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Roadtrips. There are so many aspects to classic car ownership, and I think I genuinely love them all. Participating in meets or attending exhibitions, working on my classic, searching for some rare new-old-stock part which I’ve suddenly convinced myself that I need, reading about their history, washing and detailing them, simply enjoying their shape and details over a coffee in my garage, and of course not least the social aspect. But if I could only choose one, then my very favourite aspect would simply have to be roadtrips. I love the adventure of driving my classic.

But what defines a roadtrip? Well, much as jumping into your classic for a quick run down to the shops for a fresh loaf of bread is both pleasing and worthwhile, it can hardly be called a roadtrip. However, in my opinion it also doesn’t necessarily have to be a weeks-long, continent-crossing adventure which pushes both car and driver to the very limits. In fact, let’s just hold on to that one word: Adventure. If there’s an element of adventure to the drive, then I feel that’s enough to call it a proper roadtrip regardless of length or duration.

ROADTRIP…!!

In fact, exactly five years ago to the day, a good mate and I went for a drive together. It was only a one day drive and the full roundtrip put less than 300 miles on the speedo of our trusty old steed. Yet to this day, it still stands out as one of the very best roadtrips I’ve ever undertaken. And yes, it was an adventure and most certainly a proper roadtrip.

At the time I was living in Hong Kong, and work had me visiting Australia on short one-day trips on a regular basis. Whenever the destination was Sydney, I would meet up with an old friend, Lars, who had emigrated to from Denmark to Australia a few years earlier. Our meets would always involve plenty of gourmet coffee and shared dreams of various fabulous cars. But one day we decided to stop dreaming and start doing!

Life in the very centre of Sydney didn’t offer Lars the luxury of his own classic car, but this was undoubtedly precisely what we required. We quickly agreed that hiring one for my next visit was the only way to go. We also agreed that one on the iconic V8 Aussie muscle cars like a Ford Falcon, a Holden Monaro or a Holden Commodore would be most suitable, however finding one for hire proved impossible. After considering at a Corvette C3, we eventually let financial constraints have their say and settled for an early pull-handle 1964 MGB roadster with its correct three-bearing B-series engine. Yes, yes, yes, I hear the moaning and complaining… “How unadventurous”; “Just another MGB”; “The most boringly obvious choice”. We will get back to that later…

 

So with Lars having arranged the hire, the next time I landed in Sydney, I basically hit the ground running as we leapt straight into our Aussie MGB adventure. I only had 26 hours on the ground until take-off, and we were on a mission: Great roads, stunning scenery, rich coffee, amazing apple pie, good company, and not least the legendary Mount Panorama in Bathurst.

Heading west out of Sydney, we could have simply joined the A32 main road, but where’s the fun in that? Instead we headed a little further north and settled into the many bends and curves of the undulating B59 as it twists and turns its way through the breath-taking Blue Mountains National Park. The sky was crystal blue, the temperature pleasantly warm, the top was down, and Lars and I were already enjoying that characteristic rasp from the 1.8-litre B-series engine. It wasn’t long before the little oasis of Tutti Fruitti beckoned – as did their famous homemade Bilpin Apple Pie and a hot cup of coffee.

You do NOT want to miss out on the homemade Bilpin Apple Pie from Tutti Fruitti!

Soon enough though, we were back on the road. The MGB’s steering was light yet communicative through the vast original Bakelite steering wheel, the engine torquey, the ride compliant and comfortable and the sun baking down our necks. Lars and I were taking turns behind the steering wheel as we worked our way deeper into the Blue Mountains. At times we found ourselves reminiscing about everything from our many previous trips to the Nürburgring while we both lived in Europe, a rather spirited drive along the coastal road from Cannes to Saint-Raphaël in the Porsche Cayman which Lars owned then, to cars we had previously owned and not least those we hoped to add to our garage in the future. At other times we merely sat in silence as we took in the stunning views and admired the little MBG humming away melodically.

The stunning views of the Blue Mountains National Park.

