Streak We have driven the Nullarbor 5 times in the RMB and it becomes pre-war 2½ from UK who found their gearbox problem unfixable. boring so we took the Indian Pacific to Adelaide also bringing The oil leak from my rear main was also unfixable but it was thought Rowland’s car. He and Georgie flew, The Freans also joined us on by Rowland and I that was only part of the problem and, with the train with their car. The rail trip went off without incident and the cars were offloaded in Stuart’s help, we had made up a flexible hydraulic hose to replace the Adelaide. Bob Frean, towing a 1½ ton trailer had a tow bar problem fixed copper pipe feed to the oil filter which was still weeping despite earlier efforts. That fixed there was maybe a small improvement to and went off to have it fixed, Rowland and Georgie went off to see friends and we went on to catch up with the South Australian Rattle 1 litre for 230 miles. I decided that it was pointless doing an oil change as we were doing a progressive change as we topped up with of Rileys at Burra. The drive in the rain went off without incident except that the car was using a lot of oil. This problem had dogged us fresh oil. Since the car was running well , apart from the oil leak, we decided to ever since the engine was rebuilt in a local workshop after a big end and the rear main bearing failed on our return from the Beechworth keep going and top up daily. Oil supplies were secured in Alice and Darwin to do just that. No worries as they say. By now it was getting rally. We were able to get within 150km of home before calling for quite hot but there were no overheating problems except for the help on that occasion. Before departing for South Australia I took passengers. For them the ability to open the driver’s half windscreen the car up to Chris Gilbert for installation of a new wiring loom, was a blessing. using an exceptional amount of oil on the way. We found a serious leak at the back of the offside rocker cover due to a gasket failure. Arriving in Katherine we missed most of the display put on for us That should have fixed the problem we thought, but it did not. That after a lunch barbeque but enjoyed the gorge the next day. The car became painfully apparent on the trip up to Burra. We’ll fix it in Pt. was still running well, but on the approach to Darwin and the Augusta we said confidently, suspecting a leaking union to the oil following day the battery went flat and we were clearly not charging as filter. we should. On advice from members of the Motor Vehicles Enthusiasts Club at the Old Qantas Hangar I took the car to a local We drove on to Port Augusta but before we got there the battery auto electrician see if they could sort it out. They identified a slack charging appeared to become very erratic. We took it to a friendly auto electrician who dropped everything to have a look at it. He iden- belt as a starting point. Exactly where they went from there I am not tified the voltage regulator as the source of the problem, cleaned the sure, as they did not like customers in their workshop. We drove the car to the closing dinner in Darwin then to the hotel in preparation for leaving. The next morning we left the hotel fairly early and we had not got out of Darwin when a terrible clatter under the bonnet told me something was wrong. The water-pump pulley had come away and destroyed itself around the spindle. I removed the belts, then tried to contact people who might help on a Saturday. I eventually contacted Leo Izod at the hangar and gingerly drove the car around there with the electric fan running but no water pump, she was very hot when we arrived. Fortunately Richard Creed and his son in law were there and piled in to help. Doubly fortunately an RMB belonging to a member, Brian Bates was in the hangar. Mr Bates being away on an extended visit to Canada we were given permission to borrow the water pump and pulley (the shaft on mine having been slightly damaged by the breakdown of the pulley) and an hour or so later using my original old fan belt we were off once more intending to make Katherine and get back on schedule. But it was not to be. We started the car with the new water pump and everything seemed to be ok. The charging light went out R.M.A, R.M.B and R.O.C.K.
Fun and Failures
Adventures and Misadventures in the Red Centre
Photo digitally enhanced for your viewing pleasure
However some distance before Adelaide River the charging light started flashing. It was quite late so we decided to stay in Adelaide River rather than risk going on to Katherine in the dark and running out of battery. At Rowland’s suggestion I called the RAC and an AA man came out the next morning, Sunday, with a truck prepared to carry the car back to Darwin. I had the motor running so he asked what was the problem. I told him and he had a look at the voltage control unit which was arcing between the points causing the flashing of the ignition light. We cleaned the points (again) and adjusted them and the light went out. Fixed we thought! Wrong! Not far South of Adelaide River the flashing started again followed by a constant glow from the ignition lamp, clearly we were not charging. I had another look under the bonnet and decided to drive on to Katherine relying on the battery for sparks. With me muttering something about putting the damn thing on a truck we got there albeit with a flat battery. I rang a contact whom we had been given by Beverley Wilson of the SA Club, one Ian Locke. “Come round to my place” said Ian. So we did. We also contacted Chris Gilbert who was half an hour away. By the time Chris got there we had identified the burnt out voltage control and were wondering where we might get a new one. Chris took one look at the thing before removing it. “Its all wired up wrong” he said. But where to get a new old voltage regulator in Katherine on a Sunday, or anytime for that matter. “I know” said Ian “come with me”. So we did. 20km South of Katherine there are a group of mango farms. At one of them the owner is a bit of an old car nut like others I could mention only more so. In an adjacent paddock there were a number of wrecks of Morris Minors, Humbers and other bits and pieces. I think you might find a regulator on one of the Morrises he said, and so we did. After brushing off the spiders and half a century of accumulated dust it looked like it might work. Please take it he said brushing off an offer of compensation. So we did. Gratefully. We replaced the unit in my car making sure it was correctly wired up, all seemed ok but this time no power was coming from the dynamo. Oh dear! We must pull the dynamo out. So we did. When I overhauled the dynamo some years ago and put a new rotor in I failed to notice that the shaft diameter was much smaller than the spigot bearing on the end plate. Nevertheless it had worked perfectly well until now when the rotor had come off centre and contacted the stator. Where can we get parts of an ancient dynamo in Katherine on a Sunday afternoon or anytime for that matter. “I know” said Ian “follow me”. So we did. In a field on the outer fringe of Katherine were the piled remains of five Mark IV and Mark V Jaguars including a Drop Head which got Chris quite excited. The lady who owned this property’s late husband had been a Jaguar fan and these were the
remains of cars which he had not got around to restoring before his death.. “There are all sorts of bits in the shed” she said “help yourselves”. So we did. After cleaning the accumulated dirt dust, spiders etc. out of the Jaguar dynamo using parts of mine we made one working unit which went back into the car. Meantime the battery had been on charge. The car started sweetly and, according to the test instrument was charging steadily. Problem solved with grateful thanks to the wonderful people of Katherine. It was too late to set out for Timber Creek by then so I rang and cancelled our reservation there and booked a cabin at the local caravan park where Chris was staying. We drove straight through to Kununurra the next day with everything functioning normally, but still using oil! That should have concluded our trials and tribulations, but not quite, the battery was not holding its charge, it had been cooked when the regulator burned out. By the time we got to Halls Creek it really had to be replaced. I stopped in front of a small service workshop selling batteries. The proprietor asked me to move the car but I couldn’t start it. The girl mechanic brought out a jump starter and we got the engine up, but before I could stop her she tried to force the bonnet closed. I spent the next hour or so with primitive tools trying to straighten the hinges so I could close the bonnet! That was the last difficulty. We drove the long way back to Perth with plenty of oil and no other hiccup. The wild flowers North of Geraldton were perhaps a bit disappointing but South of there around Eneabba they were spectacular We arrived back in Perth on schedule on the 15th of September, having covered 5813 miles and consumed 1036 litres of petrol and 30 litres of oil. Soon after our return when Chris got back we took the car up to Beverly to see if he could solve the oil loss problem and do some other maintenance jobs. The engine had to be taken down and a number of faults were found with the previous rebuild, among the most serious was misalignment of the line boring for the crankshaft which was directly responsible for much of the oil loss, in addition piston rings were wrongly fitted with gaps more or less in line which would have increased consumption also. She will be back on the road soon with reconditioned motor and accessories and rebuilt steering mechanism ready for the next big trip we hope. How can you ever thank all those kind people who helped, only by kindness to others when the opportunity arises I guess. For our WA members who took the long road we had a curry lunch to celebrate everybody’s safe return. Did we all enjoy the trip? Yes!!
