MG TC2446 Round Australia in 1988
Early in 1988 the decision was made to drive Harry Pyle’s TC2446 to the Canberra Natmeet to mark Australia’s bicentennial anniversary. Deidre had work commitments, but Harry and his 22 year old son Philip were able to take 4 weeks annual leave to complete the trip. Here is Philip’s recollection of the journey.
“Contemplating the trip, while looking at a map late one night, it seemed to me that it would not be much further to do a big loop there and back rather than drive directly to Canberra. Besides it would be much more adventurous to follow Highway One right around. Dad agreed with this idea.
Map of proposed route.
Between us, Dad and I checked and serviced the TC in readiness for our big trip and packed in any spares
we thought necessary. On March 10th 1988 we set off from Perth with the hood down, in a clockwise direction
into the heat of the northwest. This climate detail was factored into our planning. Dad had rigged up an ice
container to sit on the seat between us, while Mum had sewn thick wadding into the crowns of our wide-brimmed cotton hats. This plan saved us from sunstroke as we regularly dunked our hats into the
melting ice to keep our heads cool and drank gallons of water.
To help the TC run cool in these conditions, Dad fitted an oil cooler and both water and oil temperature
gauges. Neither us nor the car had any real trouble with the heat. We made good time that first day
despite the howling easterlies creating a serious dust hazard.
Having left Perth at 5.30pm we made our first camp at Geraldton by 10.45pm
From the start our daily schedule was to take off very early, get a few hundred kilometers under our belts,
then pull up at a roadhouse for fuel and a hearty breakfast. Somehow this plan enabled us to drive for long
hours each day, often 1,000 or more kms, 400 of these at night. We did experience a few problems with our
lights in the first couple of night driving episodes. We had no low beam for oncoming traffic; a major hassle.
When the high beam gave out we used the windscreen mounted spotty to find the road edge. Dad got up
early on Day 3 and after much fiddling around we realized that an 8amp generator won’t keep up with
120 watts of lights @ 12v (10amps).
Hence as the battery ran low there wasn’t enough voltage to excite the light relays.
This excited us somewhat whenever a huge Mack truck road train passed, doing 120km/hr and our lights went
out! The solution was to bypass the relays. We decided to press on in this mode and to keep an eye on the
heat of the light switch at night. In Port Hedland we bought a new battery as the original one was well and
truly ‘fixed up’.
We were right about the heat. Daily atmospheric temps were 44C, 80C on the bitumen and 50C in the car.
With the tacho constant at 3,200rpm, oil temp reached 72C (70PSI) and water temp 92c. Our 4.2 diff equated
to 98kpm or 62 mph for up to 14 hours each day. Removing the front number plate allowed more air
flow past the radiator and better cooling.
It was, after all late in March..still summer time in the north of Australia.
Click the images below to open in a NEW WINDOW fullsize
Picture 1 - TCOC farewell ~ Picture 2 - Esky as arm rest ~ Picture 3 - NT border crossing
We drove into the beautiful tropical mecca of Broome as the sun was setting but resisted the temptation to
stay a while and pressed on to Derby where we made camp about 9.30pm. We were pleased there were no
mosquitoes. However instead we were harassed by hundreds of 5cm long grasshoppers and zillions of biting,
microscopic midgies. “Jaws” we called them. Sleep was spasmodic until the skies opened and a tropical downpour drenched us to the skin and drowned the pesky insects. A quick hood and tent pitch and we both fell into a deep sleep until 5.30am.
After a long hot drive on day four, we arrived in Kununurra in daylight, where we found a caravan park set in a
lush tropical garden. To us it was paradise. After a very welcome shower we soaked in the swimming
pool like two lizards drinking, then had a very satisfying meal in a Chinese restaurant.
After our previous night’s experience with a dousing and the unwelcome attention of “Jaws” we pitched
the tent, minus the fly for coolness and slept like logs.
The sights of the Kimberley region at the tail of the “wet season” are truly magnificent.
Wildlife abounds; we saw Jabaroo, ibis, many smaller birds, mobs of Brahman cattle that are farmed in this
area and unexpectedly, a 3 foot long crocodile lazing beside the road.
We turned north on the Stuart Highway at Katherine and as we drove into Darwin we were greeted by a
monsoonal down pour. Arriving at my sister Krishna’s flat, she cooked us a nice meal and put us up for the night. We spent the next day, doing our laundry and sight-seeing places familiar to us having previously lived in the city until we moved to Perth in late 1975. There were friends and relatives to catch up with as well.
It proved to be a good break from the days of constant driving.
Heading back down the track, south, we decided to call into Daly River. Dad had heard that the priest who
married he and Mum was stationed at the mission there. Pulling into the mission we had second thoughts
that perhaps this was not such a good idea when we were greeted by a sea of screaming, excited little
piccaninnies who climbed all over the car. Fortunately Father Fallon appeared through the scrub, on his bicycle,
to see what the fuss was about. We renewed old acquaintances over a cool drink and continued on our way
south through Katherine to Mataranka Springs. A swim in the natural hot springs that form a beautiful
swimming pool followed by a few beers, was the perfect way to prepare for a good night’s sleep.