Despite another coffee stop, various photoshoots and a couple of minor diversions simply because some random small track looked exciting, we eventually cruised into Bathurst – the little MGB still purring along happily. Having reached the goal of our journey, more pictures were naturally in order as we peered towards the famous Mount Panorama which rises up to the southwest of the small town. The race track opened back in 1938 and a wide variety of races have been held here through the years from open-wheel racers, to touring cars and not least motorcycles. Nowadays it’s best known for the Bathurst 1000 in October and the Bathurst 12 Hours in February.

We have arrived…

The track itself is 6.2 kilometers (or 3.8 miles) long and has an elevation difference of 174 meters (or 571 feet) as it rises out of the small town and makes its way up over Wahluu and then back down the other side. Especially the portion of the track which climbs over the hill is particularly challenging, as it’s both relatively narrow by modern race track standards and also a constant string of twists and turns. Some race drivers have likened it to a smaller version of the notorious Nürburgring with a bit of Laguna Seca thrown in. The Dipper – the last of the three corners making up The Esses – is a sharpish left hand corner which drops brutally away under you as you tumble down the hill; not unlike the Cork Screw at Laguna. It’s quite the rollercoaster ride!

That’s the famous Mount Panorama rising behind our MGB.

How would I possibly know? Well, what makes Mount Panorama even better – it’s a street circuit! If it’s not race weekend, the whole of the track is just a normal public road with two-way traffic and regular speed restrictions. There are even several houses which you can only get to via the race circuit. Which obviously means that Lars and I stretched the MGB’s legs a little, as we both had a go at multiple laps of the legendary race circuit – at legal(ish) speeds of course as we didn’t want to upset the locals, get fined by the local police, or break our 49-year-old MGB by pushing the old girl too hard.

Our MGB bravely taking on The Dipper.

It was time to let the MGB cool down again. Truth be told, Lars and I probably needed to cool down a little too, as we were frankly having way too much fun! So we parked up our MGB outside the National Motor Racing Museum which is only a stone’s throw from the pitlane. It was time for a cold soda as we wandered through the aisles of the museum while admiring the many glorious race cars which make up Mount Panorama and all of Australia’s racing history. If we missed out on driving an Aussie V8 muscle car on our roadtrip here, at least the museum made up for it by the bucketload with plenty of Holden Monaros, Toranas and Commodores lined up alongside Australian-built Ford Falcons of varying age. Add to that all the foreign invaders which took on Bathurst as well, such as Mk1 Cortinas, Mustangs, a purposeful Nissan Bluebird Turbo and most importantly the vicious TWR Jaguar XJ-S, and it’s immediately clear that several hours can easily be spent here.

However, if I were to get any sleep before flying back to Hong Kong the next morning, it was time to head east towards Sydney again. We crawled back into our MGB, cranked her up, did one last celebratory low-speed lap of Mount Panorama, and the backtracked our route through the Blue Mountains.

So as promised, getting back to that common-as-muck MGB. Many enthusiasts will often discard the MGB with remarks about it being too obvious a choice – thus making it the boring choice. Truth be told, I can’t possibly deny that I’ve done the same. Yet despite all that Lars and I had just experienced, a very substantial portion of our drive back to Sydney was spent talking about our MGB and MGBs in general. What a thoroughly lovely little roadster! Granted, there is perhaps not a single attribute to the MGB which it does better than all others. But then there’s also not anything which it does poorly. It’s just a really competent all-rounder, which is still characterful and charming while putting a big smile on your face. At the same time, it’s remarkably accessible – both in terms of market value and not least spare parts availability. No wonder so many enthusiasts opt for MGB ownership! Arguably, the MGBs popularity is perhaps its only real downfall. For a while during our drive back, I actually thought that Lars might have ended up buying a MGB himself…

But regardless of where in the world you are, whether you’re driving a MGB or a somewhat more exotic Bizzarrini 5300GT, and whether it’s a hire car or your own, just make sure to get out there and enjoy the roads. Proper roadtrips need not cost a fortune nor wipe out a full week from your schedule. With a classic car, well-chosen roads, and some good company, a single day can easily suffice for an adventure which will leave a lasting impression even five years later – or much more.

