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‘Motoring Trips’

Charters Towers 2011

Charters Towers Car Show 2011

This is the third year I’ve driven my Corvette down to the long weekend Car show at Charters Towers. It’s a 6 ½ hour drive there and we always book into the same rooms at the Cattlemans Rest Motel.

Our group this year was Bob in his 1976 Stingray. Ross driving Bob’s work Falcon with some Stingray support gear like the bag full of cleaning stuff, the big sign that clips under the hood and the poles for the flag. Bruce drove his Falcon Ute with some of my stuff and with him was another friend also called Bob (Bob #2) who was coming down to share our weekend. They eventually left about 7.15am Friday morning for the 6-7 hour drive from Cairns to Charters Towers.

For the last week my back was playing up badly. There were moments when I could hardly walk and straightening up from bending could take 2 minutes. I was taking painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets, seeing signs of improvement, then something would happen and it would get worse again.

Bob arranged with everyone to leave at 7am Friday morning, this was a bit earlier than the previous 2 years and I decided to go later because of my back.

I had a bad back spasm at 6pm the night before which made it hard to stand; it felt like my back was broken!! I’d been recovering, but packing everything into the vette pushed it over the edge yet again. When I woke up on Friday morning, there were signs that I was slowly recovering once more, thanks to the bulk painkillers and anti inflammatories. I was taking it very easy because another spasm would see me stay at home and miss the weekend. I dressed slowly, had breakfast and a shower then strapped my back support on tight.

The car was already packed but there were a few last minute things and by the time I headed up the drive it was exactly 8.30am.

Mo gave me a small bean bag cushion to put behind my back and that was a big help. Within an hour I had found a comfortable reclining position and the pain had eased a lot. My plan being that if the pain had got worse in the first 2-3 hours I would turn around and come home.

Just before 10am Bruce rang me, they had reached Cardwell. Driving in company with other cars is usually a little slower than driving alone and it seemed I might have already caught up about 15 minutes of the 75 minute time difference. Bruce told me they had to drive into Townsville to drop off some stuff at Bob’s workplace there, which would delay them and so we might meet up at Townsville.

The weather was overcast and cool. Once or twice a few drops of light rain fell on the windscreen but otherwise it stayed dry. I was enjoying driving my Corvette and passing slower traffic without being held up too much until the roadworks outside Tully. There we had to follow a slow roller at walking pace for 3 kms. After Tully the road gets straighter and also smoother and the Corvette ran quietly in overdrive at 100kph doing around 1900rpm.

After 2 hours driving I reached Cardwell and stopped for a pee. When I climbed back in the Corvette I couldn’t find a pain free position, which was a backward step. I was listening to an audio book on my Mp3 player plugged into the sound system – ‘Biggles Flying Detective’ which helped pass the time. The roadworks on the Cardwell range gave the clean vette a dose of mud and I wasn’t looking forward to cleaning it later that afternoon because of all the bending.

Stuffed full of painkillers etc I had that usual zonked out feeling and I was driving very carefully, fully aware my reactions might not be as quick as usual. It made me feel like the guy in the Movie ‘Vanishing Point’ although he was high on speed and I was zonked on slow!!

I was waiting for a chance to overtake a long line of cars and trucks doing 90kph when a small orange car zipped past and joined the queue in front of me. I always leave a gap so that I can start accelerating and build up speed when there’s an opportunity to overtake. The orange car looked like a Reliant Scimitar but turned out to be a Lotus Elite. After he had missed the next 3 overtaking opportunities on the long straight sections of the road 30 mins north of Townsville, I realized he had no plan, so at the next chance I passed him and the trucks and the caravan that was holding us all up.

A Lotus Elite

As the Townsville BP roadhouse came into sight, my phone rang and Bruce told me they had just arrived there. We met up and had some food. Bob & I had both topped up our tanks before leaving Cairns. My refuel at Townsville cost $37 for 98 octane and Bob’s $60 – another plus for fuel injection over carbys, but nothing beats that C3 Stingray shape!!

We set off in convoy for the last 125kms inland to Charters Towers. Once in the 110kph zone we made good time on the open road. Bob had the Targa roof off his Stingray again this year and I had reminded him how cold he was after this stretch of road last year, so he had his coat on.

Near the end of the journey we passed through three sets of road works, waiting just a few minutes at each one.

We arrived at the Cattlemans Rest Motel and I discovered I’d forgotten my car shampoo and sponge. While Bob began his long cleaning and waxing routine, I borrowed his sponge and gave my vette a very rough wash, being very careful of my back, then dried it with a towel. I now think towels are the best way to dry a car. Even better than the microfibre cloth I usually use.

Bob’s show preparation is very thorough and takes a few hours. We all had a few beers and stood around watching him, chatting and laughing. Bob was laying under his vette cleaning when Jacinta, our car club president’s wife, came by to say hello – she complained about all the roadworks on the way. I spoke to Bob and said, “Roadworks? We didn’t see any roadworks, did we Bob?” and Bob was super quick to catch on and replied, “No, did you come the back way?” – for a minute she looked really confused until she realized she’d been had- haha

It was already cold but as day turned to night, and Bob was still detailing his vette, the rain began. At first it was light mist, ‘Tasmanian Weather‘, declared my room mate Bob #2 who grew up in Tassie.

A group of bikers arrived, some with 3 wheeled Harleys and all with impressive sounding exhausts.

Harley Davidson 3 Wheeler3 Wheeled Harley Davidson Motorbike

By the time Bob had finished the rain was coming down heavily. We put our cars to bed.

Corvettes asleepCorvettes Asleep in front of rooms 12 & 13

It felt like about 9pm but was only 7.30pm. We moved into a warm motel room to watch the footy. After that there was more talk and then to sleep.

Many of our car club were staying in Caravans at the showgrounds and they had a miserable night because of the rain and the cold. They reckoned it got down to 2C. One of the friends we meet at Charters Towers every year, Andre, runs a swap site and he had decided to camp there this year but the rain flooded the site and he spent an uncomfortable night sleeping in his car. We met up with him the next morning and he was pleading for us to get him a motel room!!

On Saturday morning it was v cold. My room mate Bob #2 is used to getting up at 4am. His alarm rang at 3.30am and he struggled to stay in bed till about 6am which was late for him and bloody early for me!!

I woke up and amazingly my back was cured!!! The drugs and a few beers having relaxed what must have been a very intense spasm. It was really incredible and I was very lucky. I knew I’d better continue to be careful, but it was a great relief.

Bob’s vette took a while to start, due to the cold, then we drove from the motel to the showgrounds & met up with the rest of the car club. It was decided not to set up our club display until after the traditional procession around town, scheduled for 11am. It was bitterly cold, somewhere around 10C, the wind increasing the chill factor. I had every piece of clothing on but never got warm.

