2014 RACV FLY THE FLAG TOUR, 15th- 22nd March

If you ever needed proof the historic vehicle movement is alive and well, then spending a week on the RACV Fly the Flag Tour certainly removes any doubt.

This is the 5th tour we have done, and it just keeps getting better, especially as we have developed so many friendships. Ian and Mary Hodge lined up for their second tour this year and appeared to enjoy themselves also.

This year 207 vehicles including, for the first time, one motor cycle, came together at RACV Head Quarters Noble Park to commence eight days of touring east Gippsland and south east New South Wales.  There were cars of all shapes sizes and descriptions, from our 67 Mini to a 1960 Chevrolet Impala Coupe, which could almost have garaged our Mini in its boot.

The oldest car in the tour was a 1923 Alfa Romeo RLN and the youngest a 1982, 200 series Mercedes Benz.

Approximately 4 to 5 weeks prior to the event, and after replacing a head gasket in the Mini, a compression test revealed zero compression in #2 cylinder. A new engine was built and delivered by Bryan Pope of Link Automotive 6 days before the start of the tour, and installed by Steve Schmidt, with the car finally running 4 days before, so that left me to run the new engine in during the tour.

Day 1 took us to Bairnsdale via a lunch stop at Churchill. It was a day of 30 plus temperatures which saw the temp guage climbing a little higher than I would have liked, reaching 200 degrees F as we climbed Tynong hill, so I just had to be content to cruise along at 85 to 90 Kph in order to keep the temp around 180.

On reaching Bairnsdale we paid a visit to the Mini’s previous owner, before checking in at our motel, and when I attempted to start the car to drive from the office to our room, it didn’t want to know about it. One of the RACV patrol men following the tour traced the problem to a defective starter solenoid which was brand new before the tour. A quick visit back to Neil (the previous owner) sourced a new solenoid with his comment “The little car has come home and doesn’t want to leave”.

Day 2 was a big day for our cars with a 295 Km drive to Merimbula via Bruthen, Nowa, Nowa, then along the highway through Orbost, Cann River and Eden. The ambient temperature was somewhat cooler today so keeping the engine revs to about 3500 to 4000 Rpm kept the engine coolant in the desired range.

We had a two night stop in Merimbula with a 176 Km loop on day 3 to Bega, Cobargo and Bermagui.

At Merimbula our meals and evening entertainment were at the Pambula Golf club.

It was a lovely view having breakfast looking out of the full glass wall over the beautifully manicured and lush green fairways and greens of the golf course.

Our entertainment this night was Denise Drysdale, who as you can imagine was very entertaining. Suffice to say her cabaret act is very different to her television act.

Day 4 was a relatively short drive of 130 K’s to Cooma and the climb up Brown’s mountain proved quite a challenge for many cars, thankfully the Mini climbed it with no problem.

Diedre is a lady we have met on the tour, who now, along with a friend, leave their husbands with the kids for a week and do the tour in Diedre’s lovely little Triumph Vitesse. The car was formerly owned by Diedre’s late father Ray Brown. On arrival in Cooma, Diedre said to me; “Dad sent me a message today” She went on to relate the story of how half way up Browns mountain the car suddenly emitted a large cloud of smoke which also filled the cabin. A road side inspection failed to reveal any obvious major problems, so they continued on to Cooma where the car was raised on a hoist and a more thorough inspection completed by a mechanic who said there was nothing other than a couple of minor oil leaks, but they might like to tighten the tie rod nut which was only holding by two threads. “Spooky”

Day 5 we left Cooma after breakfast at the club rooms of the Cooma and district car club. Very impressive club rooms and garage, which was purchased from the education department after being idle for some years. Today the garage housed a display of approx 30 of their club members cars with plenty of room for more.

This was another big drive of 300 Km back to Lakes Entrance via Bombala along the Monaro (pronounced monaero) highway. At Bombala we stopped to inspect “Burnima” a privately owned Victorian mansion which was built in 1896 complete with servants’ quarters. Certainly a different age.

We had two nights at Lakes Entrance with day 6 being a free day, which most of us were very pleased to take advantage of. Tonight was our Fancy Dress night which is always a lot of fun. Some people have very good imaginations and go to a lot of trouble. Our excuse is we didn’t have enough room in a Mini for costumes.

Day 7 was a 172 Km drive to Traralgon along the Bengworden road to Stratford and a visit to the Maffra shed. By now our engine was freeing up nicely with the water temp staying where it should, and I was able to feel what a lovely free revving, torquey little engine Bryan has built. Lorraine was driving at this stage and accelerated to pass a rather slow moving FJ Holden, but had to slow down pretty quickly when the tacho needle effortlessly went somewhat higher than it has ever done before.

The main purpose of the tour is as a fund raising exercise for the RACV foundation, which donates money to various charities. Tonight was the Auction night, which is the major fund raiser of the tour, and I had to be careful to keep my hand down and resist the temptation to scratch my head.

 As we were relatively close to home we decided to save the cost of another nights accommodation and come home, sleeping in our own bed (ah the serenity).

Day 8 and last day was a 165 Km run to Yarra Glen via Nilma, Neerim South, Nayook and Powelltown. Where we had our presentation luncheon at the Yarra Glen Racecourse.

I was so pleased and cheered and clapped wildly when our own Ian and Mary Hodge won best open Sports car in their beautiful 1954 MG TF. Congratulations Ian and Mary.

As always we have had a great time on the tour, but I must thank Bryan Pope at Link Automotive for building such a fantastic little engine, and Steve Schmidt for installing it. Without Steve’s help the car would still be sitting in the garage with the engine on the floor.                                                                                     

Allan Richards.

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