My very first memory of long distance driving was as a passenger at five years of age. Our father had just returned from overseas with Mum and three young children after spending seven years in post – World War 11 Japan. He was in the Army and in their wisdom they decided to post him to Darwin.
Dad wanted to show Mum her new adopted home and to make an adventure of it so we were bundled into a late 1940’s Jowett Bradford baker’s van and we drove from suburban Melbourne to Darwin via the Stuart Highway.
It was very much a track in those days. This was in 1953, years before road assistance and motels and even the Redex trials. We camped out under the stars and had meals cooked on a Primus kerosene burner. Wonderful memories of driving along on hot dusty dirt roads with windows down and the water bag tied to the bumper in readiness for our next drink stop.
We broke down a couple of times and once had to wait for over a week for a spare part to be delivered to us some way north of Alice Springs. I clearly remember Dad flagging down a passing motorist (one of a very few that passed us each day) and giving the broken part and some money to the driver with a letter requesting the replacement be sent to him with any change via anyone heading north. Faith and trust are such wonderful things and in this case not misplaced because a week later the part and the change were duly delivered via a transport truck heading for Darwin. The whole trip took several weeks and was such an experience for us all. All these years later I am still amazed at my father’s faith in his own ability and his marvellous pioneering spirit.
As for my own long distance driving, I regularly drive from Cairns down to Gympie, (some 1600 kilometres) in preference to flying as we take the opportunity to call in on friends and family . We have done it several times in one hit but nothing is gained by it as recuperating eats away any time saved. And I’m getting too old for it too. I find the quiet companionship of Jenny soothing (except when she is annoying me!) and we relive our past, think about and discuss our future and play silly games. The miles melt away. I love the feel of a well tuned car gliding along the highway and the anticipation when stepping out into a town never before visited. Mind you, nothing can compare with the seat of the pants feel those older cars gave back when driving was more than merely steering and listening to the stereo.
I can say that the Jowett Bradford had a top speed of a little over 85 KPH and it took over 47 seconds to reach 80 KPH in racing mode. 3 speed crash gearbox too.