Bob had paid admission fees for his Falcon as well as his vette, but Ross driving the Falcon, not knowing that, paid as well. I had been waved through without paying, so we worked out what had happened and I paid Bob. He wasn’t happy though, he felt he hadn’t paid enough and was going to go and pay some more cash. I suggested that as he had put so much work into preparing his vette, the money would be better used paying to enter the judging competition – something we usually don’t bother to do, being happy just to be in the club display and enjoy the weekend.

Bob went off to enter the judging comp and Bob #2, Bruce and I went over to the pavilion for breakfast. We had a full breakfast of 2 eggs, 2 sausages, 2 slices of bread, several pieces of bacon, then wandered around the swap meet. Next to Andre’s site was the Lotus Elite that had passed me on the road to Townsville. I spoke to the owner, Brian, who’s accent suggested a Northern Ireland heritage. He had the car for sale and I guess he thought showing it at the swap site was a better way of selling it. He said the engine had been reconditioned. Being used to Corvette’s I thought the Lotus Elite was a bit weird, being so low and with 4 seats.

After that we wandered around looking at all the cars on display. It was a grey overcast day with rain threatening, or would it be sleet?? Haha not in North Queensland!! Luckily neither arrived.

We drove around Town in the procession of about 60 vehicles, Performance, Historic, Classic, Hot Rods etc, led by a police car and with cops at the main intersections holding back the traffic for us. One kid saw my vette and we heard him shout excitedly, ‘wow look at that!!’ Usually everyone is ignoring mine and staring at Bob’s gleaming red Stingray. The kids that like the C4 Corvette shape often recognize it from video games.

Back at the showgrounds we parked Bob’s vette on the chequerboard display vinyl and set up our cars to form a club display.

All American Car Club setting up

The actual judging wasn’t until Sunday so this was a trial run. On Sunday we had more flags etc and a good display which won the trophy. By lunchtime I was hungry again and had curry & rice which was ‘Clive of India’ mince with peas and corn, not up to my Curry Nirvana standard but still tasty.

The anti inflammatory tablets I’d been taking all week finally had their usual effect on my stomach (no it wasn’t the curry!!) and I had several attacks of Diarrhea, made more difficult by having to remove the back brace and all the clothing I was wearing. I don’t think anyone noticed my urgent, bum clenched, Charlie Chaplin walks to the toilets!! Luckily in the rush to get to the showgrounds I had forgotten to take another anti inflammatory tablet that morning and I knew that I mustn’t take any more.

On Saturday afternoon there was a Go to Whoa competition. The bitumen where it’s held is getting very cut up, especially at the start, and there is loose gravel making it tricky to get a good grip to accelerate and also to brake. Competitors are given a flag start and have to accelerate 50 meters and then stop with their front wheels on a white line. It’s not as easy as it looks and many people miss the line, generally sliding past it with all 4 wheels locked, which we know is not the best way to stop a car!! Even an old steam powered vehicle from the early days of automobiles competed, and did OK. Of course his wheels were the size of stagecoach wheels and he had a good view of them. I think he got into 2nd gear on his last attempt- it’s hard to know what is happening as he pulls different levers and there is a hissing and chugging.

We walked around looking at more cars that had arrived. By 3pm I was chilled to the bone. I’d had enough of the miserable weather so I drove back to the Motel to warm up. The two Bob’s, Ross and Bruce arriving soon after. We had a few beers, caught up with the Ingham guys, Ross, Theresa and Neale that we meet there each year and at 6.30pm we walked down to the Waverley pub for a feed.

The club members camping at the showground were there too and we had all the tables pulled together in the covered outside area, with about 20 of us around them. We had some good food but it was cold so we headed into the pokies room to get warm. I watched Bob work the pokies. The last time I played poker machines they had a handle on the side and weren’t connected to a computer in Brisbane, and Bob explained how the system works these days. The computer does all the work and it’s a bit scary to think it’s all pre ordered to make a set profit. With great cunning Bob beat the system. After that we walked the short distance back to the motel room to watch more footy.

We were all up early Sunday morning and drove over to the show to set up.

Two of these cars won prizes- the other one is mine!!

When everything was in place we headed off for another full breakfast. I normally don’t eat much breakfast but the cold weather made me really hungry.

I tied on the new windscreen banner which includes John Bondok’s phrase ‘The Best Value Sportscar in the World’. The weather was so miserable I saved my back and left the Targa top on. I stuck a couple of Info sheets on the dash which could be seen through the windscreen and put a FOR SALE sign under the wipers. It didn’t feel like car selling weather !!

1988 Corvette for Sale“The Best Value Sportscar in the World”

I didn’t get any enquiries but it was a good start to the campaign. Several more vehicles turned up and I voted my personal award, ‘Best Smell’ to a 39 Ford army car. The interior was original, the leather was very cracked and it had a great old car smell.

Army Staff Car WWII’39 Army Ford V8 with Jeeps

My ‘best Smell’ award started 3 years ago when I noticed the smell from a TR6 which reminded me exactly of my old TR3A. Is there a ‘Triumph’ smell?  It seemed there was that day, the next day the smell had gone, perhaps because the TR6 had its roof down for two days in the sun and wind.

I had a long talk to Rob Casper who has an immaculate 1987 Corvette for sale, his partner is a car detailer and it shows, the black is BLACK, the Red is RED!! He’d only driven it once since we met last year which seems a shame – cars are for driving!!! I also spoke to Australian Corvettes Association member Troppo Vette who had driven over from Townsville to say hello. This year he left his white C4 outside the gates, which was a pity, I’d have liked to see what he’d done to it since last year.

Curry & Rice again for lunch, just because it was hot and easy to eat standing up, then another walk around the swap sites. Some of the stalls had packed up and left. The judging was taking a long time, I sat and watched a DVD on a TV outside our club awning. The DVD was US. Muscle V8 Collection, a 3 disc set and detailed the stories of the major US Muscle cars from conception onwards. I’m getting a copy as it was the best one I’ve seen.

US Muscle DVDUS V8 Muscle Collection DVD

At 3pm we went for another procession drive around town, then assembled for a long awards ceremony. The sound system was loud but the nearest speakers were too far away and the sound was very confused, it was almost impossible to hear what the MC was saying.

Bob won ‘Best American’, WOW brilliant. Our President Robert Hall’s Trans Am won 2nd prize in the same category, WOW!. The club won best display WOW!! we were scooping the pool!!!! Congratulations to Helen and Paula and team who plan and organise our display each year, somehow they had hit the right, prize winning display.  Aaron and Robert Hall our president came second in the observation rally, something I’ve never entered but plan to next year. What a great club result.

Back to the Motel and a beer. We watched amazed as the grey sky cleared just before dusk and revealed a clean blue sky. We had heard of a good pub in town that was warm and had music, so around 6.30pm we ordered a 12 seat Taxi and we & our Ingham mates piled in. When we arrived at the pub there was some problem, I think they wouldn’t let kids in and Neal from Ingham had his young son with him. We walked to the next pub down the road. We’d been cold for two days so when we walked in it felt like an oven, although the bar staff were wearing coats.