Extracts from My Diary August 2013 by Rowland Palmer The trip started for “Bess’ on Sunday the 4th August when she was loaded onto the train for the trip across the Nullabor Plain; some 2400km. As she had done this trip five times before we saw no reason to put her through it again!! We left on Monday by plane to be in Adelaide when the train arrived on Tuesday morning. Day 1 (18deg) We arrived at the station at 07.00 and the train was in with people moving about and the workers getting ready to unload the cars, “Bess was the 28th car loaded, so I knew we had a bit of a wait. 45 minutes to be precise. Off she came shining in the rain, yes rain and hard too. After saying our see you’s to various folk we got under way at 08:45 and had a horrible drive out of Adelaide as it was raining so hard until Port Wakefield where it cleared and we never saw rain again until we were coming down the West Coast. At Port Wakefield we stopped for coffee and then onto Port Pirie where we stopped for lunch. We stopped along the way at Port Germein to see the longest pier in the Southern Hemisphere (1½km), and then a final push to Port Augusta arriving at 15:30. Our first day was over. Clean and check “Bess”; all good. Day 2 (18deg) The others started to arrive in dribs and drabs and it was good to catch up with old friends, Bill Skully (SA) lost a spat off his RME on the way, but he was lucky and found it, a bit worse for wear though, the rest of the day was playing catch up with people.
Oldest and youngest –real Rileys
Heli of a ride
Day3 (16deg) We are all heading for a town called Quorn today for a trip on the Pichi Richi railway which travels 40km through the Pichi Richi Pass in the South Australian Outback, the best thing is it is a steam train and original passenger cars. A top day was had by all. Day4 &5 (18deg) The Rally proper starts today. We head off toward Woomera; we intend to stay there for a couple of days to look at the history of Woomera. We arrived at 14:00. I installed the car badge and helped Roger Gillbanks (WA) RMB with a jamming throttle (accelerator crank hitting a bolt head on the block) easy fix with a washer. Day6 (27deg) Leave today for Glendambo at 10:00. Stop for a coffee at Lake Hart and then onto Glendambo for our overnight stop. Not much there now, and nothing like when we stopped there in 2000. Shame, good memories though!
Photo: Geoff Trezise
Day7 &8 (22deg) Off to Coober Pedy (Opal Country). Had a really lovely drive. Meet up with “Riley 9” folk and had a bite to eat and a catch up with them. They are heading out this afternoon. We WA folk are staying for a couple of nights; the girls want to do some shopping!!!
Day 9 (28deg) On the road by 09:00 and head north on the highway. North for ever north. Stopped at Cadney Homestead for a coffee, caught up with Roger & Ann Gillbanks and then on to Marla our overnight stop. Got in at 12:30. “Bess” is running great; 50lbs oil pressure and the temperature is at 170, Perfect. Day 10 (23deg) We are off to Erldunda today, the gateway to Ayers Rock, Kings Canyon and the Olga’s. We leave at 07:00 and stop for a cuppa at 10:30 and then onto Kulgera which is the first or last pub in the Northern Territory, depending which way you are going. For us it’s the first as we are heading north. We have a bite of lunch there and then onto Erldunda arriving at 13:15, check “Bess” all good. Day 11 (29deg) We are off to Ayers Rock today about a 4½ hour drive away with stops we
are on the road by 08:15, a good steady drive and into Ayers Rock by memento of the trip. If you are ever in the N.T go to Daly Waters 12:30, check in and then head out for a look at the “Rock” very it’s well worth the visit, and of course you will see my hat among the impressive. We have booked a helicopter flight in the morning and a 100’s of others. bus trip for the afternoon tomorrow, so we will be busy. Day 20-24 (32deg) On the road by 07:30 a good drive to Mataranka Springs (we of the Day 12 (26deg) Never Never fame) a lovely place had a good look round and of The helicopter flight was great. So good to see Ayers Rock and the Olgas from a different perspective. The bus trip to the Olgas was just course a cuppa and then onto Katherine, getting hot now, but “Bess) great and then to see the sun set over Ayers Rock was amazing to see is keeping her cool. The N.T car clubs have put a BBQ on for us at their club rooms to welcome us intrepid travelers, very nice. We have the colors change as the sun went down, fantastic day!! booked a Gorge cruise for tomorrow. The cruise was great, hot on shore (35deg) but just right on the water, it got very hot on our way Day 13-16 (26 deg) back to the motel (37deg) but all ran cool. We were the last to leave On the road by 08:00 very cold so much so I had to block the Katherine so we had a good look round, not a lot to see, took a trip radiator off to get the temperature up on the engine, I kept this on until we stopped for morning tea at 10:15. When we stopped we had to Springvale Homestead est. 1878 and managed by an ex telegraph linesman, what a life. The place is still much as it was then many people come up and say what a lovely car it was and asked where we had come from. When we told them they were amazed that interesting way of life back then. a 60 year old car could do such a trip, many photos were taken. We Day 25 (34deg) got into Alice Springs at 13.30 after a good run. We are here for 3 We are off to Darwin today. We get a 07:00 start so as to beat the days and Roger Gillbanks called to say he has made contact with a gent who has a pit and workshop we can use, as Roger has an oil leak heat, had a good trip although it started to heat up “Bess” ran well. from the oil pipe fittings to the filter. This works out fine with me as We stopped a couple of times and took our time getting there; we got into Darwin at 14:15. The motel is only 7km from the centre of I want to change the oil in “Bess”. Change the oil and a check underneath. All good, then get onto Roger’s. Pull off the side panel, Darwin which is good. We went out to Stokes Hill Wharf for a coffee; it hasn’t changed since we were last there 16 years ago. Back air cleaner, carbies etc remove the oil pipes and proceed to the local into Darwin to get some oil, ready for another oil change for “Bess” Enzed shop and get them to make up flexible pipes. This done it’s Tomorrow is the official entry to Darwin of the Rileys through the put the lot on and then turn the engine over to check for oil leaks, Red Centre Rally, should be fun. NONE, put everything back on and start her up, “dry as a bone” Day 26 (33deg) Out to Sattler Airstrip an old WW2 runway by the side of the road (different). It’s very warm out there. 35deg and a lot of people are worried about over heating on the way into Darwin. It’s about 25 km into Darwin. The run into Darwin was good with many people waving and blowing their horns etc. We ended up at the old Qantas hanger which has been given to the Darwin Motor Club by the government on the proviso they keep it original, what a fantastic place and a really great museum of vintage cars, trucks, stationary engines etc, and joy it has a hoist that we can use. Tonight the Darwin club is hosting a Day 17 (26deg) dinner for us at the hanger. We all had a great dinner and lots of Caught up with Eddie and Alan and it appears they have a gearbox problem and its terminal, the Rally’s first failure. Shame it had to be photos were taken, I took one of the oldest 1928 Riley 9 and the youngest 1953 RME Riley “Bess”. What a trip and so much fun. the people from the UK. Before we set off I took them both to pick up their hire car, feel really sorry for them!! We head off and 20 Day 27 (33 deg) miles outside of Alice Springs we cross the Tropic of Capricorn, we are in the true north now, and the furthest “Bess“ or us have been on Change the oil and filter on “Bess” adjust the clutch and a general check over ready for the trip down the West Coast, but that is this side of Australia. A good drive and we stop for lunch at Dunmarra Roadhouse at 12:30, and then push on to Barrow Creek another story. Tonight is the Farewell Dinner, always sad these our stop for the night. WRONG, what a dump. The pub was ok with things or they are to me anyway, it was a great and a fitting very interesting history. We got talking to a worker there and he said farewell, we all made it to Darwin except one and that is pretty good for cars aged from 80 to 60 years old. We will always remember this not to stay there, no food and the accommodation left lots to be Rally. As I say we all got to Darwin from Adelaide with no major desired. Enough said, we now have to push on to Wycliffe Well and we don’t know if they will have any rooms free, we will find out in 2 problems a total of 2460 miles. A credit to Riley and to me the mechanic Ha Ha hours. Lucky we got the last room, it’s bunk beds but who cares. We went for a trip to the MacDonnell Ranges a really great day out called in at Simpson’s Gap, although we went there in 2000 with the Rileys we could not get to the end, due to flooding but this time was different. We also went out to Standley Chasm which again we could not see in 2000 due to the road being cut (flooded). Both were very pretty and well worth the look. We heard that Eddie and Alan were having car problems, but no one was sure what they were, they were staying in the same motel as us so we will catch up with them later.