We called in briefly, for necessities, to a few small towns traveling south; our plan was to get to the
Devils Marbles before sunset. With this mission accomplished we pressed on to Alice Springs after
driving 1,068 kms that day.
Alice Springs is my birth place. It warranted a nostalgic tour of the town before we headed out to Ayers Rock.
Dad had a friend who ran the Ernest Giles Tavern there. It proved to be a good night; nice people, a few
drinks and a good feed. We were up early the next morning to get out to the rock and climb to the top.
Having come this far, we decided to make a day of it and went on out to the Olgas. While enjoying these
unique sites in the centre of Australia, tiny black ants were busy invading our tent and sleeping bags.
A whole tin of repellant finally got rid of most of them.
Picture 1 - Daly River Mission ~ Picture 2/3 - Barkly Tablelands ~ Picture 4 - Ayers Rock
The ant episode heralded another mishap the following day. I failed to fill the TC tank to the brim with
petrol when we left Ayers Rock, as we had done on the way out. Consequently we ran out of fuel a
few kilometers short of Alice Springs. Needless to say, I won the job of hitch-hiking to the nearest service station where the owner took pity on me, loaned me a jerry can to fill, and then drove me back to where Dad
was waiting with the TC. Another long day of driving 1163kms saw us arrive at Barkly Homestead, ½ way between Tennant Creek and Mount Isa, to camp the night.
Early the following morning heading east, I was driving into the biggest orange ball of sunrise ever,
when through the glare I sensed something in the way. Jamming on the brakes I locked up all four wheels
just in time to save a more serious collision with a big kangaroo. I must have hit him with the front wheel
on the down jump as there was no body damage to the TC. Dad and I aged a few years and the kangaroo
looked pretty pissed off as he bounded away.
Not much further along the road, in the middle of nowhere which is a good way to describe this barren stretch
of the Barkly Tablelands, the TC started miss firing.
We had completely run out of points gap in the dizzy. These were a new set of points when we left home.
It appears that the hot days up north helped to melt and wear the small red plastic cam follower.
We decided that this was a good time to clean/reset the spark plugs, check compression and lean off the
mixture in the rear carby by two flats. Continuing on we found the road surfaces in this part of the world
are very poorly maintained. The spoked wheel, timber framed TC felt every hole we fell into.
At Hughenden on day twelve, we woke to the sound and feel of an orchestra of flies doing a tap dance
on our faces. They hastened our start that day. A repeat experience with misfiring a few hours later was
caused indirectly by the rough North Queensland road surfaces: the tacho drive reduction gearbox had come
loose and whacked the dizzy cap so hard that it cracked; we fitted our spare. Despite these few mishaps
the TC was serving us well; already we’d made a few side trips outside our original plan. Apart from the
day off in Darwin, we’d driven an additional 200 kms on flooded dirt roads on the Daly River excursion,
approx 2,000kms to Ayers Rock via Alice Springs and 700kms to see Cairns. We were making such good
time that in Cairns we treated ourselves to a day off and went snorkeling off the Green Island Reef.
After over 2 weeks in fairly remote areas and well away from any MG club support, we were looking forward
to connecting up with the MG brotherhood again. In Brisbane, we arranged to do a complete oil change and
service, replace 14 spokes and fix the park lights and blinkers at Rod Hiley’s Abingdon Motors workshop.
We were made most welcome. This work we carried out was in the company of the famous Lex Davidson
TC Racer, Pip Bucknell’s R-type R0259, Max Henderson’s black K3 3004 (ex Frank Betts) and
Rod Hiley’s burgundy K3 3016 (ex Otto Stone).
We only get grubby with the best of them!
Picture 1 - Rod Hiley's Abingdon Motors ~ Picture 2 - ACT border crossing ~ Picture 3 - Standard TC
Peter and Delia Rayment had given us a very comfy bed the previous night after having arranged an MG Car Club BBQ at their house, fed us like kings then escorted us to the NSW border where the 4 of us had a picnic lunch. Dad and I continued on. I was driving when a policeman pulled us over and asked me to blow into the bag! This was my first such experience, but it was all good and we had a friendly chat in the pouring rain. From this point we made a 4hr high speed dash of 400kms, with the hood down, to Forster where we camped the night.
Domestic duties took a little time the next morning and while the laundry and tent were drying we visited some
old Northern Territory friends for morning tea. With a clean kit of clothes (luckily) we drove into a most
unexpected welcome from the Hunter Region MGCC. In Raymond Terrace we were met by members in
7 MGs and were escorted to a park in Newcastle for a BBQ with many others from their club. They’d arranged
for a TV crew to be present, so interviews on camera were in order. We were royally hosted that night by
MG owners Peter and Zel Wolf.
Traveling south, we called in to see Ron and Lindy Taylor in Gosford who very kindly offered us a meal and
a bed for the night. Then on the Sydney Freeway, just past the toll booth was a red TC on the side of the
road..our old TC mate Bill Newling from previous NatMeets had received a call from Ron Taylor that we were
on our way. Whilst in Sydney we visited the Redheads at Sportsparts where we bought a few necessary spares
i.e some new wiper blades and some shock absorber bushes. In Sydney we were in Dad’s happy hunting
grounds where he had enjoyed a misspent youth (his words). We spent the next two nights in Sydney staying
with my grandmother and took the opportunity to catch up with other relatives and friends too.