Bob played the pokies and won again, we had a good meal but my rare steak was blue which is too rare. It’s always hard to know how the chef interprets ‘rare’- anyway it tasted fine. When we left the two women bar staff called a taxi for us but it never arrived. It wasn’t that late but it was very quiet on the street, I got the feeling that ‘Charters Towers is now CLOSED’. Luckily Theresa sat inside the pub door to keep warm and so they couldn’t lock up until our taxi arrived. Eventually, because the two women wanted to go home, they offered to give us a lift home in their cars, which we were grateful for. It would have been a long and COLD walk back to the motel.

We stood outside our motel rooms having a beer and chatting under the stars until about midnight. My room mate, Bob #2, woke up very early, before 6am I think. He went outside for a smoke and left the door wide open. The motel rooms had no heating but were warm enough, with the door closed. I got up eventually, we paid the bill for our room and thanks to Bob #2’s early rising, I was loaded up and ready to go before Bob, Ross and Bruce showed their faces.

As Bob was staying in Townsville for work, Ross was going to drop the Falcon there and drive Bob’s Vette back to Cairns. There was no point in me following that procession, so as I was ready to go I said goodbye and headed out of Charters Towers for the long drive back to Cairns.

The weather stayed good. It was a typical blue sky day. I reached the 3 sets of roadworks and the ground had just been watered, so I knew that was the end of having a clean vette. I continued listening to the Biggles Audio book, enjoying the warmth of the sun with closed windows. I worked my way past the occasional traffic and long road trains and then had a clear road for half an hour. It was a beautiful day.

I refuelled at Townsville and made my way North with the ever increasing heat of the morning sun shining in the windscreen and through the glass roof. I reached Cardwell at noon and stopped for a sausage roll, it was big but not that tasty, however, as I sat reclined in the vette, with the big V8 burbling along at 100kph, on a blue sky day, with music playing on the stereo, sausage roll in hand, it felt like one of those fantastic moments that we remember forever. I was really enjoying the drive.

I arrived home at 2:20pm, a tad under a 6 hour drive. Long enough to feel I’d had a good drive but not so long as to be tiring. I knew the vette was dirty so I gave it a wash straight away. It was the dirtiest I’ve ever seen it, WTF were they using on the roadworks? It was like cement dust. These photo’s don’t show how bad it was.

The car was really dirty, this photo doesn’t show it very well

Dirty CorvetteThere was no shine in real life, covered with clay or cement dust!

So ends another Charters Towers weekend. It’s hard to capture on paper the camaraderie, the laughs and why I am desperate to go each year. Since I stopped sailing, it’s the closest thing I do now to an adventure. Both Bob & I agreed that driving our Corvettes long distance is very different from doing the same journey in a normal car, it makes us feel extra alive.

I really enjoy driving my C4 on long trips. I enjoy the technology both under the hood and in the cockpit where everything is to hand and the seats fit my body. Overtaking with 5.7 litres of fuel injected grunt is easy, except that there are many people driving along at around 93kph and as usual they speed up to over 100kph when there is an overtaking lane, making it impossible to pass without going over the speed limit. When the overtaking lane ends they all slow back to 93kph!!! If I am still at the rear I wait for the brake lights to come on as everyone slows back to 93kph, and they always do!

I use the cruise control all the time. If I catch up to another car, then my rule is to overtake it, even if it seems at the time to be going close to the speed limit, because they will always slow down if the road gets dark with overhanging trees, goes uphill or goes round a long corner. Plus when they catch a slower vehicle they will then take ages to pass it, if at all.

On a short trip of 30 mins, overtaking is not so important because there’s not much difference in the time the journey takes, but in a 6 hour trip, the difference between 100kph & 93kph can mean an extra hours driving.

I’m currently considering selling my Corvette. It’s kinda crazy after all the money and work I’ve spent getting it into good condition, but there are other cars I’d like to have and as I grow older I see that there are only so many years left for me to do that.

My next car might be either a late model C5, a Stingray, perhaps 1982 or a Trans Am/Camaro.

If I do sell the vette and get an older stingray, I wonder if I will enjoy the long drives as much ?

In June 2010 I drove the Corvette down to the Charters Towers long weekend carshow – a distance of about 481 kilometres (300 miles).

Charters Towers

My old sailing mate Reidy was visiting from NSW and he shared the driving. I spent a day cleaning,  polishing and getting ready for the trip, including checking the engine over for loose connections and possible problems.

We left Cairns just before 9am Friday morning. Bob’s Falcon Wagon with most of our gear was in the lead with Ross, his brother in law and Bruce in the wagon because both their Camaro’s are being restored. Bob drove roofless the 7 hrs to Charters Towers in his 76 Stingray, and we were at the rear in my 88 C4 Corvette.

We had a sedate 2 hr drive to Cardwell where we stopped. I was busting for a pee and as I limped painfully to the toilet block at the servo, many body parts aching and my bladder full, I saw there was a cleaners sign barring the mens toilets- Oh NO!!!! Luckily the cleaner saw my distress and let me in!!


Reidy was semi reluctant to drive because he was afraid to damage the vette. He is a fast motorbike rider but a careful bloke, I had no worries at all letting him drive. I got him in the drivers seat, put my hand over the hood and slowly moved it forwards, telling him to say stop when he thought I was at the front- he stopped me short by about 600mm !!! as expected. It’s always a good idea to know where the front of the car is and with that sorted, he drove two hours to Townsville.

I found it extremely comfortable in the passenger side, more leg room and not having to concentrate. We played a few CD’s and time went by quickly. Soon we were at the BP fuel depo Southside of Townsville. We had some food there, hamburger and chips etc, refueled and continued the journey to Charters Towers. The outback road had some big B Double trucks plus caravans and cars with trailers going to the show. We arrived about 4.30pm and signed into the motel.

We’d driven through a light shower and the vette was dirty so we gave it a quick shampoo while Bob waxed his car. We had a few beers then walked into town about 6.30pm to get some food. We couldn’t find any pubs that had people eating in them, which is our way of finding out where the good food is – the place was fairly dead for a Friday night. We ended up at a Chinese Restaurant run by Chinese people. Food was only average, grog expensive. It was v warm in there and v cold outside when we walked back to the Motel, the stars shining brightly in this old outback mining town. Bob, Bruce & Ross had the room next to us in the motel and we had a few more beers and lots of laughs, standing outisde, next to our Corvettes, then watched the footy replay on Foxtel TV before going to sleep.

Saturday morning we drove to the showgrounds and had breakfast at 8.30am. I didn’t enter the competition, just happy to be part of the club display. Many of the American Car Club committee have caravans and stay at the showgrounds on the spot where we display – they get use of the toilet block, water and electricity at real bargain prices, it looks like a good thing. What I reckon is funny is that some of them have huge American cars but tiny caravans!! They had a good display planned and we helped to set it up – my vette at the front with hood up.