Dear ViaRETRO reader, share with us below which classic car roadtrip was your best to date…

 

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15 Responses

  1. holmen
    Did a similar trip in January 2018.
    Spent an hour at the museum bringing back childhood memories of watching Bathurst races with Alan Moffat as my hero. While saying it was a similar trip, there’s was a bit of a difference. I didn’t do it in a classic, given that we were on a 3 week road trip with my wife and our youngest twins and that didn’t leave the option open to rent a classic. But I believe most petrolheads will agree that the car we were travelling around in was OK.
    When arriving at the AVIS rental depot in Brisbane I went to pick up the car that we had booked. And to my surprise they had upgraded us to a Holden Calais with the 6,2 litre V8 under the hood and an extra 10-12cm of wheelbase which meant that we travelled in absolute style for the whole trip. And no complaints from the long legged 16 year old teenagers on the back seat. And none from me nor my wife.
    Great trip – and did a few laps of the mountain too.

    Reply
  2. Jens G
    Australia Blue Mountains

    Blue Mountains is perfect with a classic car. The Australians have a system where classic-owners organized in clubs have some very favorably economic conditions for their classic car.
    This march we met an Australian couple with 2 red Datsun’s. His was ready for track and hers was just fine.

    Reply
  3. holmen
    Apologies for the double image – but besides the Australian road trip I’ve actually been on two great road trips this summer. In my previous life as a car swinger, I’ve own demand driven over forty different classics. Then finally early this year, my latest classic at that time, a Sunbeam Alpine S1 from
    1960 was the last stop of my restless wandering and search for the ideal classic tha I wanted as a keeper.
    I put it up for sale and to make a long story short ended up selling it to an enthusiast living just outside of Strasbourg in France. Grasped the opportunity to deliver the Alpine to him and three days and 1.395km later I handed over the keys. I am planning a more detailed write up later – stay tuned.
    In the meantime, here’s a photo from
    End of day two where I stayed at this fantastic hotel somewhere in the southern part of Germany

    Reply
  4. holmen
    So where did my endless wandering end? Having owned a number of classic Alfa’s, I found myself constantly coming back to the fantastic and beautiful engine that powers the Alfa’s up through a number of decades – the Nord engine. A Bertone coupe was out of the question, and even if it had been within economic reach, Infeel that they are becoming the easy choice and somewhat mainstream. I’ve owned three Giulia’s and that was before they have become increasingly popular -moving fro an underdog status with the quirky, box design. So my heart fell upon a Berlina, a 1750 Berlina from the first series. An underdog on the rise with a beautiful, clean cut design, great interior and a real Q-car look and feel.
    Lucky to find the right car in Denmark – a restored car imported from
    Holland.
    And what better way to really get to know the car by tagging along to Nürburgring to the Oldtimer Grandprix together with three other classic car nuts.
    See the video here – and a snapshot of the day of departure. Travel light and timely style.
    https://youtu.be/iVnmlgwn-Ro

    Reply
  5. Tony Wawryk
    bilidt – what a grand day out that was! And I agree with you regarding the MGB; it’s not a car I would ever want to own, but as I said in my NEC report, MGB’s (and a few others) are mainstays of the classic car scene, and your description is spot on – does nothing particularly well, but also nothing badly, and in pre-US rubber-bumper mode, is a handsome car.
    I did a road trip of my own in New South Wales just over 20 years ago – in (from memory – have to see if I can find any pics) a Daihatsu Charade!! I do know it was the cheapest car we could hire, that’s my only excuse! Part of that trip included the Blue Mountains, which are indeed as spectacular as you and describe them, though driving a small Japanese sewing machine wasn’t really part of the thrill.

    @holmen – 40 classics!! Would love to know what diversions you took on your voyage to the Alfa 1750 Berlina; am deeply envious!

    Reply
  6. Anders Bilidt
    @holmen, so Lars and I aren’t the only Danes to have enjoyed the route through the Blue Mountains to Mount Panorama. :-) It’s a fab drive, and one which I hope to retrace at some point in the future – maybe next time behind the wheel of a classic V8 Aussie?

