1000 Miles in 24 hours
Max wrote this back in 2003 and as October is fast approaching it’s worth reminiscing over this particular escapade of 1973.
On October 23 1923 the International 200 Mile Race was held at Brooklands Race Track in Surrey UK. Alvis were a fairly new company making cars with better than average performance. As a promotion the Managing Director TG John had a special car built for the race. It was basically one of their new OHV models, the 12/50, with racing modifications.
The Alvis won the race averaging 93.29 mph over the 200 miles.
And so it was that on 23rd October 1973, to commemorate this event, and to show that 50 years later age “had not wearied them”, 2 standard 1923 Alvis 12/50s ducksback sports cars left the Ampol Service Station at Parramatta at 1pm with the intention of driving 1000 around NSW in 24 hours.
I had Bill Chapple as my co-driver and Rob Gunnell had Ray Neely as his. The cars did not travel together, neither were there any support vehicles. The only preparation being leasing with Ampol petroleum to make their service stations available to provide refuelling after hours at strategic points along the proposed route. (No 24 hour servos in those days.) This was set up by a PR bloke, Brian Jenkins, whose car we were restoring. It was also written up in the Sunday papers.
The route was Goulburn—Gundagai—Wagga Wagga—Temora—West Wyalong—Forbes—Parkes—Dubbo—Gilgandra—Coonabarabran—Gunnedah—Quirindi—Scone—Muswellbrook—Branxton—Cooranbong—Doyalson—Parramatta. 1006 miles.
Bill and I were met on the roadside near Wagga by Kay and John Leevers with some refreshments. They were my first customers at VMG with a 1928 Studebaker Limo. As we pushed on the car became more and more sluggish, almost completely losing its get up and go. As we came into Temora I figured out the problem. We pulled up outside the crowded pub and took the fishtail off the 3 inch exhaust pipe and extracted the sausage, red hot and choked with carbon, jumped back into the car and took off with much more noise and much more performance. There were some interesting comments from the drinkers looking out of the pub window.
Note – A Sausage was made from the old flawier that was recently renewed on the kitchen screen door, rolled up tightly and slipped into the rear end of the pipe. After some high speed driving it had been compressed, suitably restricting the gas flow, the noise and unfortunately the performance.
On the way to West Wyalong there was water across the road at intervals with depth markers. We hit one of these a little too fast. The water hydrauliced the floor boards and a rush of water blew up all over us. The headlights must have copped a wetting as both globes blew. Fortunately it was a straight road so we arrived at the Ampol Service Station, wet and cold, illuminated by side lights only. It was about 11pm. The proprietor answered his phone promptly and thankfully had headlight globes in his store. (It was 1973 not 2003.)
As the sun appeared on our right side heralding a new day, we were pushing on at 65 or 70 miles an hour, enjoying the drive. My radiator was not in great shape and somewhere out there the cylinder head cracked. This required many stops for water replenishment.
We pressed on regardless and were pleased to be met by “Our Glad”, Alvis Club member Gladys Broadbent who lived at Newcastle, waiting for us on the roadside at the Branxton turn off. She handed us some sandwiches, drinks and a bottle of hair restorer. (Slightly confused) And then our muddled sleep deprived brains figured it out. The word should have been spelt H A R E – Him out front with the cold all round him and the heat underneath him.
Rob Gunnell arrived at Ampol Parramatta first and us half an hour or so later. Both cars well within the 24 hours.
Both cars were put on display for a few days in a North Sydney glass fronted warehouse.