Day 19 (29deg) We have a long drive today onto Daly Waters. It’s starting to get hotter now too. We stop at Remmer Springs for coffee and then onto Elliot for a lunch stop and fuel up. Caught up with the Gillbanks They are going to go straight to Daly Waters after this stop, ah the joys of a 2½, more speed!! We get into Daly Waters by 15:00, a good drive. I’m 69 years young today and Roger and Ann bought me a Daly Waters hat for my birthday, bless them. My Riley hat is now in the Daly Waters pub as a
Photo: Russo Collection
Day 18 (25deg) A slow day today as we are ahead of our schedule, we stop off at the Devil’s Marbles, interesting place. We then head off to Tennant Creek, stopping along the way for the usual cuppa and stretch. We arrived at Tennant Creek early and no one was at the motel reception so we went for a bite to eat and caught up with Roger and Ann. Went back to the motel and booked in. Cleaned “Bess” and cleaned the points on the voltage regulator (sticky), all good now.
Hats ’n’ Holders
a tour of the Breakaways, an ancient eroded cliffs formation, and of a former densely mined area no longer open to casual visitors because of the risk of the soil around the mineshafts collapsing. We then watched our first Central Australian sunset over drinks. That night we experienced the intense darkness of the underground. The first thing we did next morning Jan, Geoff and Barbara was to visit the underground Bush Church developed from an old mine dug into the sandstone of a hillside. The meeting rooms were surprisingly large, and the nave of the church itself by Geoff Trezise especially so. When I first heard of the suggestion that the It was already hot as we then set out on the Stuart Highway again, and after a good drive Rileys drive to Darwin I wanted to participate. We were unlikely to make the trip our- stopped at Cadney Homestead Travellers' selves, and even though it would obviously be Rest for a mid morning break. This was a typical road house except that I didn't notice easier and more comfortable to go in a modern, to do it in a loosely formed company any cabins, only a camping ground. Then began what was to be another pattern for the of Rileys seemed a great opportunity. Jan’s sister Barbara from Canberra had made many rest of the trip. Jan backed out of the thoughtfully provided visitors' carport and outback bus trips so we invited her along before she could drive forward the engine knowing that she would enjoy another. We planned to self cater for meals during the day stopped. Heat soak from the block to the and for evening meals where practicable. The close-by mechanical fuel pump was causing fuel vaporisation. Applying a wet rag soon deal was that the women would organise the cooled things down and we were on our way accommodation according to an agreed again. From then on we tried to remember schedule and I would be responsible for the Riley getting to Darwin and (by implication) to apply the wet rag upon stopping with a very hot engine. Occasionally we forgot and found keeping to the schedule without any it necessary before moving away successfully. significant hold ups. Our lunch stop further on was at Marla, We left for Darwin at about 10.30am and which was the only roadhouse we saw to have had a relatively slow drive of 173 km to Woomera. This seemed necessary because of grass and shady trees out the front. This was a strongly rising temperature gauge, caused in the only time we used our folding table and turn by a rising outside temperature and what camp stools which we carried with us! We did seemed to be a moderately strong head wind. apply the wet rag treatment upon stopping This was to be the pattern for the rest of the which lead to a trouble free drive away. Late trip. By mid morning, as temperatures rose, in the afternoon we arrived at the modern and head winds prevailed, it became necessary resort of Erldunda, gateway to Yularu, after a to drive by the temperature gauge. Woomera “good run” of 486 km with the temperature gauge nudging 210ºF much of the way. gave us the first taste of the high outdoor temperatures we would experience for the rest On Monday we drove the 200km to Alice of the trip. Springs in two and a half hours and checking in to our cabin in one of the large camping An uneventful drive of 113 km took us to Glendambo for the night, and to the first of grounds just outside Heavitree Gap (in the several roadhouses we stayed at. It was of the MacDonnell Ranges). type seen mostly between Alice Springs and Next day we took the West MacDonnell Katherine. These consisted of a hotel Ranges tour including Simpson's Gap, fronting the road with motel type rooms Standley Chasm, spectacular gaps in the behind in or beside a camping ground. range with attractive water catchments. The Ochre Pits were an earth bank of various After a little overnight rain, next morning saw us sharing the Russos' eggs for breakfast colours used by the aborigines for their at their tent. (How did they manage to pack ceremonies. so much gear into the Roadster?) The highlight for us was a ride over Glen We had taken the opportunity to book into Helen Gorge and the Finke River in a three an underground motel at Coober Pedy. This seat helicopter (two passengers behind the pilot) with no doors, although it did have seat was created by judiciously enlarging or belts. We had a wonderful view of the raised combining the old man-sized tunnels into parallel ridges of hard rock which had once regularly arranged rooms cut square by a machine. It had 20 or more rooms and was been horizontal layers and the Finke River being extended back into the hill. Occasional flowing through the gap. traces of opals were still being found. Any On Wednesday we visited the Hermannsburg otherwise irregular walls were lined with Historic Precinct and Palm Valley. The timber effect panelling. The temperature was former Lutheran mission was established in comfortable but fans were needed constantly 1877 and was significant in that it worked for air circulation. with and at times supported the aboriginal During the afternoon we looked through the community. The land was handed over to the former mine next door and communities in 1982. Palm Valley is the later that afternoon went on only site where a particular cycad is found
By RME to Darwin