    Btw. congrats on your Alfa Romeo! I’ve always really admired the 1750 Berlina. Such a stylish saloon, and in my opinion it has the added bonus of having one of the most funky dashboards ever given to a three-box saloon. So cool…

    @tony-wawryk, to be honest, I was entirely impressed with the little MGB on this trip. To the point where the only thing I can possibly have against it, is how common it is in the classic car scene. If I could only convince myself that this didn’t matter, then I would probably have one in my own garage. A thoroughly capable and charming little classic for a reasonably modest outlay. On the subject of your Yellow Mellow article today, I think I might opt for an early MGB GT in Primrose yellow and equipped with stock steel wheels with the small chromed hub caps. Would do me quite nicely to be honest…

    Reply
  7. holmen
    @tony-wawryk to mention a few:
    Lotus Europa
    VW 1302
    VW Split Window Bus
    Ford Fairlane
    Ford Falcon
    Triumph Herald x 2
    Jaguar 420G
    Alfa 75 Evoluzione
    GTV6
    Giulia x3
    MB230E & TE & 280SE
    Fiat 1200 Spider
    Toyota Crown
    Citroen GS
    and the list goes on…
    Reply
  8. holmen
    would have loved it being a classic V8 Aussie, but the Holden Calais wasn’t that bad either.
    If I had to choose, it would have been a Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III
    Reply
  9. YrHmblHst
    Wow! What a great trip; Im envious. Being a bit of an Austaliophile [is that a word?] this is a drive I would love to take. Hafta be in a Holden tho… Thanx for sharing the words and pictures.
    Thank you too @holmen for sharing the link to that video – very enjoyable!

    Road trips rule ; seriously need to take one in a classic again before too long. Maybe this will inspire me to get off my bottom and get it done…

    Reply
  10. Anders Bilidt
    @holmen, I couldn’t possibly agree more! The GTHO Phase III would obviously be the most perfect of Aussie V8’s for such a roadtrip – not to mention the following laps of Mount Panorama. Though I fear it might prove utterly impossible to remain within the speed limit of the public street circuit… ;-)

    Reply
  11. holmen
    when I was 16 the couple across the road had a GTHO Phase III. Every evening before he went to bed, he chained the rear axel to a Mammut tree in his front yard. Already then they were sought after – and we read 1976.
    I had the opportunity of a short road trip on the back seat, a little over a 100 round trip.
    Will never forget it.
    Reply
  12. YrHmblHst
    Bilidt ; Oh I dunno – any Holden would be fine, certainly including the one Mr Holmen got to use!
    But if given my’druthers, Id say a mid 80s Commodore GpA SS car or a late 70s Torana A9X [as I remember the model # ] A late 60s Monaro would be fine too. Make the Commodore all white please, the Torano blue, lime green or yellow and the Monaro light yellow please.
    Like i said, any REAL Holden would do, including a Ute, as Im a bit of a Holden nut. lacking that, a mid 70s muscle Falcon – the ones that look like a 71 Mustang and a 71 Torino had a child – or certainly one of the hemi head valiant Chargers would do nicely. :)
    Reply
  13. Anders Bilidt
    @holmen, well for that experience I will envy you forever…!! ;-)

    , sorry, but there’s something amusing about an American with a passion for Aussie V8’s. But it’s amusing in a thoroughly good way, so you’re alright… ;-)
    In Aus, it’s a real big thing whether you’re a Holden-guy or a Ford-guy. Luckily – probably because I’m not an Aussie – I could get away with loving both while I was there. On the whole though, I would agree with you, I seem to prefer the Holdens – even if only by a smidgen. Yet, top spot still has to go to the Falcon GTHO Phase III, as it’s simply the KING of Aussie muscle cars. But that lone Ford is followed closely by all sorts of Monaros, Toranas and Commodores. In fact, while it’s not even a V8, I’ve always had a real soft spot for the Giant-Killing 1972 Holden Torana GTR XU-1, of which I naturally have a 1:18 model in Plum Dinger Purple stood on my shelf…

    https://viaretro.com/2018/07/visual-sunday-torana-the-giant-killer-from-down-under/

    Reply

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