First published By Rob Norton in The Citroën News, Citroën Owners Association of Western Australia.
RAID AUSTRALIA’88 HAS COME AND GONE, but the memory lingers on, and on!
It all started at a very low key meeting between Paul Bland and myself, back in 1983. We decided to try to arrange a world wide event starting from Perth and ending in Sydney. We had various route options, and part of our first questionnaire sent out was “What kind of roads do you want?” “The rougher the better,” came the reply from overseas. The response from Australia was not what you could call enthusiastic or supportive.
Undaunted, Paul went to the Australian National meeting at Ballarat and laid out what we had done so far and how we saw the event taking place. The other Australian clubs said they would actively participate within their states. We then managed to book into the world calendar of 2CV events which seems to have got a bit out of tune, with Raids going off in all directions and often clashing with each other or some other major event.
Slowly, the beast took shape, with some 250 people world-wide showing interest. We formulated a route which would give us rough roads and then take in more conventional roads and all capital cities. The problem was the size of the place and the time it would take to go everywhere. We decided that we would need support units and what better machine than the DS. So we canvassed all Citroën owners in Australia through the club magazine to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime event.
We formed a committee of dedicated lunatics and wrote hundreds of letters to try to get some sponsorship. We did get Bicentennial approval, but with the absolute deluge of events planned for 1988, sponsorship was hard won indeed.
AT OUR OWN EXPENSE, the Western Australia committee for Raid ’88 set out to survey the route. This party consisted of myself in the Yellow Flash, Mark Scott in a D-Special of doubtful background, Mark Wheatly in a Drover and Ron Westwood in his jackeroo. To keep us company, we took Wayne Scally, Ralph Hibble and Simon Cromack with a video camera. It is worth noting that at the time of Raid Australia’s conception, there were only 2 A-series Citroëns in Western Australia, and one of those was not club-oriented.
The Raid survey has been well documented before, so I won’t bore you. Suffice to say that we made it to the national meeting in Canberra and spread the word.
In the final run up to Raid ’88, lots of things happened all at once, or so it seemed. People joined, people dropped out, laws changed, sponsorship came arid went, but ever nearer drew the date on which we planned to leave. My daughter had a bad accident with a car which threatened to end my involvement in Raid totally; Carol couldn’t go now as she broke her heel; I didn’t spend as much time as I should have done on the Tin Snail.
Things looked as if they might come unstuck. People arrived the day before departure with car not off the ship, car not licensed (usually 11 working days is required), a car had been lost between Adelaide and Perth on a transporter, not enough bread supplied by sponsor, no plates at dinner/dance even after the guests had arrived. The local celebrity couldn’t make the start and the petrol sponsor dropped out. We had what seemed like the whole world population of 2CVs in our street, on the lawn and in the drive. People, strange languages, questions.
IT GOT HECTIC, BUT SOMEHOW, SUDDENLY IT WAS Saturday, March 5th, 1988!
9:30 A.M. At the esplanade at Fremantle, we had breakie at Lombardos. The Dyane of Steve and Peter still had not arrived. The German car was licensed in record time and in line with Western Australia plates. Weather was overcast – would it rain? We hoped not. Media coverage: lots, but still no Dyane. The Tin Snail just developed a happy tappet. People and more people. Nervous talk about what lies ahead. This was it!! Five years of planning, endless talk to endless people. Raiders were easily identified by special T-shirts, and hats with corks were found to be useful later.
At last, Steve and Peter arrived with the Dyane, finally traced at 5:30 in the morning. The Raiders lined up, the rear taken up by local club enthusiasts, and we were off to a great adventure.
Through Fremantle and Perth, we caused the locals to stop and stare. The CBs were chattering to keep the 27 cars on the right road. Light rain – this could be interesting. The first night’s stop was at Dalwallinu, where we were given the use of the sports facility. Hot showers, indoor kitchen, bar. Sheer luxury!!
March 6, 9 A.M. We said goodbye to some local members who headed back to Perth. There were problems with video gear and we were on to Paynes Find. The pub and garage and shop were all in one building, the only building. This was the end of the bitumen. We checked the cars and already there were some minor problems. We had lunch and were on to Sandstone for the second night’s camp. The first bite at dirt roads caused a few bits to shake loose. We attended the Sandstone cricket carnival BBQ -much food and drink. Raid T shirts were on show again, looking slightly dull on some Raiders. We got hot showers again. The weather was overcast – not too hot.
March 7, 9 A.M. We finally got out of Sandstone and said goodbye to the Scott boys and Williams family and to Carol and Sarah who were giving our motor-coach Billabong’s springs a test, and it was off to Wiluna. We lunched by the side of the road and checked the cars. Wiluna was quiet. We took on fuel a red beer, visited an emu farm (closed), and found alI the locals at big gambling school. We reported to the local police with our route and expected time of arrival. On to the first bush camp: stockyards with water and flies. There was more checking of cars. The roads had changed from last year. They were rougher.
March 8. We were up before dawn and on the road at 6 A.M. It was a steady drive to Carnegie station after various stops to look at the sights. We were met at Carnegie by Snow – what a character! There was cold beer, showers, work shop activity and rest.
WE INVESTIGATED THE HAPPY TAPPET which had gotten happier. It was not a tappet. Further investigation found the small end bushing had fallen out on the left hand side. There were no spares and it was a very long way from a machine shop. It looked like end of Raid for Raider One!
A search of sheds of the station for a brass bolt or union to make a new bush found nothing. Maps came out for the nearest possible machine shop which is a mine camp near the last camp. There was no way to reach them until the morning call on the flying doctor radio. Despair. It would take at least a day’s drive back, a couple of hours to make the bush, a day back to Carnegie, five hours to rebuild the car, and we would never catch up to the main party. Since it would be unsafe to travel alone, we would have to give up and go home.