All American Car Club of Cairns Display

Also notice the orange footprints we sprayed on the ground. 


 We spent the morning looking at all the cars on display and walking through the swapmeet. I didn’t realise I had so much valuable old stuff at home, I saw several things at the swapmeet that I have just thrown out!! My right groin began to really hurt and continued to give me trouble all through the weekend whenever standing. I could ease it by sitting and sometimes go a few minutes standing or walking before it hurt again. It turned out to be a hernia.
My damm body needs reconditioning!!

We had a drive through the streets at midday. By then the sky was blue and the weather was perfect. Bob and I had a running gag for the 2 day show because whenever we are together, driving or parked, people always look at his Stingray and not my C4. This time I had a lot of people looking at mine and I kept calling out a viewer report to him, like 3 and none!! meaning 3 around mine and none around his.

Ross Bob & Bruce the 3 center guys with hats –


Around 4.30pm we drove back to the motel and had a few beers outside the motel room. Friends from Ingham hadn’t been able to book our motel this year, so they walked round from their motel to visit us and slowly an impromptu party happened under the stars. Eventually about 20 people were all drinking laughing etc out in the cold night air. The Ingham mob went to book the motel for next year and came back saying there were only 3 or 4 rooms left, so Bob and I swiftly went to re-book our rooms for next years Queens Birthday weekend.

At about 9pm my ears were dropping off with the cold, I’m used to our hot humid Cairns weather. There were two old bikies with us and both were wearing beanies so I put mine on and stood with them for a while. Bob reckoned I looked like a big tough bugger standing by the bikies with the beany on. He said he looked up and suddenly there were 3 bikies and he wondered who the other bloke was!! hehehe it was me!  We got hungry and ordered Pizzas for about 15 of us – there was a 90 minute delay!!! In Charters Towers!! By the time it arrived we were all v hungry and there was a Piranha like feeding frenzy to gobble as much Pizza as possible.

Sunday morning we drove back to the show. This was the official judging day of the show and Bob had waxed his vette again the night before, it was so shiny that NOTHING could stick to it!!
Bob’s Stingray center of pic –

Bob's Vette

Mid morning a bloke I met on the Aussie Corvette forum, Troppo Vette arrived from Townsville and we had a long chat and looked at each other’s vette’s. His white paintwork is very good but he hasn’t had time yet to clean up the engine bay. He was reluctant to lift the hood – always a sign hehehe. I could see that it would clean up easily and he liked my chrome rocker covers. I appeared very knowledgeable about matters C4 and gave him some handy info- also to Rob Casper who had his gleaming red 87 parked beside Troppo. It’s amazing how much knowledge I have picked up in 7 years of vette ownership!! My thanks to everyone who is heping me on my Corvette journey.

At 2pm we drove around the streets again then waited for the presentation at 3.30pm. Our club won the display last year and this year there really was no other displays worth mentioning so I was very surprised when another club won – hmmm, must send the judges some magnifying glasses- we had 3 helium balloons per car, a tall 5 metre mast with helium balloons and American flag stuff everywhere, every car had a poster saying what happened the year that car was built – BTW in 1988 Prozac was invented !!


 We drove back to the motel, had a few beers then at dusk walked to the RSL club about 2 kms away. The stars in the outback are amazing and reached almost to the horizon on this moonless night.  On the way there John passed us in his Buick Wildcat, then stopped to pick up Bob & Ross who were 20 metres in front of us. Kel & Coral, Bruce & Helen also drove past us in their big American cars while Reidy, Bruce & I continued walking to the RSL. When we got there we heard there was not enough food for everyone, so John’s Wildcat and Bruce’s GTO ferried a bunch of us to the Waverley pub where we had thick juicy steaks and a very reasonable price.

A few more drinks back at the Motel and we turned in around midnight. Woke up Monday morning 7.15am, loaded the cars, paid our bill and began the long drive home. Bob decided to keep his roof on and started off in the lead. We had breakfast just north of Townsville at a servo. Half chicken and chips filled a hole – $7. Reidy took over driving and we left first, a few mins ahead of the others. I plugged the MP3 player into the CD and we listened to an interview with Wayne Bennet among other things.

We refueled at Cardwell and I took over driving back to Cairns. We saw some speed traps but they were all working the north-south side of the road. We arrived home 3.30pm, about 6 hours of driving and 30 mins of breakfasting.

My vette used no oil during the trip. Water temps were too low, we only saw 73-79C most of the time, The radiator shop have put the wrong T stat in because I usually have minimum set at 84C so I will have to change that. Oil pressure was 63psi at 1900 revs which is good.

As always it was the people who made the weekend – Bob, Ross, Bruce, the Ingham Crowd, the American Car club etc. Having my old mate Reidy along was a bonus, we’ve sailed thousands of miles together and had a ton of laughs along the way. He’s a retired aircraft engineer and has restored old jags as well as raced motorbikes so he was interested in everything at the show. I haven’t seen him for a few years and catching up was great.

My vette got it’s fair share of attention –

Rob's vette


17th September 2007

After a mammoth 5000 kms (3100 miles) Motoring Holiday last year, June 2006, this year we drove the vette only 345kms (214 miles) down the coast from Cairns to Magnetic Island.

My wife declared that she wanted a ‘beach holiday’, I checked several beaches along the coast and finally decided on Magnetic Island as our destination.

After more searching I found the cheapest self contained accommodation on the Island at $89 per night and luckily our friends Barrie and Chris were on a yacht in the Marina there, waiting for good weather to head South. I got them to check the units out and Barrie sent some pics.

Here’s the view from the front door-

I asked the lady managing the units what condition they were in and she said they were old, but clean and tidy. She told me to imagine it would be like ‘staying with Nanna’ ! So from then on we called them ‘Nanna’s Units’.

I’ve sailed to Magnetic island a few times, but never driven there. It’s a rocky continental island just off the coast of Townsville. The tourist brochure describes it well –

About the Island

Magnetic Island, located 8km North-East of Townsville, is the ideal choice for families seeking a relaxing holiday. This large and beautiful World Heritage island is surrounded by sparkling blue waters with golden sandy beaches, coral gardens and an array of National Park walking tracks. Magnetic Island has twenty-two beaches and 24 kilometres of walking tracks winding their way through tropical bush. Just off shore is a diverse range of fringing reefs where you can discover an amazing array of marine life and soft and hard corals. With an average of 320 days of sunshine annually, Magnetic Island offers activities to enjoy at every imaginable tempo. From fast and furious water sports, to a relaxing swim in the clear waters of the Coral Sea. Then, as the sun sets, relax and enjoy the balmy, tropical island night.

Our Holiday

I have never crammed so much stuff into the vette! The rear was at least 150mm (6") lower than usual. I was really worried we’d break a spring on some of the bad bumps between Cairns and Townsville, but those springs must be tough !

