8,930 miles across Australia in a Mini Van, in 1965
Words by Craig Watson. Photos by Ken & Robyn Stanford.
For Ken and Robyn Stanford, spending ten weeks travelling Australia in a Mini van seemed the perfect holiday.
“I had thirteen weeks long-service leave due”, Ken recalls, “so Robyn and I decided to spend ten weeks touring the Outback”.
The trip was recorded in detail in the BMC Rosette, and Modern Motor magazine in October 1965. “At the time of the decision we had a Morris Cooper”, they reported, “which we traded in on the Morris Mini-Van, at our local BMC dealer, Stanlord Motors of Wollongong”.
The couple were not novices to roughing it in a Mini, though. Two years earlier they had driven to Mt Kosciousko in the snow. In 1962 Ken had packed up his near-new Morris 850 with all his camping equipment, before changing into his best suit and driving to the church to marry Robyn. They left straight from the wedding for their honeymoon in Tasmania.
“It was a pouring wet night, just horrible”, Robyn remembers. “We were wanting to get as far as we could that night, because we had to get the boat from Melbourne, but Ken decided to book us into a motel that night closer to home.”
“Ken was in the Coalcliff Surf Club, and he was going to Tassie for a competition. He rang me out of the blue one night and said he thought he might take me with him. We’d been engaged for four months and the quick decision set everyone’s tongue wagging.”
“On the boat, we went down to the dining room in the morning for breakfast, and saw all these surf club fellas, from all over the place, and we walked down the steps and they all yelled out “here come the honeymooners”.
After the surf carnival the couple spent two weeks touring Tasmania, camping in their Mini. “We made it up so we slept in the car”, Ken explains. “We had a little lean-to tent thing, and used to set that up beside the Mini, and then we could put a tarp up between them if we needed it.”
After such an experience, they knew that a touring trip into the Outback was possible in a Mini, but decided on the van for the extra space. Ken did a fair bit of preparation to the Mini before they left, as he details.
“I was an electrician at the mine at Coalcliff, and I got the boiler makers to make me a good sump-guard, out of ” plate. They cut slots through it, then welded ” strips in between, so it let air through to the sump, but it was really strong.
I also got an ” plate made up to cover the fuel tank, with a leading edge curved up, and where the exhaust came into the muffler, I made a skid plate, with a leading edge, to cover that.”
The number plate was lifted up by the simple method of bolting it on through the bottom holes instead of the top holes.
“A few simple modifications allowed us to have a comfortable bed 6ft 2in (187cm) long in the van”, Ken continues. “We unrivetted the front seats and bolted them in with wing nuts so they could be taken out in a jiffy.”
“Then we made a platform from composition board and a couple of small wooden legs to cover the floor well, giving us a level surface for the bed. In daytime we just rolled the bedding back.”
“At night, things like tent poles and camping table would go underneath the car. The luggage rack on the roof carried the tent, two spare wheels and a four-gallon (18lt) jerry-can for extra fuel.”
“Everything else went inside, including camping gear, three suit cases, four 2 gallon plastic drums for water, and a small tool kit.”
“In the tyre compartment, behind the pass-enger’s seat, we had a box which served as our larder. In it was enough tinned food to have lasted us a couple of weeks, if an emergency arose.”
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 19 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>26</plumshop> <plumshop>25</plumshop>