and is approached by a track partly along the stony and in places rocky Finke River. The vehicle of choice is a 4WD truck chassis with a flat panelled bus body mounted separately from the cab. I would not like to have been at the back as it bumped over rocks 150 to 200mm high. Thursday saw us up early for a day at Uluru and the Olgas. We had been told by new? staff at Erldunda that the bus did not pick up or put down passengers as it went past. It did, so we spent an extra two hours travelling each way. However the trip was well worthwhile of course. You don't appreciate from the usual photos the detail at ground level; the shallow caves with their ancient drawings, the “swiss cheese” holes in some of the rocks, the waterways, and the separate mens' and womens' areas not supposed to be photographed. The Olgas/Kata Tjuta are also impressive as a collection of huge rocks formed by the cracking and erosion of the hard rock layer after the soft sandstone layer is first eroded away from above. Our sightseeing finished with a “barbeque meal with complimentary champagne” while watching the changing colours of Uluru as the sun set on its west. After what we knew would be a very long day's trip to Uluru we planned a short drive from Alice Springs to Aileron Hotel Motel, 150km away. Later in the afternoon we visited a gallery promoting the work of local aboriginal artists in part of a house next door. When I recognised the name of a highly regarded woman artist by whom he had two large works, the gallery owner said that she lived not far away on the other side of the highway. On Saturday morning, eight days out of Port Augusta and a day out of Alice Springs, we left Aileron at a reasonable hour and after 60 km passed the Ti Tree, whose nearby wells support remarkably successful desert fruit and vegetable industries. Our first stop was 90 km further on at Barrow Creek, only because the driver needed a comfort stop. An inspection of these facilities accorded with Mike and Pat’s later description of their inspection of the rooms and discouragement of the staff from staying overnight. My experience entailed returning to daylight and finding the resident of the house between the hotel and the former telegraph station inspecting our car. Most of my icecream melted to the ground as we discussed Rileys, fast trips to Alice Springs before the speed limits were introduced, and how he had either lived or worked opposite Barney Dentry’s Ampol garage and workshop on the corner of Bay Road and George Street in Sandringham. As we left I saw that he had a collection of Valiants scattered around his yard. Further on at Wycliffe Well (of aliens fame) we found that the well was now under the highway. Further on again, after a total of 250km, we stopped at our Wauchope Hotel cabin for a late lunch and a successful trial of the outdoor washing machine before driving the short distance to see the Devil’s Marbles, a smaller but possibly more spread out version of the Olgas.
Sunday saw us making the short (140km) run to the Three Ways roadhouse, stopping at Tennant Creek township and the former telegraph station on the way. In the township we visited the mining information centre before walking the main street, which told a sad story. All the businesses were boarded up for security purposes, although the few local people we saw had a Sunday look about them. The telegraph station told a different story. Although the residential and office buildings were unsurprisingly locked, all the buildings and grounds were in good condition, with the cellar freshly painted. The schedule called for a longer drive on Monday with few if any points of interest. A cool early start allowed photos through the driver's window of the sun rise and 90km in the first hour and 85 km in the second. Warming conditions meant slightly lower averages until we arrived in Daly Waters for a late lunch. After a quiet afternoon we found that the freewheeling 70’s character of the bar was turning dusty and grey, although the fresh air dining area was indeed fresher and the production line barra and/or beef was very good. Back on the highway on Tuesday it was not long before we saw the first “No petrol before Mataranka” signs. I had not liked the look of the Daly Waters hotel pumps, so careful driving ensued and we reached Mataranka safely. Filling up on arrival took just over 53 litres for 544km recorded since leaving Three Ways the previous morning – 10L/100km or 28mpg. We liked Mataranka with its wide mown main road reservation and historical figures standing across the road from the town centre. Our cabin was the best of the trip, and was a short walk from the warm Bitter
Springs where it was very pleasant to float some distance down stream on spaghetti floats. We were keen to see what indications remained of Elsey Station where Jeannie Gunn, author of “We of the Never Never” was widowed within a year in 1903. The station cemetery remains, a cairn marks the original homestead, and a replica homestead has been built nearby for the making of the film. The museum in town had an interesting collection of memorabilia illustrating the various aspects of the history of the area. On Wednesday we had a last look around before the short trip to Katherine, where a restful afternoon preceded a “swim” in another nearby warm spring fed pool, this one rock walled and well patronised. On Thursday morning the Riley responded very well to the demand for a fast early morning “running late” drive to Katherine Gorge, where we waited at least half an hour before boarding our boat. We took far too many photos of the two spectacular pools we traversed. On the way back we stopped at the museum whose centrepiece is the Gypsy Moth used by the area medical officer in the middle 1930s.We also visited the nearby Springvale Homestead, 1879, the oldest remaining homestead in the N.T. Later the Russos arrived looking strangely sunburnt but with plenty of notes to compare over dinner. We had planned to spend several days in Kakadu National Park. On Friday morning we drove the 260km to Cooinda Resort, about two thirds of the way across the Park. While in Kakadu we visited the ancient rock art galleries in their recesses in the rock faces at Ubirr and Norlangie Rock. At Ubirr we continued to the top of the escarpment over looking the vast flood plains of Arnhem Land
to the East. We took the Yellow Waters boat tour of the wetlands both morning and evening - with different guides. There we saw crocodiles of all sizes and a really impressive variety of water birds. The highlight of our time in Kakadu was the Animal Tracks tour, a traditional bush food safari. The tour bus first called at the nearby buffalo farm, the only one approved by the Aboriginal land Council and which supplied meat to the local aboriginal people. We were joined by our aboriginal guide Patsy who brought buffalo meat already cooked and a couple of magpie geese ready to be plucked. We proceeded to drive to various locations to search for or collect foods for a camp fire and fibres useful for several purposes. We first tasted/tried the pith from the top of a small palm which tasted like sugar cane. Patsy plucked from a tree a cluster of leaves which held a colony of green ants which when squashed exuded a white substance which tasted like the fruit tingles of old. She also cut about a square metre from around a paperbark tree and an armful of leafy branches from another tree, both for the camp fire. At the edge of the wetlands we dug for bush chestnuts while the tour operator/ driver plucked the geese, then closer to the water prodded the wet ground for long necked turtles. Patsy did find one – only the third for the season. Further on two campfires were lit in the usual hollows, one for damper and boiling water, the other to heat stones for the camp oven. Meanwhile Patsy prepared some sweet potatoes and yams and we had tea and damper. Then the leafy branches were laid on and hot stones, the turtle, geese, buffalo meat and vegetables and bush chestnuts were thrown on and covered with the paperbark and hot ashes and left to bake. Patsy demonstrated weaving reeds until the baked foods were ready to eat. The buffalo meat was tough, the geese tasted gamey, and the turtle tasted fishy. We left Kakadu on Tuesday to drive to Darwin. For us the most memorable venue in Darwin was the museum of the bombing of Darwin in 1942, with its evocative theatre experience. On Thursday we drove into Litchfield National Park and stopped at the extensive area of closely situated king size termite mounds just in time to hear the ranger's information session. Driving on, we and the Riley became increasingly uncomfortable in the rising temperature so we stopped at the first available pool - at Florence Falls - for a swim and lunch before returning to the pool at our motel. We finally met up with fellow Riley Centerists again that evening at Mindil Beach sunset market having missed the dinner the night before. However it was great to see everyone at the farewell dinner at the trailer sailer club on Friday night and discuss experiences.