Eventually everything was loaded into the cargo area, including 2 fold up chairs, pillows, food, cold drinks etc. I had to push hard to shut the hatch.

I made just enough room so that I could use the rear view mirror and finally we were ready to go.


We left Cairns on a sunny Monday, at 9.20am, 17th September 2007.

I always think that September and October have the best weather, here’s the view from the drivers seat passing through Innisfail. This sunny weather lasted the entire holiday.

Approaching the Cardwell ranges – halfway there.

Thanks to all the work I did on the vette last year, preparing it for the long trip to Brisbane, I had very little to do this time and we had an enjoyable drive down to Townsville, stopping at the frosty Mango for refreshments and arriving at the ferry terminal at 2pm.

Although the vette is low, it went onto the ferry easily.

The trip over to the Island took about 30 minutes. We felt that we were really on holiday and were a bit excited watching the Island grow steadily larger and knowing we would be driving onto it in a few minutes – looking for ‘Nanna’s’

Driving off the ferry was OK, I turned the wheels just after this photo so that I crossed the join between ramp and jetty on the diagonal.

After a short 5 minute drive we arrived at No 1 The Esplanade, Nelly Bay. Our unit was exactly as described and we began to consider extending our stay for more than the planned 5 days. It was very hot in the unit, 34C at 4.30pm, obviously no ceiling insulation and there was very little breeze that day but it had a small air conditioner which soon cooled the room down.

The units were exactly as described, obviously built in the 60’s and a bit worn – I had to screw the towel rail back on! But they were clean and tidy and the bed was comfortable.

The vette was parked right outside the front door

After unpacking everything, and removing the roof which stayed off until we left a week later, we drove over the mountain to Picnic Bay.

Here’s a video I made of that trip, holding the camera in one hand and steering with the other – (right click twice)



On Tuesday we spent most of the day at Picnic Bay, sitting on the grass under a huge Banyan tree.

The area used to be the busiest on the Island, because of the ferry terminal, but we discovered that the ferry no longer uses the pier and instead goes to the Nelly Bay harbour. Picnic bay was semi deserted and very peaceful. We had a swim and explored.


We re-visited Picnic bay several times, it was our favourite spot. Hear how calm and peaceful it was on this video –


On Wednesday we went Crocodile wrestling at the Koala Sanctuary – mine was a fierce brute

Mo soon had her’s under control!!

Next I tried snake charming

Mo found a new friend

and the Koala’s were wide awake

It was a good tour, and we learned that Male Koala’s Roar to proclaim their territory, something that we experienced ourselves a few days later.

As we were leaving we were all attacked by man eating Lorikeets, they were everywhere.

It was hot in the sun, so I bought myself a beachcomber hat at Horseshoe Bay – not sure if it’s a good look though


On Thursday we walked up to the lookout at Picnic Bay

It was a hot dry ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ type walk.

On the way up we had some spectacular views of other bays and the rest of the Island.

Magnetic island only has 10km (6 miles) of sealed roads, yet we managed to do nearly 200kms of roofless driving while there.

The Island is famous for it’s hire fleet of Mini Mokes, an ideal car for holidaying in the sun.

It was always funny parking the vette next to a Moke.

It was a relaxing holiday, we visited all the beaches, did some walking and sometimes stayed at Nanna’s enjoying the peace and view.

We decided to extend our stay and checkout on Monday

I heard a loud and interesting engine coming towards me, what a rumble!!!! it had to be something huge. Then around the headland came the Red Baron, a Biplane Seaplane, based at Horseshoe Bay and giving joy flights round the Island.

We discovered it spent the nights on a floating platform in the Marina at Nelly Bay. The plane was used in the ‘Phantom’ Movie filmed in North Queensland a few years ago.

I took some video of it a few days later at Horseshoe Bay.



On Saturday after spending the day back at Picnic Bay, we went for a late afternoon bush walk to ‘The Forts’, hoping to see some Koala’s in the wild. Once again, the brochure describes it well.

World War II Forts

If you enjoy bush walking, Magnetic Island has 36 km network of walking tracks that provide opportunities to see the wildlife in its natural environment and also enjoy the many spectacular views from several lookouts. One of the most popular walks on the island is the forts walk. This walk starts from the junction of Horseshoe Bay Road and Radical Bay Road, diverging from the start of the Arthur Bay road, is a track which takes you along a ridge behind the bays to “The Forts”. This 2 km walk takes you back in time to World War II, where a series of concrete gun emplacements and observation posts were built during World War II to protect Townsville in the event of a Japanese invasion. These posts offer panoramic views of the bays below and all the way from Townsville in the south over Cleveland Bay to Palm Island to the north over Horseshoe Bay and the Coral Sea. Looking east over Arthur and Florence Bays and the Coral Sea is Cape Cleveland and Bowling Green Bay National Park. There is a real chance of spotting a few Koalas in the trees, too. 4km or 1.5 hours return. Grade: moderate.

About halfway to the Forts we spotted two people staring up into a tree, and as we approached we saw a Koala and baby in the fork of a tree.

We crept up closer, they were just beginning to wake up, I took another picture in the fading light

Having seen heaps of Koala’s in captivity, it felt very special to see these two, in the wild. We discovered that some bushwalkers lay two sticks across each other on the track to help find these hard to spot sleepyheads and thanks to the crossed sticks we saw some more on the way back from the forts in the dusk.

Eventually we spotted the Forts, caught in the last rays of the setting sun –

Still a way to climb, but we made it just as the sun set.

As we began our climb down, we heard a roaring noise which at first sounded like either a distant chain saw or motorbike. After moving down a few more metres we realised the sound was much closer – it was a Male Koala calling out to claim his territory – this guy was Literally King of the Castle


On Sunday we went to Horseshoe bay for the markets, which had been advertised in the local paper, but they weren’t there, in some ways it was better to miss the crowds . We had a pleasant day on the beach, swimming, walking and sitting in the shade by the vette –

"Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits"

Nanna’s units were close to the new harbour and we found a colony of Rock Wallabies living there.


It’s amazing that they would choose to live hidden among the tumbled rocks of the harbour wall. On the fence was a notice letting people know what they eat and what they shouldn’t eat. We walked out and watched them several nights. I took some video of them including this Mother with Joey in the pouch, popping it’s head out to eat the food left for them.

The island has all the usual wildlife and is well known for it’s huge population of Curlews – these graceful birds make an awesome noise during the night that sound just like someone is being murdered!

One evening at Man Friday, an open air restaurant, a curlew paraded around the tables begging for food and making a sort of grumbling noise when he didn’t find any. We went back there a few nights later and the Curlew was joined by a hungry possum, scampering between tables.


My wife had the beach holiday she asked for, and highlights of the trip were driving around the twisty roads with the roof off, listening to the V8 rumble, sitting on the beach in the evening, the curlews, the perfect weather.

We loved Magnetic island, the locals were very friendly, it would be a great place to live. About the only disappointment I can think of is the Indian Curry night – those guys need to go back to cooking school!!

