Originally published by the Citroen Car Club of Victoria.
…imagine a road made of speed bumps …
IMAGINE A ROAD MADE OF SPEED BUMPS. Millions of them, one after another, each about 10cm high. Then fill the gutter in between with bulldust so fine it can filter into every nook and cranny of a car. Add a few stony sections with rocks sharp enough to slash car tyres, and throw in the odd washaway for excitement. Put it somewhere hot; the sort of heat where a driver can sweat off a litre every hour. Now stretch the road out over three hundred kilometers, and entice people to drive on it by giving it the respectable title of “highway.”
You’ve got the Gunbarrel. The sort of road most Australians have seen on TV and most Europeans have never dreamed of. A road to shake the fillings out of your teeth.
“It’s crazy,” Olaf Baumann from Solingen, West Germany, said. “We tried every speed from 10 km/ h to 90 km/h to make it better. It’s always the same.
Dutchman Rene Goedel didn’t think his 1971 Mehari would survive. “I had the feeling with the corrugations that the whole thing would shatter, you know, fall to bits.” It didn’t. Rene’s Mehari suffered seven punctures and a broken windscreen, but the plastic body didn’t develop a single crack.
Renown as the driver of the “Two Speed Car” (flat out or stopped), Ruthard Wolf gave his impressions of the Gunbarrel: “Corrugations! *****”‘ The second part was neither English nor German, but a sound expressing anger and frustration, finished off with a laugh.
The drivers came through unscathed, but even 2CVs are not indestructible. As Olaf pointed out, “Parts of the Gunbarrel the map says ‘4WD only. ‘We did it with a 2CV. 2CV is not as strong as 4WD.”
Mechanical injuries come in a wide variety, but the fixits that followed make stories to tell your grandkids. For ingenuity and sheer hard work, the honours were equally divided between the welders, the guys from Europe and three of Australia’s finest experts.
The non-Aussies picked up the local dialect pretty quickly and, by Melbourne, they could all say “no problems” with just the right nasal twang and a healthy dash of nonchalance.
The second oldest car in the Raid, John Scott’s ID19, got caught in the deep sand and, 10 km down the road, the driveline fell to bits. “Neat as you like,” said John, a school bus driver from Bridgetown, West Australia. “Unbolted and pulled right out. Not a big problem, just a catastrophe.”
Normally you’d fix it with a special Citroen tool. You don’t find them in the desert, so they make their own out of an old brake adjusting tool from an International bus. No problems.
At Carnegie Station, Rob Norton from Perth told the Raiders, “It’s got a rattle in the engine.” It turned out that a rod end bushing had disintegrated, so they made a new one out of the crank handle of a D. Did it work? “Well, it’s a genuine Citroen part,” said John Scott with a mighty chuckle. Rob drove back to Perth, and the motor is still running sweetly.
Then there was Victor’s 2CV. Olaf and John swear that David Gries fixed the crankshaft seal with Teflon tape, silastic and “a bit of rubber.” Victor was the guy who became airborne over a deep washaway and claims it was so deep, he saw a family at the bottom having breakfast.
And the “banana car,” Ruthard’s rusty 2CV that bent and finally broke in the middle – Allen and Jeff Cartledge just welded it together again. No problems.
All the support team were trained mechanics, but, as John Scott put it, “This was a different thing altogether. You had to make things up out of nothing.”
Three of the Raid cars reached 100,000km on the journey, and each was honoured in a style that should be compulsory Step One: stop the car. Wherever you are, you must stop the moment those five zeroes come up. Two: put on some good music, loud. Three: open two bottles of champagne (or more). Four: start dancing.
Victor had his right outside the Coober Pedy pub, Claude’s came up at William Creek and Willy Brandli’s was “somewhere on the Gunbarrel.”
As if Raid Australia weren’t enough, Willy and Bea will be driving back to Switzerland, overland from Indonesia, up to India, and then through whichever countries offer the least political instability. Good luck, Willy.
Gradually the desert turned to civilization as the Raid rolled on through South Australia and into Victoria. On a fine Thursday afternoon they arrived at the approaches to the Westgate Bridge, to be met by members of Citroen Car Club of Victoria and Citroen Classic Owners Club of Australia. Well organized escorts took them through to Royal Park, the open use of the repair facilities at Chateau Moteur and an equally well-organized barbecue. Highlights of the night were Rose Salmon’s magnificent 2CV cake and setting off the alarm on the bullhorn.
Both clubs are entitled to feel proud of the contribution they make to the success of Raid Australia ’88; the Raiders certainly appreciated it.
By the time you read this, the big events will be over. The Cit-inners will be home or far on their way. Any last thoughts?
They came from all over Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Their friends and families said they were crazy: “Didn’t you know you can hire a car when you get to Australia.” They spent huge amounts of time and vast amounts of money. And what did they get for it all? “Excitement,” said Olaf Baumann without hesitation, “and what you call ‘mateship’. It was worth it once in your life.” “We’re coming back no matter what happens,” added his girlfriend, pretty Petra Klinkner. Twice in a lifetime, Petra? “Yes, I love the Gunbarrel!” No problems.