Tail end Charlie to Darwin or ...Driver, follow those cars by Jenny and Bob Frean Looking back on a trip of almost 6000 miles in a sixty three year old car several dominant themes are recalled. Always the camaraderie and support of fellow Riley people, but also the generosity and goodwill of many people who helped us to complete and enjoy the journey. Then there was the interest of people whose paths we crossed in “seeing an old car out on the road and working”and the rugged beauty of the Australian outback as well as the engineering and exploration endeavours of pioneers past and present with a “can do” philosophy. We will remember the hospitality offered to us throughout, and of course the character, charm, and sometimes crankiness of the RM, D for “Delilah” our 1950 Riley. With less than a month to departure date preparations became interesting as the engine developed an unwelcome noise, but fortunately Riley guru Chris Gilbert offered to help so, on a Saturday morning, I trailered the car to Beverley 130 km from Perth. On start up the brand new oil cooler was destroyed presumably by excessive oil pressure on a cold morning even though revs were low. Recovering from this Chris stripped the motor to find two broken rings, a loose circlip and gudgeon, and piston slop from a mismatched piston. And yes an incorrectly assembled oil pressure relief valve! Although a Saturday and not at work, his obliging machinist at Range Engineering in Perth offered to slot us in and start machining our block on Monday morning. Another whose weekend was interrupted was Club Parts Officer Rowland who immediately started sourcing parts, some from other Riley clubs happy to help. Club member Greg Morris also helped with sourcing parts. Grateful thanks to all but especially Chris and Wendy who not only achieved miracles to get us going, but also a spare bed and good food while repairs were done. The engine was balanced, shell bearings fitted, clutch reconditioned, new oil cooler fitted, while carburettors, rear axle bearings and seals, brakes including pins, booster and electric trailer control, gearbox, radiator, battery, reversing light, and even a crank handle, had been sourced or reconditioned. With such preparation we, being my wife Jenny and I, left home in ample time for the railway departure deadline. Not so! The Riley when confident she was in the heaviest traffic started misfiring, considerably prolonging the journey but arriving just in time on three cylinders, occasionally on two. Rowland, who was also loading his car, soon had it running sweetly and we handed it over, complete with camper trailer to the “loader” whose job it was to drive it up to the top deck of the railway cars. She confessed later she was nervous as it was her first day on the job but drove our Rileys, including Rowland’s and Roger and Ann Gillbanks’ RMB, smoothly up the ramp. With the Gillbanks as company we enjoyed a pleasant train trip across the Nullarbor. Stopping at Kalgoorlie we visited the “super pit” a hole in the ground 3.5 km long, 1.5 km wide and now below sea level as it approaches 500 metres deep. The hole’s dimensions are similar but inverse to Uluru/Ayers Rock. Passing over the world’s longest section of straight railway line we arrived in Adelaide on a cold and wet Tuesday morning. I had an appointment with the makers of the camper trailer to better balance it for the Riley by moving its spare wheel from the front to the rear and also getting them to lower its attaching point. The towbar was also reinforced. Although the towbar had towed a caravan for many miles behind another Riley it had deformed on the train and scraping on every hump and hollow it
encountered that morning was a noisy experience. Again we had badly failed the test of approaching and leaving railway stations with any dignity! Intending to join the Riley Rally at Burra that evening we were forced to make straight for Port Augusta when a trailer wiring problem delayed us overnight. The goodwill towards the Riley was shown by both Adelaide businesses phoning us over the next days to see we were OK. It was again evident in Port Augusta when, with the help of locals, I found a garage operator happy to allow our WA group service their cars. They also advised who the local hydraulic man was to search for an elusive oil mist spraying from the engine area. He turned out to be President of the local car club and looked at our car after the breakfast his club had hosted on Friday for the Darwin departees. All fixed, it wasn’t the infamous oil cooler, and we left town. Now only 3000km to Darwin! We found Chris and Wendy Gilbert waiting at Woomera to direct us to our caravan site where I gave a fine display on how not to erect a tent in very windy conditions. On the road next day Jenny’s keen ear picked up a noise as we crossed one of many cattle grids. Offering to walk back to the grid after finding we had lost a hub cap, she found it so far a lift from a passing motorist was accepted. The missing hubcap was found on top of a bush along with many others. At Coober Pedy we caught up with the other Riley drivers who had been travelling, always ahead of us, like the bike racers Peloton. Our stay in Coober Pedy was brief. Conscious of the Riley Peloton now at least two days ahead we left Coober Pedy and headed north. The rear wheel bearing was running extremely hot and the frequent stops to cool it down to a low sizzle meant our position as the last Riley was entrenched. Was it the diff oil, the new bearings fitted before we left Perth or the new oversized seal? WA club members Richard, Chris and Rowland were waiting for us in Marla and the car was soon on a jack in the car park, which established that the brakes weren’t binding. An early start in the morning and with many stops and 500 km for the day we pulled into Yulara at sunset. A phone call by Richard to Peter Galvin, now back in Perth from Port Augusta suggested I back the brakes off further. A suitable mound was found allowing me to, just, fit under the car and do this. The road conditions must have been moving the brake rods just enough to periodically move the shoes onto the drum. Our neighbour in the caravan park was interested in the car as his firm replicated parts for old cars particularly Austin Sevens. This was much more to our taste than another who told us, in a foreign accent, that our car was smelly. However we remained convinced it was a fine old car. A tour to the magnificent Olgas and sunset champagne looking over Uluru was enjoyable but as we had a dinner planned at Erldunda next evening and the Peloton was probably now in Alice Springs enjoying the Henley on Todd boatrace, it was time to leave.
