|Canberra to Adelaide, via Melbourne|
By far the longest trip I've undertaken in a Mini is from Canberra to Adelaide via Melbourne. As this was a holiday trip the route took in a number of scenic back roads which were more suited to the Mini than flat out highway travelling. The route from Canberra to Melbourne went via Tumut and country Victoria, joining the Hume Highway a couple of hundred kilometres out of Melbourne. Driving the Mini through the Snowys was great fun and the heavily laden Mini handle the hilly terrain well apart from a leaky radiator hose that necessitated frequent scenic viewing stops to top up the water.
The first major problem was encountered whilst travelling down the Hume in quite heavy rain. Getting caught beside a bus and behind a semi saw the Mini engulfed in a cloud of spray. The water soaked the ignition and the Mini decided to run on three cylinders. Stopping under every overpass and spraying copious amounts of WD40 was to no avail and progress was slow until everything dried out just before entering Melbourne after nine hours of travelling.
The Adelaide to Melbourne leg of the trip started along the Great Ocean Road. This has to be the most scenic and exciting road to drive in the country. The first part of the road runs along beside the ocean and a lot of it is carved out of the side of the cliff face. On one side of you is a steep rock face and the other side is a sheer drop into the ocean. The winding and twisting road suited the Mini perfectly but the drive was spoiled by the number of tourists in the way. The second part of the road heads inland up through a mountain range cover with thick forest. Once over the range the road rejoins the coast near the Seven Apostles. From there the route headed inland to Mount Gambier and then across the plains to Murray Bridge.
The Great Ocean Road can been seen where it has been cut out of the hill side. The road follows the coast like this for about 20 kilometres. In some places tunnels have been cut into the rock face.
Travelling from Mount Gambier to Murray Bridge at night must be the most boring stretch of road imaginable. The road is dead straight and goes through the middle of no-where. You can see for miles ahead which is a problem because you can see approaching headlights twenty five kilometres away. As a result most of time you're using low beam. The Mini handled this stretch going flat out for about six hours without a problem.
As Adelaide approaches the second major problem occurs. The engine starts to ping under load. This slows progress to a crawl but after a while it goes away. This problem was to reoccur a number of times during the trip and I never did find the cause.
Whilst in Adelaide I visited the National Motor Museum at Birdswood. This museum is a must for car buffs as it has the largest collection of Australian cars anywhere. Included in the collection is the last Mini ever made in Australia and the Moke used by Hans Throlsop in the London to Sydney Marathon.
Whilst travelling around South Australia the Mini started to develop clutch trouble. This progressively got worse until every gearchange grated and the only way to get reverse was to stop the engine. Unfortunately Adelaide was in the middle of a heat way with 40+ degree temperatures and the only place to work on the Mini was the motel bitumen carpark. Tools brought on the trip were kept to the bear minimum set of spanners so a shopping trip was organised to get a trolley jack and a flood light so work could be carried out at night.
Fearing the worst I removed the clutch cover only to find nothing wrong. This was strange, the clutch arm moved in and out but the clutch didn't work. Closer inspection of the clutch arm revealed that the end that fits in the thrust bearing shaft had cracked and was gradually breaking off. Fortunately Adelaide also has two wrecking yards dedicated just to Minis. So it was a quick trip out the next day to get a replacement arm which was fitted that night.
The first leg of the return trip was to Swan Hill via a number of back roads through country South Australia and Victoria. At the time this area was experiencing a locust plague. In some places it was impossible to distinguish the road from the surrounding fields because the locust were so thick on the ground. The front of the Mini was just plastered in dead insects and I'm still finding them through the engine bay.
The Mini was fully loaded on the trip back with the back seat full to the roof. The daytime temperatures were still up around the forties but the Mini kept going even though the temperature gauge sat alot closer to the H than the C. From Swan Hill the route went to Rutherglen and then along the Hume Highway back to Canberra.
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