On Monday 24th September we boarded the Ferry at low tide, the ramp down to the ferry seemed steep, I wouldn’t have like to try and climb back up it in reverse, but luckily the vette went onto the ferry without grounding. We stopped in Townsville to have lunch at the new fish bar by the lagoon, then called in to see an old friend for a while. We moseyed back to Cairns arriving at dusk. An excellent ‘Motoring Holiday’ following in the fine tradition that my Dad started many years ago.

Would I go to magnetic island again? YOU BETCHA   – I’d go tomorrow!!

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July 10th 2006

This time last year I was driving to an airshow in England with my brother. As we got nearer to Duxford the traffic built up, and we saw signs advising us to park and catch a shuttle bus to the airdrome. I asked Pete if he wanted to do that and he replied, “No way – I’m a MOTORIST’ !!!

When we were young our parents took us on many motoring holidays, my Dad was a keen ‘Motorist’. He had the badges on the front of the car etc, and we drove around England and even across France to the Mediterranean. It was always an adventure. We live in a different era now, with cheap airfares and expensive fuel, but I thought it would be fun to take my 1988 Corvette on a ‘Motoring Holiday’ from Cairns to Brisbane.


First I had to prepare the vette for the 4 to 5 thousand kilometre round trip (2500-3000 miles). I worked through a long list of known things that needed to be done. 

The hydraulic lifters were not adjusted properly after the heads were reconditioned last year. It took me nearly 3 hours to remove the right-hand rocker cover because of all the parts like the airconditioning compressor that were in the way, and because of my bad back I could only work for short periods, but within a few days I had the lifters adjusted properly and everything back together.


The next project was to remove some excess padding from the passenger seat side bolsters, which had been added in error when I had the seats recovered. That was an easy job.

My back is partially fused together and very stiff. That, and my height, make it hard to get into the vette seat, so I have lowered the seat as much as I can. It’s so low that I was sitting on some of the adjusting machinery. The main culprit was the power reclining mechanism. After some research I discovered that the manual reclining mechanism was less intrusive, so I ordered one of those from Vette2Vette in America.


For a long time the windscreen had been leaking in heavy rain. Eventually I found the source of the leak, between the glass and metal trim. I cleaned out the old silicone and resealed both sides.

A simple job was changing the oil and filter – or so I thought at the time.

Another job on the list was fixing the door locks. On the passenger side the key would not operate the lock, and on the drivers side the electric solenoid was stiff, preventing the remote locking system from working. Working inside the passenger door was tricky. The lock is at the top rear corner and mostly I had to work one handed and unsighted. It was while I was stretched and twisted trying to re-fit a circlip that I wrenched something in my spine which gave me a massive spasm and has been causing me pain ever since, despite many trips to the physiotherapist.

After losing the circlip in the door several times, I supaglued some thread onto it and of course it fitted straight on the next go!


On the drivers side I drilled out the rivets holding the power door lock solenoid in place. Took the solenoid apart and discovered it’s a motor not a solenoid. Cleaned it and the door lock up and bolted it back into place.


While working on the car one of the headlight lids came loose. I had it re-glued with expensive panel adhesive and I also attached a safety wire so that if one came loose again it wouldn’t fly off the car.

The steering rack had begun to leak, so I booked the car in with the steering rack specialists. What started out as a 2 day job turned into an 11 day saga. Firstly, because of the Right Hand Drive conversion, the rack is not a Corvette one and couldn’t be identified. The vette was converted by Corvette Queensland so I rang them to ask what the rack was from. They told me they didn’t know, but could sell me another one……. Hmmmmm.

Eventually the seals etc were sourced and the rack reconditioned. When they were refitting it I was told that the steering hadn’t been centered correctly during the conversion. I finally picked the vette up on a Sunday morning, with just a week to go before our planned holiday. The steering wheel was 1/3rd of a turn out and the specialists advised me that was because they had ‘re-engineered’ the rack so that it was centered. They also said I would have a tighter turning circle.

I noticed that the indicator wouldn’t cancel on one side, so I dismantled the mechanism inside the steering column but found it was not adjustable. I then had a lot of trouble refitting everything, eventually I made a ‘pusher’ from the steering wheel puller and managed to squeeze the spring back down and fit the C clip.

I noticed some oil leaking from the new rack so took it back, but the workshop couldn’t find a leak, they did notice a blob of green coolant and suggested that maybe the coolant was leaking, so I hurriedly drove round to the radiator shop. Time was running out and if something needed fixing I only had one day, Friday, left to organise it. They pressure tested the system and could find no problem. The leak must have been caused by oil residue because it hasn’t leaked since. I felt very confident that the coolant system would give no trouble after the pressure test.

Other jobs included hiding spare keys, replacing blown globes in the 3rd brake light, having front wheels aligned and balanced, etc.

Our plan was to leave early on Sunday morning, but while I was doing last minute jobs on Saturday afternoon, I discovered that the sump plug was loose and that the thread was partially stripped in the sump. Drama!! I rang some ’24hr’ mechanics but no-one could help me till Monday morning.

So, on day 2 of our planned ‘Motoring Holiday’ I was at a workshop, still in Cairns, at 7am, having a new thread cut into the sump and a new bolt made. I dashed home at 8.15am and began loading the Corvette. As it would be mid winter in Brisbane we had to take some warm clothes with us. We also took two pillows, some grog and bottled water, tools, books etc. The hardest thing to fit was my radio controlled airplane! but I got it all in somehow –



Ready to go at 9.30am Monday June 2006


My last 1700km (1056 miles) trip back from Brisbane took only 16 hours, and fuel economy was a surprisingly low 9.8 litres per 100 km. (UK 28.8mpg, US 24mpg). This time we planned to take it easy, over three days, so we had booked a room at the Horseshoe Bay Resort in Bowen for Monday night.

We began our ‘Motoring Holiday’ at 9.35am.(there’s a Map at the end) 

About one hour into the trip I discovered that the rear wheels were out of balance and vibrating, so we stopped at Tully to have them rebalanced. We topped up our fuel in Townsville at the BP on the Southern side. Fuel was 6c a litre cheaper than Cairns. The Corvette ran very well, fuel economy was 10.2l/100kms (UK 27.7mpg, US 23 mpg) which was excellent for a 5.7litre 350ci  V8 engine. The engine ran cool and thanks to the low overdrive ratio it was purring along at the legal speed limit of 100kph (62 mph) at a mere 1900rpm.

We arrived in Bowen at 4.55pm, a bit later than planned. The drive to Bowen is usually about 6 hours but we’d taken 7.5 hrs because of the stops. It had seemed like a long drive, and I was feeling very tired for the last 90 minutes of it, but soon woke up as we enjoyed a walk along the beach and up some rocks to a lookout. The view of the sea and islands was great.