While parked off the road for a break next day a Chinese family, Mother Father and one child, pulled in to speak to us. On two weeks annual leave they had already been on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and were about to fly from Alice Springs to Darwin then home to China. I know Bentleys are selling well in China, will there now be a surge in Riley prices headed for China? Obtaining wooden plugs and glue in Alice Springs with Chris’s help saw the drivers “suicide door” spend more time in a properly shut condition. (No sexism, Jenny’s door was OK, and her outdoor cooking skills still appreciated.) Visiting the telegraph museum I was again impressed with the calibre of the constructors of the 19th Century. In 1872 they erected 36,000 poles in two years over the 3200km of line between Port Augusta and Darwin, without the logistical support of a railway line, or refrigeration. They followed the tracks of Scot John McDouall Stuart who had blazed the way north through this hot and dry country only eight years previously, unfortunately losing his health in the process. Chris and Wendy Gilbert took us the 126km to the old Hermannsburg mission, founded in 1877 by two German missionaries who travelled overland 2000km from the Barossa Valley. The area was home to Albert Namatjira and it was an eerie experience to see the abandoned classrooms still complete with instructions on how to correctly tin a joint and the pitch of a BSF thread. On the way back we saw the rare, but sorry, sight of a prewar Riley Kestrel Big Four limping back through the magnificent MacDonnell ranges. From Daly waters on we started to see remnants of the WW2 infrastructure. With the car now running better than the driver, we missed dinner at Katherine with the Peloton but enjoyed the tour of the Katherine Gorge. We had the distinction of being breathalysed at 10am in a town with a total of two shops, and as the only car on the road being stopped at a red light on a remote side track between Hayes Creek and Adelaide River. Our CB radio allowed us to reply to truck drivers as they discussed the Riley with many apologising and promising to wash their mouths out after mistaking it for a Jaguar. One was knowledgeable, picking it for a 1949 Riley, but conversations, although colourful, were short as the closing speeds meant we were soon out of range. Back at Devils Marbles we were offered assistance if we required help after arriving in Darwin. No doubt like others in the group many we spoke to had in their past a fond connection to Rileys, while we were asked many times by those unfamiliar with the make whether the car towing the camper had six cylinders or was it V8? They seemed quite disappointed to learn it was only a four, but what a four ! We arrived in Darwin just in time to rejoin the Peloton which was now much larger than when last seen and included other interesting cars and had a full escort for the 25km into the finish point at the old Qantas hanger. Hospitality and service facilities were offered to us by the custodians of a magnificent display of old vehicles and machinery at the hangar. Fond farewells were made later at the
Albert lived here
farewell dinner and the hope expressed that it was to be Au Revoir and that new and old Riley friends would meet again. As you might expect from all of the above the rest of the journey was not uneventful. Jenny and I had been at the first Shinju Matsuri festival in Broome in 1970. It was a happy coincidence that it was on again, and good to again catch up with Chris and Wendy and club member Dr Bill Peasley too. We intended to join the long procession with the Riley but thought better of it with the heat building up and mention of fire hoses, eggs and flour being flung towards the happy participants. The invitation to join the “car show and shine” was taken up, and I was pleased to present trophies to the winners. At Karratha we enjoyed meeting with ex Riley Club Presidents Jeff and Norma Cox who happened to be in town. With the heat building up and the car having performed so well over many miles she thought it was time for us to again focus on her as the temperature gauge nudged up into the hot area and much water was being put into the radiator. The water loss was traced to the water manifold and nipped up. Sadly we learned that Jenny’s aunt, who was in good spirits when we spoke to her from Uluru, had passed away. Again an itinerary was in place – three and a half days to cover the 1400 km to her funeral on Tuesday. A blown exhaust manifold gasket as we drove into Carnarvon on Friday evening put this in doubt and we phoned to advise it was now unlikely we could arrive in time. At the local yacht club for a meal the goodwill fairy was again looking over our shoulder as the local couple who asked us to join them turned out to be the local retired Toyota dealer who very generously offered to help over the weekend. With his expert help and supply of gasket material he cut not one but two new gaskets and I thought the car was ready to start on Sunday afternoon. Not quite as although the battery was OK the starter now refused to work. Each start meant the refurbished crank handle now came into play and we left Monday morning for the 480 km journey to Geraldton. We caught up with the Creeds at Geraldton enjoying their family’s hospitality overnight and left next morning firmly focused on making the 3.00 pm funeral service now only 400 km away. This we did with twenty minutes to spare, complete with Riley and camper trailer and firmly believing Aunt would have approved. As we were stopped at the traffic lights the driver of the adjacent vehicle said “I’ve been following and leap frogging you for the past two days – you have a magnificent car”. After such an enjoyable seven weeks I don’t think we could put it better ourselves! Oh, and why is our Riley called “Delilah”? In 1950, the year of her construction, the biggest grossing film was “Samson & Delilah” starring Victor Mature and Hedi Lamarr. I recall Delilah as a creature of power, beauty, perhaps even described as fast, who enchanted all around her especially if sufficient money was exchanged. I remember the hapless Samson, strongest man in the land, succumbing to her charms and having his hair cut off, or was it that he was reduced to tearing out his hair?
Notes from the North by John Lambie Left Pt Augusta yesterday after a farewell breakfast hosted by the Restorers Club (impressive facilities). Travelled to Woomera and inspected the rocket park. Unfortunately the museum was closed even though the sign said it should be open. Some of the group have gone to Andamooka opal fields and Lake Eyre South. The rest travelled for overnight at Glendambo. Spacious camping ground but third world plumbing in the shower block. Now having morning tea stop at Bonbon, only 125 Klicks from Coober Pedy, where we have a three-night stop. Will check out opal mines & underground hotel. On Monday doing the mail run to Oodnadatta. A whole day trip with lots to see. Saw very interesting flora and fauna, lots of euros, some wild turkeys, emus, etc. There are lots of small marsupials who live in the sand There are four pre war Rileys on the run as early as 1928, and they dunes but only venture out at night. are sitting on a steady 90km per hour. Kombi is going good. Had a screeching belt when cold but tightened and bought some anti-slip spray. (Amazing what comes in a can these days.)
