They say, “When you’re on a good thing, stick to it” and we feel that the RACV Fly the Flag Tour is a good thing. So it was that Harry and Ann De Groot in their immaculate Mercedes Benz 220 SE, Ian and Mary Hodge in their award winning MG TF and ourselves, lined up again this year.
After taking our green Mini Deluxe last year, it was to have been the turn of our MG Midget, however, we decided instead to take our newly acquired Mini Cooper “S”. You know how it is.
After a sumptuous breakfast at the Ultima Reception Rooms in Keilor, Day 1, Saturday 14th March took us to Horsham via, Ballarat Beaufort and Ararat, taking time out to revisit Ararat Hill Climb track. It has been a long time since I have competed there and I don’t remember it being so tight or steep.
A funny thing happened just west of Ararat: I was just cruising, when I saw an approaching Police Highway Patrol car. No problems I thought, I’m only doing 90 – 95 Kph, but sure enough he did a “U” turn and pulled me up, wanting to search our car for the Radar Detector that his detector indicated that I had. I agreed to his search, declaring that I certainly did not have such a device and that, “I used to be in the same job as you”. All this appeared to go in one ear and out the other as he proceeded to search our car for the offending radar detector. He was amazed to see that in the very spartan dash of a ’67 Cooper S, it doesn’t even have a cigarette lighter. No buddy, no such luxuries in 1967! But then the bombshell: “I know what’s set it off” he said “Does this car have a magneto?”
“Ah, No” I said, “It has funny little things called points.” This appeared to go completely over his head and he left somewhat puzzled.
Day 2. We traveled from Horsham to Mildura via Warracknabeal and Ouyen. Harry and Ann took a detour via Rainbow and met a man whose Grandfather had been the original owner of Harry’s beautiful black Mercedes, and he was able to show Harry all the paper work and receipts from when the car was brand new. We had two nights in Mildura doing the normal touristy things as well as an arranged visit to the Psyche Bend steam pumps which were originally used to pump water from the Murray into the irrigation system. These pumps were fired up and running especially for us. The second night we had a late afternoon and evening cruise on a couple of paddle steamers up stream to Trentham Winery where we enjoyed a very nice meal, returning to Mildura at about 10.30 pm.
Day 4. We left Mildura and journeyed to Swan Hill for one night. Lorraine and I visited the Catalina Flying Boat museum at Lake Boga which was an operational base during the War, following the Japanese bombing of Broome in March 1942 which caused a lot of damage to the Catalina fleet. The museum includes a top secret bunker which was used for communications, it has been set up with authentic radios, charts etc. It was fascinating to be able to stand inside this place where these things actually took place. Our guide told us that they have been able to get the Morse code up and running, and ironically the first reply they got to a message was from Japan.
Day 5. We traveled to Echuca where we had the only trouble with the car for the whole trip. The ignition switch decided to call it quits, although I was able to get the car started and keep it running by releasing the key very gently. “Put some tape on it”, said Lorraine. “No” said I, “That wont work”. Moments later my brother rang, and after relating the story. “Put some tape on it” he said. Lorraine was vindicated and proceeded to plaster up my ignition switch with copious layers of black race tape, which made it difficult to find the ignition slot at night without an interior light, but I must admit it did appear to help and we had no further trouble with the car.
Another interesting stop over was a lunch stop at the private home of “John Piccoli” on the road between Boort and Pyramid Hill. John makes life size sculptures by welding old spanners together. Truly amazing, some people are so talented. I just wish that I could weld !
After a two-night stay in Echuca we traveled to Bendigo where we had the traditional fancy dress evening, which is always a lot of fun. Some people have amazing imaginations. I think Ian and Mary Hodge were meant to be Bonnie and Clyde, but you should have seen them on the dance floor, Wow!
The tour concluded on Saturday 21st with a luncheon at Yarra Glenn Race Course and the presentation of awards. We had a great time as always, great weather, lovely people and fabulous cars. The fellowship of the road is what it is all about.
Pictures by Gordon Lindner.
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