Sid Armstrong's BLOG - May 1st - 10th 2012

Sid Armstrong, a proud member of the Armstrong Siddeley Car Club of Australia

2012 Rally – An eventful trip in a 20HP

I always thought that it was going to be a bit ambitious when Paul Caro asked me if I was willing to act as a second co-driver to attend the National Armstrong Siddeley Rally that was being held at the Coolangatta Estate located in the Shoalhaven/Kiama region of NSW about 2 hours south of Sydney in his 1929 Armstrong Siddeley, but I thought “why not”.

Being used to driving cars with pre-selector gearboxes, our main co-driver Trevor Johnsson thought the driving part would be breeze, but Paul’s 20HP Siddeley is a bit different from his Lanchester which has a fluid flywheel. Luckily Paul brought the 20 around to Trevor’s home for a week before we were due to leave, so Trevor and I could get used to driving the car. We both sort of got the hang of it - although 3rd gear was always a bit of a b-gg-r.

The night before we were due to leave we all stayed at Paul’s place so we could get an early start. Bright and early the next day we started out at a steady 43mph heading for the rally, the day being largely uneventful until the late afternoon. We were approaching Kempsey where we had decided to stay the night and I was taking a turn at driving. The car had been wandering around the road a bit but I thought that it was just some slack in the steering wheel and the poor condition of the road. However, as it was getting steadily worse, I pulled over as soon as I could and immediately found we had a rear tyre that was slowly deflating. We changed the tyre and made a mad 43mph dash into Kempsey just in time to get the tyre fixed before the tyre shop closed.

The second day was again an uneventful day until we got near Toronto. This time Trevor was driving when the car suddenly started to backfire and lose power. He luckily was able to get it safely off of the highway. We suspected it was a timing issue - the car was fitted with a magneto coil conversion, that is, it had a coil but the points and distributor were still part of the old magneto. Paul tried to retime the engine but we couldn’t get the engine to fire. He has since learnt that we had stripped a cog inside the magneto. Being prepared for such an eventuality, Paul had a spare non-converted magneto in the trunk, so we fitted that and we were away again staying the night in Toronto.

The next day we were on our way again and had only just got back on the highway when the engine died. This time Paul was driving (it seemed only fair that the driving problems were evenly shared amongst the three of us) and he just managed to get the car off the road before it stopped completely. When we checked the magneto, mounting bolts had come loose and one had fallen out. We tried to retime the engine but could not get a spark at the plugs. Paul walked up the road and called the NRMA.

Several hours and several phone calls later the NRMA turned up. They had taken down the wrong number of the call phone and had been looking for us up and down the highway in the wrong place. The NRMA serviceman did all the right things and although we could get a spark at the points there was none at the plugs. He therefore arranged a flat top truck to pick us up and take us to Charmhaven. We sat in the flattop truck’s cabin with the driver’s constant companion - a Jack Russell Terrier. We had a 20 km trip and in that time we learned that the pooch was an excellent spotter of ambulances and concrete mixer trucks. First he joined in with any ambulance siren and he was ever on the alert for big vehicles because a truck had once knocked off a wing mirror so the terrier did not like big trucks! Also when the phone rang he just had to join in!

With the car safely delivered to the local auto electrician (see photo opposite) Paul got onto the RACQ and they arranged a Motel for us in nearby Toukley.

The next day the garage did not look like it was going to get the car going so the RACQ arranged a hire car and we proceeded to the rally.

Armstrong Siddeley 20HP at the auto electricians with a magneto problem

Much to my relief, we drove through Sydney and under the harbour in a modern car and got to the rally headquarters near Shoalhaven just on dusk.

Coolangatta Estate was one of the first large stations to be developed after settlement in Sydney. Most of the outlying station buildings such as the Coach House, Stables, Blacksmiths shop etc have been converted into motel units. It was a great place to stay and well worth a visit if you get down that way. Coolangatta at the Gold Coast was named after a ship that was built in the Shoalhaven River and wrecked near the Qld/NSW border in the 1800’s.

The National Rally proceeded according to programme. The Friday night was registration and a Welcome Dinner, Saturday was a concourse at the Kiama lighthouse followed by a visit to the Australian Motorlife Museum (definitely worth visiting), Sunday a drive to the Berry Markets followed by the AGM and an auction and sale of spare parts (unfortunately no magnetos were available), Monday a drive through the Southern Highlands visiting Cambewarra Mountain Lookout, Fitzroy Falls and the Illawarra Fly Treetop walk. Good food, good company, plenty of car talk.

I've also penned (no joke intended Mr. Bradly) a separate report on the National Rally.

On Tuesday we had a farewell breakfast and headed for Sydney. We were going to stay with Paul’s daughter at North Sydney that night but as we had plenty of time we drove back to Charmhaven to check on the car. Little had been done and it looked like they would not be able to fix it so Paul phoned Shannons to get the name of a transport Company to transport it home. To his surprise he also found that they would pay $500 towards the cost of this freight. The next day was the last of the days the RACQ would cover on the hire car so we decided to drive back to Brisbane arriving about eight o’clock.

Paul has since found that the second magneto had a fault in the coil. Our (mis)adventures also won him his fifth Hard Luck & Perserverance Trophy (out of his total of twenty trophies) he has received at National Armstrong Siddeley Rallies.

........Watch this Blog!