Yulara Now at Yulara which is the Ayers Rock resort and campground. A very impressive place and the camp ground is upmarket relative to Coober Pedy Yesterday was an outback experience as 10 of the group travelled with some we have stayed at. The water is soft just like at Coober Pedy, and I expect the artesian water is passed through a desalination plant. the Australia Post contractor on the Coober Pedy-OodnadattaI was able to wash my hair without it standing up all crusty from the William Creek mail run. We travelled in an Oka 4wd vehicle in air conditioned comfort. Vehicle has seating for 14. We left at 9am and hard natural salts like at some of the roadhouse campsites. did not get back to Coober Pedy till 10pm. Boy this camp ground has filled up, I came back from the showers The driver Peter Rowe was a real raconteur with lots of and got lost as some new arrivals had obscured the VW. Some of the knowledge and interesting stories about the region. camper vans are monster size. Many foreigners are here, French, The tour travelled over diverse country, including gibber plain, long German, Brits, Japanese, and Chinese. I picked up two Russian longitudinal red sand hills (because of the good season covered in hitch hikers and gave them a lift to Uluru. I went for a walk last prolific wild flowers). We also traversed the 120 million year old night along Lassetter Highway and spoke to them on the roadside. ancient inland seabed. They were still there this morning, and it was COLD last night, so I First mail stop was at Anna Creek cattle station. This is the could not drive past. They are very nice couple, University Lecturer biggest pastoral lease in the world and is an area larger than Belgium. and girl friend. Simon speaks very good English. Now they have We crossed the Dingo fence-the longest man made structure which asked for a ride to the Alice (500 km). They were planning to hitch stretches from Queensland to the bight on Western Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hike to Coober Pedy, to Port Augusta, across the Nullarbor to southern coast. Several thousand kilometres long and longer than the Perth. I guess they have decided to catch the Ghan. They obviously Great Wall of China. have not seen the Australian movie about what happens to hitch Much of the route followed the old narrow gauge Ghan route hikers. and we stopped several times at historic derelict ruins of fettlersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; camps, old railway stations, and the impressive Algebuckina Bridge Alice (the longest steel railway bridge in Australia). When the new Ghan Fab weather here in Alice. Went to Red Ochre for dinner last night, line was built it was sold for scrap, but fortunately some wise heads Camel, Kangaroo, and bush food, followed by Barra on couscous; decided it was heritage and was left to show the skills of the early very nice. Then went to show "Sounds of Starlight" an interesting pioneers. It was submerged several times in river floods, but was so musical show based on the Didgeridoo. Second half the audience well engineered it withstood the elements. took part with shakers, and clicking sticks. With tuition the various At the famous William Creek hotel for lunch, (best burger parts of the audience combined superbly to make good music. and chips I have ever had, local beef and only twice the price of a big Mac but twice the size). Decided to take a flight out over Lake Eyre, The Henley on Todd was a hoot. 8 Rileys in the parade. Another cost $200 but I will probably never get the chance again. It was interesting thing to see was about 60 red step-through Aussie Post fantastic. The mail truck continued and as the flight was about an mailmen Honda motor bikes. An enterprising person buys them at hour the lady pilot flew us to the next station on the mail drop. the Australian Post auction, does them up, and they run an annual Next main stop was the town of Oodnadatta. It was the end of challenge event. This one was from Hobart to Alice Springs and via the line on the old Ghan and they thought it would die when the wide the Oodnadatta track. Never seen them before but they tell me that gauge rail took a different route. But it is still there, very untidy, but there was a Perth to Broome event some years ago. They have a has the lowest crime rate in Australia. Lots of old cars and junk in support vehicle with mechanic which carries the camping gear and back yards, but light was fading and I did not get a chance to see if swags. All good fun. any old British cars were there? Had dinner at the Pink Roadhouse. After dinner we got the key and walked in the dark to the old stone railway station which is a museum. Let ourselves in had a look Katherine Now in Big4 camp ground in Katherine. A nice town and second at the history of the railway, the indigenous life, and the cameleers biggest town in the NT. Last night was spent in Daly Waters who carried the freight onwards to Alice and Darwin. campsite. The only thing I can say good about Daly Waters is the A very interesting trip and at $140 well worth it. beer was cold. Fortunately we arrived just as the happy hour started Page 36
and beer was half price. The camp ground was basic, very dusty, and ablutions were appalling. It always amazes me how tourism is such an important income earner for Australia, yet the over paid executives running Tourism Australia fail to see the small things that turn off foreign travellers and give the place a bad name. On the road up from Daly Waters the vegetation began to appear greener and Eucalypts appeared again and prolific. Saw lots of Wallaby size Kangas, and a lot of road kill. The very numerous termite mounds are intriguing. They are slender and vertical, and up to a metre and a half tall, some are multi peaked, almost cathedral like, another variety are more bulbous. Amazing to see thousands per hectare, and often where there are no trees. I think I read somewhere that this variety of termites feeds on grasses? Many along the roadside have been dressed up, with shirts, bras, hats, glasses, etc. Temperature is hotter, and humid, and sky is looking thundery. Boy it must be unbearable in the Summer (wet). Some of the Rileys are suffering from S.U carby syndrome. A lady from NSW in a Farina Riley 4/68 is having lots of problems. I had a quick look and noted the engine is missing the heat shield normally positioned between the exhaust manifold and carby bowls. Tomorrow I will go to Repco and see if I can get some insulation stuff and some nylon ties. I will also the check float bowl tops for correct venting. We MG types know the fuel boiling syndrome well. The same lady had a flat tyre at Mataranka, and I came to the rescue and changed the spare. Did not make the gorge cruise yesterday. The Riley I was passenger in broke down 6 km short of the destination point. S.U pump failure. I emptied the boot and removed trim, to get at the pump. On a Farina Riley it is mounted in a hard to get at place above the fuel tank. (Oh how BMC lost its way- my ZB Magnette pump was also in the boot but easy to service. Got the pump out and found it was an electronic conversion. It was red hot, probably why it failed. Rosslyn called NRMA? and instead of a mechanic they sent a pick up truck, so back into Katherine. I called Midel and ordered a pump, they said it would be here on Monday. Hope so! If it does arrive, it will be very good service.
Amazing about 3 sea eagles were swooping down close to the crocs head, probably looking for a morsel or two. Later we went ashore at a billabong separated by a rocky divide. This side of the river was Arnhem Land, as distinct from the tribal lands of Kakadu on the other side. The park is huge and with time you would be able to visit many different sites. Later the Aborigines showed and explained their weapons, and how they make them, and how to throw them, singly, and then with a woomera. Flora and fauna was explained and how the women folk use the Pandanus to weave baskets, etc. Also saw some ancient rock paintings along the river bank on the cliffs which we were told are amongst the oldest rocks in the world. Later that evening while having a cold beer at the camp site I noticed large flocks of what I thought were birds passing overhead at dusk. On looking again I realised that they were bats (flying foxes). An amazing place is this Australia. After dinner at the lodge a local female Ranger put on a slide show to show all of Kakadu and what they do to manage the park. Very interesting stuff, but you get to see how difficult it is to tame this part of Australia for the tourists, as the damage done by the wet and flooded rivers, takes months to clean up with dozers, etc. Choppers are used to take out and replace the walkways each season. Amazing we were shown the river high water marks on trees, hard to believe the amount of water that falls on this region in the wet. Darwin I have enjoyed my three days in Darwin. I like the laid back lifestyle. A bit like Mexico where social time is in the cool of the evenings. The final night was a dinner with all the Riley People and local car club hosts, held at the Trailer Boat Club.
Now that the rest of the Riley crew have arrived, and we have a spare, we are going out to the workshop to try a fix this morning. We need to get mobile as we are due in Kakadu Sunday. We have to return to Katherine from Darwin on the way home, Roslyn to head for Mount Isa, and we West Aussies to pick up the road to WA border and Kununnura so if the pump is here Ros can get it and have a spare. Looking forward to the car show this afternoon, and lunch and dinner. I am hungry, finished off my weetbix yesterday. Kakadu Yesterday was a day to remember as we sailed along the East Alligator River in flatbottomed tinnies with local Indigenous lads crewing the boat. We saw plenty of salt water crocodiles some up to 5 metres in length. They were content to sun themselves on the bank, but further up stream some were in the water, just eye ridges visible and then they sank below water. We saw a big saltie catch a bull shark. It thrashed around whacking the shark held in its jaws on the beach edge.
