Travels & Troubles

I bought my little 1953 MG TF (1250cc) in 1964 – it was love at first sight. She was Birch Grey and I bought her from Hasting Deerings Ford at Top Ryde, in Sydney.

I was 16-years-old and an apprentice panel beater and spray painter at the dealership, and soon repainted the car in a beautiful Silver Blue metallic. I remember days and nights just sitting in her at the back of my parents’ home; going nowhere but dreaming of where I would drive her when I could.

As soon as I could, I joined the Sydney MG Car Club and entered the TF in hillclimbs at Lithgow in the Blue Mountains and in lap-dashes at Oran Park.

Around Australia

In the early 1970s I did something I had always wanted – I drove my little MG TF around Australia, with a little Jayco camper in tow. Although bigger than the MG, the camper towed very well, even on the many bulldust roads.

From Sydney I drove to Adelaide then across the Nullarbor Plain, on the Eyre Hwy. Dust, and the heat from the exhaust, came up through the timber floor.

Outside Kalgoorlie on dusk, I was overtaken by three cars. The front one had a bull bar and, worried about hitting kangaroos I tried to stay with them, but couldn’t keep up.

I soon passed another car without a bull bar, that had hit a kangaroo – the car was a write-off. From then on I sounded my horn over and over to try and scare any wayward ’roos away from the road.

In Perth I met a lady, Anne, who became my wife and in Geraldton, where we lived for three and a half years, we had a baby girl; Charmaine. I worked in Geraldton, about 420km north of Perth, as a spray painter. We were given a pet dog, Sandy, and a budgie in a cage. By the time we left Geraldton, the little MG was very full.

Driving north to Carnarvon we had such a strong head wind that the MG wouldn’t go over 20 mph. I thought the engine was giving out.

The road from Port Hedland to Broome was like a beach and I sand-blasted the rear mudguards.

We reached Fitzroy Crossing late on a Sunday afternoon, with only half a tank of petrol, and the garage was closed. We teamed up with another car and set off along the very rough, corrugated road. On dusk we came across a broken wooden trailer, with no registration plate, three bald tyres, two of which were flat. The trailer was empty, apart from a 44-gallon drum full of petrol. We took the lot, except for one gallon, and got out of there quick smart.

We stopped for three weeks at the beautiful Lake Argyle, which was only completed in 1971, and the town of Kununurra; which was built to service the Ord River Scheme.

Then it was on to Darwin, where we arrived just before the start of the wet season, about eight months after Cyclone Tracy. Some people we had met in Perth couldn’t believe the little MG had made it all the way to Darwin towing the camper.

There was plenty of work on smashed and damaged cars after Cyclone Tracy. By the time we arrived in Darwin we were almost flat broke, but the owner of the car yard gave us space for our camper and paid me a week’s wages in advance to keep us going.

Four months later we headed south to Katherine Gorge, where we set up camp. One day we were returning from town, after buying supplies, and the MG broke a conrod. We got a tow back to camp, where I pulled down the motor. I got a new conrod and piston sent from Sydney so I could rebuild the engine.

We then drove down to Alice Springs, where we left the camper, then went on to Uluru (Ayers Rock) before returning north as far as Three Ways, past Tennant Creek, then across the Barkly Hwy into Queensland and up to Cairns. We loved Cairns, but after a while it was time to head south again.

The drive down the Queensland Coast was without problems, but crossing into NSW, going through the Border Ranges, I had to drop down through the gears to first gear to get over one very steep hill. Later on, outside Forster, I had to go down to first gear again to get up the Bulahdelah Hill. The MG was really struggling by this time. The diff was also making a lot of noise all the way from Queensland.

By the time I got home to Dee Why in Sydney there was smoke pouring out of the side vents below the bonnet. As I unhitched the camper trailer you could almost hear the MG sigh with relief.

The engine had to be rebuilt and I did a full restoration on the MG, before moving with it up to the Central Coast to live.

Disaster!

Everything changed on 27 May 1998.

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