We left Bowen at 8.25am on Tuesday, determined to press on and cover some kilometres, hopefully reaching Gin Gin. We stopped for breakfast at Mackay then an hour later, at Sarina, Mo took over the driving. She took a while to adjust to driving the vette, which is understandable as it’s more like a racing car than a ‘shopping car’. It’s very low seating position, direct steering, 10inch tyres which grip the road and plenty of power all earn it the nickname of ‘The Beast’. She drove very carefully for about half an hour until she began to get used to it and we were soon eating up the distance again.

I took over driving at Rockhampton, we refuelled at Miriamvale where the fuel was expensive, and we arrived in Gin Gin after dusk at around 6.30pm. In the ten hours driving we had covered around 800 kms (500 miles), almost half the distance from Cairns to Brisbane. We walked across the main road to the pub for an excellent meal, enjoying the wood fire and gas heaters, something we don’t need in Cairns even in the winter.

We left Gin Gin at 8.15am Wednesday 28th June and drove two hours down to Corvette Queensland in Gympie, where I had arranged a test drive of a 1999 silver Corvette. The C5 Corvette was excellent, very smooth and a lot more internal room. The engine had more power too.


Oh yes, I can see myself in one of these!!! Only the $75,000 price tag holding me back.

After Gympie we drove a further hour south, stopping for a couple of hours at the Eumundi markets. The weeks of car preparation had been very hectic, right up to the last job on Monday morning. The drive down is long and although great to do it in the vette, still hard work. The sun was out and we relaxed with a coffee. It was here, in Eumundi that we really felt that our holiday had begun. (Click for local Map)

At 2.30 we drove to Nambour and up the range to Monteville. We drove around looking for a suitable motel close to restaurants and eventually stopped at the Monteville Motor Inn, where we had stayed before. It got very cold there after dark. My ears were frozen.


For our evening meal we walked to a pub style restaurant called the ‘Penny Farthing’ where they had Guinness beer on tap. Walking back at 10pm we enjoyed the bright stars and very cold mountain air.

Thursday morning was very sunny. The motel had bore water, the friendly owner lent me a hose and bucket and I gave the vette a wash. I had to put my hands under the hot tap afterwards, I reckon they’d got frostbite. Here’s the Corvette in the motel grounds with Mo and the Teddy we bought at Eumundi.


From Monteville we cruised along the ridge road with spectacular views down to the Sunshine coast and arrived in Maleny for a morning cuppa. After that we drove to the Mary Cairncross park to admire the view of the glass mountains, then went back down the range to the Ettamogah pub where we visited the sheepskin factory and I bought new sheepskin slippers.

We drove over to Caloundra for a fish and chips lunch.


It was very windy at Caloundra and there was a view of the glasshouse mountains from a different side –


After lunch we headed into Brisbane, crossing the Gateway bridge. Our destination was Stafford Street in East Brisbane, and we were almost there when we got snarled up in a two hour traffic jam.


I turned on the manual coolant fan switch and the vette remained cool at 84C. We crawled along for the next 2 hours, navigating with the UBD to make sure we kept in the right lanes. The throttle had been a bit sticky for the last 2 days and had to be tapped hard to knock it back to idle which made the traffic jam a bit more interesting. We arrived at Mike’s townhouse after dark and the keys he had sent me didn’t fit the door. I was really busting for a pee, so I christened a large plant in his front garden, hoping we had come to the right house!!!

Eventually we found the garage door unlocked and the key fitted the sliding glass door into the garage. We unloaded the vette and were impressed with all Mike’s renovation work. The place seemed like new. I replaced his old Datsun Sunny in the garage with the Corvette, it looked so much better.


On Friday we caught the City Cat from a jetty about 300 metres away and toured the river and city by foot.


The weather remained excellent for the rest of our holiday, blue skies every day and light breezes. While at Southbank I called in at an Indian Restaurant we had enjoyed eating at last time we were in Brisbane. I got a menu and their phone number and checked that we would need to book, mentioning that it would be either today or tomorrow.

On Saturday 1st July we took the roof off the vette and cruised to Sandgate and Redcliffe. The weather was perfect.  


We stopped for coffee and Mo enjoyed sitting in the shade reading the local newspaper.


I measured this Esplanade drive at 33kms, perhaps the longest Esplanade drive in the world?


This is just the Redcliffe part of the Esplanade which goes all the way along this coast line, plus perhaps a third again at Sandgate.

Later on, at Redcliffe, we found a good place to take some vette pics, here’s Mo still trying to read the paper.


That night we caught up with Steve and Lehte and had an Indian Curry – but not at the Curry place at Southbank, because their lease had run out that day and they were closed!!! Even though I had visited them only the day before to get a menu and phone number. It can be a crazy world. After the curry Steve drove us around the streets, ending up in Bulimba with a ghost story!! and then back to Stafford street where we sat and talked some more till late.

On Monday I was due to visit Ben for a Corvette session and to let him fly my 3D Acrobatic plane. Unfortunately he was called in to work, so Mo and I drove down to the Gold Coast.





After the Gold Coast we drove up Mt Tambourine and enjoyed views of the Gold Coast and Hinterland.



That night I drove over to see Ben. Navigating alone at night in a strange city was made easier by a route list that I usually make and hang from the dash. I list each street and mark left or right turns etc (I still got lost though!). The map light in the interior mirror is brilliant, it’s very easy to drive with it on because it shines vertically down and lights the cabin without shining in my eyes.


For a long time we have been trying to get my Corvette computer to communicate with scanning programs. I recently fitted another ECM to the vette and this one communicated instantly with his laptop, which was great news. We tried Win ALDL and Datamaster and I saw how much faster Datamaster was. It was incredible to see all the sensor data flowing onto the laptop screen and once I get our laptop configured this will help me diagnose engine problems and help me keep my vette running in top form. We tested my knock sensor and the scanner reported no knock detected – even when Ben hit the engine with a hammer – so it needs to be replaced.

After discussing some more Corvette things, and hearing his 1984 Corvette roar with almost no mufflers, I flew my plane from his garage door, out to the street and back. There wasn’t enough room to give him a go so he took my vette for a test drive and stopped at a park to see if we could fly my plane. It was very dark and I just couldn’t see it well enough to fly it. I gave Ben the transmitter and used my torch to spotlight the plane. He did very well considering it is not a simple thing to fly. It was good fun.

On Tuesday we drove to Ipswich. Mo and I grew up in the UK, in and around the town of Ipswich, Suffolk, so obviously we’ve always wanted to visit the Queensland version. We climbed the water tower and had a really good 360 degree view. (Click for Local Map)


Here’s a view from the drivers seat – 


Then we crossed the river on the  Moggill Ferry and arrived at Steve’s place just before lunch. 