A Page from Janelle & Warwick â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s Album We stayed the night at Arckaringa Station, with all the flies before dark and at sunrise, we were happy to leave.
cNot a croc in sight ! tch great to ca is t I . ip r le t ery enjoyab rs. W e ha d a v iley membe R y n a m o s d meet up with an
Enjoyed a few days in Katherine where we were Spoilt by the local car club, then off to Kakadu
Sunset and Moonrise . We thought we would stay the night at the Devilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Marbles. We got quite a surprise that there were about 50 vehicles staying the night. We were lucky it was a full moon. The Lost City
Janelle King and Warwick Mainwearing The Painted Desert
Sunset on The Breakaways
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Events such as this don't happen without the effort and support of many. The following list is by no means complete: John Moss, President, Port Augusta Vehicle Restorers Club (PAVRC). PAVRC and Port Augusta Rotary Club worked together to provide a hearty farewell breakfast to mark the completion of 2013 National Rattle of Rileys and a fun “send off” for Rileys Through the Red Centre. Brian Bates, Vice President, Motor Vehicle Enthusiasts Club, Darwin. Brian & wife Lyn entertained some NSW Riley owners passing through Darwin in approx. 1992 and who were taking the long trip home from the Perth national rally. Unfortunately they were overseas this time when we arrived into Darwin. Prior to leaving Brian provided a listing of contacts on the way through Northern Territory who would be capable and willing to help with car repairs. Little did I know just how valuable that contact list would become. Brian was also instrumental in the planning of events in Darwin, including the booking of the Trailer Boat Club and welcoming dinner at the Qantas Hangar and provided addresses and directions. Brian left his own RMB at the Qantas Hangar while he was away. Roger Gillbanks was most grateful to be able to borrow the water pump out of Brian's car to get back to WA. Stuart Gear, Motor Enthusiasts Club of Central Australia. Stuart's garage and pit became a busy place with quite a few of us needing to do oil changes and car repairs. Stuart liaised with John Bridgefoot, organiser of the Henley on Todd Regatta for our Rileys to be included as part of the street parade leading to the start of the Regatta. He also organised for Rileys to join with MECCA for a barbecue lunch. Stuart's comments to me afterwards were: “We at MECCA enjoyed the Riley visit and it was a pleasure to assist the members with their maintenance etc and I thoroughly enjoyed myself socialising with them whilst assisting them in any way that I could. The two English gentlemen, Eddie and Alan we got to know fairly well over the three days they were here. I felt so sorry for them that they could not continue on the rally as they worked so hard on their Riley. They were extremely calm and methodical whilst working on their vehicle, never got upset, never raised their voices and never used bad language.” Iain Locke, President, Motor Vehicle Enthusiasts Club, Katherine. Iain arranged for our Riley group to have lunch with his Club. A large contingent of Darwin Club members drove south to Katherine to also join us that day. A Show'N'Shine” followed with Mal Lorimer (Qld Riley) being a winner. That evening members of the Katherine Club hosted everyone for an Italian
meal at their property out of town. You will see Iain's name mentioned in a couple of stories, particularly because he was also contacted by Riley owners on their return journey home when they desperately needed mechanical assistance.
Captain) – for making contact and liaising with Shannons regarding sponsorship, organising publicity and flying to Darwin to share the celebration of the arrival of the Riley group – a great enthusiastic husband and wife team!
Peet Menzies, President Motor Vehicle Enthusiasts Club (MVEC), Darwin. Peet ensured that the welcoming at the Qantas Hangar, followed later by a barbecue dinner with the Darwin Club members went to plan. The Hangar was kindly made available and used by Riley owners for car repairs and maintenance.
Trevor & Helen Praite, SA Riley Club members, for flying to Darwin to see us arrive, be part of the welcoming party and enjoy the festivities with us. This is what “Riley clubmanship” is all about.
Dr Tom Lewis, Director, Bombing of Darwin Museum East Point, who gave an informative talk on Darwin's involvement in WWII and the real details of bomb damage sustained. A delicious morning tea was provided that left no-one needing an early lunch that day. Shane Post & Ryan Post, Combined Communication Solutions, Darwin. Shane is an SA Riley Club member with an RMA of his own. He arranged for Ryan to fit a tracking device to the Red Devil for the journey north. He also offered some good deals on CB radios and other communication equipment, in addition to making his property available for anyone wishing to camp. Brian Graham, member of Victorian Riley Club, for compiling some preliminary information on distances, accommodation, fuel availability etc. Brian Mousley, Tayper Enterprises Pty Ltd, for ensuring that Alan Kirby's Riley was safely shipped from UK to Melbourne to arrive in time for the event. Likewise, Brian arranged for the Riley Kestrel Big Four Saloon to be transported from Alice Springs to Adelaide for the return journey back to UK when gearbox repairs made it impossible to continue. This is not the first time that Tayper have capably taken control and relieved the stress in a difficult situation. It is good to know such a personable, trustworthy and honest shipping agent.
ALL “Rileys Through the Red Centre” participants. Without you this event would not have come to fruition. For those in Rileys – congratulations on your positive attitude and sense of adventure. For those in moderns – joining us to share the journey. Overall, for your friendship and camaraderie. A special thank you to those who made a contribution to this publication. Leigh Johnson, former Editor of the SA Riley Crank newsletter, for his persistence and dedication in making this publication happen, and for creating and managing the website and promotional material, despite me pushing his patience to the limit. Leigh is enthusiastic, creative and talented, with a keen eye for detail. He worked tirelessly behind the scenes without being asked or expected. Leigh, put simply, always makes things special and if you have been a Riley member in any State for any length of time, I am not telling you anything you don't already know. David Thomson – “for putting up with me” – (David's words). Things are so much easier when you have a partner to run things past, take over household duties to free up time or just make that cup of coffee or bring that glass of beer. “Thank you for being there” (my words). As an Organiser I worried far more than I worked and, looking back at all of the above major contributors, I didn't really need to worry at all. YOU ALL made it come together. I hope you enjoyed the
John Palamountain, Business Development Bev Wilson Riley Motor Club Manager, Shannons Insurance Limited for making the journey to Katherine to meet us, of SA Inc. liaising with Darwin MVEC regarding a welcome at the Qantas Hangar and dinner that night, organising and leading the Rileys in a rather “grand” procession through the main streets of Darwin to the MVEC and providing full sponsorship to cover the cost of the Welcome to Darwin Dinner. Margaret Leppard for collating a list of things to do and see in Darwin, Chris Kinney for arranging for all the useful information, brochures and maps in the entrants bags. Mark & Phillippa Denton, SA Riley Club members (Mark is co-editor and Club
A Ford Avenue Production by Leigh Johnson for the Riley Motor Club of South Australia