Red Dirt Revival

Some person, we can’t remember who, brought this to our attention about 12 months ago. There was a re-enactment of an old race meeting that was held way back in the early 1900’s in a dry clay pan near Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Lake Perkolilli is really an out of the way place now, we can only imagine how it felt one hundred years ago! It’s called the “Red Dirt Revival” and red dirt and dust is what you get.

The event was limited to vehicles pre-1940, right up Grandpa’s alley. The only problem was that we didn’t have anything that would fit the criteria. There were going to be some race cars from the original event and others cars that were pretty special. Motorbikes were allowed too. What could we concoct that would be special enough to fit such an auspicious occasion. Grandpa scoured the ‘for sales’ and bits and pieces that friends had until he convinced his boss to sell him an unfinished project, a 1914 Model T speedster. This consisted of a chassis, motor, gearbox and not much else. No problem.

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Because motorbikes were also part of the story, Grandpa’s twin brother got excited about bringing his old 1939 500cc BSA race bike which hadn’t gone for donkey’s years. Then there was also our friend’s Norton big wheel sidecar racer that we used to race even more donkey’s years ago, “How about we take that too”.  Fantastic! It is amazing what harebrained schemes come up after a few beers.

So, it began.

Lots of research was done so that the model T looked just like an old style speedster. The body was built, an exhaust was designed, lots and lots of parts were ordered and it became a monster in our lives.

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I became a shed widow and everyman and his dog came around to see what was happening. There was plenty of help offered which was great, as some parts didn’t arrive in time so had to be borrowed. A radiator and wheels which had to be rebuilt were loaned until these parts would arrive from US.

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Eventually the great day came when the Model T sprang into life. This was really exciting. Now we really are on our way. There were many laps around the front yard to tune it and give everyone a ride.

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That only left the Norton outfit. Time was ticking away and the gearbox and motor needed rebuilding. The more they looked at it, the more work was needed. Maybe it would be best to wait for next time.

Now the vehicles were ready we needed to organise ourselves. Camping with minimal facilities was the order of the day, we needed to take everything for 4 or 5 days. At least there will be toilets. So we organised food, water, homebrew, tents, fuel and shade for all of us. Then we had to contemplate driving 3500km to get there.

We’ve been across the Nullabor before but this time we had a time limit to get there. Four days we had to get there and we made it in time easy. We stayed at Euston, Streaky Bay, Norseman and then Kalgoorlie. The hardest part was finding our way to the end destination. Their signs were cute but not terribly visible.

We turned off where the tar ended and then it was dust for the next five days. It reminded me of riding through the bulldust on our way to the Flinders last year.

When we got settled, we got to see who else was there.  There were ultra-lights, various planes flying in each day, land yacht sailors and lots of old car and motorbike racers. We camped next to a family that we had passed in our travels, where the two sons had rebuilt the 1928 Chev that their father was driving. Our pit neighbour was a fellow whose father and grandfather had both raced in the early days of Lake Perkolilli but he did not inherit much of their knowledge of mechanics. He was much more into poetry when he was growing up. Needless to say, by the time he had met Kevin and various other ‘experts’, he had a much better idea of how to start his Model T and how it should run.

Surprisingly, there were other people that we knew from previous car and motorbike rallies that we were not expecting to see there. They were from Darwin and South Australia and were also not expecting to see us. It just goes to prove that we were not the only crazy ones.

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We all took the opportunity of having a run in the ‘T’ during the practice sessions on Wednesday and Rex took his BSA out for a run. All was going great. Thursday was the first day of timing and I went out for a spin just to get a feel for the track and saw just how much dust we were all going to be covered in.

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Rex was out for another run on his bike and he was flying. I was worried that this was not tar racing. Next thing we knew, there was more dust and he was off. There was no ambulance in attendance but there were plenty of medics and nurses in attendance who were rushed out to check on him.

Kevin was eventually taken out to check on him and found the bike was in a very sad state. The Crank had given way which had spat him off and both he and the bike had done somersaults and landed very hard. We picked up the bike and Rex was taken to hospital to be checked over. They didn’t find anything broken or damaged but he was still quite bruised and shaken but OK.

The next day, the racing continued, which was not quite racing but a ‘re-enactment’ of the original race event. This was so there were not so many CAMS regulations to adhere to. The timing from Friday was to give handicap times for the events on the weekend. The model T was one of the slower cars, so got off earlier. In one respect, this was a good thing as it meant there was less dust to go through. The car kept going better and better which made Grandpa really happy.

The atmosphere was great and the dust and heat was phenomenal. Everyone was coated and there were some pretty eccentric hair colours which reminded me a bit of Trump on a bad hair day. When we finally left and had a wash, it was amazing, the amount of red dust washing off in the shower.

When the weekend was over, it felt like a bit of a letdown, especially for me as I had to fly home and return to work. Also, for the others, as they still had the 3500km to drive and Rex was still not feeling strong enough to sit in the car for hours and hours.

After months of no rain and Grandpa still driving our ute across the country, the only option for me to get to work was on the BMW. Damn. So with wet weather gear and catching the train I managed to survive the week and was pleasantly surprised to see him home on Saturday evening.

With this major episode out of the way, we can now look forward to our next momentous life changing event. That is the next story….

President’s Run

Grandpa doesn’t have a real job, he gets paid to play with vintage cars all day. These are real vintage, pre-1930, or preferably pre-1918. His boss has plenty of cars in his collection, so we got to spend the weekend driving around the countryside in a 1915 Studebaker. Because it is his job, he is the one they all call on when something doesn’t work, so he spent Friday afternoon trying to diagnose problems in someone’s old car.

Saturday was a much better day and all the cars made it through the run. It was a glorious late winters’ day and Grandpa and I finally got to spend a whole day together. We all met to begin the run nice and early in the morning and after a bit of pushing and fiddling, all the cars, bar one, were off. At our morning tea stop we were joined by a 1912 Baker Electric car which was having a trial run. The battery setup looked very 21st century but the body was definitely early 20th century. It managed to do about 30kms before needing a recharge which was pretty impressive.

There were other cars from the very pretty to the downright daggy, as well as drivers young and old.

There was another run to get to our lunch stop at a farm and after lunch, there were games for the cars and drivers. It wasn’t really long enough to work up an appetite for high tea but we managed anyway.

At the end of the day, the owner says, just go out by the back gate and through the paddock! I didn’t know how some of the car owners would react to that because they can be a bit precious about dust. Not to mention opening 5 gates and crossing a dam but it was actually rather beautiful and peaceful and even kangaroos munching on the crops.

We admired some remnant Cumberland Plain woodland and were sad that the land has been sold and will be covered in houses in the not too distant future.