March 9th, 3:30 A.M. We were still searching for something to make a bush out of. Enter John Scott. We searched his come-in-handy box and came up with a D starting handle. The slipper was close to the size required and was soft steel, we hoped. Much cutting and filing was followed by the result that, at about 6:30 we had a bush that worked. Fingers crossed.
By this time I was asleep on my feet and sought out David Gries to reassemble my car and Ian to push on in lead. We kept back the jackeroo 4WD so we could pick up stragglers, if any. There were fond farewells to Raiders and from Raiders to Snow. It had been a memorable stay for all of them.
So David, Ron and Ralph were left to look after the internals while I got a few zzzs on the verandah.
I awoke to the familiar sound of tinnie being opened and the patter of the Tin Snail. We loaded the sump with P.T.F.E. [Teflon]. It sounded good. We loaded up, breakfasted with Snow and then were off to attempt to catch the rest of the Raid. Five hours of hard driving on the Gunbarrel proper put us in contact with the tail enders of the Raid, and we finally made Camp Beadell where we wished we were back at Carnegie.
Various mechanical problems: major chassis damage to cars 19: Ruthard and Axel and 17: Claude and Gilbert. Before we reached camp we knew of the damage, so David and I borrowed a few bits of plate off a Holden found dead at the side of the road. Teams of bods worked deep into the night repairing the damaged cars. Headlights seemed to be falling off at an ever increasing frequency.
March 10. We made a daylight start on very rough roads, then on to some sand road under reconstruction at Warburton – very deep sand and very hot. Some Raiders were suffering from the heat and some were very far behind. We waited and sought out a local farmer at the airstrip. He was flying back along the Gunbarrel to a point north of our last camp, so we asked him to keep an eye on the road, and to pass a message to Warburton if he spotted any Raiders in trouble. As I returned to the car, the CB burst into life with news from car 9 and a few stragglers. We moved on to the next camp at a base of an unnamed outcrop of rock.
DUSK CAME WITH A ROAR. The wind rose and a cloud covered a normally clear sky. Rain? We tried to raise Giles weather station. No, this was a normal phenomenon – no rain. There were more repairs and the chassis appeared to be holding. Ruthard lost a rear guard, I broke a shock absorber stud and guards were starting to split on various cars. All the Raiders were looking grubby and were in need of a wash.
March 11. At dawn there was no wind and a clear sky. The sand was heavy in places and we found the Kombi up to its axles in Giles creek. It was dry sand and about 200 meters across. We moved the Kombi, let down the tyres and we were through. Most of the other Raiders did this, and there were plenty of pushers if required. John Scott arrived with tales of a disintegrating drive-shaft on his ID, but was fixed by then. All were through the sandy creek, the first of many, and then on to Docker River, more sand and a narrow road. We kept going, a bit of pushing, and through we went, the Kombi tucked in with us.
We stopped at Docker River to shop and for petrol. Permission was obtained to camp at Lasseters Cave on the banks of Hull River (dry). There was a tank with a large tap, so it was showers for all: ladies first, in daylight, and men second in the dark. We got a social visit by some locals. There was obviously no fear of a blow-in-the-bag squad out there, judging from the state they were in.
There is more sand, and then on to the Olga’s where we all met up again. We had a look around for a while, and then on to the Rock.
Camping was again the order of the day, but now we had all the luxuries of home. Swimming pool, bar and restaurant, shops and telephone. More repairs were undertaken, mainly to keep any eagle eyed law man out of our hair. The lead car needed a transplant of a rear arm bearing, and a shockie stud had parted company with the frame. The GS was making very strange sounds, and we found that a driveshaft had partially seized on the inner joint. Some delicate cleaning and inspection and then to Perth. In the innards of the GS we found quite a lot of LHM. On investigation, we found the main outlet pipe fractured, but with a small washer and a bit of welding, we got it all working. By this time the rest of the Raiders had shot off to Alice, so we spent another night at Ayers before heading back.
MADE MY WAY TO COOBER PEDY my first day and slept on a bed for the first time in ages. Progress was fairly slow, as I didn’t want to spit the small end bush out again. The next day I pushed on through Port Augusta to see Ken Fraser who had helped us out last year, then on to Kimba for an early night and an early start to try to get across the Nullabor in one day.
March 17. 1 drove day and night, passing the only other Acadiane in Australia just outside of Eucla in the gathering gloom of night. I eventually stopped at Balladonia at 1:30 Western Australia time, a distance of some 1,200 km. The night drive wasn’t too bad, as I’d picked up with a couple of trucks, which cleared the road ahead for me.
March 18. Friday, I rolled back into Perth, and that was the end of my part in Raid ’88.
IT HAS TAKEN ME A WHILE TO GET OVER the experience of a lifetime. I don’t think the car will ever recover, but with time and patience the Tin Snail will again be out in the dust on other adventures. I doubt if she will ever again be in such fine company, but the time and effort was well worth it in the end. I was very undecided about the whole trip due to Sarah’s accident and, even on the morning of departure, I still felt that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea that I go and leave both Carol and Sarah hobbling around. But I also felt that I had an obligation to the Raid to go on the bit that W.A. had organized.
I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, thanks to you all who came from far and near to be a part of my dream. Without you it just wouldn’t have happened. Raid Australia will go down as one of the tougher raids, and you can all be proud that you were very much a part of it. To all the people who didn’t come, you missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Maybe there will be a next time, but for most of us, Raid ’88 was the raid and the only raid that we will see or be part of.
Hopefully, you all returned home safely with memories that will last of this huge land of ours and our wonderful highways!! We are still awaiting photos for the photo competition and would very much like to hear from you all once you arrive home.
If we ever get back to Europe, we will come and sleep on your floors. Thanks to you all.