After lunch Steve and I had a look at my sticking throttle, the cable had been damaged and we soon eliminated everything else as the cause. The more we worked on the cable the worse it got!!! We re-routed it, oiled it, swore at it, taped it and eventually gave up. We took each others vettes for a drive. Steve said my 88 was more refined and I reckon his 85 had more power. After checking out a few other things it was time to leave. Steve and Lehte decided to come with us to Mt Coot-tha so we drove in convoy. By this time it was dark and Steve has no roof on his vette. I bet they were freezing, but it was great to drive in convoy with another C4 Corvette. Steve’s throttle must have been sticky too, because he left a lot of rubber on the road!! he he.

The night view of Brisbane City from Mt Coot-tha was spectacular. We said goodbye to Steve and Lehte and navigated our way back through Brisbane and over the river. We stopped to get some food and then, on the way back to Mike’s place, we missed a turning and ended up going across the river again, this time on the Story bridge, which was lit up and interesting to drive across. Luckily Mo recognised some streets from all the walking she’s done in the city and we managed to re-cross the river and get home.


Wednesday July 5th was our last day in Brisbane. We drove over to see John Bondok, the Corvette Conversion guru and I had a good talk with him about several Corvette things. He sent me on an unsuccessful search for a new throttle cable and eventually we ended up driving around Wynnum Manly, an area we always enjoy. We had coffee on the outside deck at the Manly Marina and then drove to the yacht club where our last yacht now lives. I got permission to get into the Marina and we found Allegro and climbed aboard for a few minutes.

On Thursday morning we tidied up and set off for home in brilliant sunshine at 9.50am. We took the Gateway Highway and then turned off and joined the Bruce Highway which goes all the way to Cairns. The Corvette burbled along, the cruise control holding a steady speed. We refuelled at Childers and had a good run on almost empty roads until near Gladstone. Here we were stuck in a long queue of traffic from a road accident several kilometres ahead. Finally we reached the turn off for Tannum Sands, just before Gladstone and we drove down to have a look, finding a nice Motel near the river and beach at Boyne Island.

The next morning we took some pics –




n Friday morning we left Boyne at 10.30am and ran through to Carmilla at 3.30pm where we refuelled and had a snack. From there it was a short 30mins to Reidies place at Sarina, arriving at 4.30pm. It was great to catch up with him and Bernice. We marvelled at all the work they’d done on their 2 acre block. I flew my plane around for 10 minutes and we talked and laughed for the next 6 hours.

The Corvette looked great in their drive way –


But then, it looks good anywhere!

We left for the last leg home on Saturday 8th July 2006, at 9.45am. It was a long day, the sun got hotter and hotter as we headed North. We refuelled at Townsville and arrived home after dark at 7.15pm. We made good time on the road, taking nine and a half hours to get home from Sarina even though we were delayed a few times with roadworks and a queue at the Townsville fuel station.

Stats for the trip showed we had travelled just under 5000 kms (3100 miles), at an average fuel economy of 10.8 l/100kms. (UK 26mpg US 21.8mpg). Fuel prices averaged $1.35 per litre (US $1, GB 55p) for premium unleaded and we spent about $700 on fuel, $500 of that was just the Cairns/Brisbane leg.

Everywhere the vette went it got noticed and people would say hello, it was a great conversation opener. I was amazed how much gear we fitted into the vette and yet I couldn’t feel any difference loaded or unloaded. The powerful engine made driving easy, whether in city traffic or the open road. Except for the sticky throttle cable, the car was entirely reliable and ran faultlessly. The cable was damaged recently and will be replaced now we’re back home.

The long distance drive between Cairns and Brisbane generally takes between 20 and 24 hours to complete. The road south between Cairns and Ingham is in bad condition with some big potholes and many bumpy repairs. From Ingham to Brisbane there are many long straights and the road improves as it goes South.

I’ve always enjoyed driving, hence the idea to have a Motoring Holiday, but it would be more enjoyable if it wasn’t for the low speed limit of 100kph (62mph), combined with hidden speed cameras. It’s a fine balance between choosing to overtake vehicles doing 95kph and getting caught speeding.

It’s been calculated that without breaking the 100kph speed limit, it takes 2 or 3 kilometres to overtake someone doing 95kph. That’s a really dangerous move, far better to pick a safe spot and get past quickly, not linger around waiting for someone to come the other way.

Why overtake when the car in front is doing nearly 100kph? Firstly, my experience for several years has been that a person that drives at 95kph tends to slow down going up hills, round corners and when there are overhanging trees – crazy I know but it becomes very obvious, hour after hour driving down the highway, especially with cruise control on.
Many cars speedometers under read the speed. It may show 100kph on the dash but if checked by GPS is often several kph less, down as low as 92 in some cases

The cause of this discrepancy is largely due to the changing circumference of a tyre as it wears, plus manufacturers have to add a safety factor into the speedometer to cover this.

So the car in front may only be going at 96kph. That’s why some drivers get annoyed when you overtake, because they think they’re at the speed limit and you must be over it.

Secondly, and importantly on long journeys, maintaining as close to 100kph as reasonable, reduces a 12 hour day to 11 hours. A very worthwhile reduction.
Imagine arriving at your destination after a long 11 hour drive and then consider how you’d feel if you still had another whole hour to go!

Who choose 100kph ? Why get locked onto such a nice round number ? In the UK and US they use 70MPH (112kph) which would be a little better, but we all seem to be hypnotised by a number instead of selecting a speed we feel safe at.

In the years before the blanket speed limit, the average cruising speed, where safe, was 120kph. Since then the roads have got wider and straighter and cars roadholding and braking have improved dramatically. Yet we are now all tethered to a slow 100kph.

There are a few places where 100kph seems a fair speed limit, but for the rest of the 1700km trip to Brisbane, 120 to 140kph would be quite safe. There are hundreds of long straights in the middle of no-where that feel comfortable at between 140kph and 160kph.

The other crazy thing is that the slower driver who has a queue of traffic behind him, speeds up when there’s an overtaking lane. This is a very well known phenomenon and is hugely annoying, preventing you from getting past a slow car that is holding you up. It’s far safer when cars have a good distance between them and not all driving behind each other.
A better principle for the slow car when there’s an overtaking lane, would be to slow down and let all the people they’re holding up get past.

On a positive note, this time I found all the caravan drivers very good. If they were driving in convoy, they left enough room between each van to make overtaking safe. I believe the camaraderie between caravanners has promoted discussions and they all now seem very aware of overtaking cars. Unfortunately there were a few groups of cars driving nose to tail which meant overtaking could only be done safely on long straights.

Our Motoring Holiday was a big success, driving allowed us to see many things that would be missed by flying. While the fuel bill seems high, it would only have taken a few days to equal the cost of car hire and instead of some Avis ‘Shopping Car’, we were driving around for two weeks in a famous luxury V8 sportscar – not too bad! Our only regret is that we would have liked to have had more time.

I have a new list of jobs for the Vette, in my efforts to live in a perfect world, and there’ll always be work to be done to keep an 18 year old car running well. It was a great trip and I’m already looking forward to the next ‘Motoring Holiday’.


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