We also found time to visit Stuart Ratcliffe’s MG factory and had a look at his superb work.
I was generously presented with an original air canister for my TC. Down the road we visited John Mullins’
incredible workshop where he gave us a guided tour. We saw racks and racks of new body panels for
the monocoque MGs as well as brand new body shells. Amazing! It was time to make a dash to Mascot
airport to catch up with Mum who had flown in to pick up a transit flight to Canberra.
It was a nice surprise for her, though I suspect she may have been silently critical about our basic
laundry skills. Later that afternoon we arrived in Canberra in time to pick Mum up from the airport.
Picture 1 - Concour Entry ~ Picture 2 - The Winner ~ Picture 3 - Ready for Motorkhana
The Canberra National Meeting that Easter was a 4 day weekend. It was great fun socially and competitively
and a huge success for the organizing committee. The Canberra MGCC were hosting Jean Kimber-Cook and
husband Dennis from UK; Jean being the daughter of MG founder Cecil Kimber and a high profile member of
MGCC of UK. The whole place was a buzz. Dad and I were treated like celebrities too with everyone wanting
to talk to us about our trip experiences. Mum was generously loaned an MG Midget to compete with, by
Margaret Brown one of the main Natmeet organizers.
We were honoured to be presented with a “Longest Distance Award” certificate by Jean Kimber-Cook and she graciously signed the front of each of our Wilson McComb MG books.
Picture 1 - Jean Kimber Award - longest distance ~ Picture 2 - into Victoria ~ Picture 3 - Alan & Nolene McKinnon Antique Tyres
Not only was this MG meeting being held in Canberra during Australia’s bicentennial year but 1988 would
have been Cecil Kimber’s 100th birthday. The Natmeet committee too made a very nice presentation to
Dad and I in honour of our trip.
Continuing our around Australia loop we called into Winton and had a look at the historic race track.
This will be the base for the 1989 MG Natmeet and I already had it in mind to drive my own TC over for this event.
In Melbourne our plan was to call on 3 MG businesses, Antique Tyres, Ballingalls Moss Motors and Hillman Spares.
We bought a handy variety of second hand spares from the latter and pressed on through the horrendous
Melbourne traffic to Geelong. Here at the site of the historic Eastern Beach Sprints I had a go at the standing
quarter in a fully laden TC! The TC had competed at this historic Sprint site during the MG Nat Meet in 1983.
Next stop saw us experience the coldest camp site yet at Mt Gambier, SA. Checking the TC oil level at our next breakfast stop we were horrified to see it had dropped to half! So far the car had been using half a pint
every 1000km at constant 3200RPM. The cause was a leak in a joint on the oil cooler tank. Then and there we re-plumbed the oil lines back to the original; there would be no more hot weather on the return journey.
Picture 1 - Don & Di Ballinghall Moss Motors ~ Picture 2 - into South Australia ~ Picture 3 - Bob Bazzica MG Sales
In Adelaide we drove straight to Bazzica’s MG workshop, put the TC on his hoist and gave it a lube.
That night after a delicious pasta meal, it was beer and port at Shelley and Bazz’s lovely home until 2.15am
with the South Australian T Register guys ! We rose quietly the next morning and drove off with thumping heads, bleeding eyeballs and the trots (Dad’s words) and neither of us spoke a word , but we suffered in silence
for 300km until we stopped for a big breakfast. This was pay-back for the fantastic T Register Meeting/party
the night before.
Our drive across the Nullarbor was uneventful. Until we reached Norseman, we were travelling some of the
time with Stephen Ford, a young Perth MGB owner going home from the Natmeet. Since we were doing
Highway One, Dad and I turned south to Esperance then on to Manjimup, where we stayed the night with
Scott Mackie, the best man from my wedding and his family. The following day was Dad’s birthday so we
had a bit of a sleep in, ate a hearty breakfast then drove on to Waroona to have afternoon tea with
John Bowles and his Mum and Dad. En route we were “buzzed” by my mate Scott flying his crop-duster aircraft.
Picture 1 - Nullabor Crossing ~ Picture 2 - into Western Australia ~ Picture 3 - Philip in the Sand at Eucla
That added a bit of excitement to the day! We turned into the driveway at home that afternoon, to be
greeted by loud cheers and clapping from the TCOC members who Mum had invited over for our arrival
and a slap up BBQ. It was a good feeling to successfully complete what we had set out to do.
Picture 1 - Almost home at JB's Waroona ~ Picture 2 - Welcome Home
The TC came through with flying colours.
Our trip totaled 21,600Kms. Two men in a TC with the hood down, driving for 21 days of the 4 weeks
away, might sound like a recipe for tension and dispute. Strangely the opposite was the case: obviously
the charm and rhythm of the indomitable TC 2446 prevailed.
3 August 2011
Members Stories >