Mark Ellem

AOA 2017 - Day 4: Run to Lowood & Laidley

Mark Ellem
AOA 2017 - Day 4: Run to Lowood & Laidley

Our final day for AOA 2017 would start with a run to Laidley via Lowood and finish with a farewell dinner back at Rosewood. Our departure was again from the Ipswich/Bundamba Racecourse at 9am - once again a great sight of over 140 Austins streaming out of the Racecourse and through the streets of Ipswich on our way to Lowood Showgrounds.

When, on a run, it's always good to have a navigator, so that directions can be given to the driver well in advance. For those without a navigator, they relied on the strategy of simply following the car in front, which did not always mean you ended up on the right route. Even with a navigator, the compulsion to just follow the car in front sometimes outweighs the instructions from your navigator. For example, I was following a number of Austins on Waterworks road, when my youngest daughter gave me clear instructions "Turn left on Warrego Highway at Toowoomba sign dad. Do not cross bridge, it says that in large letters on the run sheet". But of course, you hear, but do you really listen? As I watched the Austins in front of me (and the ones in front of it) go straight on at the turn off, I just had to follow and so did many behind me. Seems like a number of us were not listening to our navigators - "It said do not cross bridge dad, it was in large letters!". So, after a U-turn by many of us, we made our way back and took the correct turn, onto the Warrego Highway.

We made our way to the Marburg turn off and realised we were behind another 1800, Nairn. I thought, great, we'll follow Nairn, he'll know where he's going. My daughter read out to me the next instruction, "turn right onto Queen Street at Fernvale sign to Glamorgan Vale passing under the highway". I was determined to follow her instructions, but kept a keen eye on Nairn in front. Whilst I kept in the lane to to right, Nairn went into the left lane to exit left - what was I to do? Following my navigator's instructions, whilst I had the urge just to follow the car in front. I stayed in my lane and turned right and immediate saw Nairn behind me, he had turned and followed me. I pulled over as I thought he was catching up to tell me I was going the wrong way. But, no, I wasn't, my navigator was correct. Nairn said that he would follow me, as he had no navigator, just himself and he wasn't sure of the way. Following me, now that will be interesting!

We travelled for about 10 minutes and saw no other Austins, I was getting concerned, were we on the correct route? Nairn told me later that he thought the same. My navigator assured me that we were following the run sheet. Then, just around a corner, we saw a number of Austins turning left at the T junction, Glamorgan Vale Road - we were going the right way (or, we were all lost!).

The next line from the Run Sheet was read by my navigator "The scenery is beautiful as you climb the hill", it was indeed, lovely country side that had benefited from the recent rains. But, how big was this "hill". I was concerned as the next line was "Once you have descended from the hill" - that can't be a small hill. There were in fact a few "hills" on this run that provided challenges to many of the vehicles (I gave my gear changes a workout and hoped my drum brakes would not overheat). However, I think we all made it to the morning tea stop at the Lowood Showgrounds.

Again, we had a wonderful morning tea with sandwiches, cakes, biscuits, tea and coffee. Even though it was day 4, many were still catching up with people. I caught up with Ron Franks, NSW club member, from whom I purchased a complete manual gear box system from to convert my 1800 automatic to manual. I got it converted in June 2016, just in time to drive my 1800 from Brisbane to Grafton to take my father for one drive prior to him passing in August 2016. Thanks again Ron for helping me get my 1800 on the road.

We also came across some members of an Indian Motorcycle club who were at the showgrounds. As I understood, they were there earlier in the morning and were on their run. There were a few left and we got some photos of these great machines before leaving.

After morning tea, we left to make our way to Laidley and our lunch stop. On the way there would be a detour to Atkinson Dam (I did not make it - read on). Again, taking instructions from my reliable navigator, I was informed of a turn right onto Mt Tarampa Road, but the Austin in front went straight ahead. Again, there was that urge just to follow the car in front, but I caught sight of an AOA sign that advised of the right turn, which I did and watched the Austin in front go straight on and then slow down once they realised their error, make a u-turn and come back to the turn off.

Now, for those in our club, you will remember the Christmas 2016 run to Woodford Golf Club, where about 10 klms from our final destination (after a morning tea stop) I blew out a rear displacer unit, with my 1800 dropping on the left. Apparently, it is rare to have the bottom end of a dispalcer unit blow out. I had the rear unit replaced, however, not too far down Mt Tarampa Road on this AOA final run, I heard again the awful "bang" of the rear displacer unit blow, not the same unit, but the same rear left position. If it is rare to occur once, how rare to have it occur again within 5 months? Of course, I was very disappointed, I had such a great AOA up to that point, my first and to have it end this way was a low for me. However, it's what happened afterwards that made me realise how great it is to be part of a car club, with such wonderful and caring members. 

Those following me pulled over and immediately offered their assistance - Warrick Rankin, Noel & Dulcie Keidge. A young lad from the home we had stopped outside came out and advised that his father ran his truck repairs business from their home and that there would be no problem in leaving my 1800 in the yard. In fact, he insisted I put in their shed. My vehicle was kept safely overnight until the RACQ came to tow it back to Abingdon Motors (I got another rear displacer unit from Newport Motors in Adelaide and my 1800 is once again back on the road). 

My daughter and I transferred our stuff into Warrick's modern car and we went onto Laidley for lunch (no detour to Atkinson Dam) - thank you Warrick. Once the word had spread around of my incident, many came over to console and offer their help with locating a replacement displacer unit (some did suggest I think about getting an Austin that did not have hydrolastic suspension). After another sumptuous lunch, my daughter an I got a lift back to the Ipswich/Bundamba racecourse with Nairn in his 1800. My daughter and I then drove (I drove, my daughter navigated) Nairn's 1800 back to his place and my wife picked us up form there (so she did not have to come all they way out to Laidley or to Ipswich). Nairn swapped to his Maxi (he also had his Freeway at the meet). Thank you Nairn.

Despite the breakdown, my first AOA will be remembered as a great experience with wonderful people. I know, that with our club, everyone is very helpful, no matter what Austin you have. Yes, there will always be challenges with these older cars, but as it's been said to me many times before, "it's all part of the experience - owning a classic". My wife and I have already started planning for AOA 2019 in September 2019 in the Barossa Valley SA. I have been working out how long it will take to drive my 1800 from Brisbane to Adelaide, but my wife has been looking at car carrying companies or whether we can put the 1800 on the train to Adelaide - it seems that we have different levels of confidence in the 1800, mechanically speaking. My youngest daughter, who was my navigator, has already advised that she wants a Freeway once she's old enough to drive - I think she's caught "Austintitis" from her father, at least it's one with "normal" spring suspension, smart girl!

We did not get to attend the farewell dinner in Rosewood on Monday night, not due to my breakdown, but we had to get back to Brisbane to get our two daughters ready for a return to school the next day, with our eldest going on school camp. I am sure that those who attended the farewell dinner had a great time. If anyone has any (publishable) stories and photos, please send through to Also, if you have any stories and photos from your experience at AOA 2017, please also send them through to share on our website.

See you all at AOA 2019 in the Barossa Valley, SA. For further information go to and start planning!