Two Elans, and a Long Drive

The Top of Mount Hotham

Thanks to Ed Holly, images thanks to Ed Holly

Ed Holly and Rod Kennedy recently packed up their Elans and took a yearly pilgrimage to Winton for the Austin 7 Club’s annual Historic Winton race meeting. He’s kindly shared a few tales from the road trip, which you can enjoy below.

A Long Drive

Ed Holly

Rod and I just completed our sixth yearly Winton drive this past weekend. Both cars behaved faultlessly over the 1164 miles recorded from home to home. Our first road trip was in 2015 and we’ve done it every year since, except last due to COVID.

Leaving Sylvania BMW where we met, at 0450 (Friday) our first stop was Goulburn for fuel and a Maccas refreshment, then Cooma via the Braidwood road where fuel topped up again. A quick stop at Bombala to recheck with locals the state of the Delegate to Orbost road and then to Delegate, the road here was very nice.

Delegate to Orbos

Delegate – I am pretty sure I found the garage that caused me to get the biggest belting from my Dad ever. Rod and I spoke to the third generation owner mechanic of the local garage there at length. I remember getting on a tractor and pushing and pulling levers and pedals and it rolled forward, hit a Mk2 Zephyr causing the engine which was sitting in the engine bay to fall over etc etc not pretty. That was about 65 years ago, I was about 7 or 8. Had a very ordinary burger from the “award winning” Delegate café for lunch.

Leaving Delegate the sign said 108km with that wiggly line representing very windy road! I reckon the longest straight bit was not longer than a hundred yards over those miles. Surrounded by huge trees, the 12km of dirt was a bit harsh and corrugated, but the Elans took it in their stride. Eventually Orbost smooth roads and Lakes Entrance for the overnight. 442 miles covered (712km)

Ed at Mount Hotham

The next day was a doddle just up to Wangaratta via lunch at Gapstead winery. But before then via Mt Hotham – what a magnificent place. Unlike other ski fields, the resort is at the top of the mountain. I think Rod said he and Liz have skied there 3 or 4 times, says a very nice place to ski and the resort in the winter is always covered with snow, unlike Thredbo and Perisher where the resort is at the bottom of the mountains.

Mount Hotham

Sunday – down to the Winton Historic race meeting. Missed out last year as it didn’t run because of COVID. The older traditional fields were strong, some of the more modern categories a bit less so and the spectators seemed a bit less.

Nick in the Repco Holden

Nick in the Repco Holden

We caught up with a lot of guys not seen for a while. One of them, Nick McDonald, was driving his Dad’s Repco Holden – a beautiful 1950s racing car Ian his Dad has owned from 1978 – and won a LOT of races with.

Chatting with Nick he, said he was forgoing the handicap to save the car for the main event as it was leaking water from the head gasket under the Repco HiPower head. I said I had some K-Seal with me and he was welcome to that if he wanted it. Told him it worked a treat on the Skoda motor when it developed a leak to the outside from the head gasket after installing it at the Sharks, when the engine was warm and by Kurnell had stopped and not leaked again. So I gave it to him and he used it.

Rod and I stayed and watched his race, which had a very nasty incident at turn 1 first lap when a 1950s clubman type rolled multiple times into the dirt ending up upside down. So, the red flag came out and the cars marshalled into pit lane.

Now, for those that don’t know, a long idle like this is a worst case scenario for an open wheeler. With no fan to cool the engine, managing the engine heat is a big part of racing these cars even in cool weather, and with the internally-leaking head gasket problem and unknown how good K-Seal fix was, well not good.

It took about 15 minutes to get the guy out (he is ok thank goodness a bit battered and bruised though) and the cars did another warm up lap with Nick on pole leading them. Nick also had a slipping clutch so got swallowed up on the line by a Jaguar XK120-powered sports racer and the also drop-dead gorgeous Prad Holden (also with a Repco head). At the end of first lap Nick was in front of the Prad and by the second he was in the lead by about 50 yards. At race end after about 5 laps (race shortened) Nick was 2-300 yards in front.

We heard from both him and his Dad later that the Repco Holden DIDN’T USE any water, at all, a vastly different story to the first race which Nick also won, where it threw out about 1.5 litres into the catch tank.. So if you ever have a water leak – think of this product.

First Race at Warwick Farm

John Ellacott photo of the start of the first ever race Warwick Farm, the Morgan here in second

Back at the motel that night, we met the guy who had the Morgan that ran and won the very first race at Warwick Farm driven by David McKay and which pipped for the win the Austin Healy 100 driven by Bob Cutler. When we pulled up the day before, I said to Rod – wonder why it has the Scuderia Veloce badge on the side of it … now know why!

Warwick Winning Morgan

The owner / driver NEVER puts the hood up – the -1 degree drive to Winton the day before would have been bracing, as any winter driving would be. Have to admire his constitution – and he was about my age.

Oh and two other things. Rod’s Elan debuted at Catalina on the 26th January 1964, but started from rear of grid because the driver Terry Boom was a bit worse for weather from the night before and missed practice. So, they started from rear of grid. In the end they finished second or third behind this car driven by Ken Ward and the Turner of Wal Donnelly in the mix.

A week or two later, this car had a coming together at Sandown with Rod’s Elan, virtually writing off the front of it. Maybe that’s why Rod didn’t mind it separated by my car here. A small world!

Then we were homeward bound – Wangaratta 0650 – Corryong – just short of Khancobin high road to Cabramurra – Kiandra – Cooma – home. Lots of snow evidence along the high road, which should be closed by now for winter. You cruise one section above 5,000 foot for 12 miles !

The day’s journey was the big one, 480 miles or 773 km. Not sure about Rod, but I slept well.

Finally, the Elan gave 38.1 mpg, Rod with his big race motor only managed around 42 mpg. He reckons it’s the driver, my thoughts are it is his 150kg advantage and 3.55 diff v my 3.9.

Thanks to Ed Holly

The Top of Mount Hotham

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